Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 39

“Terrorist hunt” has been in the agenda for decades, but recent events brought the practice under the spotlight even more. The New Yorker’s Mattathias Schwartz critically discusses the NSA strategies of controlling phones, arguing this is not necessarily bringing success, while it has high costs.

Non-traditional threats have been attracting the attention of armed forces in recent years. This is the account of the American General leading the mission to fight Ebola virus, on of the most recent, and demanding, of the new US Army’s missions.

Frequent travellers might worry about how widespread conflicts might affect their flights. The Israeli Defence Forces’ blog proposes an article on how technology can guarantee safety to airplanes – and their passengers – even in the midst of missile attacks.

While facing a complex range of new missions, armed forces are also rethinking the weapons they need. Which will be around in the next 20 years and beyond? The interplay between growing resource constraints and the rapid development of anti-access/area-denial weapons, for instance, is potentially underpinning the potential demise of stealth technology.

You might remember that in a 80s movie, Clint Eastwood flies an airplane invisible to radars. Well, now he’s an acclaimed director and just released a new movie, American Sniper. Is that a patriotic war movie or (another) disillusioned take at the myths of war and combat?

 

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 37

Happy new year from Venus in Arms! Whatever this year will bring, US defence and foreign policy decision will keep being decisive in shaping the world to come. This long essay of James Fallows discusses the “tragedy of the American military” as the outcome of a long-term process of separation of the armed forces from American society that led to the paradoxical outcome of making war less relevant for Americans, and at the same time more likely.

How’s the new US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter going to manage the defense apparatus in such critical times? Well, he might follow what Joshua Jones calls the Rolling Stones’ rule of leadership: “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.” That is: refine priorities, create better communications between civilian leaders and uniformed men in the Pentagon, build long-term relations with Allies and friends, improve the procurement process. Not easy tasks…

Where will conflicts be in 2015? French strategist Jean-Marie Guéhenno selects ten hot spots where violence might persist or rise this year. Apart from the usual suspects (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya), he’s pessimist about chances of peace in Africa (from DRC to Nigeria) and perhaps in Latin America too (oil prices might deeply affect Venezuela’s political stability).

On the brighter side, Steven Pinker and Andrew Mack on Slate argue that the world is not falling apart. While news always (inevitably) focus on what happens, and thus conflict and violence seem ubiquitous, numbers would show that violence – from homicides to mass killings – are on decline. At least in the “long run”.

If you still have time (a lot, in fact), the NSA released at the end of last year internal reports on activities documenting abuses as well. You can start from here.

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 41

“Terrorist hunt” has been in the agenda for decades, but recent events brought the practice under the spotlight even more. The New Yorker’s Mattathias Schwartz critically discusses the NSA strategies of controlling phones, arguing this is not necessarily bringing success, while it has high costs.

Non-traditional threats have been attracting the attention of armed forces in recent years. This is the account of the American General leading the mission to fight Ebola virus, on of the most recent, and demanding, of the new US Army’s missions.

Frequent travellers might worry about how widespread conflicts might affect their flights. The Israeli Defence Forces’ blog proposes an article on how technology can guarantee safety to airplanes – and their passengers – even in the midst of missile attacks.

While facing a complex range of new missions, armed forces are also rethinking the weapons they need. Which will be around in the next 20 years and beyond? The interplay between growing resource constraints and the rapid development of anti-access/area-denial weapons, for instance, is potentially underpinning the potential demise of stealth technology.

You might remember that in a 80s movie, Clint Eastwood flies an airplane invisible to radars. Well, now he’s an acclaimed director and just released a new movie, American Sniper. Is that a patriotic war movie or (another) disillusioned take at the myths of war and combat?

 

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 15

Violence rages in Middle East, the Ukraine crisis is far from settled. Instead of looking at how events unfold, let’s take a step back and wonder what these crises might have in common. Benjamin Miller on Foreign Affairs argues that the disconnection between state and nation is at the roots of these crises, and there is little ground for optimism or, at least, for what one might consider optimal “solutions”.

From intra-state wars to inter-state competition, US-China sea rivalry is going to be a hot topic for a long time (here, Venus in Arms featured an essay on the topic). A major topic is “deterrence”, with the re-emergence of good Cold War lexicon on conventional and nuclear balances. War on the Rocks provides an assessment of the balance and on how China might exploit asymmetric advantages. It is drafted by a US Navy officer, and thus contains a clear viewpoint, but that’s exactly what we need to incorporate into the analysis, as this will be more and more shaped by “hawks and doves” interaction.

Now, three articles on “critical defense”. Glenn Greenwald’s new project The Intercept keeps scrutinizing the NSA: all those who watched Enemy of the State think that they know or imagine most of the scary details, but the article is very informative and also contains an interesting map of undersea fiber optic cables.

Social media, and Facebook to begin with, have been in the news because of “experiments” that caused new debates on privacy of users. Sentiment analysis, just to add to the debate, is becoming central for military organizations as well, as it might reveal patterns of behavior useful to predict crises and so on. Again, technology matters as it provides incentives, but to get the full pictures of how this going to affect individuals we should keep looking at regulation too.

Last, The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart casts more than a doubt on the “social functions” of war, an argument with a lot of supporters (and not just among Prussian warmongers. On the centennial of World War I, Beinart argues that war limits liberties at home and creates opportunities for governmental repression of dissent. Often, also it is the poorer people that pay the highest price for increasing social control. The aftermath of war can be oppressive too. We read a lot about Italy and Europe: May Day is a wonderful short story written Francis Scott Fitzgerald about coming home from the Great War in the US.

 

 

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