Weekend Reading: January 10

January 10, 2014

Happy Friday, everyone! We hope you all stayed warm this week.  We’re wishing ourselves a happy birthday – War on the Rocks launched 6 months ago and it’s been a great half-year.

What are you drinking this weekend to celebrate the end of the ‘polar vortex,’ our birthday, or just the arrival of Friday? Tell us in the comments!

Here’s what the WOTR team is reading this weekend:

Everybody’s talking: In case you missed it, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made headlines this week with his soon-to-be-released memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. The book has already become controversial through revelations by early reviewers that Gates sharply criticizes President Obama’s handling of the Afghanistan war. Read an excerpt of the book here, and stay tuned for commentary from WOTR after the book is officially released next week.

(Want more? Here’s our own Ryan Evans on why Gates’ revelations are so damning, and how a realistic approach to Afghanistan might look).

The next generation of al-Qaeda: In this piece for Al-Monitor, Bruce Riedel argues that the failures of the Arab Awakening have allowed al-Qaeda to make a comeback. From the Fertile Crescent to North Africa to Egypt, “al-Qaeda 3.0” is thriving. Riedel argues that as the Arab Awakening evolve, so, too, will this new generation of jihadists.

(Want more? Here’s Eli Lake at the Daily Beast on the fissures in the jihadist movement and what may lie in store for Al-Qaeda’s affiliates in Iraq).

Another view: Dealing with China’s A2AD, or Anti-Access Area Denial, abilities, has been a favorite subject of debate at WOTR and elsewhere. Writing in the National Interest, Zachary Keck argues that proponents of the two most-discussed concepts, AirSea Battle and blockade, are in fact both making the same incorrect assumptions. Have a read, and tell us what you think.

Not so fast: Don’t give up on democracy in the Middle East just yet, write Shadi Hamid and Peter Mandaville in The Atlantic. The authors argue that the region’s turmoil has been treated as a security problem, when in fact the issue is a failure to seize opportunities to promote democracy. “Since the start of the Arab Spring,” they contend, “the U.S. has failed to think big and deliver an ambitious policy response worthy of these momentous events.

Fallujah again: Western Iraq’s Anbar province is once again in global headlines after militants took control of parts of Ramadi and Fallujah. In Politico Magazine, Ned Parker asks and examines the question, “Who Lost Iraq?” Two years after the withdrawal of U.S. forces, deteriorating security conditions are pushing Iraq back toward the center of American political debate.

(Want more? Peter Munson took to WOTR this week to explain why the troubles in Fallujah have little to do with either the U.S. or al-Qaeda. Rather, he argues, “It’s an Anbar thing.”)

The Navy, seen from Beijing:  The Navy is having its moment, writes Sydney Freedberg of Breaking Defense. In this piece, he analyzes the strategic approach of Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert. Freedberg suggests that the Navy’s recent decisions make sense if you look at them from the perspective of China and consider how Beijing fits into the threat landscape the Navy is likely to be dealing with.

(Want more? Here’s another from Freedberg, this time about the tension between the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia and the increasingly unstable Middle East).

Afghanistan: dystopian novel or Alice in Wonderland? What’s in store for Afghanistan this year and beyond? Having recently returned from a trip to Helmand, Anatol Lieven sizes up the prospects for the country’s future in the New York Review of Books.

Two Roosevelts in the Middle East: In The New Republic, Frederick Deknatel has an engaging review of America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, a new book by Hugh Wilford. Wilford’s book focuses on three spies – two of whom were grandsons of Teddy Roosevelt – to show how the U.S. covertly established itself as a power player in the Middle East in the 1940s and 1950s.


Usha Sahay is an assistant editor at War on the Rocks.


Photo credit: m00by