Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 91

Presidential primaries are becoming lively, and the debate on candidates also includes foreign policy. Earlier, Bernie Sanders was widely held to be a “weak” on foreign policy, but some supporters are showing how this would be far from true.

One of the challenges the next President will have to face is the modernization of US infrastructures in order to increase what Parag Khanna calls “connectivity competition”. While the US is largely ahead of others in conventional (and nuclear) weapons, Khanna argues that this dimensions has been often overlooked.

Domestically, the US has been facing several challenges as well. The San Bernardino mass shooting showed what determined individuals can achieve, pretty much on their own (or in very small groups). This is the New Yorker’s reportage on the events, two months after they took place.

A couple of suggestions to conclude. First, in the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, some famous authors have been asked to “rewrite” some the bard’s most celebrated works. This is an interview of Harold Jacobson, who’s been rethinking the Merchant of Venice, and has a few things to say about the contemporary “Jewish question” in Europe.

Finally, if you happen to be in Atlanta for the Annual Conference of the International Studies Association (March 16-19), check out the panel on “Star Wars and International Security”!

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – Top of 2015 (week 84)

Here below “a special edition” of our Top5. For this last post of the year we provide the Top 5 of 2015 of movies, series, blogs, books, and papers (interpreted through the length of IR and political science). Obviously, a questionable rank.

  • TV Series: As last year, our choice is for “The Americans“. The third season has widely received critical acclaim. A fantastic script and incredible actors. Plus: the Soviets, Reagan, and the KGB. What else? “Open House” (3×3) is one the best episodes ever.
  • Blogs: We have decided to create Venus in Arms in order to emulate some excellent blogs on political science and international relations. Thus, we thank again The Monkey Cage for their wonderful job (especially this year, because some friends of us have provided their contributions to the blog).
  • Papers: “Over the last 25 years, there has been a noteworthy turn across major International Relations (IR) theories to include domestic politics and decision-making factors. […] These theoretical developments, however, have largely ignored decades of research in foreign policy analysis (FPA)”. Absolutely right. This article by Juliet Kaarbo (“A Foreign Policy Analysis Perspective on the Domestic Politics Turn in IR Theory”. International Studies Review, Vol17-2, 189-216) provides an excellent contribute to the current IR debate, finally devoting attention towards foreign policy analysis.
  • Books: Ok, (maybe) this is not the best book of 2015. But it is our book! So, self-promotion at the end of the year!!!


P.S. Some vacation for us (Venice/ Morocco). Happy New Year!

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 83

Christmas is coming, but it does not seem like international politics is stopping for the event. War in Syria and Iraq is still raging, with European countries taking a more active role in recent weeks. How do they get the intelligence needed for operating? Seymour M. Hersh writes about US intel sharing in the London Review of Books.

Attacked in its “homeland”, ISIS needs a constant influx of recruits. Could videogames, or Hollywood, provide examples to took at?

But problems for Western Powers are not limited to Iraq and Syria. Talibans are advancing (again) in Afghanistan, and the recent suicide attacks near an American base shows how the situation id far from improving.

In recent years, the debate in security studies has been often focusing on non-traditional military threats such as organized crime. El Salvador’s gang problem is a case in point.

Finally, what are the COIN lessons that the Rebels and Republic in Star Wars should learn from Afghanistan and Iraq?

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 82 “Political Science and Star Wars”

Honoring Star Wars – The Force Awakens, here below our Top 5 of recent IR/Political Science articles on this great saga.

Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and Charli Carpenter have announced an International Studies Association 2016 Conference panel on Star Wars. They seek “paper abstracts examining the relationship between the Star Wars franchise and socio-political dynamics in the area of international security”.

Dan Drezner has illustrated how the Rebel Alliance’s victory in the Battle of Endor “was a catastrophic success”.

In another brilliant post Drezner had already expressed his concern about how the “Star Wars” narrative explicitly addresses politics. A lot of politics (as in the most recent movies) is not per se a recipe for success.

Here you’ll find a compressive list of analyses and papers by political scientists on Star Wars. Indeed, a “significant number of political scientists are nerds or geeks”. Therefore, the intersection of politics and speculative fiction proves irresistible.

Finally, one of the most famous example of such connection between political science and Star Wars. The neo-con Bill Kristol tried to Defend the Galactic Empire. Here a funny report.

As we say in Italy, “ci vediamo al cinema”….

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 75

What’s Russia doing in Syria? This is frequent question these days. While a clear account of operations is not necessarily easy to find, the broad picture that emerges shows how Russian military capabilities are better than previously thought.

In the meanwhile, Iraqi Kurds understood that dealing with the world’s largest democracy requires a better understanding of the decision-making processes of the latter. That is why, Foreign Policy reports, the Kurdish Regional Government are increasingly recurring to K Street lobbying.

Two interesting pieces in the past week on the “intractable” conflict in the Middle East par excellance. Natan Sachs ponders over Israeli “anti-solutionism” in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, trying to explain why accepting (and prolonging) the status quo has its own rationale.

The New Yorker features an article on what would have happened had Rabin survived its assassination attempt. Counterfactuals are always tough to make, but the thought experiment allows, if nothing else, to remember a key moment in the history of the conflict.

Preparing for the Star Wars’ episode 7, a classic (2002) “neo-con” article on how the Empire was actually not that bad at all. Sure that IR interpretation of the saga will flourish in the next few months.

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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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ViA 2015: La trasformazione militare italiana (e molto altro)

Terminata la pausa estiva, Venus in Arms è di nuovo pronto a rituffarsi sui temi della difesa e della sicurezza (e molto altro). In questo breve post di inizio Settembre illustreremo brevemente gli argomenti che saranno al centro della nostra attenzione nei prossimi mesi, nei quali cercheremo sempre di collegare analisi e studi “accademici” a riflessioni legate al dibattito corrente.

Primo aspetto al centro del nostro lavoro sarà la trasformazione militare italiana, ovvero l’argomento del nostro ultimo libro. Il volume analizza il processo di cambiamento delle forze armate italiane nel nuovo secolo, attraverso una prospettiva comparata (Francia e Gran Bretagna). L’analisi illustra l’interazione tra alcune dimensioni della trasformazione (budget, impiego sul campo, dottrina) e la loro influenza sul percorso di cambiamento e adattamento avvenuto negli ultimi anni nella Difesa italiana. Attraverso interviste, documenti ufficiali e fonti secondarie sono state esaminate in dettaglio le operazioni in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libano e Libia.

Una particolare attenzione è stata dedicata alla dimensione istituzionale del cambiamento. In linea con quest’ultimo aspetto, in futuro ci focalizzeremo sulla dimensione dell’apprendimento, attraverso survey e questionari.

Nelle prossime settimane organizzeremo alcuni seminari di presentazione del libro, che riporteremo per tempo sul blog. Un po’ di pubblicità non fa mai male, naturalmente.

Un altro aspetto che continuerà ad occupare costantemente le pagine di Venus sarà la Difesa italiana, soprattutto alla luce della pubblicazione dell’ultimo Libro Bianco e della riforme ad esso collegate. Stiamo lavorando proprio sull’ultimo documento strategico e a breve saranno qui riportati i risultati delle nostre analisi.

In chiave comparata ci dedicheremo poi al rapporto tra l’evoluzione della Difesa italiana e quella tedesca avvenuta nell’era post-bipolare. Abbiamo già passato un po’ di tempo di Germania per interviste e analisi. Quindi aspettatevi un bel po’ di materiale da leggere e discutere (non in tedesco, tranquilli).

Una parte consistente del nostro lavoro sarà poi dedicata ai temi della political violence, del ruolo della criminalità organizzata (nazionale e transnazionale), dei conflitti contemporanei.

Al tema dei foreign fighters saranno dedicati alcuni post, i quali riporteranno i risultati di alcuni analisi che abbiamo condotto di recente in merito al caso dell’ISIL.

Non ci dimenticheremo del controverso tema degli F-35, cercando però di spostare la discussione da una prospettiva budget-driven a qualcosa di più articolato, come fatto in passato.

La sicurezza europea, scossa dalle crisi interne e regionali e dal dramma immane dei profughi, non potrà che essere esaminata in dettaglio, così come la trasformazione della NATO.

Infine, i guest-post cercheranno di ampliare l’orizzonte interdisciplinare di ViA, da analisi tradizionali di Relazioni Internazionali agli studi di intelligence fino ai “nuovi” metodi di insegnamento in materia di IR, sicurezza e scienza politica. Ogni contributo alla discussione è ben accetto ovviamente.

Sarete sempre tenuti al corrente dei principali appuntamenti con conferenze e seminari (in più qualche dettaglio sulle trasferte che faremo in Europa League).

Insomma, molta carne al fuoco. Senza dimenticarci l’appuntamento settimanale con la nostra Top-5, che raccoglie i migliori “5 pezzi facili” che provengono da blog, riviste, giornali di tutto il mondo. La dimensione “pop” del sito non verrà trascurata, soprattutto nella spasmodica attesa del nuovo capitolo di Star Wars.

Stay tuned



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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 61

ISIS, again. Kobane was a great success in the reconquista that followed ISIS’ earlier pushes in Northern Syria. It seems that it has been just taken back by the armies of the Caliphate.

ISIS is also elsewhere, and it seems that it suffered a defeat in Libya in the last weeks. Foreign Policy reports on the battle in Derna, where ISIS was expelled by a (very) heterogeneous coalition including DMSC (Mujahideen Shura Council, linked to al-Qaeda) and the Libyan National Army.

In the meanwhile, in Europe, tensions are building up on the Eastern border. The US has been strengthening its NATO allies with increasing military support, by support meaning weapons. The last shipment involved about 250 tanks under a new plan devised by the Pentagon (or for) with allies.

Tensions in the real world, tensions in the virtual one. China is allegedly behind hacking the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in the US, with a wealth of data on government employees. But attribution, when it comes to China, becomes a delicate diplomatic issue and no final culprit is yet revealed.

Finally, we keep suggesting military vehicles that you might be desire to get to solve traffic problems, loading requirements, and so on. This comes directly from Star Wars.


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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 32

First of all, the end of South Stream. Putin announced that he would scrap the strategic gas pipeline. So Russia will abandon the project. As reported by The New York Times, South Stream was “a grandiose project that was once intended to establish the country’s dominance in southeastern Europe but instead fell victim to Russia’s increasingly toxic relationship with the West“. Here you’ll find the report of The Moscow Times.

Moving from Russia to Iraq, it is worth noticing that Iran is deeply involved in military operations against the ISIL. The Pentagon revealed that Iranian fighter jets (F-4E?) have bombed Islamic State militants in eastern Iraq in recent days.

Remaning in Arlington, Ashton Carter emerges as  the top choice to replace outgoing Secretary Chuck Hagel. Here you’ll find the scoop (CNN). Carter served as Deputy Defense Secretary under both Leon Panetta and Hagel. His main focus has been the management of the defense budget (should we expect some changes also for the F35 programme?).

“Vice” provided several funny articles on “how to invade or conquer” different countries, such as Scotland, France, Russia or the UK. A sort of paradoxical sic-fi perspective on current security affairs. Also ViA contributed regarding the case of Italy.

Finally, one of the most important news of the week: Star Wars. Here the “The Force Awakens” Official Teaser. A lot of discussion on the new lightsaber. A suggestion: Dont’ underestimate the power of the Dark Side…

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