Weekend Reading: February 6-8

February 6, 2015

This time of year, the weekend means hibernating under lots of blankets, with a bottle of good bourbon, and some good reading. Here is one of those three things to get you started.


Why we shouldn’t mess with Russia. Over at the Brookings blog “Up Front,” Jeremy Shapiro poses the question, “what will the Russians do in response to America’s provision of arms to its enemy?” in  response to a Washington Post op-ed arguing that the U.S. should provide Ukraine “lethal assistance” against Russia. Ultimately, Shapiro concludes that the “Russian regime has defined the struggle in Ukraine as part of an existential battle against American imperialism, in which the United States eventually seeks to impose its will on Russia itself. American provision of arms would lend credence to that view and increase the Russian government’s freedom of action at home.” In other words, it’s not worth it.

Want more? At War on the Rocks, Sean Kay argues that while what Russia has done to Ukraine is unacceptable, now is not the time for the United States to take the lead in escalating the situation through military force.

Women rising. This week, five women out of 26 passed the Ranger Assessment Training Course at Fort Benning, Georgia — the prerequisite course to go to Ranger School — leading up to the Army’s planned gender assessment in April. The Truman Project and Center for National Policy has launched a campaign called “No Exceptions” to build support for full combat inclusion. Follow the Facebook page for updates on how you can help.

Where are the Hemingways and Orwells of the 21st century? Cicero magazine has a great piece that on one hand celebrates the rise of veterans who are writing about their military experiences and sharing their war stories, such as Phil Klay, but on the other hand, laments the lack of fictional literature generated out of the last 14 years of war. While out of wars of previous eras came great works such as Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five, Sarah Stodola writes, “The relative lack of literary interest in Iraq reflects a culture that does not come up against the topic in any direct way very often. Writers write what they know, and today most Americans, writers included, do not know this war very well.”

Want more? The winners of the Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare project have been announced and can be found here. The short stories are well worth a read.

Service matters. At Task & Purpose, Carl Forsling uses the White Feather Movement of World War I — when young women in Britain would pin white feathers to the lapels of men not signed up for the military, symbolizing cowardice — to articulate the growing need to build a culture of public service over self in the United States. Be it military service, community service, or volunteering for the Peace Corps, as a country, we need to rediscover what it means to serve.  He points out, “While [Americans] say thanks to random service members, they save their aspirations for their children to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, not the next James Mattis.”

Schoolhouse Rocks. In other news, War on the Rocks launched its latest series this week called “The Schoolhouse” to explore and debate the state of advanced graduate education in international affairs. We kicked off the series with an insightful essay by Frank Gavin, who writes that international affairs scholars need to restructure how they train and reward their advanced students if they hope to contribute to meaningful and actionable policy. This launch is timed with the International Studies Association convention taking place in New Orleans beginning Feb. 18.

Guesstimating the size of Boko Haram. Over at War Is Boring, Peter Dörrie examines the size of Boko Haram by comparing the Nigerian-based terrorist group to similar organizations. Dörrie surmises that Boko Haram is comprised of roughly 7,000 to 10,000 members, a number that speaks to both its capabilities as well as its weakness.

What does it take to defeat ISIL? Adam Elkus has a smart take on the hard questions that Washington faces when it comes to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). How much does Washington want to stop it? How much are we willing to trade off other priorities? As the United States struggles to simultaneously juggle threats from ISIL, al-Qaeda, and Iran, among a pile of other pressing foreign policy issues, it must figure out how to not let anything slip to the back burner.

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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.