Weekend Reading: May 16


Happy almost-weekend, WOTR readers! Once again, our editorial team is bringing you the best pieces we read this week. Tell us what you think of this week’s roundup by tweeting us @WarOnTheRocks. Have a great weekend!

Killer robots: This week, the UN met to debate a future ban on killer robots. Here’s a rundown of the debate from Ishaan Tharoor at Worldviews, and a piece in Foreign Affairs arguing in favor of the ban. And Charli Carpenter gets into the weeds of the issues at hand at Duck of Minerva.

Dessert: Watch this awesome video of a killer robot destroying land mines (hat tip: Thomas Rid).

Interview: The Times of India talked with Dr. Walter Andersen, a longtime State Department India hand, about Narendra Modi and what to expect from Indian foreign policy under the new Prime Minister.  While you’re at it, Myra Macdonald’s piece on the future of India-Pakistan ties under Modi is also worth a re-read.

(Want more? Here’s WOTR friend Rudra Chaudhuri on Indian policy towards the US under Manmohan Singh).

Shortcomings of sanctions: In the Daily Beast, Meghan O’Sullivan offers an academic perspective on sanctions against Putin. She breaks down some broad lessons from the historical record, critiques the current policy, and offers suggestions for how the U.S. and Europe can more effectively use economic tools to counter Russia.

Fiction foray: Former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke has written a new thriller called The Sting of the Drone, in a refreshing change from the standard ex-official memoir (well, he has one of those too). Here’s an interview with Clarke in which he talks counterterrorism, fiction vs. nonfiction, and why he’s happy that he didn’t need research assistants for the book. And then check out excerpts from the novel here.

“A duty to kill the neologism:” Stop making up new terms for war, writes Brandon Valeriano at Duck of Minerva. From ‘cool war’ to ‘non-linear war’ to more, a plethora of new terms is clouding our thinking about conflicts. Money quote: “Instead of being focused on describing the new neologism that will get you into Foreign Policy and a few bucks, we should be focused on the real research needed for our students and policymakers in order change the scope, impact, and frequency of war.” We agree!

Real talk on Ukraine: In The National Interest, MIT’s Barry Posen lays it out: the U.S. has no vital interests in Ukraine. Preventing Russian aggression there, he argues, is “nice to have” but not “need to have.”

“The kind of guy I used to recruit:” Jack Devine, former head of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, has a fascinating piece in POLITICO Magazine on Edward Snowden. Devine offers a number of interesting thoughts on Snowden’s worldview, the value of the Snowden prototype to intelligence officers on the other side, and the impact of the leaks on U.S. national security.

We’re running out of whiskey: Okay, maybe not quite yet. But according to this article at smithsonian.com, demand for premium whiskey (and whisky) is far outpacing supply. Combine that pattern with the length of time it takes to age both the booze itself and high-quality barrels and the writing is on the wall: “A whiskey shortage may soon be upon us.” (hat tip: Kim Dozier)


Usha Sahay is an Assistant Editor at War on the Rocks.


Photo credit: johanna kollmann (adapted by War on the Rocks)