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 64

All is solved in Greece after the dramatic agreement at the Eurosummit? Or is the EU at the brink of collapse? Maybe the second. For those studying policy-makers we suggest the controversial first interview released since resigning by Varoufakis. 

All seems to be solved regarding the negotiations in Iran nuclear programme. Here you’ll find a detailed report on the complex issue.

Duck of Minerva provides a post on the relationship between civilian casualties and contemporary military operations. In this case, the “Operation Protective Edge” is under scrutiny, after the release of the UN report.

Huge debate after the Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has escaped (again…) from a “maximum- security” prison (here some pictures of the prison…).

Finally, a report from New Orleans ten years after hurricane Katrina. The word “resilience” is widely used…

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 59 “A vehicle for the Summer”

The Arab-Israeli conflict features prominently in media outlets and fiction. This does not mean everything has been said. Lately, an Israeli tv show, Fauda, has been attracting attention for less judgemental on who’s right and who’s wrong.

This is not because Israel’s problems with Hamas are over. Recently, senior Israeli military officers made clear that Iran, often portrayed as enemy # 1, is not the first on the list. Together with risks of renewed conflict with Hamas, even the border with Lebanon is a key concern.

The dissolution of the Iraqi Army is a further element of destabilization in this picture, as it potentially opens space for IS action in the region. According to Barry Posen, it is now time to acknowledge that IS has vast capabilities that are not matched by Iraqi Army and that a containment strategy should be devised with other ethnic and religious groups to which the US should offer support.

Perhaps you are preparing for an adventurous summer, and you might want to drive through deserts, jungles, and mountains. The US Army has similar problems and the final decision on the future joint light tactical vehicles (JTLV) is approaching. Oshkosh, AM General, and Lockheed Martin are in the competition.

If you are in a more aggressive mood, plans are also under way for the future fighting vehicle (FFV).




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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 51

A week between technology and culture – as in a still relevant book by Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree.

While ISIS keeps claiming that the re-establishment of a Caliphate that reaches out to once Arab Europe is one of its goals, there has been a debate in Spain over Google Maps renaming the Mosque in Cordoba.

In the meanwhile, the Pentagon is thinking about (or is dreaming about) a machine that can make use of big data to predict events. It kind of reminds of Spielberg’s Minority Report.

Tel Aviv is hosting the Annual CyberTech Fair. The head of the famous Iron Dome program, which shields Israeli citizens from rockets, stated that he is working towards a “similar” program defending from cyber-threats (the CyberDome?)

Vice News embedded a video journalist in the Nigerian Army fighting Boko Haram. Here you can find the first of a three-part report that sheds light on of the world’s hottest spots.

NBA Playoffs start on April 18th. Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix responds to some key questions over the most exciting part of the season. Take some time off and enjoy the games!

Ps: This week Venus will be at the Annual Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association. A lot of interesting stuff, check here for further info.


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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 47

Changing ideas is a sign of intelligence, a necessary element of academic research. It is also a key for organizational adaptation and learning. It’s hard, though, and also for individuals, to admit they’re wrong.  That’s why the list of past “wrongs” by Steven Walt, a dean of American IR scholars, is a must read.

Photos often describe conflict better than many words. The Atlantic features a series of impressive photos of Reuters’ photo reporters in Northern Iraq, where battle is raging.

Sticking with ISIS (is there anything else, nowadays?), DefenceOne presents the case for drones: air strikes are doing the job in Iraq and Syria.

Well, perhaps something else matters. Where is Vladimir Putin? BBC responds with humor (we know now he is still among us..)

Finally, elections in Israel.  Follow the live blog of the Jerusalem Post. As they say, “Israel has no foreign policy, just domestic politics”.

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 29

The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend. That emerges quite clearly from a series of reports in the past few weeks that have been uncovering the nature of the opposition to IS influence in Iraq. Besides nominal allies in the region allegedly buying “IS oil”, the Shi’a Badr militias, once a staunch enemy, are now fighting against IS in Northern Iraq. No “formal” alliance in sight, but a lot of questions on who sides with whom.

In the meanwhile, President Obama is not the only one struggling with polls. Gordon Lubold reports that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s rating among national security workers dropped to 26 %, according to a survey commissioned by DefenseOne.

Remaining in the US, former Undersecretary of Defense  William Lind, now leading Finmeccanica North America and DRS Technologies, argues that the “market for defense systems” is changing rapidly, and at the global level, and thus the Pentagon should adapt to the new realities: More attention to companies such as Google and Apple and less to the traditional military-industrial complex.

Asia-Pacific has been set to become the most relevant region of action for the foreign policy of quite a few US Administration by now, before chaos in the Middle East brought the focus back. Nonetheless, President Obama is reportedly re-pivoting to Asia. Carnegie Endownent’s Douglas Paal responds to key questions on how to interpret, and what to expect from, this (re) positioning.

Remaining in Asia, India is sometimes overlooked as attention mostly focuses on the Pacific.  And still, India has been long searching for international cooperation in defense matters. Russia has been once a key partner, the US has signed a military pact, and most recently Israel has been developing important ties in key sectors such as missiles and UAVs among others.




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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 27

After a few decades spent envisaging how the US armed forces should think about, and prepare for fighting, the next war, Director of the Office of Net Assessment Andrew Marshall, 93, retired. Whatever one might think about the specific achievements, Marshall can be credited of the effort of bringing into the armed forces the idea that “exploring” and thinking out-of-the-box is one of their core activities.

Talking of future wars, there is a hot debate on which form these will take. Max Boot goes for “more small wars”. In a snapshot: Americans might not like fighting them, but they won’t simply disappear.

Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept focuses on “how” American participation to small wars does not always bring bright results. In particular, a new report shows how war on drugs in Afghanistan is largely ineffective.

Wherever the next wars will be fought, and whatever form they will take, the US armed forces seem inclined to make large use of advances in technology to provide Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. That is why the Pentagon wants, rapidly, more aerial drones.

Last, the war(s) in the Middle East occur (also) over the artificial borders designed mostly by colonial power in WWI. Interestingly enough, Israel’s defense minister Moshe Ya’alon argues that this series of conflict will, and also should, probably lead to changes in Mideast borders.


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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 21

Iraq and the Islamic State are on the center of the global stage on their own this week. President Obama’s Administration is still struggling to find a balance between the perceived need to intervene and limit action of IS (roll it back, too?) and the mantra of “don’t do stupid s**t” that supposedly drive the current external action. But how much of a threat is the IS? This article reviews the American debate, showing the diversity of views among US policy-makers, pundits, and so on.

Still on perception and communication of foreign policy, Ryan Evans assesses the link between events occurred two years ago in Benghazi, Libya, with the killing of an American diplomat and Obama’s foreign policy (not just on Libya).  On the one hand, too much focus on a single event, related attempt to build a political case against the President’s management of the issue, can lead to overlooking the big picture. On the other, the case “laid bare” more structural shortcomings of “Obama’s national security communications apparatus” (Evans talks about “incompetence” and “cynicism”).

Israel is now disappearing from the news, with military confrontation in Gaza stopped. There has been some revival in the interest over Israeli nuclear program, starting from its origins. The Atlantic features an article calling for Israel to be more transparent on its nukes, arguably the country’s “worst kept secret”.

Thursday might be a historical moment for Scotland, as the vote on the referendum on independence will be cast. The London Review of Books presents a wide panel of opinions on the vote and its consequences for Scotland and the UK.

Finally, a group of American and Russian experts met in Finland for a classic “Track 2 diplomacy” initiative. Robert Legvold on the National Interest assesses the suggestions of the panel of experts and discusses critiques brought by opposers of the initiative.




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