Weekend Reading List: March 27-29 Edition

March 27, 2015

If there’s one thing you can rely on in this crazy world, its the weekend reading list from War on the Rocks to help get you through your Friday.

Here are my top picks from the week.

The first rule of Twitter Fight Club is … For those of you who live under a rock, or just don’t have a Twitter account that you check 50 times a day, you’ve been missing out on the annual Twitter Fight Club tournament for national security and foreign policy tweeters. (Here’s a good write up from FishbowlDC about this year’s competition.) In honor of #TFC15, I asked the contestants I judged during Round Two for their recommended reads for the week. Here they are:

@Berlaymonster: In the EUobserver, Gareth Harding discusses the EU’s move toward the use of propaganda to win an information war it is currently losing against Russia.

@elliebartels: This long-form piece in Boston magazine traces a Boston-based war-crimes specialist’s investigation of a woman who claimed to be a Rwandan genocide refugee, but turned out to be someone far more dangerous.

@Lesley_Warner: Lesley offers up a her own great primer to the Senate and National Assembly elections in Nigeria scheduled for Mar 28.

@pptsapper: In Cicero Magazine, Maj. John McRae looks at lessons for warfare from a World War II engineer, Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Casey.

@RyanJSuto: Amid the growing crisis in Yemen, this article in The National from a year ago offers some insight into the state of the country leading up to present day: “Those who fought for a peaceful civil state in 2011 may use violence to revive the state.”

@drFarls: The Oryx blog shares photos of the Yemeni Air Force’s U.S.-delivered aircraft in ruins after a strike on al-Dailami airbase by the Saudi-led coalition on Mar. 25.

Resetting relations with Afghanistan. Over at Defense in Depth, James West makes the case for a lasting presence to remain in Afghanistan. He writes, “The United States’ continuing commitment to Afghanistan represents a positive development for a nation too often shaken by disunity and violence—but much work remains. Having 9,800 troops remain in country in a train, advise, and assist capacity—a fraction of the 100,000 U.S. troops at the peak of the Afghan surge—represents a reasonable continued investment that can have a real impact in securing Afghanistan’s development and stability while protecting U.S. national interests.”

Want more? At War on the Rocks, Jason Campbell argues that a better strategy toward Afghanistan would be to replace the arbitrary withdrawal timeline with conditionality. And David Barno and Nora Bensahel point out that “Ghani’s visit this week provides the ideal moment to reset a relationship that for too long has been dominated by both mistrust and often-sharp rhetoric on both sides.”

How to save the Pentagon. Michael O’Hanlon, writing for the National Interest, proposes five crucial acquisition reforms that the Pentagon needs to adopt. These include utilizing Title 12 for acquisition more often, imposing competition between firms to discipline them on pricing, following the JIEDDO model for other technologies, breaking down information technology purchases into smaller batches, and allowing companies to maintain intellectual property rights.

Read this on ISIS. If you haven’t picked up or read “ISIS: The State of Terror,” by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger, then check out Lawfare’s four-part series of excerpts from the book for some smart and much-needed analysis on the subject.

How Twitter reveals certain origins of support for ISIS. The MIT Technology Review has a great overview of some research by the Qatar Computing Research Institute in Doha, which has been studying tweets in Arabic by people who support and those who oppose ISIS to determine what factors people in each group have in common. According to the report, “Anti-ISIS tweets generally peaked when news of ISIS human rights violations emerged such as the killing of hostage, accounts of torture, or reports of the enslavement of Yazidi women … On the other hand, pro-ISIS tweets generally peaked in conjunction with the release of propaganda videos and major military achievements.”

McCain at CSIS: “we are now flirting with disaster.” On Thursday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain addressed an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., explaining his top defense priorities for the 114th Congress. Watch the video of his talk here, or read his remarks. Here’s a sneak peak: “The Liberal world order, which has been anchored by U.S. hard power for seven decades, is being seriously stressed, and with it, the foundation of our security and prosperity. … It does not have to be this way. Nowhere is it preordained or inevitable that American power must decline. That is a choice. It is up to us. And we can choose a better future for ourselves, but only if we make the right decisions now to set us on a better course.”

War on the Rocks weekly roundup: Here are a few more reads to catch up on the we published over the last week.


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.