Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 81

Britain last week joined the coalition in Syria, after a favourable parliamentary vote. On Kingsofwar, some thought on the rationale, and wisdom, of British intervention.

In the meanwhile, SecDef Carter announced that the last barriers will be removed to women in the armed forces. A survey shows that the rank-and-file is sceptical about the measure.

Sandy Berger, National Security Advisor to President Clinton, died at the age of 70. These are a few pages of an oral memoir, discussing some of the major foreign policy crises faced in the 90s, from the crisis of the Mexican peso to Kosovo.

This is an Italian blog, and there is news in Italian defence policy this week. The first  F-35 Lightning II has been delivered to the Italian Air Force, assembled in Italy. More are to come, although the number has been cut by more than half since the original planning (more news in Italian, here).

Maps are an important part of how the images of the world. This Burmese map challenges our conventional view of cartography, and the world.

 

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 63

Greece: we never really talked about it. Maybe there will be a chance, also depending on if and how Russia’s promises of support will eventually materialize. For the time being, we sponsor the best travel guide on Greece. Not a conventional one, more on politics and less on dream islands.

With many issues on the agenda, from the Iran nuclear talks to the ever-present ISIS, the US still found time and resources to devote to Somalia. Foreign Policy’s Ty McCormick provides a narrative of the “shadowy presence” of the American military in the Horn of Africa.

Daniel Fiot looks at the consequences of the recently released US National Military Strategy on Europe. A summary? Time goes on, and gaps within NATO widen rather than narrowing.

An Italian cybersecurity company in the news (mostly international, by the way). Hacking Team, providing specialized cyber services, has been the victim of a cyber attack itself. Among the information released, how much it costs to crack email accounts.

A novel for the holidays? P.W. Singer co-authored Ghost Fleet, on how the future war will play out. His essays are great reads, let’s give him a chance.

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 53

A US Edition this week. It’s time for the 2016 budget in the US, and defense budget enters the 2016 fray with a lot of issues on the agenda. DefenseOne has a very complete page to stay updated on how things will evolve, while key facts/numbers are provided by the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.

The US Navy clearly has an important stake in this process. If the direction of change is still unclear, there are few doubts that new challenges –and namely Chinese missile capabilities – have been interpreted as requiring a larger surface fleet than previously planned.  Financial sustainability of such plans is the key issue.

The DoD’s Cyber Strategy was also released. Duck of Minerva  features a post on the topic that provides quite a skeptical viewon the ability of the Pentagon to actually face the threat.

In the meanwhile, some voices have been urging President Obama to keep the US away from (too) troubled waters. The deterioration of the situation in Yemen, with risks of total chaos favoring US (and Saudi Arabia) foes, might seem to call for bold action. Fred Kaplan advises against getting into the Yemeni trap.

National Guard was used in the attempt to quell the riots in Baltimore, Maryland, that followed another case of alleged police violence against an African-American. The Atlantic’s Conor Feiersdorf argues that both the police and the violent rioters should held accountable for the situation.

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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 33

It is hard to be a saint in the city (so sings Bruce Springsteen), but it is also very hard to be a good  SecDef. Or at least to last very long in that position. Ashton Carter will have to deal with the several challenges associated with the office, as most of his predecessors, so Fred Kaplan predicts.

While DoD’s leadership changes, American intelligence goes through a painful process of assessment of its actions after 9/11. Foreign Policy’s Micah Zenko reports on the Senate’s newly released documents on torture, the most controversial of the CIA’s policies. A lot of work done, but still many loopholes.

With powers rising on the horizon (China), or becoming more assertive (Russia), nuclear deterrence experts restart debating “how much is enough” and how to design the US nuclear arsenal. Jerry Meyerle restates a classic argument about the need for flexibility.

Tensions in the Middle East have been touching (again) Jerusalem in the past few weeks with car attacks and with increasing political instability in the Israeli cabinet (new elections in March). The ICG’s Nathan Strall discusses the mounting “rage in Jerusalem”.

Tired of reading? Watch the Afghanistan’s correspondent Anand Gopal discussing the prospects for the country and why insurgent groups gain strength in the arc of instability,

 

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