Weekend Reading: June 20

June 20, 2014

Every Friday, War on the Rocks posts the best articles, analysis, and multimedia on foreign policy, national security, and current affairs for our readers in the Weekend Reading List. This week, we collected the must-reads on everything from the unfolding events in Iraq to scapegoating in D.C. Happy reading and happy Friday!


The Iraq round up: There’s been a lot of ink spilled over the last week on the Iraq crisis, ranging in topics from potential U.S.-Iran cooperation, to veterans’ responses, to ISIS’ savvy, yet terrifying, use of social media. WOTR posted two round ups this week (Part I and Part II) of what our audience should be reading. Here are some additions:

Frontline has a great infographic breaking down how the United States spent $800 billion on the Iraq War, including what we paid for and how effectively it was spent.

Writing for the Washington Post, our own T.M. Gibbons-Neff explores how ISIS’ propaganda videos demonstrate that the group has evolved into “an extremely capable fighting force” since its early days under al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Who gets fired and doesn’t when sh*t hits the fan in D.C.: At the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Hugh Gusterson offers an anthropological perspective on scapegoats, particularly in Washington, D.C. Gusterson argues that former Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is the “modern American scapegoat,” in that  “when explaining an outcome, people give too much weight to individuals’ personal qualities and too little to the force of situations.” Ultimately, what led to the failure of the VA to take care of its veterans was not Shinseki’s poor leadership, but a greater institutional failure that traces back to Congress.

What 10 years of drone strikes looks like: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has an interactive timeline detailing 10 years of drone strikes in Pakistan. The timeline highlights key milestones in the U.S. campaign that now spans over 380 strikes, killing an estimated 2,311 or more people.

Not everyone is happy with the U.S. capture of Khatallah, namely Libyans: On Foreign Policy this week, Mohamed Eljarh looks at the implications of the capture of Ahmed Abu Khatallah—the key suspect in the 2012 Benghazi attack—by American Special Forces on Libyan soil. Eljarh says that Libyans were “outraged at what they perceived to be an infringement of Libya’s sovereignty” and extremist groups seem to be preparing to retaliate against the government. In the future, he suggests, the United States must engage in more bilateral actions with Libya in order to maintain stability in the fragile state.

Kyle Carpenter’s much-deserved Medal of Honor ceremony: Yesterday, the White House awarded the nation’s highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor, to retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter. Carpenter is the third Marine to receive the award since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is being honored for intentionally positioning himself between a live grenade and a fellow Marine in order to shield that Marine from the blast. Watch the awards ceremony here.

Kenyatta denies al-Shabaab responsible for attacks, angering citizens: The LA Times has some great reporting on the armed extremists who attacked several coastal villages in Kenya earlier this week. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed “local political networks” while Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks. Reports indicate that the gunmen were in fact members of al-Shabaab, and Kenyatta’s statement raised tensions in the country that is still recovering from the widespread violence that displaced more than half a million people following the disputed 2007 election.

Things are heating up on the Russia-Ukraine border again: Just as tensions seemed to be easing between Russia and Ukraine, Russia resumed military build-up efforts near the Ukrainian border, deploying “several thousand” troops after rebels rejected a ceasefire proposal by Ukrainian President Petro O. Poroshenko. Bennett Ramberg of the National Interest examines how looking at the past can help D.C. policymakers and our allies devise a response to Moscow’s aggressive interventions. And for WOTR, Jack Mulcaire describes how Russia’s actions seem to be following a playbook laid out by the ideological camp of reactionary “Eurasian pan-nationalists,” led by Alexander Dugin.

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

  • Check out this infographic showing countries that saw the greatest increase, greatest decrease, and most stability in levels of terrorism between 2012 and 2013.
  • Adam Elkus asks, “Does the prominence of powerful sub-state actors with state-like functions show that the state is declining?”
  • Ryan Evans shares a story about drinking Johnnie Walker Red with an Afghan police chief in Helmand.
  • Karen Leigh and Nathaniel Rosenblatt explain how the expected migration of Syria’s recently displaced persons to Syrian cities will impact the growth of terrorist groups in the region.


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: James Lee