April 4, 2014
baboon photo_3

Happy Friday to all of our readers. We hope everyone had a great week. We’d like to give a shout-out to Twitter Fight Club 2014 champion and WOTR contributor Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, as well as congratulate all of the participants. Now we can all stop being distracted and get back to work. If you’re not quite ready for that yet, then perhaps these top reads from the week can help distract you.

New Piece from the #TFC14 Champ: In honor of Daveed’s recent win, we’d like to kick off this Weekend Reading list with his most recent publication in the Georgetown Journal is International Affairs, in which he analyzes the current shape of the al-Shabaab insurgency from data on al-Shabaab-related attacks that have been conducted between October 2012 (when the group lost its Kismayo stronghold in Somalia) and the end of February 2014. In laying out his analysis, Gartenstein-Ross poses the question, “did the deadly Westgate attack signal al-Shabaab’s resurgence?”

The Wounded Warrior Never-ending Battle: WOTR contributor Thomas Gibbons-Neff wrote a stirring piece for the New York Times’ At War blog this week recounting a friend’s journey from losing both of his legs to an IED in Afghanistan to reclaiming “a life of normalcy.” The piece serves as a reminder that while the war in Afghanistan may be forgotten, “for the wounded the war never ends.”

A Spy is a Spy is a Spy: Secretary of State John Kerry received heavy criticism this week after he proposed that the Obama administration consider an early prison release for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard as an incentive to keep Israel in peace talks with Palestine. USA Today has a good background piece on the events leading up to Pollard’s arrest, while Paul Pillar, writing for the National Interest, argues against the pro-Pollard claim that he deserve leniency because he was spying for a “friendly” country. Bottom line: espionage, no matter what country it is performed for, is a hostile act; Pollard should remain prison.

Of Note This Week: Hayes Brown, reporter for Think Progress, informed us that March 2014 was the first month that there were no U.S. combat deaths in over a decade. Think about that.

On Pakistan: Writing for Dawn, Umair Javed addresses the question, who wields power in Pakistan? Javed writes, “The country has changed considerably, the composition of its power elite has changed, and socio-economic and cultural transformations have produced new groups with lofty aspirations to power.” Also writing about Pakistan, WOTR contributor Myra MacDonald says that Pakistan’s domestic situation and a new government in India are leaving the region in a volatile state, and the U.S. must learn to navigate it effectively.

Covering the Upcoming Afghan Election: Afghans will go to the polls on Saturday to elect their second president since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. Here are some pieces of note surrounding the election:

  • Afghanistan Analysts Network’s Martine van Bijlert discusses voter registration, the securing of polling stations, election day fraud, and the laborious process to settle on an election outcome
  • New York Times follows the leading presidential candidates on the campaign trail through this photo essay
  • Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty details a first-person account of how easy it is to register to vote without any proper identification in the upcoming election

The Little Green Men of Crimea: Anthropoliteia published a piece by its newest contributor Alexei Yurchak about the mysterious military men who appeared on the streets of Crimea following its unexpected annexation. These men sported special green uniforms that lacked any insignia to tie them to any military or political group and also wore facemasks, hiding everything but their eyes. While Putin denied that they were Russian military, Yurchak describes this military force as a new political technology—“a military occupation that is staged as a non-occupation… This technology is not only openly cynical – it is also designed to function as a cynical joke.” Indeed, following the Crimean referendum on March 16th, these little green men—admired for their good behavior and aloofness—disappeared and were replaced by regular Russian army soldiers known for “stealing vegetables from the fields.”

Ear Candy: This week, Mark Stout, senior WOTR editor and director of the MA in Global Security Studies program at John Hopkins University, sat down with adjunct instructor, Dr. Maciej Bartkowski of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, to talk about strategic nonviolent conflict, how its been used by Ukrainians, and how it can be used in the struggle with Russia. Lucky for us, the discussion was recorded and released as a podcast. Check it out.

More Ear Candy: WOTR also released a podcast this week featuring Doug Ollivant, David Ucko, Ryan Evans, and a bottle of fine bourbon. They talk counter-insurgency to mark the publication of an important book, The New Counter-Insurgency Era in Critical Perspective.

WOTR Weekly Roundup: Here on some great reads from WOTR contributors this week:

  • Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) tells WOTR that the U.S.’s Cuba policy has “caused self-inflicted wounds.”
  • David Fuquea asks: Why do our fiscal policies reward Wall Street bankers while letting soldiers go without?
  • Usha Sahay responds to Stephen Walt saying, no, the Obama administration is not over-committed.
  • David Maxwell argues why we need to take Korean reunification more seriously.


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


Photo credit: Jack Somerville