Weekend Reading: June 19-21 Edition

June 19, 2015

Waterloo. An interview with John Sopko. And why the United States should heed the wise words of Niccolò Machiavelli. All this and more in this week’s edition of the War on the Rocks weekend reading list.

Money quote of the week. “One of our strategic weaknesses is that we labor under the assumption that we can get people to like us (and even worse that we should try to make them like us).  We should consider Machiavelli who said it is better to be feared (or better said perhaps, respected) than loved.  We need to be able to act decisively in our interests and not apologize for trying to protect those interests as well as our values.  In fact we should consider focusing on protecting our values rather than projecting them.” — David Maxwell writing at Small Wars Journal on how policymakers are increasingly misusing special operations forces’ methods as a strategy, which is ultimately going to lead us to mission failure.

Funding for the Missile Defense Agency is not the time or the place for a pissing contest. “First and foremost, Congress needs to give the Missile Defense Agency clear and consistent guidance on what can and should be accomplished in the short and medium terms.  Too often, resources are directed toward projects that distract from the goal of having the most functionally capable system in place to address the threats the country faces in the near term. … In order to ensure the protection of the U.S. homeland, the most important task at present is the redesign of the kill vehicle that sits atop the interceptors.” — Real Clear Defense calls on Congress to stop trying to tie funding for the resigned kill vehicle to the debate on whether or not to construct a new interceptor site on the East Coast.

Don’t forget about Israel. “It is noteworthy that while negotiations over limiting Iran’s enrichment program have taken center stage in news coverage — and will likely dominate the headlines as a final agreement is or is not reached at the end of this month — the history of Israel’s covert nuclear program draws relatively little media attention. Israel has long maintained a policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor directly denying that it has a nuclear deterrent, and the United States government has officially taken the same stance, prohibiting its officials from stating that Israel is a nuclear weapons country.” — For Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Dan Drollette, Jr. says the media needs to better address Isreal’s nuclear program that everyone seems to forget about when attacking Iran.

The recipe for a good old ISIS defeat. “But defeating ISIS via external force will be a long battle, and one that perpetuates the jihadi belief that the West denies their vision.  The U.S. should seek to destroy the idea of an Islamic State altogether, and to do that ISIS must fail by its own doings, not from outside forces. The recipe of the the “Let Them Rot” strategy should be followed: contain ISIS advances, starve them of resources, fracture their ranks, and exploit through alternative security arrangements.” — Clint Watts offers his four-part strategy for defeating ISIS at the Foreign Policy Research Institute blog.

The real cost of zero accountability in Afghanistan. “It’s a bigger problem than just Afghanistan. It’s a problem of U.S. government contracting and procurement. It’s only worse when you’re in a warzone. We don’t have personal accountability. People make mistakes. Contracting officers don’t do their job. But, they don’t get rated on that. They get rated on how fast and how much money they put on contract before they go home. No one is held accountable.” — John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, speaks with Al Jazeera America on how contractors were paid in full millions of dollars for projects never completed for years.

China can makes us all its bitches with hacked OPM data. “Snowden’s betrayal of his country is seen as the single greatest intelligence loss ever suffered by the United States. … But given the potential implications of foreign adversaries and even terrorist networks knowing the secrets of millions of people working for the U.S. government, it’s clear the OPM hack is worse. In short, the United States’ rivals and enemies may have the leverage they need to induce or coerce government employees and contractors into providing classified information.” — WOTR’s Ryan Evans pens an op-ed for the Washington Post on why the hack of the Office of Personnel Management is worse than the Snowden leaks, and we’re basically all screwed.

Want more? “In any normal world, a super-power would not tolerate this kind of an attack. Perhaps more accurately, a true super-power would never have to endure such an attack in the first place, because other nations would be loath to engage in such a direct act of open hostility. States do lousy things to each other all day long, but the wholesale and brazen theft of personnel records is a different kind of espionage. The scale is so vast that it is a direct challenge to the United States of America.” — Writing for the Federalist, Tom Nichols argues that the United States’ weak-ass response to the OPM hack demonstrates that it is no longer a superpower.

Remembering the Battle Of Waterloo. Professor Andrew Lambert from the Department of War Studies at King’s College London explores the events of the Battle of Waterloo and its continued significance 200 years later.

Also, this. Brown University has an excellent photo collection of veterans from the Napoleonic Wars who met every year on May 5 —  the anniversary of Napoleon’s death — to commemorate him. The photos, which are estimated to be taken in 1858, show the men, many of whom are well into their 70s and 80s, in their uniforms decades later.

And for our final trick. Here are a few War on the Rocks article you should be getting familiar with this weekend.


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