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Recommended Reading

Dual Top Billing!  New Criterion (Thomas Bruscino)- “The New Old Lie” 
Rethinking Security (Adam Elkus)- On the War of Art 

The former is the smart essay making the rounds. The second is the smart blogospheric reaction to it. Here are samples:

For Schwarz, this was Bierce’s greatest attribute: to cut through the phony cant of the war’s causes, “including the North’s smug myth of a Battle Cry of Freedom (still cherished by many contemporary historians, as it flatters their sense of their own righteousness).” Bierce’s cynicism was not just the result of a painful individual experience that allowed him to produce affecting works of art; it was an identification of the universal truth of war.

….This conceit has long been de rigueur among professional critics of high culture. In his introduction to Patriotic Gore, Edmund Wilson equated human war to the aggression of gangs of baboons and sea slugs: “at bottom the irrational instinct of an active power organism in the presence of another such organism.” Only humans, whether they are Napoleon, or the Nazis, or Americans, justify their instincts in terms of “morality” and “reason” and “virtue” and “civilization.”

….Over the past half century, scarcely an American student has studied Great War poetry without finding out that Wilfred Owen produced the greatest poem of the war. With its horrifying depictions of the suffering and death of fighting in the trenches, his poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” proved “the old lie”—that it is sweet and fitting to die for your country. Tellingly, we would be hard-pressed to find a student these days who has read “Dulce et Decorum Est” in its original form by Horace. After all, the Roman poet could not possibly have produced art if it contained such sentimental pap.

and from Adam:

There are two paramount problems with the dominance of strategic nihilism in art. First, it does not accurately represent the conflicts it depicts. While Ambrose Bierce may have mocked the Civil War, it was deadly serious for both the Confederate and Union forces. Whether fighting out of an idealistic loathing of aristocratic and retrograde Southern slave society or a desire to build a more perfect Union, war fever was an undeniable (and historically documented) fact. Wilfred Owen may have accurately depicted the horrors of World War I, but his writing only depicts one phase of the Western Front. World War I was a mobile war in the West in 1914 and 1918 and was completely mobile in the East. The African, Middle Easter, and Central Asian dimensions of the conflict are mostly unheralded. Owen’s experience, however, is continuously privileged over other and equally valid experiences.

SWJ Blog (Robert Killebrew) –Well, They’re Not About Taking Over the Government 

A few years ago Latin American specialists began warning the defense community at large that the Mexican cartels constituted an insurgency in the actual sense, though one that was strategically different from the ideologically-inspired ones with which we are all familiar. By now, the weakness of the oft-repeated response that “Well, they’re not about taking over the government” ought to be plain. Sure they are. The pattern of cartel corruption of local governments in some areas of Mexico makes that plain. They just care about influence and compliance with their wishes, not about traffic law and picking up the garbage at the curb.

Some still think this is only about crime. It is not. Considering the full scope of criminality and terrorism in today’s world, on a spectrum ranging from the local gangs inside the United States to the confluence of the cartels, international terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and criminal states like Iran and Venezuela — there are others — it seems obvious that what we’re seeing is a new wrinkle in warfare itself, consisting of the blending of the huge resources of the black economy (estimated at a fifth or more of the world’s GDP) with transnational state and criminal organizations that wage economic, cyber and kinetic warfare outside the bounds of what we have come to think of as “established” rules of warfare.

Nir RosenQ&A: Nir Rosen on Syria’s armed opposition and Islamism and the Syrian Uprising

Nir Rosen is a very, very controversial figure, putting it mildly. While I find his politics to be radically left-extremist, I can’t fault Rosen’s willingness to crawl through hellholes to report important stories firsthand, much like Robert Young Pelton, David Axe, Michael Yon or Robert Kaplan.

ISW – Syria’s Armed Opposition

The institute for the Study of War is the influential think tank run by the Kagans that, after CNAS, is the most closely associated with COIN and the “surge” in Iraq.

CNAS – Pressure Not War: A Pragmatic and Principled Policy Towards Syria

Title is self-explanatory, author is Marc Lynch.

The Atlantic (Joshua Foust) –Syria and the World’s Troubling Inconsistency on Intervention

Commentary (Michael Rubin) – Mrs. Clinton, Leave Sri Lanka Alone!

(Hat tip to Bruce Kesler)

AFJ (Frank Hoffman) – A New Principle of War

Chacago Boyz – Chicago Send-Off, with Guinness, for Neptunus Lex and “Engineers vs humanities….”

Michigan War Studies Review Barbarous Philosophers: Reflections on the Nature of War from Heraclitus to Heisenberg and Tirpitz and the Imperial German Navy

 Eide Neurolearning Blog –Metacognition, Math, and the Brain 

Ribbonfarm –Hall’s Law: The Nineteenth Century Prequel to Moore’s Law

2 Responses to “Recommended Reading”

  1. Madhu Says:

    Thanks for linking my “thought” piece, zen. Actually, the whole series of links you’ve got going are really fascinating. When I’ve got more time, I would like to follow-up on the points made in comments. I like using commenters comments as a kind of “rorschach” test.
    It seems I’ve found my niche, finally, in all this reading around here and my usual haunts. I like to think about what people think they think. Cool topic, don’t you think?

  2. Ski Says:

    The British Army actually has a field manual called “Understanding.”
    It’s quite good, and it’s available here:
    I read it and used it to my advantage during my last deployment to Afghanistan.

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