Weekend Reading: March 20-22

March 20, 2015

Here’s your War on the Rocks weekend reading list. Also, if you haven’t checked out our crowdfunding campaign, then do so immediately. Help us grow the site with the most experienced voices in foreign policy.

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The U.S. government is spying on Americans?! Meh…The latest report from Pew Research Center asked American adults what they think of NSA’s government surveillance programs, the way they are run and monitored, and whether knowledge of these programs has altered their communication habits and online activities. What did it reveal? While, more than half of respondents think it is unacceptable for the government to monitor U.S. citizens, a majority have not taken steps to shield or hide their information or Internet activity.

What if American politics was more like Israel? Aaron Mannes posed the question this week, what if U.S. politics worked like the Israeli system? He writes that, “… in Israel, because of the political fragmentation, the Prime Minister is constrained at nearly every turn. As an experienced Israeli foreign policy hand observed, ‘the prime minister must strike a deal with the minister of defense every morning.’”

Let Russia keep digging its own grave. Our own Ryan Evans wrote an op-ed for the New York Times on Thursday arguing that as long as the conflict between Ukraine and Russia stays in Ukraine, because Russia is essentially burning all of its bridges in Europe, the situation could lead to a huge victory for the U.S. without having to even get involved. Evans says, “Don’t interrupt the enemy while he makes the wrong move.”

Strategy in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. is doing it wrong. Anthony H. Cordesman, writing for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, lays out the goals that both the Obama administration and Congress must address in order to have any lasting success in bringing stability to Iraq and Syria. Each state involves very different challenges and therefore requires very different strategies, but so far there have been no real plans proposed for meaningful post-conflict outcomes, no real assessments of risks, and no real efforts to provide sustainable solutions.

Want more? At War on the Rocks, Ionut Popescu lays out what Obama is getting right and wrong when it comes to his national security grand strategy.

What keeps Americans up at night? A new Gallup poll shows that out of 15 domestic issues, concerns of a terrorist attack in the United States have increased the most in the last year among Americans. Fifty-one percent of Americans worry “a great deal” about the potential of a terrorist attack, a 12-point increase from 2014 to 2015. This is followed by concerns about race relations, which surged 11 points to 28%.

The Asia Pivot: Who’s doing it better? Michael Auslin, a contributor for Commentary magazine, addressed the issue of the U.S.’s pivot toward Asia and its motives. “Given the depth and diversity of American interaction with Asia, why is the pivot necessary? What is the goal? Is it to contain China? To create a democratic Asia?” Auslin compares the U.S. pivot to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s own efforts to pivot toward Asia and so far, he says, Japan has the edge of the United States.

Lessons learned. In the wake of the release of “A Cooperative Strategy for the 21st Century: Forward, Engaged, Ready” by the combined sea services last week, Stephen E. Liszewski shares his four reasons why seapower matters to the United States on the Defense in Depth blog. He writes, “When properly resourced, American sea power is an irreplaceable tool for U.S. leaders to protect and advance a rules-based international order that ensures American prosperity.”

Want more? Frank Hoffman reviews the new maritime strategy, calling it markedly better than it’s predecessor, which was released in 2007. However, “the true test of any strategy is not the document itself, it is how the organization implements it, how much learning occurs, and how the inherent logic adapts over time to the environment.”

War on the Rocks Weekly Roundup: Because we know you just can’t get enough.

  • Following the liberation of Tikrit from ISIS militants, Craig Whiteside questions whether going after Mosul is a bridge too far.
  • Katey van Dam calls out critics of gender integration in combat arms, saying the arguments against women in combat are “ahistorical, unscientific, and reactionary.”
  • August Cole writes about his early morning routine of writing and the significance of morning rituals within military culture.


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.