Weekend Reading: Hello 2015. See you later, 2014.

January 2, 2015

Dear Readers: Thanks for joining us for our 19th month in business and our second celebration of a new year.

We’re going to introduce a new feature to our Weekend Reading: a weekly quote.

Weekly Quote

“On many occasions…I have been struck by the congenital aversion of Americans to taking specific decisions on specific problems, and by their persistent urge to seek universal formulae or doctrines in which to clothe and justify particular actions. We obviously dislike to discriminate. We like to find some general governing norm to which, in each instance, appeal can be taken, so that individual decisions may be made not on their particular merits but automatically, depending on whether the circumstances do or do not seem to fit the norm. We like, by the same token, to attribute a universal significance to decisions we have already found it necessary, for limited and parochial reasons, to take….Whatever the origins of this tendency, it is an unfortunate one. It confuses public understanding of international issues more than it clarifies it. It shackles and distorts the process of decision-taking. It causes questions to be decided on the basis of criteria only partially relevant or not relevant at all. It tends to exclude at many points the discrimination of judgment and the prudence of language requisite to the successful conduct of the affairs of a great power.”

-George Kennan reflecting on the Truman Doctrine, Memoirs, 1925-1950.

“History never really says goodbye. History says, ‘See you later.’” Before you leave last year behind for good and focus on your resolutions for 2015, check out the 25 most read War on the Rocks articles of 2014.

Still can’t leave the past behind? See our top 25 from 2013, our launch year. Who made both lists? WOTR contributors Frank Hoffman and TM Gibbons-Neff. Both served as Marines. At the risk of sparking inter-service warfare, I’ll leave the matter there.

OMG Cyber! That’s the title of a new article by Robert M. Lee and Thomas Rid in RUSI Journal. They offer “thirteen reasons why hype makes for bad policy.” Some spoilers: hype creates confusion, erodes talent, and breeds synonyms. You should also check out another article by Rid, this one co-authored by Ben Buchanan, on “Attributing Cyber Attacks.” Maybe they’ll read this one at Sony.

Carrier wars. WOTR’s Bryan McGrath is facing off against Jerry Hendrix of CNAS at the U.S. Naval Academy on January 9. McGrath will be arguing in favor of this motion: nuclear carriers with air wings are the most cost effective and efficient platform to project power in the maritime and littoral realm to support U.S. national security interests in current and future security environments. Hendrix takes a different view. Come watch these two masters of maritime battle it out. I just might be there in the back with a flask. Come say hi.

Yes, it’s still torture. Remy Mauduit, an Algerian nationalist and former insurgent, reflects on his experience being waterboarded in The National Interest. He writes, “In spite of my frenzied fight to survive, I prayed so many times for death and the deliverance from pain. Waterboarding is a controlled death; I died multiple deaths, three times each day, for seventeen days.” Read it.

More powerful prose on torture. Did you read the excerpt we published on torture during the Battle of Algiers from Alistair Horne’s A Savage War of Peace? If not, don’t let another hour of 2015 go by before you read it.

What does 2015 hold for Syria? So says Joshua Landis: “The Somalia-ization of the country is inevitable so long as the international community degrades all centers of power in Syria and the opposition fails to unite.” 2014 was the year of ISIS, Landis states, and his associate from the Syria Comment Team observes it was also the year that proved the Assad regime more durable than most Western observers thought. He predicts 2015 might see some changes in the fortunes of the so-called Islamic State. Read more!

Need more Syria? Read some selections from our 2014 Syria coverage.


Photo credit: The U.S. Army