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 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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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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