Weekend Reading: 11 July Edition


TGIF, WOTR readers! It’s Friday, and a very special one for us, since we celebrated our first birthday this week. Now that the birthday celebrations are over, we’re back with our weekly roundup of the best things our editorial team will be reading this weekend. Enjoy, and we’ll see you on Monday.

Undermining realism: What do Asian geopolitics tell us about realism? That it has its limits, according to Andrew O’Neill. In a post for the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter blog, he uses the behavior of “middle powers” in Asia to argue that the realist model for state behavior doesn’t always apply.

“This is not subtlety; it is absurdity:” Don’t miss Steve Coll’s brutal takedown in The New Yorker of the Obama administration’s approach to the Middle East. Coll does a masterful job pointing out the myriad contradictions and discrepancies in administration policy. You’ll probably need a drink afterwards.

Quick hit on credibility: WOTR readers will be familiar with the debates over whether U.S. credibility and resolve matter, and whether they affect the actions of our allies and adversaries. Here’s Daniel Larison at The American Conservative making some interesting points about why focusing on credibility can come at a cost.

“Scrimmaging with itself:” In the Washington Post, Dave Barno writes that the Army is likely to have a difficult time transitioning from a conflict-focused force to a peacetime bureaucracy. Or, if you prefer a (real) football metaphor, “The Army is moving from 13 straight years of playing in the Super Bowl to an indefinite number of seasons scrimmaging with itself.”

Ich bin angry: The latest major revelation from Edward Snowden about NSA spying in Germany has Berlin pretty upset (although we would remind them that everybody spies). Here’s Jacob Heilbrunn in the Los Angeles Times on how changing attitudes within Germany explain the current outrage, and some historical perspective from Matthew Aid in the Daily Beast.

A radical contradiction: A richly detailed piece by Matthieu Aikins in the New York Times introduces readers to the Islamic Front, a coalition of Syrian rebels that opposes ISIS in the current sectarian conflict. Aikins uses the Islamic Front to point out the elephant in the room for the U.S. when it comes to Middle East policy: “[Our] best potential allies against ISIS are other Sunni Islamists.”

Calling all nuclear nerds: There’s an interesting debate going on in the Monkey Cage blog about the role of academics in shaping nuclear policy. In the latest installment of the discussion, Yale professor Alexander Debs argues that theory should play a larger role in the academic study of nuclear weapons.

The battle for history in East Asia: We enjoyed this short piece by Zachary Keck in The Diplomat, which examines China’s changing attitude toward Japan, and specifically toward Japan’s imperial past. Keck argues that China is pushing a historical and political narrative about Japan that’s specifically aimed at furthering Chinese geopolitical aims in the region.


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


Photo credit: Rod Waddington