Weekend Reading: Friday the 13th Edition

February 13, 2015

Welcome to our latest installment of weekend reading, you strategy party people. Before you do anything else, check out our store where you can buy the swag you need to make it through your weekends (everyone needs a good flask).

Welcome back, Carter – Ash Carter is returning to “the building” as our nation’s newly confirmed Secretary of Defense. See who he is bringing with him here, from Defense News. What are the keys to success in this position? Take a look back at Charlie Stevenson’s take on why this is a “nearly impossible job.” And here are some defense reforms Secretary Carter should turn his attention to immediately, according to Jerry McGinn, Stephen Rodriguez, and Peter Lichtenbaum.

New day, new Duck – Check out the new website for the Duck of Minerva, where you can find top academics wonking out on politics.

Profiling Great (and Terrible) MenMother Jones, of all places, digs into the CIA’s psych profiles of leaders from Castro and Qaddafi to Khrushchev and Saddam and everything in between. See what the Office of Strategic Services had to say about Hitler’s prowess (or lack thereof) in the bedroom.

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A romantic tour of Chinese shipyards – That’s what Information Dissemination has served up for you. Feng offers a breakdown – aided by an aerial photo – of what might be the busiest naval shipyards in the world.

Influential jihadi ideologue-cum-hostage negotiator – Joas Wagemakers has the scoop over at Jihadica on Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, once viewed as the most influential scholar in the jihadist movement, and the secret role he played in helping to secure the release of Moaz Al Kasasbeh, the downed Jordanian pilot who was later brutally executed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. According to Wagemakers, Maqdisi played a key role in this affair from the start and details letters he wrote to the self-proclaimed Islamic State Caliph.

Putin: Sad, Bad, or Mad? – Writing for the Center for European Policy Analysis, Edward Lucas considers the possibilities: “Is Vladimir Putin bad, sad or mad? Is he a sinister and effective tyrant, cleverly taking advantage of the West’s weakness? Is he balancing precariously at the head of a failing state, desperate not to end up dead or in prison? Or is he delusional, like the villain in a bad Hollywood film?”

Watching the watchers in space – Gizmodo and i09, two websites within the Gawker media family, teamed up for what they call Spy Week. Their most interesting offering? This piece that explains just how easy it is for even an amateur to track every spy satellite in orbit. “Spotting satellites,” it turns out, “poses no great technical challenge.” Anybody with the interest can use the same methods that the Indian government used in 1998 to hide nuclear tests from American intelligence satellites.

Bonus – The Spy Week offerings also include this gem: ten Cold-War era spy-themed board games. Check out the list, track own a vintage game, and let your inner spy geek run free.