Weekend Reading: May 15-17 Edition


Here’s your weekend reading list. Now don’t all fight over it at once.

Could China and Russia unite into one massive evil superpower? Doubtful. “History never repeats itself, but it rhymes. The United States obviously fit the Monroe Doctrine template best, isolated and locally supreme as it was. But what if it had bordered another such great power with similar pretensions? What if Canada, Mexico, or both were peers? That’s the rhyme in Asia: multiple powers are rising that entertain ambitions to regional primacy yet share borders and histories of animosity and war. Whose Monroe Doctrine prevails under such circumstances? The logic of the Monroe Doctrine could set India against China. It could also set China against Russia. Or some complicated and shifting geometry — a.k.a. “a mess” — could take hold.”  — James R. Holmes debates the potential of a future China-Russia alliance at Real Clear Defense.

Get real on Scotland. “If commentators want to understand why the SNP is successful, they need to make a greater effort at properly understanding how public attitudes are formed in Scotland. Suggesting that it is down to sentiment is lazy at best, but actually misrepresenting the majority of Scottish voters. For political parties trying to challenge the SNP, first and foremost Scottish Labour, a similar message applies: to have a chance of engaging them successfully, they need to stop focusing mostly on high-level questions about different types of nationality.”  — At LSE’s British Politics and Policy blog, Jan Eichhorn argues that following the 2015 general election, it is a mistake to equate a substantial Scottish National Party vote with a rise in nationalism in Scotland.

Some things get better with age. “There has been an inversion of the strategic and tactical with the evolution of bombers, whereby small groups of aircraft can deliver strategic effects while conducting what would normally be described as tactical missions. Any new bomber like the Long Range Strike Bomber — generally becoming known as the B-3 — will be born in a period where the tactical and strategic are being redefined.”  — Robbin Laird, for Breaking Defense, explores the history of the B-3 bomber and why it remains an asset to the future of U.S. national security.

What you need to read on Burundi. “Importantly, a military coup does not change certain facts about the situation facing the general Burundian populace: Burundi is one of the poorest and hungriest nations in the world, with the vast majority of its population dependent on subsistence agriculture. While politics in Bujumbura has been the center of attention, local tensions over land ownership did not fade away with Nkurunziza’s third candidacy. In fact, such local divisions present a tool for emerging elites to manipulate the populace. As such, they should be monitored closely, should there be a transitional or ongoing electoral process.”  — Cara E. Jones, Alies Rijper and Stephanie Schwartz offer great coverage and insight into events unfolding in Burundi over at the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog.

The question of Turkey. “Turkey and the United States have widely divergent views on the tactics needed to actualize these shared policy ambitions. For now, Turkey and the United States pursue symbiotic policies. Ankara needs the United States in Iraq, whereas Washington has ceded a certain amount of control to Turkey in northern Syria.”  — Aaron Stein, for the Atlantic Council, writes on Turkey’s role in defeating ISIS in Syria using a strategy comparable to the of the U.S. “surge” in Iraq.

Hersh’s much-anticipated bin Laden story made the whole internet cringe this week. “Beyond that, Hersh’s proof is that he finds the official story of the Osama bin Laden raid to be unconvincing. And he points out that in the first days after the raid, the administration released details that cast bin Laden in a negative light — saying he tried to use one of his wives as a shield, for example — that it later walked back. But raising questions about the official story is not the same as proving a spectacular international conspiracy. If that seems like worryingly little evidence for a story that accuses hundreds of people across three governments of staging a massive international hoax that has gone on for years, then you are not alone.”  — Vox’s Max Fisher offers a critical response to Seymour Hersh’s 10,000-word story in the London Review of Books claiming that the narrative about bin Laden’s death is a lie.

Want more? Read Isaac Chotiner’s transcribed interview with Hersh, published in Slate, where Hersh basically tells all of his critics to go fuck themselves.

The Afghan success story that never was. “Afghans are dying to live in Loren Thompson’s Afghanistan. His Afghanistan is exactly the kind of utopia the Americans planned to leave behind. His Afghanistan is full of well-educated people taking their families on road trips paid for by a burgeoning mining industry. In the real Afghanistan, they’re shuttling opium across a deteriorating road network as they try to escape another pitched battle between Afghan forces and the Pakistani-funded Taliban, hoping internal conflicts don’t escalate into another bloody civil war.”  — For Task & Purpose, Gary Owen responds to a Forbes article that listed the five signs Afghanistan is allegedly becoming an American success story. Nice thought, but inaccurate.

Geopolitics — so hot right now. “The world turns out to be a lot more red in tooth and claw than many had anticipated, and international cooperation is suffering as a result. Strategic rivalry is heating up. The geopolitical clash in Ukraine is the perhaps clearest instance, but it is only one example of the growing gulfs between the West and strategic competitors, not least Russia and China. Beyond the risk of major confrontation, these tensions are preventing effective responses to transnational threats.”  — Stewart Patrick and Isabella Bennett, for the National Interest, argue that geopolitics is back in style with a vengeance.

In case you missed it: Hot takes from War on the Rocks.


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.


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