Weekend Reading: Labor Day Edition

September 4, 2015

The Uncolorful Caliph. WOTR’s Will McCants has an amazing essay on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed Caliph (and real-life monstrous jackass). The unlikely path this soccer player turned religious scholar turned jail bird turned terrorist mastermind took on his way to conquering vast swaths of Iraq and Syria is worth re-treading with Crazy-Pants McCants. We’ll be doing a podcast with Will and a special guest later this month, so watch this space.

Spoiler Alert: Alcohol Involved. Task & Purpose offers us a fun listicle: “5 Times Service Members Made The News For Doing Something Hilariously Stupid.” And yes, most of them involve booze.

Want more soldiers doing dumb boozey things? Then you really really need to read this article from our Molotov Cocktail channel: “Boozing Through the Soviet Afghan War Was More Horrifying Than You Can Imagine.” It truly was. No hyperbole in this title.

Iran’s Missiles: Bad News No Matter How You Look At It. Even the staunchest proponents of the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran aren’t thrilled with the boost the end of the arms embargo will give to Iran’s missile arsenal. Over at RealClearDefense, Russ Read argues: “The lifting of the missile embargo against Iran has repercussions that resonate far beyond the deal’s 15 year sunset or issues such as uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing. Iran being allowed to increase its missile capability will only strengthen the Iran’s hand, potentially leading to further strife in the region due to increased Iranian incursions.”

Want more? Farzan Sabet has a great take on U.S.-Iran relations now that the nuclear deal is almost certain to pass.

If Personnel Policy is Everything, the Army is Screwed. So says this Ranger-qualified, Harvard educated Army major. In “Loss of Confidence,” a journal article over at Small Wars Journal, a witch’s brew of brain drain, low senior officer quality, and tarnished integrity has taken a big toll on the U.S. Army.  Major David Tier argues that “the Army must reduce its emphasis on the subjective evaluations rendered by an officer’s chain of command, and add more objective evaluations that better measure the performance and potential of its officers.” The current system, he says, gives too much “incentive to winning a boss’ favor rather than achieving concrete feats.”

Speaking of Screwed, How About Iraq? CSIS had a great event with the Iraqi ambassador and a smorgasbord of smart folks, including sometimes-WOTR contributor Aaron Zelin. Where is Iraq heading? Watch it here.

Want more? In these very pages, Alexander Velez-Green insists it’s high time to start working through sub-national groups in Iraq and no longer exclusively through Baghdad.

The Terrorist Drones are Here. Robert Bunker has an awesome 73-page monograph over at the Strategic Studies Institute on the use of drones by terrorists and insurgents. He offers important recommendations for how the United States can deal with this threat on the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.

Want more? Go back and read Paul Scharre’s epic series for us on the “coming swarm” (parts one, two, three, four, five, and six). These are seriously the most-cutting edge articles on drones from this year.

Some China Talk for Your Earballs. Listen to this interview with Gordon Chang on America’s long pre-occupation with China. New Books in History does great podcasts, if you haven’t already heard of them.

Want more? You better not have missed our new podcast episode, featuring an interview with Sean Naylor on his controversial book on Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

The World’s Most Dangerous…Soccer Fans? Not quite, says Ziad A. Akl. Egypt’s Ultras – organized soccer fan clubs – are misunderstood. Akl writes: “Despite the unquestionable solidarity in support of their football teams—political orientations of members vary significantly. Within the ranks of each movement, exists a wide spectrum of political orientations including leftist, liberal, Islamist, and secular.” In fact, he says, the Ultras are not even as political as many people make them out to be.

The Future of China’s Military Power. Over at Defense in Depth, Lauren Dickey interprets China’s military reforms, as enacted by Xi. A must-read.