Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 8

Less talking about current events this week, we take some time to explore interesting stuff that does not always make the headlines.

Rosa Brooks’ “Portrait of the Army as a work in progress” describes the transformation of the US Army as it needs to refocus away from heavy deployment and is constantly challenged by the idea that technology could solve almost everything (and in a cost-effective way). “Regionally Aligned Forces” (RAF) are an attempt to overcome the current challenges by offering a model of forces ready for intervention in particular geographical areas, not to repeat errors linked to lack of cultural sensitivity that characterized recent expeditions.

The Atlantic features a James Fallows’ piece titled “Fear of Flying”, a tale of the disconnect between danger and fear. If you have always thought that “You Are More Likely to Be Killed By Boring, Mundane Things than Terrorism”, or on the contrary you’re very worried about terrorism, this is the thing to read.

Once again about robots, this Amnesty International blog post is about “stopping them before it’s too late”. As a reminder that future warfare will be influenced by technology but also by regulation, and how policy-making will deal with robotics matters (as much?) as the opportunities provided for by scientific and technological advancement.

On the London Review of Books a piece under the category of “seen from outside”, or how the foreign press sees Italy. It has little to do with defense, but a lot to do with the narrative about Italy. As usual, prejudices and conventional narratives emerge here and there. For Italians to dismantle them and for foreigners who know about Italy to come up with more nuanced accounts.

As European elections approach, Venus in Arms comes up with an endorsement. Not a political one, of course. Just go to the website of the project “EU and I” sponsored by the European University Institute and discover your political preferences as it comes to voting this weekend.

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – Week 6

There would still be a lot to read about the Ukraine crisis. The general impression is that – with a few exceptions – time had the effect of sobering up comments (on both sides of the preference spectrum) and letting more nuanced analyses emerge. This is one by King’s College Anatol Lieven, pragmatic though far from optimistic.

For 100 years after the outbreak of WWI, debate on its causes had been one of the liveliest topics in academic, and sometimes even policy, debates. No wonder there is a small resurgence this year, in coincidence of the anniversary. The Economist’s blog on religion and public policy assesses the claim made by (very) few but influential thinkers arguing that the decline in faith was a driver of war. Perhaps small explanatory power in the traditional sense, but nonetheless interesting argument.

From 1914 to 1994 and  then 2014, it’s election time in South Africa. Given the weight of the country in collective memory as far as important elections go, it is important to look for “how” they take place, not just their result. Which is quite a given, with the ANC super-favorite. Mail & Guardian explains some tricks for tactical voting, so that the ANC wins, but not too much.

Robots matter (and will matter more). Michael Horowitz talks about the prospects for the US on robotics, not very good apparently. This might the last of a long series of pieces on the decline of American power, which is nonetheless in relatively good shape. Still, it’s worth reading: it might as well be that these new technologies, contrarily to the most that have been traditionally used in warfare, have a very short process of catch-up.

Relatedly, this is an article about banning the use of drones for hunting purposes in New Mexico. The article is very short and, one might say, slightly off-topic. Still, it sheds light on how technologies that can have “dual” (or more) uses are increasingly accessible and in need of clear regulation. With drones rapidly evolving and being commercialized, the regulatory problem is here to stay. And the impact of technological innovation on “agency” in the security realm deserves further and thorough scrutiny.

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