Weekend Reading: September 12

September 12, 2014

Hello, War on the Rockers. It’s been an eventful week, as we marked another anniversary of September 11 and saw momentum build for the next war. Now that the weekend is here, we’ve gathered another list of some of the best things we’ve read this week.

13 years after 9/11. On the 13th anniversary of the worst terror attack in U.S. history, it seems as though the Western world is no closer to winning the war on terror than it was heading into 2002. And Obama’s announcement of the eve of the anniversary was a stark reminder of this. At War on the Rocks, Clint Watts articulates that never since the attacks, “has there been such a diverse set of terrorist threats that might strike the West, and so much certainty about the intentions of the dozen or more jihadi terrorist groups scattered around the world.”

While there have been many tributes today in honor of 9/11, we thought it would be appropriate to share with you the address made by then-President George W. Bush following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Washington. His words still haunt us 13 years later.

Preparing for Iraq War 3.0. On Wednesday evening, President Barack Obama addressed the country laying out the administration’s strategy “to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; however, there seemed to be more than a few gaps in Obama’s grand plans, leaving many in the national security field asking questions. Hayes Brown has a good round up of those questions over at Think Progress. Also, Bryan McGrath has an overview of the good, the bad and the ugly from the speech for War on the Rocks. Finally, earlier this week Vox published the speech that we would have all preferred to hear from Obama.

ISIL Bonus. Take this Clickhole quiz to find out which Iraq War you are.

Dark legends from World War I. Smithsonian Magazine details the legends from World War I of deserters who lived underneath the trenches while the war was underway. Men of Australian, Austrian, British, Canadian, French, German, and Italian descent were rumored to live in “No Man’s Land” and come out at night scavenging food and supplies off the dead and dying. Both deeply disturbing and fascinating, the article concludes, “The wild deserters of no man’s land, whether angels or devils—or even flesh-eating ghouls who emerge only at night—is the stuff of a legend extremely rich in symbolic value. It reminds us today, a century after it began, of the madness, chaos and senselessness of all the horrors of war.”

Nigerians are stuck between a rock and a hard place. For Al Jazeera America, Daniel Solomon wrote a strong piece about Boko Haram (remember them?), whose recent expansion in the northeast of Nigeria has caused debate and confusion around whether the terrorist group aims to establish a caliphate, or a Sharia-influenced form of governance. While this concerns some, Solomon states that Boko Haram’s proposed Islamic state “is merely a replacement for corrupt institutions with their own histories of abuse and neglect of the region’s civilians.”

Peace in the Middle East. Sort of. Last month, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers met in the Saudi port city of Jeddah to discuss the six-month old Gulf dispute. According to a report by Gulf News, many viewed the outcome as positive because the GCC ministers preferred to place the collective interests of the group above all other disputes. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla writes, “the menacing I[SIL] is proving to be a unifying factor, producing many unintended alliances. It is serving as a political super glue that has momentarily fixed the many shattered glasses, including putting on pause the Gulf rift.”

The voyeurism behind jihadi videos. Writing for the New Yorker, Dexter Filkins raises the question: What could ISIL militants hope to achieve by publically beheading to American journalists? While propaganda is a commonly cited motive, Filkins points to the excitement and pleasure embodied by the journalists’ executioner as a sign of another explanation. Ultimately, Filkins concludes, “Videotaping a mass murder is not politics; it’s pornography.”

Returning to the women in the Marine infantry debate. The September issue of the Marine Corps Gazette featured an essay by Capt. Lauren Serrano, which won the 2013 MajGen Harold W. Chase Prize Essay Contest, making a case for why women do not belong in the Marine infantry. Among her conclusions was that incorporating women into the infantry would lead to more sexual assault cases. Over at Task & Purpose, former Marine officer Matthew W. Morgan rebuts Serrano’s argument point by point, and ultimately concludes that Serrano’s authority only comes from aligning herself with this “Old Boys Club” point of view, which leaders should actually be striving to tear down, not build up. “This is not bold. It is poor leadership. And it should never be rewarded,” Morgan writes.

Want more? Read the opposing viewpoints regarding women in the infantry in these War on the Rocks articles by Ellen Haring and Emma Stokien.

WOTR Weekly Round-up: As usual, here are more great reads published this week on War on the Rocks:


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.