Weekend Reading, June 26-28 Edition

June 26, 2015

Every week, I scour the the Internet for the best articles, analysis, and multimedia on foreign policy and national security just for you, dear reader. You’re welcome.

Don’t blame China for the OPM security breach. “Fingers quickly pointed to China, and why not?  The Chinese have pretty much had a freehand in American databases for the better part of a decade and the attacks fit their policy, their needs, their tactics and their tools.  The only thing missing was a formal American accusation. But let me quickly add that I do not blame the Chinese.  If we determine that China did this, we would be assigning responsibility, but blame is a different matter.  I blame China when they penetrate American industry (an unfair nation state vs. private company fight) and rip off intellectual property for commercial gain (something we view as criminal).” — Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden on how Congress’ failure to pass cyber security laws that would have offered better protection is to blame for the recent OPM security breach, not China.

Want More? Lawfare’s Benjamin Witte’s points out why the FBI, NSA, DHS, and DNI are all agencies more to blame for the government hack than OPM.

The first time the United States failed at COIN was 140 years ago. “If the efficacy of war strategy is evaluated in the success obtained in seeking political and social objectives, Reconstruction is America’s first failure in counterinsurgency. Ths [sic] similarities to subsequent counterinsurgency failures are striking. An underresourced political objective was countered by a diffuse but increasingly organized and violent resistance. The victors during conventional hostilities failed to confront the turmoil their objectives provoked and innocent civilians were subjected to terrorism and organized political, social, and economic intimidation.” — Chris Zeitz has an excellent examination of the the Reconstruction period, in which groups opposed to the Republican policies used politicized violence that today we would consider insurgent activity.

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The plan to save the world from climate change. “The climate-conflict nexus threatens national security at two levels. As indicated by the U.S. government’s discursive treatment of the subject, there is a concern that the effects of climate change itself will exacerbate the underlying dynamics that drive armed conflict (“threat multiplier” rhetoric). On another level, there is a risk that the response to the impacts of climate change may do the same thing. Responding to climate change involves large-scale interventions within political, economic, and social spheres.” — The Century Foundation’s Neil Bhatiya explains why the Green Climate Fund has a dire role to play in environmental peacebuilding and conflict prevention on a global scale.

New study says Pentagon needs to shift operational concepts for future warfare. NBD. “Military leaders understand the problem but there is no consensus yet on how to fix it. The study suggests it will require a shift in how the Pentagon buys weapons and also a change in how combat aircraft are deployed and employed. Fighter aircraft, for instance, would not be primarily used to deliver airstrikes but would revert to their World War II role of defending air bases and protecting long-range strike bombers from enemy attack.” — The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ new report concludes that rather than investing in new technology, the military needs to arm existing combat aircraft with high-tech bombs and missiles that can be dropped in mass quantities from hundreds of miles away. Got it.

Why the U.S. needs the 21st century war story. “As wars drag on, people start to long for context and meaning; the stories of soldiers show a human side to something people can’t totally contextualize. That would probably be the easiest way to explain why the stories of American soldiers are once again being held up by both sides of the political spectrum.” — From Men’s Health Magazine, why books by service members are so important to both literature and to helping civilians better understand the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Washington’s short-term memory problem. “In a fundamental respect, the purpose of the national security establishment, including the establishment media, is to shield that tripartite consensus from critical examination. This requires narrowing the aperture of analysis so as to exclude anything apart from the here-and-now. The discussion in which I participated provided a vehicle for doing just that. It was an exercise aimed at fostering collective amnesia.” — Andrew Bacevich, writing for TomDispatch.com, describes the systemic culture of chest-beating in Washington that often leads to poor national-security decisionmaking, repeated one war after another.

South Korea is now in the business of mediated relationships. “The South China Sea sits at the center of new patterns of security behavior emerging in the Asia-Pacific, and the region risks moving in a direction adverse to South Korean interests if it stays on the sidelines.  Not only is there much South Korea can do to stand in favor of a stable, liberal order in Asia at very little cost or risk to itself; a long-term view of South Korea’s own interests demand it.” — Van Jackson, writing for the Diplomat, offers three ways that South Korea can optimize its role in the South China Sea as a middle power and mediator against Chinese aggression.

Lessons learned at school. “Years of stability and counterinsurgency operations have allowed conventional skills — aka how we want to fight wars — to atrophy. Some classes sought to reinvigorate that knowledge with a focus on long lost, good old fashioned offensive and defensive operations. My staff group spent a week planning for a division-sized river gap crossing; no easy feat on a dry erase board let alone in execution. Re-introducing long lost (or never learned) concepts like tactical mission tasks or defeat and stability mechanisms made us realize all that we didn’t know at this point in our careers.” — For Task & Purpose, Brad Hardy shares the lessons he took away from his one year as a student of the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

WOTR Weekly Round-up: As usual, here are more great reads published this week on War on the Rocks:

  • Adam Elkus on cybersecurity fails: “… while patches are issued all the time for bugs and vulnerabilities in computer systems, there is no patch or security update for systematic, glaring incompetence.”
  • C. Christine Fair’s guide for dummies: “This is a ‘how to guide’ that should enable India’s own Ministry of External Affairs to join the game heretofore mastered by Pakistan.”
  • Matt Cavanaugh on deploying for a year: “I cannot even say for certain my contribution will matter, while my presence at home is clearly significant.”


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: Official U.S. Navy Imagery