Weekend Reading: Labor Day Edition

August 29, 2014

Happy Friday to our War on the Rocks fans. This weekend marks the end of summer for all of those people heading back to school in September, so be sure to check out our weekend reading list and all of our articles to impress your friends when you see them.

Empty promises following the Cold War: Following the end of the Cold War,the the Soviet Union, the United States and West Germany negotiated the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the reunification of Germany. While Germany was successfully reunified, what also resulted from those negotiation was a growing dispute between the U.S. and USSR that would last decades, after “U.S. officials, working closely with West German leaders, hinted to Moscow during negotiations that month that the NATO alliance might not expand, not even to the eastern half of a soon-to-be-reunited Germany.” Writing for Foreign Affairs, Mary Elise Sarotte examines these negotiations about what the West really promised Moscow about NATO expansion.

The Booming Business of Hostage-Taking: In the wake of the kidnapping and recorded killing of James Foley by ISIL, Derek Kravitz and Colm O’Molloy, writing for the Guardian, examine the growing business of hostage-taking by terrorist organizations as a lucrative source of revenue. However, business is also growing for risk management experts and kidnap-and-ransom insurance providers. According to industry estimates obtained for the report, “Today, at least 75% of Fortune 500 companies hold K&R insurance policies.”

On the topic of hostage-taking, Jacob Siegel makes a great argument at the Daily Beast that the United States should not allow ISIL propaganda and the murder of James Foley to dictate its foreign policy strategy in the Middle East.

The question of the future Navy is more complex than we realize: Writing at Cicero magazine, Eric Jorgensen responds to Bryan McGrath’s War on the Rocks article, which states the “role of the Navy in the deterrence and conduct of great power war is simply not considered [by President Barack Obama], because he appears to believe we have put the days of great power conflict behind us.” To rebut, Jorgensen argues that it is not enough to ask how much the Navy needs, but rather, “How much of what, with how much of what else – and where, and when (how soon for how long)?”

The Army isn’t a charity program: At Task & Purpose, Brad Hardy defends the Army’s Officer Separation Board results that recently led to the active-duty separation of more than 1,500 majors and captains over the last several months. Citing the Army’s Profession of Arms, Hardy writes, “The cold reality is that the Army and the all-volunteer force is not a charity, work program, or entitlement. It is a profession that, by its serious, deadly nature, must be highly selective when considering the character of those who lead it.”

Why it’s important to pay attention in history class: At the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik writes that it is important to be well read in history, not because it provides insight into the right thing to do, but rather “that it will show us why even doing the right thing rarely works out. … What history generally ‘teaches’ is how hard it is for anyone to control it, including the people who think they’re making it.”

In need of some lighter reading? Check out Business Insiders’ list of the most ingenious weapons used in warfare across history to put a smile on your face for the weekend. Our personal favorite? Snake bombs.

War on the Rocks weekly round-up: Here are some highlights of some of the great content published this week by yours truly.


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: Michael Anthony