Weekend Reading: October 24-26

October 24, 2014

Happy Friday, y’all! If you’ve barricaded yourself inside your house for fear of contracting Ebola (or even if you haven’t), here are some good reads for the weekend about what’s been going on in the world over the past week.

Climate change, est. 2100 B.C. Natasha Geiling of the Smithsonian highlights five conflicts and collapses throughout history that may have been precipitated by changes in climate. This article looks at the fall of the Akkadian empire, the turbulence of Chinese dynasties, the end of the Mayas, Europe during the Little Ice Age, and 21st century conflicts that are exacerbated by global warming.

And since we do live in the 21st century…check out what’s missing in the Pentagon’s “Climate Change Roadmap,” according to Christian Beekman at Task & Purpose.

A defrosting front line. Michele Gravino of National Geographic looks at how the receding ice in the Alps has begun to reveal relics from World War I. The mountainous border region was the site of numerous clashes between Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops, at altitudes so high that the evidence has literally been frozen over until now. The artifacts illustrate the brutal conditions soldiers fought in, which often rendered their battles and offensives useless. Indeed as Stefano Morosini of the University of Milan puts it: “the enemy took second place…the true adversary was nature herself.”

A changing Canada. In the wake of the tragic events in Canada over the past week, Strife seeks to examine the way in which Canadians are grappling with their identity in a new era of violence. Particularly when confronted with acts of violence and terrorism in their own backyard, Canadians must reexamine their role in international politics. Strife asks poignant questions, such as: “Are we still a Canada of peacekeepers?” “How do we view our place and role in this world amid seemingly increasing violence?” As Canadians contend with these issues, Strife is certain they can do so with their uniquely Canadian strength and poise.

100 days of Sisi. Brian Katulis, Mokhtar Awad and Hardin Lang of the Center for American Progress mark Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s first 100 days in office, detailing his accomplishments and the challenges he faces going forward. Among the problems that Sisi must address are the economy, security challenges, the legacy of incomplete political transitions, and human rights and political inclusivity. As the U.S. re-engages with Egypt, these are signs of change that we should be looking for.

We’re gonna need a better boat. Engine problems are much more serious when they concern a 53,000 ton aircraft carrier. Robert Beckhusen of Medium looks at the Chinese carrier Liaoning. This ex-Soviet monstrosity is Beijing’s first functioning carrier, yet is plagued with engine problems. Beckhusen argues that Liaoning may be “as much of a liability as an asset,” and is unlikely to be sent very far afield (given the possibility she might not make it back).

Sunk costs. Never to be outdone (especially by the Chinese), the U.S. has answered with its own naval disaster. Dave Majumdar says the Navy’s new $12 billion stealth destroyer may or may not capsize if it encounters a big wave.

Naval and maritime strategy R Us. This week, WOTR’s Ryan Evans hosted Admiral Chris Parry, Bryan McGrath, Evan Montgomery to talk about naval and maritime strategy. Listen to the podcast here.

ISIL isn’t that bad. Apparently, the Islamic State threat isn’t as severe as it’s said to be. So says Musa al-Gharbi, who argues that the problem the U.S. should really be focusing on is much closer to home: Mexican drug cartels. Gharbi believes that Americans have an exaggerated fear of ISIL due to societal Islamophobia, and that most Americans aren’t as concerned as they should be about the threat posed by the cartels. Pointing to the massive number of people killed every year by the narcos and, like ISIL, their ideological motivation, Gharbi makes a case against the dissonance between American outrage over ISIL and drug cartels on its border.

More on cartels:

If you want to read more about just how bad the cartels are, here’s a piece by Jason McGahan about a Twitter activist murdered for tweeting against them.

Women in War. This week, Makers released a documentary entitled “Women in War,” that examines women’s role in and relationship to the military. “Women have the same calling to securing their nation as men,” says Gina Bennett, an interviewee. This film tells the story of women that have served, and provides a powerful portrait of the unique issues they are confronted with. Watch the film here.

Sorry not sorry, Putin. Anne Applebaum says that rather than being apologetic for what Russia sees as our “triumphalist” policies toward the region over the past decades, we should regret not having realized Russia’s disruptive potential sooner. One of the West’s greater foreign policy accomplishments, argues Applebaum, has been the integration of former Soviet states into the EU and/or NATO. Putin’s aggressive behavior threatens this, and as such, NATO must return to a policy of deterrence.

YPG making ISIL GTFO. Syria Deeply interviews Mutlu Civiroglu, an analyst on Syria and Turkey, about the role of the YPG in the battle for Kobani. The U.S. has ignored the Turkish government’s attempts to discredit the group, and instead has chosen the group as an ally in defending the border city. The YPG has also banded together with Arab rebel groups in the area, namely the FSA. These are indicators of the region’s Kurds increasing importance militarily and politically.

More on ISIL:

Amanda Taub at Vox examines the reasons women are joining ISIS.

In a very un-buzzfeed-like way, here is a list of the Seven Worst-Case Scenarios in the Battle with the Islamic State according to Peter Van Buren of LobeLog.

WOTR’s David Shlapak and David Frelinger discuss the need to eliminate ISIL’s heavy weapons and vehicles.

Deal or no deal? Ambassador Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute writes about the various possible outcomes of nuclear negotiations between Tehran and Washington before the November 24 deadline: breakdown and crisis, a partial deal, “muddling through” (avoiding any agreement or extension), or an Iranian “Plan B”. Not optimistic, Ross discusses some of Washington’s options in the absence of a comprehensive deal.

Meanwhile, Jack Goldsmith at Lawfare Blog examines the impact of a presidential move to waive sanctions without the support of Congress on a deal with Iran. Without approval from Congress, any deal struck would exist solely between Tehran and President Obama. As such, it would be perceived as short-term and tenuous, lacking the clout of an agreement with full legislative support.

For peat’s sake. There now exists a startup that is attempting to reinvent the way whiskey is aged: in 24 hours. Time and Oak has developed what are called “Whiskey Elements,” (a.k.a. charred wooden sticks) that purportedly enable to you skip the whole aging-for-years-and-years thing that whiskey drinkers are so wild about. One taste-tester concluded that, “throwing a burnt stick in a bottle of swill doesn’t really work.” But who knows, maybe in a few years we’ll all be laughing at those barbarians that used to age their whiskey in barrels.


Photo credit: The U.S. Army