Weekend Reading: 22 August


Happy Friday from War on the Rocks, where our heads have been spinning all week trying to pay attention to everything that’s been happening in the world—and unfortunately, not much of it is cause for celebration. Here’s our weekly round-up of the best pieces we read this week—and here’s to next week being quieter.

Rest in peace, James Foley: Our hearts go out to the family of James Foley, the journalist who was tragically and brutally killed by ISIS militants this week. We read and watched a number of touching remembrances, including one written last year by a colleague reflecting on their time detained in Libya.

Back to Bergdahl: Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office pronounced the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap illegal, based on the lack of congressional notification and the funds spent to implement the exchange. On Vox.com, Zach Beauchamp has some initial legal analysis on whether the administration was in the wrong. And here’s Slate‘s Joshua Keating comparing the Bergdahl case with James Foley.

One more on the Clinton interview: Much was made last week about Hillary Clinton’s supposed break with her former boss on foreign policy—but how much of a break was it, really? The Washington Post‘s Walter Pincus argues that a closer reading doesn’t suggest as big of a rift as commentators took away from the interview.

When sanctions backfire: We’re hearing a lot about whether today’s geopolitical conflicts resemble the lead-up to World War I, but Paul Saunders of the Center for the National Interest is more worried about 1941. Read his op-ed in the New York Times comparing today’s efforts to sanction Putin’s Russia with the events that led to Pearl Harbor.

So has anything good happened? Yes, actually. This week marked one year since the Assad regime’s chemical attack at Ghouta, and as Greg Thielmann points out on Arms Control Now, we’ve made significant progress on arms control in the ensuing year. Bringing Syria on as a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention and eliminating its chemical weapons arsenal are laudable achievements in an otherwise bleak situation.

Times are changing in India: Last week, Indians marked their country’s independence day by listening to Narendra Modi speak at the Red Fort. Many commentators saw this as a landmark speech for a new president whose vision for India has attracted the attention of the world. Here’s BBC News with five surprising takeaways from the speech.

What happens to a carrier deferred? Or decommissioned? That question is answered in a cool feature on the USNI blog, where Cid Standifer looks into what happens to aircraft carriers after they’ve done their duty. Some are turned into museums, some host basketball games, and some just get sold for scrap. Read on to find out more.

And finally, some comic relief: There’s not a whole lot of happy news coming out of Ferguson, MO, either, but international news watchers will love Max Fisher’s satirical take on how we’d cover Ferguson if it were in another country.


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


Photo credit: Ren Kuo