Weekend Reading: 27 June


Happy Friday, WOTR readers! Although yesterday might have felt like Friday for anyone who happened to walk into a bar while a certain sporting event was going on, today is, in fact, the actual end of the week. And that means we’re back with our Friday round-up of the best foreign policy and national security pieces we read this week. We recommend you enjoy them with one of Michael Noonan’s excellent summer cocktails.

P.S. Are you on Twitter? WOTR’s almost at 6,000 Twitter followers. Help us get over the top this weekend!

Guantanamo before Guantanamo: We were intrigued by a photoessay in POLITICO Magazine that reminded us that the Guantanamo Bay prison was in use long before the War on Terror. This particular set of photos depicts the detention of Haitian refugees at Guantanamo in the early 1990s.

Setting the record straight on Iraq: On Janine Davidson’s Defense in Depth blog, CFR’s Emerson Brooking refutes the arguments made by many of those lamenting the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. The idea that the U.S. should have stayed in Iraq indefinitely, Brooking posits, “does not represent a viable strategy. In fact, it represents the opposite of strategy.”

The real East Asian threat: It’s not the South China Sea. The North Korean threat is real, volatile and dangerous, writes Patrick Cronin in The Diplomat, and we need to do more to address it. Cronin proposes that the U.S. and South Korea take a more active approach that will make the DPRK “worry more about deterring us rather than the other way around.”

“This is not realism:” Lionel Beehner, writing for Cicero Magazine, points out what many of us have thought for a long time: President Obama is not a realist. Beehner recalls the days when America could get its way by simply “arching an eyebrow,” and lambasts Obama for the gap between his rhetoric and his actions.

“A plucky underdog being mauled by the bear”? Over at War is Boring, Matthew Gault takes us behind the front lines of the information war between Ukraine and Russia. Gault argues that Ukraine is winning this war for now, but reminds us that Moscow still controls the gas.

The view on China from down under: Writing for The Strategist blog, Benjamin Schreer discusses the role of Australia in responding to an ascendant China. Schreer makes the case that China’s attempt to change the rules of the game affects Australian interests, and that Canberra needs to think about ways to counter Beijing.

Wittes on the drone memo: We’re always interested to hear what Benjamin Wittes has to say on the legal dimensions of national security issues. He has some great analysis on Lawfare, evaluating the recently-released OLC memo on the drone strike that killed Anwar al-Aulaqi. Wittes did three posts this week, which you can read (starting with the most recent) here, here and here.

Points for all the bird puns: Check out James Kitfield in The National Interest on the marginalization of defense hawks in the Republican Party. Kitfield uses John McCain and the Syria airstrikes debate as jumping-off points to examine the internal turmoil within the GOP when it comes to foreign policy.

Video: WOTR friend Douglas Ollivant is one of the most knowledgeable people around when it comes to Iraq. Here, he speaks with PBS’ Judy Woodruff about the contest between ISIS and Iraq’s security forces.

Here’s how to fix the VA: Passing legislation won’t cut it, argue VADM Ed Straw (ret.) & WOTR’s own Stephen Rodriguez in a piece for RealClearDefense. They suggest that the problems go deeper than that, pointing to the need for, among other things, genuine leadership, organizational reform and a change to a deep-rooted culture of mistrust of veterans.


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


Photo credit: Grand Parc – Bordeaux, France