Weekend Reading, Dec 6 – 8

December 6, 2013

Happy Friday, all! We’re here again to round up the week’s top reads on national security and foreign policy. Feel free to send us your feedback or send us a Tweet with your recommendations for next week’ reading list @WarontheRocks.

Rest in Peace, Nelson Mandela: With the passing of Nelson Mandela, we offer this video from 2002 of Mandela candidly discussing his real opinion of global leaders and public figures from around the world. Both humorous and insightful, the video offers a glimpse of one the world’s most influential icons. May the great Madiba rest in peace.

Zero Option is not an Option: This week, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said that there is still a possibility that U.S. troops in Afghanistan will completely pull out next week. In response to his statement, WOTR’s own Ryan Evans, writing for the National Interest, argues that while Hamid Karzai has single-handedly done a lot of damage in Afghanistan, his erratic behavior must not jeopardize U.S. interests in the region, which are largely promoting stability and opposing transnational terrorist networks. Thus, the proposed “zero option” is not really an option at all.

The “Big Three” in Jihadi Doctrine—Still Making an Impact?: Clint Watts has an interesting piece this week on the Foreign Policy Research Institute blog (although it would be more interesting if he published it here on WOTR. What gives Clint?)* analyzing the impact of the “Big Three” jihadi planners and their published doctrines on the current jihadi climate. Watts provides some good points on the writings of Abu Musab al-Suri and his lengthy 1600-page The Call to Global Islamic Resistance, Bin Laden’s final strategic thoughts from Abbottabad, and Abu Bakr Naji’s The Management of Savagery. In the end, Watts remains skeptical that current al Qaeda affiliates and their recruits are utilizing these jihadi theories. In fact, he argues, they seem to lack any sort of plan.

What Fracking Means for Global Relations: This week, Tim Johnson writing for Stars and Stripes, has a great piece examining the shifts in global relations to come from the production of global energy from shale oil and gas fields in the United States. And, with many experts seeing the “fracking” boom as having long-term implications, the United States will continue to see its role as a global superpower secured and enhanced.

Give it a Listen: Mark Stout and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Duncan debate the process by which national security leaders are appointed in this podcast posted by John Hopkins University.

An Artist’s Take on Drones: The New Yorker takes a look at James Bridle, the London-based artist who painted a full-size “shadow” of an MQ-9 Reaper drone on a street corner in Washington, D.C. Bridle has an interesting point of view on drones, which comes to fruition in his projects. He tries to demonstrate what type of responses nascent technologies, such as drones, can provoke before they settle into a dominant form. According to Bridle, “Drones…[are] part of larger systems that are invisible to us.”

Ten Misconceptions of the Syria Conflict Tackled: At Insights into World Affairs, Maciej J. Bartkowski identifies ten misconceptions that have been used to justify the shift away from civil resistance toward an armed struggle in the ongoing conflict in Syria against the Assad regime. He then counters each of these misconceptions with some insightful analysis on arguments relating to passivity of the international community, foreign fighters’ impact on the direction of the struggle, and ethnic polarization.

What Makes or Breaks Social Movements: In line with Bartkowski’s take on civil resistance, Christian Davenport discusses the three key elements that contribute to the success or failure of social movements. He writes that that there are three steps that must take place in a specific sequence in order for a movement to be successful: “the development from an idea to actual mobilization… from mobilization to action… from action to some outcome that was explicitly sought by the social movement participants”. Using the Republic of New Africa (RNA) as an example, he demonstrates how both opponents to a specific social movement, as well as its own members, determines whether the movement lives or dies.

WOTR Weekly Round-up: Check out these great pieces of commentary and analysis published this week right here at War on the Rocks.

Stephen Tankel and Myra MacDonald both have great articles for our short series on the legacy of the recently retired Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Tankel writes about Kayani’s attempts to direct public opinion toward the need to count militant threats. MacDonald addresses the power struggle between divided civilian politicians and the weakened military.

Jay Sexton analyzes the use of the Monroe Doctrine as a symbol of U.S. foreign policy in previous decades in comparison to John Kerry’s recent announcement that “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.”

Phillip Carter, Bob Goldich, John Thorne, and General Bob Scales all make the case this week that the draft is a bad idea, and would do more harm than good to the United States. Take that, Dana Milbank.


Lauren Katzenberg is an assistant editor at War on the Rocks.


Image: Koshy Koshy