Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 87

ISIS might make the headlines more for its sponsoring/conducting terrorist attacks in Europe (and Asia), but The Atlantic’s Adam Chandler reminds of the incredible civilian victimization taking place in Iraq.

While all the attention is focused on the Middle East, let’s not forget how crime represents – in terms of lethality to begin with – a very large threat in Central America. FP features an article on the state of health (good) of the region’s gangs.

Technological advances are difficult to foresee, and the cost of emerging technologies often hard to justify. The costs of the JSF/F-35 might be in part be justified by its early adoption of revolutionary technological solutions, especially related to “cognitive electronic warfare”.

In the meanwhile, Italian second F-35 has been making its debut flight, as reported by RID (in English), and the Cabinet is still evaluating how many more will come.

Finally, the fall of counterinsurgency, now at an advanced stage. Former COIN and Iraq hero David Petraeus might be demoted from 4-star General, DefenseNews reports.


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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 12. Focus on Iraqi crisis


This week we provide some reading suggestions on the most recent dramatic developments occurred in Iraqi crisis. First of all, look at the Guardian – Middle East Live for having a full and updated coverage of all breaking news.

Second, for a broader perspective on the harsh relationship between Washington and Maliki see this excellent post by Marc Lynch at The Monkey Cage.

Barbara Walter has provided (here) the most brilliant analysis of the current situation. In summary, what are the causes of the increasing violence in Iraq? US policy? Spillover effect from Syria? Something related to oil? No. “Violence in Iraq is not the result of the war in Syria, or the absence of American troops, or Sunni-Shiite hatred, or oil. It’s the result of a political system dominated by one group in society to the exclusion and detriment of another”. 100% agree. The author illustrates also some interesting insights from literature on civil wars. Yes, IR theories are useful (sometimes).

Going back to recent years, we strongly recommend two books on the war in Iraq (by the same author, Tom Ricks): “Fiasco” and “The Gamble”. They’ll give you a comprehensive and vivid account of what happened during “Iraqi Freedom”: mistakes, strategy, and illusions.

Ricks (in a sense) supported the COIN approach adopted by General Petraeus. For an empirical analysis of the effects of the “surge”, our final suggestion is this article by Stephen Biddle et al on “International Security”. In first pages you’ll find a lot of useful references to different perspectives on this controversial issue. Now, after some years, only one thing seems to be clear: the US approach failed to promote political reconciliation (which was the key premise for the political success of the external intervention).

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