Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 93

The world according to Trump”, inevitable reading after the Super-Tuesday that consolidated Trump’s leadership in the Republican field.

Among the many issues the next US President will face, there is one the current Administration did not fully address (notwithstanding the initial promises): the prison in Guantanamo. Cato Institute’s Ben Friedman reflects on what is at stake.

The FBI vs. Apple controversy has been making the headlines for a few days. It is a great case for arguing that the perimeter of “security” (including security studies) is nowadays very difficult to define. For those who want to look at the issue without delving too much into technicalities, a comic is possibly the best way.

We often presented articles on the evolution of robotics and AI and its consequences on the battlefield. Ethical issues associated with drone warfare are the subject of Scott Shane’s book “Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President and the Rise of the Drone” (Bantam 2015), reviewed in the London Review of Books.

Finally, videogames have been increasingly realistic and able to depict contemporary war-making. The release of Tom Clancy’s The Division adds to war gaming on a new battlefield: an anarchic New York City (read, watch and then compare it with scenes from The Dark Knight Rises).





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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 76

With or Without you? This week we start our Top5 by quoting Bono Vox thanks to the article by Ulrich Kühn on the controversial relationship between NATO and Germany.

From Germany to Italy: The U.S. State Department has approved a longstanding request from Italy to arm its two MQ-9 Reaper drones with Hellfire missiles, laser-guided bombs and other munitions. It is with noticing that Italy would be only the second country to be approved to buy armed drones after Britain, which has been using them since 2007
Additional details here

We have read a lot of criticism towards the Obama’s foreign policy in recent weeks. Here you’ll find a different (and more optimistic) point of view.

And here you find a (rare) positive analysis of the EU (and its the accomplishments). According to Dan Drezner: the European Union is known for two signal accomplishments: ending any chance of another Franco-German war, and bringing Eastern Europe in from the cold […] The successful integration of Eastern Europe was a political and security necessity for the European Union after 1989. And anyone who tells you differently does not understand why the European Union is important.

Finally,  much more controversial issue: craft brewers, pale ale and IPAs.

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Top5 by Venus in Arms – Week 73

First Democratic Party primary debate last night. How did candidates perform on foreign policy? Fred Kaplan argues that is was a clear win for Hillary Clinton.

Whoever becomes President, however, will face many challenges and several unsolved issues. Even in countries that have been traditionally stable. Turkey is one of these cases, as the dramatic bombing occurred a few days ago showed several cracks.

And American strategy, Adam Elkus argues on, is in a very bad state. Who killed it? In a CSI-like reconstruction, Elkus makes an accusation to the community of strategists: “the shocking plot twist in tonight’s episode of CSI: Pentagon is that we — the community of people that talk, debate, write about, and work in the making of strategy — were nonetheless accessories to the crime. How? We failed at the most critical task of all — understanding the nature of the problem and proposing solutions””. To keep in mind, for a blog/website on strategy.

We don’t know if academic research is faring much better. Jarrod Hayes discusses the state of the most ambitious objective of social sciences, prediction.

On a more practical note, but always looking at the future, future robots will be able to predict the moves of humans confronting them. This  breakthrough – somewhat disturbing for those passionate about Asimov’s I, Robot – is due to improvements in the “brain” (the algorithms of the software) of the machines.



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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – Week 68

While we are looking at the current development of the crisis in Syria, here you’ll find a broad collection of analyses by “The Strategy Bridge” on ISIS/ISIL/IS. A specify attention is devoted to the narratives adopted by the group.

Still on Syria (and drones), “The Guardian” provides news and comments regarding the “kill list” approved by the UK National Security Council. Indeed, unmanned RAF aerial drones armed with Hellfire missiles have been patrolling the skies over Syria for months seeking to target British jihadis.

Carnegie Europe focuses on “NATO and the security vacuum in Europe“. Is the “politics of 2%” realistic? An interesting starting point for a crucial debate.

Duck of Minerva started a controversial discussion over “doing something” for addressing the dramatic refugee crisis and the academia. Here and here tow different perspectives.

Finally, -98 days to The Force Awakens….

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 65 “A drone for the Summer”

Summer is coming, or better for many people holidays are coming. This year’s list of objects of desire, for private as well as military consumers (and more broadly government agencies), has definitely been topped by drones. Here, you can find a short video guide on how military drones work.

While everyone wants them, someone’s better at making them. Guess who? The US military is well ahead in the race, and still experimenting drones with long autonomy/flight range.

Even the Marine Corps, arguably the least attentive service to the latest technical wizardry, are testing its own stuff. With an eye to increase their ability to gather information in the field, the Marines are looking for hybrid and solar -powered vehicles.

Hybrid drones are not so much to improve environmental performance as for increased range. Popular mechanics features an article on the top flight hybrid drones.

Now, if you want to buy your own drone, check out this website. It’s hard not to get one, after. Good news is that you might still be able to have it delivered before leaving home.

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L’Italia alla guerra dei droni: una guida in 3 domande

Droni sì, droni no? Un intervento dell’ex Capo di Stato Maggiore dell’Aeronautica, Generale Tricarico, ha innescato un (limitato) dibattito sulla politica di difesa e gli interventi militari che rischia di polarizzarsi su una dicotomia secca, come spesso avviene su tali temi in Italia, in merito all’opportunità di dotarsi al più presto di uno strumento militare – i droni armati – da  utilizzare poi nel Mediterraneo. In una fase in cui le rivelazioni in merito all’uccisione di Giovanni Lo Porto, un cooperante italiano in Pakistan, durante un attacco condotto con un drone si accavalla con la necessità di dare una risposta alle tragedie del mare a poche miglia dalle coste italiane (europee), non c’è forse da stupirsi dell’emergere di sentimenti – prima ancora che di idee – contrastanti. Proprio per questo, e per tentare di alimentare un dibattito ci pare utile proporre una breve “guida per domande” alla questione.

  1. Di che tipo di strumento si tratta? L’Italia possiede i cosiddetti Predator A (RQ-1A), A+ (MQ-1B, un avanzamento del modello A), Predator B (MQ-9 Reaper). È molto recente, peraltro, la notizia di un accordo fra Aeronautica Militare e Piaggio Aerospace per la produzione (e l’acquisto da parte di AM) del velivolo P.1HH, con funzioni principalmente ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance e Reconnaissance). Ad oggi, l’Italia non possiede droni armati, sebbene tale “avanzamento” sia in programma almeno dal 2012. Questi ritardi riportano alla ribalta uno dei più classici dilemmi della politica di armamenti italiana: comprare dagli USA o sviluppare “in-house” in collaborazione con altri paesi europei?
  2. Quali strutture operano i droni in Italia? Un interessante servizio di Repubblica ricostruisce le strutture e i mezzi italiani presso la base di Amendola dell’Aeronautica Militare (32° Stormo). Le funzioni svolte dal 28° Gruppo (“Le Streghe”) sono ad oggi molteplici, dall’ISR alla protezione delle forze al FAC (Forward Air Control), ma non includono quelle “combat”.
  3. A che servono i droni, nell’attuale contesto?






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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 49

Technology and culture this week.

Technology: from large to small, in a conservative fashion. While the famous reform of article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is in the air, Japan commissions the largest ship since WWII (the JS Izumo). It looks very much as an aircraft carrier, but it formally only carries helicopters, of course.

Hunting submarines becomes increasingly important when the value of surface ships increases. Patrolling comes thorugh different tools, most recently aerial drones. This is the Navy’s most recent one, and looks like a duck.

Drones are becoming more capable and widespread. Next steps of innovation also come through so-called bio-mimickry, the imitation of biological systems. Please meet the “fish drone called Wanda”.

Culture and conflict: The Vietnam War is often heralded as a shifting point in the relation between media and conflict. The Atlantic features a photo essay in three parts about the war: take a look at the first part on the years 1962-1967.

ISIS is increasingly present in North Africa. The Guardian reports that the town of Tataouine is becoming an ISIS base. The village inspired George Lucas for Star Wars (Tatooine it is the home planet of Luke Skywalker), which was partly filmed in Tunisia.

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 47

Changing ideas is a sign of intelligence, a necessary element of academic research. It is also a key for organizational adaptation and learning. It’s hard, though, and also for individuals, to admit they’re wrong.  That’s why the list of past “wrongs” by Steven Walt, a dean of American IR scholars, is a must read.

Photos often describe conflict better than many words. The Atlantic features a series of impressive photos of Reuters’ photo reporters in Northern Iraq, where battle is raging.

Sticking with ISIS (is there anything else, nowadays?), DefenceOne presents the case for drones: air strikes are doing the job in Iraq and Syria.

Well, perhaps something else matters. Where is Vladimir Putin? BBC responds with humor (we know now he is still among us..)

Finally, elections in Israel.  Follow the live blog of the Jerusalem Post. As they say, “Israel has no foreign policy, just domestic politics”.

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The American Way of Bombing

We are pleased to present one of the best books of 2014, “The American Way of Bombing. Changing Ethical and Legal Norms, from Flying Fortresses to Drones“, edited by  Matthew  Evangelista and Henry  Shue (Cornell University Press 2014).

Here you’ll find the details of the book, which brings together prominent military historians, practitioners, civilian and military legal experts, political scientists, philosophers, and anthropologists to explore the evolution of ethical and legal norms governing air warfare.

Here  you’ll find contents and contributors.

Some reviews of the book are available here.

As reported by the official website of the Cornell University Press: “Focusing primarily on the United States—as the world’s preeminent military power and the one most frequently engaged in air warfare, its practice has influenced normative change in this domain, and will continue to do so—the authors address such topics as firebombing of cities during World War II; the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the deployment of airpower in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya; and the use of unmanned drones for surveillance and attacks on suspected terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and elsewhere“.

We recommend the book, especially for those interested in air warfare, legal and ethical issues, technology and contemporary conflicts.

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – Week 31

Hunting for a new SecDef in the US started as Chuck Hagel left his post on Monday. Failing, allegedly, to convince President Obama that the Pentagon has a coherent strategy to deal with ISIS. To fill the vacancy, someone should be very knowledgeable about Russia too.

Drone policy is one of the hottest issues for the CIA as well as the Pentagon, and it also plays an important role in the new season of Homeland. Debate rages on ethics and effectiveness, but it seems that in Iraq and Syria the largest problem for the US is drones’ scarcity.

Given that, how effective is “conventional” airpower in dealing with the issue? DefenseOne provides a calculation of “how many flying hours it takes to kill a terrorist”.

Always on robots, John Little of BlogsofWar discusses the implications of advancements in robotics in a podcast. The argument? Technological innovation might not favor the inventors but rather those who can exploit more fully because they have less ethical constraints.  

Food for thought (as usual) by Stephen Walt. In a list of the Top 5 Foreign Policy Lessons of the Past Twenty Years  you will find controversial and counterintuitive statements. Probably even something that stirs up rage. But it’s realism as it best.

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