Weekend Reading: May 2


Happy Friday and happy May to all of our readers. To round out the week, we’ve rounded up the best pieces on foreign policy and national security that we read this week. Enjoy, and see you next week!


Stop freaking out: Those headlines you saw this week about China becoming the world’s largest economy? They’re only sort of true. To set the record straight, here’s Christopher Ingraham at Wonkblog explaining what exactly the metric is used in the recently released World Bank report, and the limits of what that metric tells us.

A dose of realism: That’s what American foreign policy needs, according to the Hoover Institution’s Bruce Thornton. He contends that many of the U.S.’ current foreign policy failures can be explained by a false expectation that countries will adhere to global norms or a universal morality. Thornton urges us to remember George Washington’s still-relevant warning that “no nation can be trusted farther than it is bounded by its interests.”

Ukraine, inside and out: In POLITICO Magazine, the Carnegie Endowment’s Balazs Jarabik reminds us that Putin’s interference isn’t the only factor affecting the events unfolding in Ukraine. Jarabik pushes back against the “good guys vs. bad guys” narrative and offers insight into Ukraine’s complicated domestic politics, proving once again that in foreign policy, nothing is black and white.

(Want more? TNR’s Julia Ioffe wrote a brutal takedown of a piece in The Nation on the U.S. response to Putin. The original piece, co-authored by  husband-and-wife team Stephen Cohen and Katrina vanden Heuvel, accuses Washington of ‘complicity’ in the face of the Obama administration’s actions against Russia. Ioffe’s response is well worth a read).

A deal we can believe in: In The National Interest, John Allen Gay has an excellent piece in defense of the interim agreement with Iran. Contrary to neocons’ cries of appeasement, he writes, the Joint Plan of Action “represents a path to a livable final arrangement.” Check out John’s piece – we give him extra props for the use of “piffle.”

(Want more? In Al-Monitor, Meir Javedanfar argues that the reported Iran-Russia oil deal will not affect the ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.)

Eye candy for geography nerds: A new book by Sylvia Sumira looks back at the history of globes over the past several centuries. WIRED‘s MapLab has a cool slideshow of some of the ancient globes discussed in the book, along with a discussion with the author. Check it out, and don’t forget to look at the pictures.

Red phone, part II: Why don’t the US and China have a hotline? That’s what Professor Robert Pape proposes in this piece on The Monkey Cage blog. Pape argues that, just as the U.S. and the Soviets had MOLINK, the U.S. and China could establish CHILINK, to improve communication between the two powers.

(Want more? Pape’s piece is in conjunction with a conference he sponsored this week with Senator Mark Kirk on Asian security. TMC is featuring a number of posts adapted from the conference, including Andrew Kydd on Korean unification and Jack Snyder on WWI’s lessons about China.)


Usha Sahay is an assistant editor at War on the Rocks.


Photo credit: Neil Sequeira