Weekend Reading, July 25


Hello again, WOTR readers! It’s Friday, and the end of another crazy week in the world. You could probably read all weekend and still not be up to speed on everything that’s going on, but we’ll do our best to help you get caught up.

This week’s must-read: If you read one thing this week, make it Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon in The New Republicon the death of the Middle East peace process. The piece chronicles the events of the past year and offers a jarring case study of how the best intentions of President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and politicians in both Israel and Palestine fell victim to circumstance, politics and history.

The golden child of missile defense: As the war between Israel and Hamas escalates, another opportunity has arisen for Iron Dome, Israel’s rocket-defense system, to garner praise. But Iron Dome’s supposed ‘success’ — often cited as an argument in support of the expansion of missile defense in the U.S. — isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In a piece for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, MIT missile defense expert Ted Postol explains that Iron Dome isn’t as successful as it’s often thought to be.

That ‘international community’ we’re always hearing about? Clearly not a thing, writes Shashank Joshi in The Telegraph. Joshi critiques the dysfunctional response of regional and global powers to the Gaza crisis, delivering one of the best lines we read all week:”…it is clear that that mythical entity, ‘the international community’, is really just a collection of squabbling, parochial-minded actors playing out their own petty rivalries while Gaza burns.”

Real talk on Putin: Over at the Monkey Cage blog, WOTR friend James Goldgeier sets the record straight on MH17: “Unfortunately, Putin’s objectives in Ukraine remain the same in the aftermath of the shootdown.” The shooting down of the plane was a tragedy, but it’s not likely to change the calculations or interests of any of the major players.

Meanwhile, in Iran: While all eyes were on Ukraine and Gaza, diplomats were in Vienna over the weekend to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. The Guardian‘s Julian Borger has an excellent wrap-up of how the interim nuclear deal was extended, the key sticking points in the negotiations, and the path forward from here.

One place the U.S. and China could cooperate: Counterterrorism is a shared interest of the two rival powers, argues Jeffrey Payne in The Diplomat. Will they put aside politics to work together in this area? “Quite simply, they should,” Payne says, “but quite honestly, they won’t.”

So, can we at least fix outer space? Well, we can start by rethinking NASA entirely, writes Rand Simberg in National Review. Simberg, who describes himself as “a space enthusiast and a taxpayer,” suggests that we replace NASA with an agency more able to pursue spaceflight for the right reasons.

Tell me how this endsbut really: It’s easier to get into trouble than out of it, and the same goes for nation-building efforts. Head over to Foreign Policy in Focus, where Ved Singh reviews Exit Strategies and State Building, a volume edited by Richard Caplan of Oxford that examines the historic ability of international actors to extract themselves from post-conflict environments.

“You look like a thug!” Yes, that’s what Vice President Joe Biden said to Viktor Yanukovych last year. Foreign policy figures heavily in this masterful profile of the Veep by Evan Osnos in the New Yorker. From his snarky comments to international officials to his role in the Obama administration’s deliberations on Syria, Libya and more, there’s plenty here to paint an interesting portrait of how Biden has shaped foreign policy during his time in office.

Late addition! Kathleen McInnis and Xenia Wicket remind us why we need NATO over at Buzzfeed. Read more about their recent report here at War on the Rocks.


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


Photo credit: Sam Howzit