Weekend Reading: January 30

January 30, 2015

If you’re reading this, it means you survived the annual Snowpocalypse of Doom. The first thing you should do is go to the War on the Rocks store, which opened this week, and buy everything—order by Feb. 3 and get 8% off (use discount code PRE-SALE at checkout). Then check out this week’s recommended reading list. Have a great weekend.

It’s time for the FY2016 budget. As the Pentagon gets ready to submit its budget for fiscal year 2016, everyone is weighing in on what it will/should/could look like. The Defense News team partnered with budget analytics firm VisualDoD to highlight the most important issues to watch. Hot topics include cyber and IT spending, UAV funds, and life without the overseas contingency operations spending. Meanwhile, at War on the Rocks, Paul Scharre offers his own list of what to watch when the budget drops to see whether the Defense Department is adjusting its resources to match changing strategic needs.

Want more? Also, over at Project Syndicate, Dan Steinbock warns about the decline of U.S. military innovation, arguing that we may lose our  “global technological leadership and commercial competitiveness” if defense innovation and production spending is not restored.

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The Churchill Challenge. In honor of the passing of Sir Winston Churchill 50 years ago this month, the Telegraph’s Harry Wallop attempted to match the former British prime minister’s drinking habits by spending 24 hours following his typical regimen. While Churchill was known for saying, “I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me,” Wallop admits the complete opposite. If you don’t have much to do this weekend, the Churchill Challenge could liven things up. Let us know if you succeed.

In other boozy history. Maj. Matt Cavanaugh shared an awesome anecdote from the book  “Crazy is a Compliment: The Power of Zigging When Everyone Else Zags” about how during the Napoleonic Wars, a widow named Veuve Clicquot became the first woman to lead a multinational business after selling the Russians an 1811 sparkling wine vintage that had been her husband’s small-time enterprise. The anecdote ends with a great lesson from the story: “So next time adversity approaches or you face down a foe, don’t rush for shelter. Instead, channel the Widow, pop some bubbly, and clink with the enemy.”

The real problem with Yemen. Over at Political Violence @ A Glance, a blog run by two political scientists, authors Barbara F. Walter and Kenneth M. Pollack make the case that Yemen is even more dangerous than we realize, but not for the reason you may think. They write: “The greatest danger Yemen poses to the United States, therefore, comes from Saudi Arabia. This is especially true now that King Abdullah has died. Why? Because the Saudis are obsessed with Yemen and have found it impossible to resist meddling in Yemeni affairs.”

The value of a good education. Writing for The Bridge, Dr. Simon Anglim argues that strategic education is vital to the 21st century military in order to improve efficiency when operating in parts of the world least familiar to us. “It is therefore essential that service personnel get a degree of historical, political and cultural education about the nature of the people they are working with and the world in general,” Anglim writes. “If, at the very least, forces develop a good, accurate understanding of why the enemy sees the world the way he does — and he may, of course, see it far, far differently from the way that they do — then they are some way along the road to defeating or at least neutralising him.”

Keeping in touch. A new company and app called Sandboxx may be showing us the way that the military and vet community – along with their family and friends – will keep in touch both during and after service. If you have a loved one, friend, or comrade anywhere in uniform, you can send them hardcopy photos and messages through your phone and a whole lot more. This fantastic video showcases some of what they do. Download the app here.

The call for an effective American foreign policy. The National Interest ran the final chapter of William Martel’s new book, “Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice: The Need For an Effective American Foreign Policy.” Martel, who was an associate professor of international security studies at The Fletcher School, passed away on Jan. 12 after a long battle with leukemia. His book, and this excerpt, make a great argument for developing a grand strategy to harness the United States’ “spirit, sense of optimism, and perseverance…”

War on the Rocks’ weekly round-up: A review of some of our top articles from the past week.

  • James Lockhart explains why we need to return Guantánamo Bay to Cuban sovereignty.
  • Jeffrey Meiser poses the dilemma of the African soldier who experiences U.S. professional military education: “When an officer that learns these lessons goes back to his home country and sees entrenched and intractable corruption, human rights abuses, incompetence, and oppression, what is his solution set?”
  • Bryan McGrath reviews new Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joe Dunford’s  “36th Commandant’s Planning Guidance.”


Lauren Katzenberg is an assistant editor at War on the Rocks. She is also the managing editor of Task & Purpose, a news and culture publication covering veterans and military affairs.