Weekend Reading: Back to School Edition

September 5, 2014

Here is what you should be reading this weekend!

The jihadi who never was: In this Washington Post article, author Michael Muhammad Knight describes how in the mid-1990s, he left his Catholic high school in New York to study at a madrassa in Pakistan to ultimately become a jihadi fighter. While he ultimately didn’t fight, Knight writes, “My imagined scenario of liberating Chechnya and turning it into an Islamic state was a purely American fantasy, grounded in American ideals and values. Whenever I hear of an American who flies across the globe to throw himself into freedom struggles that are not his own, I think, What a very, very American thing to do.” On a similar topic, you might want to check out “De-legitimizing al Qaeda,” in the latest issue of International Security.

Britain breaking from America in the Middle East? That’s what WOTR Contributing Editor and King’s College London historian John Bew calls for in the New Statesman. Bew observes, “For the past two centuries, British foreign policy has been predicated on the preservation of international order (one built, of course, for its own ends). It is when that order has collapsed that the gravest threats to British national security have occurred: in the 1910s and 1930s.” While America can “turn inwards,” Bew says, this is simply not something that Britain can afford to do. One of Britain’s key problems is the radicalization within some British Muslim communities. Read Jonathan Bronitsky’s take here at War on the Rocks.  

Don’t mess with these guys: Since November 2010, 10% of the Tongan Armed Forces have been deployed to Afghanistan, guarding the sprawling Camp Bastion in Helmand’s Washir district. There involvement in the mission has come to an end. To mark the occasion, these Royal Tongan Marines performed the Sipi Tau, a traditional Tongan war dance. It is both impressive and intimidating – everything a war dance should be. Watch it! (h/t to WOTR Contributing Editor John Allen Williams). 

Summer is tossing one last heat wave at the mid-Atlantic. Here are some war-themed summer cocktails to cool you down:

Turns out Eichmann was an evil SOB, and not in a banal way: When one philosopher takes on another’s key ideas, it doesn’t usually make the New York Times. But this is different. Bettina Stangneth is out with a remarkable new book that takes aim at Hannah Arendt’s controversial Eichmann in Jerusalem A Report on the Banality of Evil. Arendt wrote her book after interviewing Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann as he sat in Jerusalem waiting to be executed after years on the lamb. Arendt’s book argued that Eichmann was an unremarkable individual who orchestrated the mass killing of Jews, not through any particularly strong hatred of them or ideology, but because he was following orders and wasn’t one for critical thought. His acts were, she argued, the result of a lack of self-reflection more than anything else. Arendt’s book sparked an intellectual civil war that never fully subsided. And in Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer Stangneth breathes new life into the conflict.  The New York Times has an account of this fascinating debate that anyone interested in the nature of evil should read. The implications speak to ongoing events in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.

What needs to come out of the Wales Summit: In the Huffington Post, retired Adm. James G. Stavridis and Julian Lindley-French argue that at its core, NATO needs a future force that matches future challenges. With that in mind, they offer three military decisions that need to be made at the Wales summit around modernizing collective defense, restructuring crisis management forces, and reconfiguring co-operative security. Indeed, “the NATO Future Force must be a warfighting force and yet agile and nimble enough to sit at the threshold between U.S., European and partner forces and between soft and hard power.” Did you see WOTR’s own Stanley Sloan give his insights on what NATO Members need to accomplish at the summit?

Dusting off the ol’ nukes: While NATO leaders meet in Wales, forthcoming Russian nuclear drills will certainly be a topic of conversation, alongside Russia’s gradual invasion of eastern Ukraine (we asked you about that in July, remember?). As reported by The Diplomat, the Russian’s say the purpose of the exercise “is to practice operations to rebuff subversive activities and attacks made by a presumed enemy with the use of high-precision weapons and fulfill combat tasks despite the enemy’s strong radio-electronic resistance and active operations the enemy conducts in the area where the strategic troops are deployed.” I wonder what sort of capable enemy they have in mind.  Lucky for you, dear readers, we have a nuclear readiness kit for all of you. Check out our “Essential Reading for the Apocalypse.

Could Turkey’s relationship with Iran go the way of Syria? That’s what Michael Koplow asks in an insightful post at Ottomans and Zionists. Koplow writes, “Like with Syria, the rial signs in Ankara’s eyes have blinded it to some larger geopolitical truths. Turkey and Iran have a shared interest in stamping out the threat from ISIL, and they have each played a big role in keeping Hamas alive and boosting its standing in relation to the Palestinian Authority, but otherwise they are operating at cross-purposes.” See what he has to say!

So, no more COIN? The United States Army Irregular Warfare Center closes its doors effective October 1st., the Army Times reports. Did you know our second and third podcasts featured the leaders of this center? Go back and have a (sad) listen. We predict this center might be missed.

War on the Rocks Weekly Round up: Check out these articles and more published this week at War on the Rocks:


Image: UK Armed Forces