Weekend Reading: Independence Day Edition

July 3, 2015

Happy Fourth of July weekend to all of our readers! We’re sure you’ll all enjoy the festivities. What to do while you’re waiting for the grill to heat up, beer to cool, cocktails to be mixed, and fireworks to start? We’ve got you covered. Here are some of the best things we read this week.

Space is still hard. “As the business and policy implications of Sunday’s failure continue to be debated, it serves as a reminder that, more than half a century after the first satellite launch, placing a spacecraft into low Earth orbit remains challenging even for companies with good track records. It is still far less routine than other modes of transportation.” — Over at The Space Review, Jeff Foust offers an even-handed take on the implications of the failed SpaceX rocket launch for U.S. space policy, SpaceX itself, the International Space Station, and the current congressional spat over the Russian RD-180 engine.

The Navy is tired of its BMD mission. In the first part of a series at Breaking Defense, Sydney Freedberg chronicles the ongoing tug-of-war between the Navy and Congress on the service’s contribution to ballistic missile defense (BMD). What’s the problem? “For high-intensity, high-tech warfare — say, with China — the Navy says it needs 40 warships with the most advanced version of the Aegis system. That ‘Baseline 9’ [system] lets a ship shoot down enemy aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles simultaneously. The Navy currently has 33 Aegis BMD ships, but most of them can only engage either cruise missiles or ballistic missiles at any given moment, not both at once. A well-armed enemy can exploit that by launching a mix of weapons.”

“UN Gaza report: heads I win, tails you lose.” In a report for Lawfare, Emory University law professor Laurie Blank dissects the UN Human Rights Council’s review of the 2014 Third Gaza War — called Operation Protective Edge by Israel — and concludes that the report is not particularly useful. For example: “This effects-based approach leads to absurd results when the Commission considers Hamas’s compliance with the obligation to issue effective advance warnings. Addressing a Hamas statement warning the population of Tel Aviv to ‘wait for our rockets at this time’ and encouraging the media to ‘direct cameras at the sky of Tel Aviv’ at the designated time of 9 pm, the Commission interprets this threat to fire rockets indiscriminately at a metropolitan area of over one million people as a warning commensurate with Additional Protocol I’s parameters.”

Listen to the Falklands War unfold. Over at the Center for International Maritime Security, Alex Clarke has re-posted a collection all existing episodes of his special “Falklands Series,” consisting of lengthy interviews with those who fought the war. Clarke’s interviewing style of allowing his guests to tell long stories offers an outstanding view of the nature of combat and the history of an under-discussed war.

Want more? Right here at War on the Rocks, Kenneth Privratsky examines the question of whether the U.S. military has sufficient expeditionary capabilities today to win a Falklands-like war.

Can we take nuclear weapons seriously again? Hudson Institute fellow Rebecca Heinrichs explores the effect of U.S. failure to tend to its own deterrent: “Between Russia’s behavior and Iran’s, and the Obama administration’s response to both, nuclear proliferation and even employment is more likely, not less. Global stability has become shockingly precarious. It is not enough to sincerely want to avoid nuclear war to prevent it.”

North America’s economic outlook is trending up, write retired General David Petraeus and Paras Bhayani for a new report at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. “Some of our continent’s strength is due to structural advantages, such as U.S. entrepreneurship and labor-market flexibility, the soundness of the Canadian banking system, and the competitiveness of the Mexican manufacturing sector. But the lion’s share of renewed growth springs from dynamism in four key sectors: energy, manufacturing, the life sciences, and information technology.” Petraeus and Bhayani describe the interlocking trends and deliver recommendations for policymakers to aid North American growth — or at least stop hindering it.


  • Nora Bensahel and David Barno on the new Joint Chiefs of Staff: “Between now and the end of September, five of the seven four-star service and joint chiefs will step down from their positions and be replaced by new leaders.”
  • Shawn Brimley, Julianna Smith and Jacob Stokes summarize their new NSC reform paper: “Given the range of national security and foreign policy challenges facing the United States, it is critical to build a team and a culture inside the NSC system that can enable the next occupant of the Oval Office to protect and advance the nation’s interests at home and abroad.”
  • The WOTR Staff explore what China might do with the stolen OPM data: “This data breach may affect up to 6 percent of the entire U.S. population. What use can the data be to China?”