Weekend Reading: December 26-28

December 26, 2014

Happy Holidays from the War on the Rocks team! As always, this week’s Weekend Reading includes some of the best pieces from the week on defense, foreign policy, and global affairs. As a special bonus, we’ve also included a few of the best longform pieces from 2014!


According to Brahma Chellaney in Project Syndicate, the Dec. 16 massacre of 132 schoolchildren in Peshawar, Pakistan was not the first time the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism became a terror victim. And as long as the military, intelligence and nuclear establishments remain unaccountable to the civilian government, it may not be the last.

Clear language might be the first requirement for honest policy. In “Torture, American-style,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist’s Hugh Gusterson urges Americans to remove the phrase “enhanced interrogation” from the official lexicon and call torture by its true name.

As a result of the report on torture, the United States’ stature abroad is likely to suffer without greater individual and institutional accountability. Leslie Vinjamuri writes more in her article, “Senate Report on Torture Seems Unlikely to Lead to Greater Accountability,” published this week in Political Violence @ a Glance.

Brace yourself for another comparison of the recent conflict in the Middle East to the Vietnam War. Published earlier this week in Small Wars Journal, Gary Anderson’s “Rethinking our Strategy in Iraq and Syria” outlines a strategic framework to re-address our military and political objectives against ISIL. According to Mr. Anderson, “the people who are planning the war effort don’t see the irony [because] the Ivy League schools that produced the Obama Administration’s brain trust no longer require the serious study of history.”

The prospect of future U.S. troop deployments to Iraq prompted The Havok Journal’s Scott Faith to update his article, “Back to Basics 2: Returning to the ‘Poor Game’ of Modern U.S. Warfare.” Scott opines that the United States is “obsessed with non-issues and distracted by non-military missions.” These issues and many others continue to impede the military’s ability to achieve lasting gains.

The National’s Rashmee Roshan Lall writes that the brutality of ISIL’s tactics foretell the certainty of its demise. “Sometimes perhaps, the best that can happen is for revolutions to evaporate, as Kafka said, leaving behind the slime of bureaucracy.”

The year 2015 must provide new answers to the questions raised in 2014the status quo is no longer sustainable. This is the conclusion of writer Ari Shavit, published this week in Haaretz’s “The failed promise of 2014.”

In Jessica Purkiss’ historical perspective piece “Gaza: A crossroads of civilizations,” she notes that Gaza “has been captured by Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, followed by Persians and later still by Alexander the Great.” Ultimately, the most recent siege ‘will be a footnote.’

And now, a few highlights from the year that are well worth looking back on.

“Interview: I was a separatist fighter in Ukraine,” published by Radio Free Europe Radio Free Liberty in July 2014.

“Whoever Saves A Life,” published by Medium in September 2014. Journalist Matthieu Aikins tells the story of Syria’s first responders and other members of the Civil Defense volunteers in Aleppo.

From Aeon is Kevin Sites’ “The Unforgiven.” His article asserts that “when soldiers kill in war, the secret shame and guilt they bring back home can destroy them.”

If you’re interested in re-visiting international analytic highlights focusing on Asia, check out the Lowy Institute for International Policy’s “Best of 2014” series at The Interpreter.


Photo credit: Javcon117*