Weekend Reading: February 20-22

February 20, 2015

If you aren’t at #ISA2015 or in hibernation, then here’s your third option to stay occupied this weekend: The War on the Rocks weekend reading list.


Advice for the White House’s countering extremist violence summit. All eyes are on the White House this week with the kickoff of its summit on countering violent extremism in the wake of back-to-back high-profile, extremist attacks around the world. Clint Watts laid out his expectations for the summit, as well as several questions attendees should be asking, in a piece for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Watts writes, “CVE needs to recalibrate the message, messenger, medium and method by which they counter extremism.  CVE efforts should begin in the virtual environment where discussions can illuminate physical hotspots of extremism for the nimble application of traditional CVE programs.”

Want more? Last week, War on the Rocks contributor Vera Zakem offered four actions for the White House Summit to immediately put into action. And, writing for CNN, Peter Bergen explains why poverty, lack of education, and general deprivation are not root causes that drive individuals to become Islamic terrorists. Instead, the real driver is religious ideology and can only be effectively challenged and countered by Islamic leaders and scholars, not more White House policy.

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Cool launch alert. The Christian Science Monitor has launched a new section on its website dedicated to covering security and privacy issues to help audiences better understand how the Web and digital age are shaping our world. Definitely check it out.

Carter’s already burning bridges. This week, to the surprise of many, newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Ashton Carton made the call to replace Pentagon Spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby with a civilian. The move frustrated many within the national security sphere, including military commentator Doctrine Man!!, who criticized the dismissal not only because of Kirby’s “ credibility, character, and competence,” but also because of the priority this task has taken over the myriad other defense issues that require Carter’s immediate attention.

In defense of the LCS. At the Center for Maritime Security, Steven Mills defends the Littoral Combat Ship program against claims that it is more costly and less efficient compared to the Danish Iver Huitfeldt and Absalon-class frigates. “On the surface, the Iver Huitfeldt and Absalon class frigates would appear to be cost effective alternatives to the LCS. Deeper investigation, however, reveals how the Danes achieved these substantially lower figures by separating higher cost equipment from that of the platform, scavenging weapons from decommissioned ships, accepting incomplete warships for service, and purchasing these vessels from a single, robust commercial shipbuilder not dependent on or affected by unstable government ship acquisition processes,” Mills argues.

The counter argument: Back in August 2013, WOTR’s T.X. Hammes drew his own comparisons between the two vessels, ultimately calling for the cancellation of the LCS program. Let us know whose argument you side with.

The NSA’s secret weapon revealed. At Wired magazine, Kevin Poulsen calls NSA’s recently revealed gang of cyber hackers, aka the “Equation Group,” a modern-day Manhattan Project. He says this group is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing: creating the largest and most sophisticated cyber offense the world has ever seen. “If the US spends a billion dollars in cyber defense, it will still be vulnerable. But spend it on cyber attack, and you get the most advanced computer espionage and sabotage tools that history has ever seen. It all makes sense in a 1970s Rand-Corporation-nuclear-game-theory kind of way.”

This week in history. Thursday, Feb. 19, marked the 70th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima. Check out this photo series of the battle published by Time in 2013, originally taken in 1945 for Life magazine.

War on the Rocks weekly roundup: Behind on your WOTR reading? We recommend you start here:

  • David Betz of the Department of War Studies at King’s College shares his vision for redesigning international relations graduate programs to focus on the art of strategy, or the advanced study of “stupid shit.”
  • Dennis J. Blasko gives his 10 reasons why China will have trouble fighting in a modern war.
  • The first article of a six-part series on military robotics and automation by Paul Scharre answers the question, What does it mean for a robot to be “fully autonomous?”


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. Follow her on Twitter @lkatzenberg