Most Read War on the Rocks Articles of 2020


What would a visitor from space deduce about War on the Rocks — or the year 2020 on Earth — from the list of our most-read articles? In short: We are a seafaring tribe whose way of life was upended by a new disease from a rival nation.

We thought a lot about the size and shape of the military services, the Navy in particular. Navalists captured the No. 1 spot, and appear six other times on the list. When not debating how many ships to purchase, and of what shape (littoral combat ship? narco sub? A new kind of carrier?), we were focused on the novel coronavirus pandemic, its origins, and its effect on the military. Especially in the context of the pandemic and its confrontation with India, China also featured prominently. It was the subject of five articles in the top 25, and in the background of several others. Yun Sun authored two of these and is the only author to appear twice on this year’s list.

Finally, the protests that began in the United States following the police killing of George Floyd generated interest on many fronts. Michael Kenney and Colin Clarke brought much-needed facts to the heated national conversation about the protesters calling themselves antifascist activists. Just weeks before Floyd was killed, longtime contributor Mike Pietrucha touched on the intersection of race, culture, and history in his article about bases named after Confederate secessionists. The article, however, did not attract widespread attention until after mass protesters took to the streets across the country.



1. Bryan McGrath, “More Than Just a Fire: The Implications of the Bonhomme Richard Catastrophe

2. James Kraska, “China Is Legally Responsible for COVID-19 Damage and Claims Could Be in the Trillions

3. Michael Kenney and Colin Clarke, “What Antifa Is, What It Isn’t, and Why It Matters

4. Mike Pietrucha, “Of Course the U.S. Military Has A White Supremacy Problem. It’s Baked In.

5. Jonathan Panter, Anand Jantzen, and Johnathan Falcone, “The 100-Ship Navy

6. Yun Sun, “China’s Strategic Assessment of the Ladakh Clash

7. Yun Sun, “China’s Strategic Assessment of India

8. Thibaut Delloue, “Lessons for the Navy’s New Frigate From the Littoral Combat Ship

9. Mark E. Mitchell and Doug Livermore, “Righting the Course for America’s Special Operators

10. Walker D. Mills, Dylan Phillips-Levine, and Collin Fox, “‘Cocaine Logistics’ for the Marine Corps

11. Angus Ross, “Rethinking the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Fleet

12. Christopher Clary and Vipin Narang, “India’s Pangong Pickle: New Delhi’s Options After Its Clash with China

13. Ben Ho, “Lessons from Operation Ke for the Marine Corps

14. Richard A. Lacquement, Jr., “The Gulf War 30 Years Later: Successes, Failures, and Blind Spots

15. David Barno and Nora Bensahel, “Five Ways the U.S. Military Will Change After the Pandemic

16. Doyle Hodges, “The Navy’s Crisis of Special Trust and Confidence

17. Colin H. Kahl and Ariana Berengaut, “Aftershocks: The Coronavirus Pandemic and the New World Disorder

18. Mark Cancian, “Don’t Go Too Crazy, Marine Corps

19. Mira Rapp-Hooper, “China, America, and the International Order after the Pandemic

20. Gregory B. Poling, “The Conventional Wisdom on China’s Island Bases Is Dangerously Wrong

21. Jeff W. Benson and Mark A. McDonnell, “Ships! Ships! All We Need is Ships!

22. Emma Moore and Stewart Parker, “Adapting the Image and Culture of Special Operations Forces

23. James Joyner, “Soldier-Scholar (Pick One): Anti-Intellectualism in the American Military

24. Howard Phillips, “COVID-19 and the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-19

25. Daniel Vazquez, “Is the Infantry Brigade Combat Team Becoming Obsolete?



Image: U.S. Air Force photo by Joe Oliva