April 25, 2014

We’re wishing all of our readers a very happy Friday! From creepy surveillance gadgets to Time’s 100 most influence people, we’ve rounded up the top reads of the week for you to catch up on this weekend. See you on Monday!


Snowden’s Soft Take on Putin: Walter Pincus, writing for the Washington Post, called out Edward Snowden for not more aggressively questioning Vladimir Putin on Russia’s use of mass surveillance systems in a recent Q&A session. Specifically, Pincus is referring to Russia’s System of Operative-Investigative Measures (SORM), which “permits the monitoring, retention and analysis of all data that traverses Russian communications networks” according to a warning from the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security in a May 22 report. Snowden has offered Putin the opportunity to clarify his denial of such a surveillance system, at which point Pincus asks, “Different Strokes?”

On that Note, Your Creepy Gadget of the Week: This device, called the Conversnitch, resembles a lamp and picks up nearby conversations and posts snippets of the transcribed audio to Twitter. According to Kyle McDonald, one of the developers, the gadget can be built for less than $100 and be up and running in a matter of hours.

An Interview with Jimmy Carter: War on the Rocks Contributing Editor John Bew sat down last week with Jimmy Carter to discuss his new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power. In this interview, Bew and Carter discuss the former president’s focus on women’s rights around the world, his disappointment in the lack of action taken in Egypt following Obama’s 2009 speech, and a range of other topics. While Carter’s critics have said his presidency was a waste, Bew writes, “Carter cannot be accused of wasting any time since then.”

Why Privateering Matters: In this month’s issue of Naval History magazine, Frederick C. Leiner looks at the invaluable role played by American privateering in the War of 1812 and more specifically why it is so often left out of history books. In response to this trend, Leiner argues, “writing about the war at sea in the War of 1812 without referring to privateers is like writing about the war at sea in World Wars I or II without referring to U-boats.”

The Turkey Prisoner’s Dilemma: At Turkey Wonk: Nuclear and Political Musings in Turkey and Beyond, Aaron Stein uses the Prisoner’s Dilemma to examine the relationship between Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gul. Stein poses that as discussions begin over whether or not Erdogan will run for president, or stay on as prime minister for another term, the two men will have to keep cooperating or risk the collapse of their political party, the AKP.

A Look Back at Iraq: Dexter Filkins has a stark look at Iraq more than ten years after the U.S. invasion. “Two years after the last American soldiers departed, it’s hard to find any evidence that they were ever there,” he writes. Writing for the New Yorker, he details the rise of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki under the Bush and Obama administrations, which has led to the creation of a new authoritarian regime because, according to former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, “the state that we created doesn’t work without us.”

China Builds Bridges with Europe: In the Diplomat this week, Jin Kai explains that while the U.S. is revitalizing East Asian alliances, China is building relationships in Europe. The U.S.’s return to Asia has been challenging as China becomes more powerful, Japan remains a difficult ally, South Korea tries to balance its relations in the region, and North Korea tries to actively disrupt it. The EU, however, benefits from its strength as a singular unit without the responsibilities of a world leader. Further, the EU is not bound in military alliances with Asia. This leads to the question, “will the U.S. start to think more seriously about China’s vision for a multipolar world order?”

Time’s Top 100: Time magazine released its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world this week. Among the selected government leaders are Putin, Egypt’s presidential candidate Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. Do you agree with Time’s selection? Check it out and let us know!

WOTR Weekly Roundup: Don’t miss these great reads published by War on the Rocks this week:

  • Rusty Bradley details the sacrifices made by Afghan interpreters for the U.S. military who are now being left behind as approved visas remain limited.
  • B.J. Armstrong counters an argument that careerism in the military breeds “habits of defeat” by pointing to the many who have been working hard to develop much-needed reform.
  • Andrew Michta says that Rodney Dangerfield’s famous line, “I can’t get no respect” describes the U.S.’s foreign policy predicament today.
  • Claude Berube reviews Robert D. Kaplan’s new book, Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific.


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


Photo credit: Nigel_Brown