Weekend Reading: Turkey Hangover Edition

November 28, 2015

We hope your Thanksgiving-related hangovers were milder than ours (some of us took this advice on what wine to drink on Thanksgiving to heart)! Instead of battling crowds of rabid shoppers, have a “Civilized Saturday” and enjoy some weekend war reading.

What Russian Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM) in Syria Mean for U.S. Sorties. Major Tyson Wetzel, an intelligence weapons officer, explains what the Russian deployment of the S-400 means for U.S. air assets. He calls it  the “most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range SAM” out there. Armed with its longer range missile variant, the missile engagement zone (MEZ) of this system is both impressive and troubling. It now covers most of Syria, all of Cyprus, and much of southern Turkey – to include Incirlik Air Base, where the United States is launching sorties against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Read the rest to see what U.S. aircraft are best positioned to operate within range of the S-400 and what it means for the anti-ISIL campaign.

Big Daddy Realist. Tom Switzer penned a thoughtful profile of Owen Harries, the founder of The National Interest, for The American Conservative. We recommend it highly. He provides a useful examination of the split in the conservative foreign policy intelligensia in the aftermath of the Cold War, when realists and neoconservatives lost a consensus on who the enemy was and the role on American democracy in foreign policy. Although Switzer ignores heated debates in the 1970s and 1980s between realists and neoconservatives over arms control, China, and Soviet capabilities, his engaging treatment of Harries honors a man who is not remembered often enough in today’s heated debates over grand strategy.

Want more? Add John Bew’s Realpolitik: A History to your holiday gift list.

The Turkey shot back this year. Normally on Thanksgiving, it’s the turkey that gets wacked. This year, it was a Russian tactical bomber that got taken out by Turkey (yes, that was a terrible joke, let’s move on) for allegedly flying into Turkish airspace despite being repeatedly warned to change course. There’s been a lot of coverage of the incident. Let’s take a stroll through it. On the day it happened, Colin Steele masterfully liveblogged what leaders were saying about the shootdown around the world (spoiler alert: Putin was pissed off). The National Interest did their “5 X Weapons of War that Y Should Fear” thing featuring the Russian and Turkish arsenals. The Institute for the Study of War gave us a cool timeline of Russ0-Turkish tensions since the Russian air campaign kicked off. Here at WOTR, Erik Lin-Greenberg asks what escalation looks like and how likely it is. At The Diplomat, Evan Gottesman discusses how the incident puts the Caspian states in a bind. Two Belgian physicists also chimed in to tell us that the Turkish and Russian accounts of what happened are physically impossible. Check it out at Vice to see why.

Britain’s New Strategy. We have two-fer on the United Kingdom’s new strategy Bible. At Kings of War, Rob Dover gives his take. His verdict: “The big missing element is the coherent strategic vision the Prime Minister promised. Having failed to articulate one in 2010 and now in 2015, I think we have to conclude that despite the hours that have been invested in discussing ‘strategy’…that strategy is a lost art. And it’s an expensively lost art.” Here at WOTR, Patrick Bury provides an analysis of the highlights.

Should we let in the refugees? This is the latest national security issue that has seized the presidential campaign trail. Loren DeJonge Schulman really hopes you tried to sway your family on this issue at Thanksgiving dinner this year (also, check out her new column with Shawn Brimley: Agenda SecDef). Paul Rosenzweig offers a useful primer on refugee law at Lawfare. His bottom line: the refugee screening process is robust, but homeland security is about risk management, not risk elimination.


Image: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke