Weekend Reading: Friday the 13th Edition


Happy Friday the 13th, WOTR readers. Ordinarily this would be the unluckiest day of the year, but luckily, we’ve got your favorite weekly roundup of the best things we read this week. It was another big week: all eyes are on Iraq, where ISIS made major, and shocking, territorial gains this week. Here’s what you need to read to get up to speed.

ISIS advances: There’s a lot to read on what’s easily the banner international headline this week. Here are a few pieces to get you started:

Slate’s Fred Kaplan lays the blame for Iraq’s unraveling at the feet of Nouri al-Maliki, who, Kaplan contends, “had no interest in conciliatory politics on a national level.”Similarly, Hassan Hassan in The National argues for the need to deal with Iraq’s underlying political problems, and the Washington Post has a profile of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Visualizing the conflict: The New York Times has an interactive map showing ISIS’ gains (with an assist from WOTR friends Caerus Associates). And ThinkProgress has put together a dizzyingly complex chart of the various stakeholders in the sectarian conflict.

Don’t forget about Pakistan: As if we didn’t have enough to deal with. Ishaan Tharoor of the Post Worldviews blog has a primer on the Pakistani Taliban in light of last week’s attacks in Karachi. And on Al Jazeera America, Rafia Zakaria takes a look at the political situation in Karachi that laid the foundation for the attacks.

Micro-management and the SecDef: At Political Violence at a Glance, Stephen Saideman has an interesting post on the concept of civilian “micro-management” of the military. He focuses on Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates to try to unpack when, how, and how much top civilians should manage military planning efforts.

Another theory on the VA: Also on PV @ a Glance, Tanisha Fazal (for whom your humble editor was an RA back in the day (hi Professor!)) offers some insight into the VA scandal, based on her forthcoming International Security article. Fazal suggests that advances in military medicine mean that “soldiers are much more likely to survive wars today compared to the past,” which has put a squeeze on the VA. “Improvements in medical care in conflict zones are to be celebrated,” she writes, “but their effects also must be anticipated in order for them to be fully realized.”

A military strategy we can believe in: In The National Interest, T.X. Hammes and R.D. Hooker, Jr. make the case for Offshore Control as the military component of President Obama’s broader national strategy for dealing with China. Their article addresses the weaknesses of AirSea Battle in particular, and concludes that, “adding Offshore Control as the military element of the rebalance to Asia provides a military strategy that supports the policy stated by President Obama.”

So what does make a great secretary of state?” We’ve heard more than usual this week about Hillary Clinton (if such a thing is possible) in light of her new book. Specifically, there’s been a lively debate about Hillary’s record as the nation’s top diplomat. In POLITICO Magazine, this thoughtful piece by Thomas Wright of Brookings looks back at Secretaries of State throughout history to figure out how we should think about Clinton’s tenure.

Ambassador Ford speaks out: Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria, recently resigned his post in protest of U.S. policy. This week, he took to the New York Times opinion pages to call for an increase in training and material aid to Syria’s rebels. More hesitation, he writes, will “simply hasten the day when American forces will have to intervene against Al Qaeda in Syria.”

You can’t sit with us: That’s what Masha Gessen thinks U.S. and European leaders should have told Putin on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Gessen (the author of a recent book about Putin) takes apart the justifications for inviting Putin to take part in the anniversary celebrations at Normandy, arguing that his presence “delegitimize[d] the occasion.”

Who will be #1? Writing for the Daily Beast, WOTR contributor Ali Wyne wades into the debate about China’s economic primacy. The World Bank’s assessment that the Chinese economy will overtake the United States’ has prompted a flurry of commentary, but Wyne notes that it’s hard to really measure power.

Gandhi’s early days: History buffs will love TNR’s review of Ramachandra Guha’s new book, Gandhi Before India. The book, the first of a two-part series, chronicles Mahatma Gandhi’s life before he became the historical figure known to most of the world. Harvard Professor Maya Jasanoff offers a thoughtful look at Gandhi’s time in South Africa and other experiences that shaped the young reformer.


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