Weekend Reading: May 1-3

May 1, 2015

It’s Friday already? Well then here’s the latest War on the Rocks reading list to kick off your weekend.

Another SIGAR report that will leaving everyone asking, “Are you f*cking kidding me?” “Due to the drawdown, the reduced number of Americans available to deal with the Afghans means that analyzing data is often left to the discretion of individuals. In the past, Americans would work closely with Afghan forces to verify numbers as they were reported. But in this latest audit, one adviser told SIGAR he was ‘using his own familiarity with the size of each ANA unit to identify potentially erroneous figures in the [Ministry of Defense’s] reporting.’ And according to that adviser, his knowledge was never documented. Which means this quality assurance process, tenuous and tied to one person’s own memory, won’t be passed on to whoever follows the adviser. And even more American money will disappear into the Afghan abyss.” — Pseudonymous writer Gary Owen lays out the painful details of the latest SIGAR report for Vice news.

ISIS versus al Qaeda: who’s the bigger threat to Africa? “In Africa, as elsewhere, we are witnessing two rival models vying for power among jihadists. While ISIS and al Qaeda share some of the same long-term goals, the two sides have adopted radically different approaches to marketing their ideology and expanding their base of support.” — Long War Journal has the transcript of Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence in which he assesses the threat posed by jihadist groups in Africa.

This is what the media looks like. “Americans’ changing news habits have a tremendous impact on how and to what extent our country functions within an informed society. So too does the state of the organizations producing the news and making it available to citizens day in and day out. … Understanding the industry in turn allows researchers to ask and answer important questions about the relationship between information and democracy — whether this means exploring the degree to which like-minded consumers gravitate to the same sources, the opportunities consumers have or don’t have to stay on top of the activities of their elected officials, or how connected residents feel to their local communities.” — Pew Research Center’s annual state of the news media report was released this week and even though War on the Rocks isn’t on the list of top 50 digital sites yet, it’s still worth a read.

The little bird causing big problems for the military. “Military readiness and federal regulation of the greater sage grouse — a bird — are not things the average American would consider connected but unless Congress acts, they may well be. … Instead of passively allowing the [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] to implement its restrictive regulatory regime, Congress should pursue all available options to ensure that the conservation of this species, as laudable as that goal is, does not unduly burden our nation’s economy and security.” — Joseph E. Schmitz, Marc Rogers and William G. Boykin, writing for Roll Call, make their case for why Congress must stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from imposing “onerous restrictions” on the western United States meant to protect the greater sage grouse.

Is Egypt’s government taking cyber policy too far? “The bill imposes a life sentence without the possibility of parole if any of the crimes listed in the law are committed with the purpose of disrupting public order; jeopardizing the safety and security of society; risking the lives and safety of citizens; hindering authorities in performing their duties; blocking provisions of the Constitution, laws and bylaws; harming national unity and social peace; deriding scriptural religions; or undermining any rights and freedoms ensured by the Constitution. The use of these vague expressions have customarily been used by successive Egyptian governments in drafting legislations to undermine rights and freedoms.” — Contributor Ragab Saad, in an editorial for Christian Science Monitor, examines Egypt’s new cybercrime bill and how it poses a threat to freedom of expression.

The fog of peace for your ears. Ryan Evans attended professor Patrick Porter’s inaugural lecture at the University of Exeter as the academic director of the Strategy and Security Institute. Porter discussed Western strategic mishaps and proposes means by which states might navigate the fog of peace. We managed to record it as one of this week’s podcasts. Have a listen.

The implications of of augmented human performance. “Major ethical concerns about the voluntary and reversible nature of such augmentations mean that it is more likely these enhancements will first gain traction in state and non-state forces that do not place as much weight on ethical concerns as our own. Additionally, our personnel system might confront the problem of recruiting from a population whose use of augmentation clashes with policies for use by service members. This is already an issue with chemical and biological substance use, such as anabolic steroids and human growth hormones, especially when substances are legal but prohibited by policy.” — Scott Cheney-Peters writes on the future of augmented human performance both on the battlefield and in supporting military functions.

In case you missed it. Here are a few WOTR doozies from the week.


Lauren Katzenberg is an 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.

If you have an article you think should be included in the weekend reading list, shoot it over to lauren.katzenberg@warontherocks.com.


Photo credit: The U.S. Army