Weekend Reading, 21-23 March

March 21, 2014

Happy Friday, WOTR readers! Spring has sprung and while it doesn’t feel like it in certain parts of the country, we’re celebrating nonetheless. While you’re enjoying the end of winter this weekend, be sure to check out these great foreign policy and national security reads from the past week.

Who Best Predicted Russia Military Intervention? When the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) Project at the College of William & Mary polled IR scholars asking if Russia would intervene in the political crisis in Ukraine, only 14% of the 905 people surveyed answered correctly (on the eve the intervention). According to the Washington Post, within that 14%, scholars who do not identify with one school of thought, as well as realists, were most likely to accurately predict the intervention compared to liberals and constructivists, who predicted poorly. Writing for the Kings of War blog, Kenneth Payne, noting this survey, warns readers to beware of experts: “Give someone a title, an office in an ivory tower, some knowledge of history, maybe some language skills, and you create an illusion of understanding. A confident manner, bold, snappy, authoritative statements, all boost credibility.”

Want More? The Globalist has a list of ten ways that Russian intervention in Crimea has re-opened the door to territorial claims against Russia by China. Perhaps recent events have been part of China’s evil plan all along. And at War on the Rocks, Lawrence Freedman discusses Ukraine and the art of crisis management by examining the historical events that have shape present circumstances in the region.

Lingering Misconceptions on Libya: The National Interest breaks down five misconceptions about the war in Libya.  Of these misconceptions, writers Raphael Cohen and Gabriel Scheinmann argue that a “leading from behind” doctrine may have brought down the Gaddafi regime, but has not contributed to stabilizing the country in the aftermath. Further, while the intervention itself was cheap, the U.S. lost four embassy personnel, as well as an ambassador and in the last two years, 1,200 Libyans have been killed in ongoing violence and political assassinations. Indeed, Libya is not the model of regime change so many claim it to be.

Asking the Right Questions about Cyber Threats: Peter Singer and Allan Friedman, writing for the American Scholar, pose a list of six questions that need to be asked and addressed about the future of cyber warfare and threats to the general public. These questions tackle adjusting attitudes toward security, the future of international conflict, as well as how the power of the state has changed in the digital world. They argue that the public needs to develop a model of resilience, “being able to bend but not break, to accept that bad things might happen but recover quickly.”

More on Cyber: The Kings of War blog delivered another good read this week on why cyber war should not be affiliated with any one grand strategist. Citing Martin C. Libicki’s new article for Strategic Studies Quarterly, the piece argues, “If information environments are currently evolving so fast, yet we get locked into ways of viewing them based on past classics of strategy, the effects could be distinctly ‘pernicious’.”

Big Trouble for Big Army Spending? This piece from Military.com argues that the Army’s acquisition strategy is stuck in the Reagan era, placing too much emphasis on maintaining end strength. Also, at War on the Rocks, Paul Scharre examines six innovative investment areas overlooked by DoD’s FY2015 budget while high-level and high-cost programs that rise to the SecDef’s attention remain protected.

Pakistan Knows More than it Claims: New York Times magazine published a chilling piece by Carlotta Gall this week on what Pakistan really knew about Bin Laden. In it, Gall says she received inside information in 2012 that the ISI ran a special desk assigned to handle Bin Laden, tracking his whereabouts and providing protection. She further discusses the thriving madrasa culture in Pakistan that is producing jihadist fighters who eagerly await the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban. Meanwhile, the Pakistani military continues to turn a blind eye.

The Grim Task of Predicting Genocide: Pacific Standard recently spoke with Ben Goldsmith, whose Atrocity Forecasting Project was the only model that accurately projected Central African Republic as with the country with the greatest risk of genocide between 2011 and 2015. Goldsmith talks about how his model was able to accurately predict the ongoing violence in CAR, as well as why other models completely missed it.

Hip-Hop Diplomacy in the Middle East: The Atlantic explores how hip-hop music has come to be seen by western governments as both a tool with the potential to radicalize as well as promote public diplomacy and de-radicalization. Since the mid-2000s the State Department has funded initiatives that utilize hip-hop music for “perception management” and “strategic communication” around the world, particularly among young Muslim communities. This is in response to the growing popularity of “jihadi rap” that often expresses messages of violence and hate against the United States. However, many are questioning whether hip-hop diplomacy is effective enough to discourage young men and women from extremist ideas. The answers remain to be seen.

War on the Rocks Weekly Roundup: Be sure to read these great articles written by WOTR contributors this week.

  • George Vlachonikolis reviews Christopher Coker’s new book Men At War: What Fiction Tells us About Conflict, From The Iliad to Catch-22, which analyzes 25 literacy figures who portray the essence of war.
  • Adam Elkus compares videogame warfare to the way the U.S. national security experts think about war. It’s not as different as you’d expect.
  • Paul Saunders, the Executive Director of the Center for the National Interest, sat down with WOTR to answer five questions about the Russian intervention in Crimea.
  • Robert Haddick argues that the Pentagon needs a new way of war, as evident in the recently released QDR.


Lauren Katzenberg is an Assistant Editor at War on the Rocks and a recovering caretaker of wild baboons.


Image: Matt Reinbold, CC