May 23, 2014

Every Friday, War on the Rocks rounds up the best articles, analysis, and multimedia involving foreign policy, national security, and current affairs for our readers. This week, we collected the must-reads on everything from the ongoing scandal within the Department of Veterans Affairs, to the real loser of last month’s elections in Iraq.

In Honor Of Memorial Day: Don’t miss this beautiful photo essay from Military Times of Arlington Cemetery 150 years after the first burial there on May 13, 1864.

Managing Crises: Russia And NATO, You’re Doing It Wrong: WOTR contributor Lawrence Freedman published a great piece with the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ blog Survival on the art of crisis management in Ukraine. The piece, based on analysis Freedman produced for WOTR in March, offers valuable insight into how both Russia and the NATO alliance have failed in their diplomatic dealings with one another.

Army Misconceptions And More: In National Defense magazine, Sandra Erwin has an overview of Army vice chief of staff Gen. John F. Campbell’s argument against the misconception that the U.S. “can opt out of a land war and rely on other nations to safeguard its strategic interests, or that wars can be initiated and resolved quickly on U.S. terms.”

Want More?: From the War on the Rocks archive, check out Kori Schake’s argument that the Army is fighting a budget battle by pretending it’s fighting a strategy battle when there are no more big wars ahead and Robert Killebrew’s counterargument that the Army needs to be making a better case for its value in future warfare.

Must-see Maps: The Washington Post points out what sub-Saharan African nations currently have a U.S. military presence engaged in military ops, demonstrating U.S. Africa Command’s increasingly growing influence on the continent. Additionally, New Republic has a great look back on how World War II fueled the demand not just for more maps, but more modern ones.

Being Careful What You Wish For: Our own Frank Hoffman offers an alternative to Adam Maisel’s argument for a commission on the structure of the Army at Defense in Depth, Janine Davidson’s blog for the Council on Foreign Relations. Hoffman observes that a call for a commission might disparage the work put in by the National Guard’s official representation in Pentagon. He also suggests that the outcome of such a review would not necessarily be in the favor of those advocating for it.

A Wide Spectrum Of Thoughts On The VA Affair: When it comes to the scandal surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs, there is no shortage of strong opinions being covered across the media. Here’s a quick round-up of some takes on the situation. The National Journal has a twopart series arguing that the failure of the VA has been enabled by “silent fathers.” Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) founder Paul Rieckhoff expressed his disappointment in Obama’s address on MSNBC, and Vietnam veteran Max Cleland said it’s time to take the target off of Shinseki’s back.

More on Veterans: David J. Morris explores how Americans’ understanding of PTSD has become so broadly applied and concentrated on victimhood that it ignores the ways that surviving trauma actually empowers people at times. Also, this week President Obama announced that he will award the Medal of Honor to Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter next month. This will make the 24-year-old the second living Marine to receive the nation’s highest award for valor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. Check out his kick-ass video.

What Happens When You Put Five AQ Experts On A Video Chat With Ryan Evans: Don’t miss WOTR’s first Google Hangout video hangout on the split between al Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the crucible of the Syrian civil war, and what it means for the West, counterterrorism, the Middle East, and the broader Islamist movement.

Something Happened In Iraq This Week: On Monday, the results of last month’s elections in Iraq were announced with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s party garnering the most votes, improving his chances at a third term in office. However, Juan Cole argues that in this election, actually everyone lost: “The electoral system designed for Iraq by the US and the United Nations was never very good, and by now it is broken altogether.” Due to a fractured political system, parliament is now deeply divided between the Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish, which ultimately points to endless votes being stuck in ethnic gridlock.

To Engage Or Not to Engage, That Is The Question: Kathleen Hicks, director at the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), answers the question, “When is selective engagement too selective?” Looking at the Ukraine crisis and the White House’s response, Hicks responds by saying: “If in its efforts to avoid another Iraq it allows the selective engagement pendulum to swing too far toward inaction, it risks being knocked over when the pendulum swings just as strongly into overreaction at a time and place Washington may not anticipate.”

WOTR Weekly Round-up: Here are some highlights from WOTR over the past week:

  • Adam Tiffen argues that reducing U.S. reliance on fossil fuels on the battlefield will reduce risk and save lives in future combat operations.
  • Douglas A. Ollivant and Brian Fishman reason that the reality of a de facto jihadist state is not a state of affairs that can be long tolerated.
  • C. Christine Fair answers the question, “Who is hunting Pakistan’s Shia and, most importantly, why?”
  • Ulrike Franke notes that looking at drones from a gender perspective can tell us something about American versus European views on drones.


Lauren Katzenberg is an assistant editor at War on the Rocks. She is also the managing editor of the veterans news and culture site Task & Purpose.


Photo credit: The U.S. Army