Weekend Reading: February 7

February 7, 2014

Happy first Friday of February from the War on the Rocks team! It’s been another busy week in the foreign policy and national security world. Here are our top reads for this week:

Needed to be said: In The Atlantic, Peter Beinart points out what we were all thinking: ‘Munich’ is “the most abused analogy in American foreign policy.” In reality, he argues, most of the scenarios that politicians love to compare to Munich were nothing like the real thing. But comments this week by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III about China’s regional ambitions may be an exception.

Putin’s thinking on Sochi: There have been a lot of crazy headlines about the Winter Olympics in Sochi, but Christian Caryl hits on a key question: why did it get picked at all? In the NYRB, he argues that the Sochi Olympics are a culmination of Putin’s effort to reverse Russia’s national humiliation over the Chechnya conflict. From location itself to the very date that the games end, there’s nationalistic symbolism everywhere in the Sochi Olympics. Make sure you catch this fascinating piece in full.

CvC showdown: The debate over Clausewitz and the changing nature of war continues at Foreign Policy, where Rosa Brooks has a response to  the questions raised by Christopher Mewett in a recent War on the Rocks piece. Brooks argues that because the parameters of what we consider “political” and “violent” can change, it’s useful to think about war as something that’s mutable as well. We wish Carl were here to weigh in.

Hawkish or hardly? From yours truly at the National Interest, here’s a piece examining the oft-repeated idea that Hillary Clinton is a “hawk” on national security. What I found was evidence not necessarily of the former Secretary of State’s hawkish views, but of a relatively mainstream center-left consensus on overseas intervention – something that, I argue, may be troubling for an increasingly war-weary public in 2016 and beyond).

(Want more? The piece spurred some lively debate, including this response from Daniel Larison and one from the original author to whom my piece responded.)

Whither strategy, USA? In The Diplomat, Andy Zelleke and Justin Talbot Zorn point out the shortcomings of the National Security Strategies that have come out of the White House in recent years. Their suggestions for what a more useful strategy document would look like will be of interest to WOTR readers.

(Want more? Read Frank Hoffman’s latest on how we should – and shouldn’t – learn from history when crafting national security strategy).

Rethinking jihad:  Thomas Hegghammer has a useful list of seven assumptions that the Arab Spring upended about the nature of the jihadi movement. His thoughts on the underlying causes of jihadist violence, recruitment, rebel governance and more are very much worth a read.

Ukraine on the brink: Ukraine has been wracked by internal turmoil for weeks now. What’s at stake, and what will the future bring? In The Atlantic, David Stern has a useful, if pessimistic, look at how Ukraine got to this point, and how long the protests are likely to continue. “For those actually caught up in the maelstrom,” he concludes, “the future appears grim indeed.”

Erdogan’s bad year: This weekend’s New York Times Magazine has a long, richly detailed piece on Turkey and its tumultuous politics.  Istanbul-based writer Suzy Hansen spoke with a number of stakeholders in Turkey, from followers of Fetullah Gulen to Gezi Park protestors, to piece together a fascinating picture of the rapidly shifting political scene in Erdogan’s Turkey.