2nd of March: Overtaken by Events

Just as I was learning how to keep it short the world became really interesting and scary and I ended up with about thirty links to share with you all. I’ll bring back the sub-headings this week so you can skip over the sections that interest you less. Here we go!

The rise of China and the shrinking of the US Army

In the wake of the proposals for cuts to the US defence budget (probably overdue), a couple of articles on why the scaremongering is overstated and we shouldn’t be too concerned that the US will be crippled by them. On the other hand, an article arguing that Chinese defence spending has been underestimated, making them a much more plausible rival, which is just enough to inject a little fear. An article here argues that the US is pursuing a more robust policy in the South China Sea, which is probably for the best so long as it acts as more of a deterrent than a provocation. Finally, this from War on the Rocks is interesting on how the USA can maintain the Pax Americana through seapower.


This is moving so ridiculously quickly that I deleted most of what I bookmarked earlier in the week because events had left them behind.  Still, a couple of pieces that predate the Russian intervention in Crimea. This is a really cool account of the tactics of the Maidan protesters. This article on Russian foreign policy is very prescient.

Onto the actual events of the past couple of days. Over at the New Republic, Julia Ioffe has a really scary but plausible (and delightfully pessimistic) take on Putin’s politics which leaves an invasion of more Ukrainian territory a real possibility. On the other hand, this article points out that even though Ukraine will find it hard to defend the Crimean peninsula militarily, they have plenty of means to make any Russian annexation difficult there.

Meanwhile, as far as Western responses go – Admiral Stavridis outlines some actions that NATO could take (which are uncomfortably escalatory), Stephen Saideman, a NATO expert, points out why NATO inaction is quite likely, and Hayes Brown suggests non-military responses that could be taken. Booting Russia out of the G8 seems like a no-brainer (and it seems to be in process – cf. Obama’s call to Putin). Finally, and I thought this day would never come, but Nick Cohen’s column last week makes half a good point in this regard (he ruins it with some standard Cohen drivel though) – we should look at targeting foreign leaders with sanctions (perhaps extending the Magnitsky Law would help). At the New York Times, this article is a good reminder of the fact that ultimately there aren’t that many options. Neverthless, this other New York Times piece makes a convincing argument to keep these things in perspective, which is a welcome antidote to all the “PUTIN SO CLEVER HUMILIATING THE WEST” panic.

Also while it’s very serious and could get quite scary soon, this Buzzfeed list is a funny reminder of what a skilled troll Putin is.

Race in America

A couple of great pieces here on the persistence of racism in the USA, one from Jamelle Bouie responding to some utter fuckwittery from Bill O’Reilly, and, at long last, a piece from Ta-Nehisi Coates who is always brilliant, but particularly so here.

LGBT Activism

A powerful speech (transcribed) here from @piercepenniless on LGBT history, and an interesting article on libcom on the problems with some of the responses to Russia homophobia.

Miscellaneous Seriousness

I normally put the uncategorised pieces at the end but I feel like coming after a bunch of videogame links would trivialise these.

An article from Moazzam Begg, who has been detained again this week, from a while back, on what seems to be some pretty dirty state harassment, as well as a condemnation of Birtish policy on Syria.

Speaking of which, an uncharacteristically optimistic piece on the future of the Syrian civil war – emphasising that the solution will have to come from Syrians, but how bringing in veterans of past civil wars could inspire a peaceful solution.

A good piece from The Best of Possible Worlds (more Candide to come) about world hunger and the apparently self-defeating behaviour of the extreme poor.

This at Comment is Free is a bang-on condemnation of those bizarre Brazil T-shirts from Adidas.

James Ball at the Guardian has an amazing feature on the fucking surreal ceremony at the heart of the internet’s functioning. I had no idea about this system or any of it and it’s insane – well worth reading.

Bumper segment on videogames!

Over at Eurogamer, this is an interesting piece on why procedurally-generated storytelling in games is probably a bit of a dead end.

This piece on the Last of Us DLC (I’ve neither played it or the original but still) is really good at capturing the importance of video-games having female protagonists. It’s very easy to dismiss the significance of representation in player-character options as a straight white bloke but this is powerful and hard to ignore.

I always read accounts of the latest enormous, thousands-of-dollars-destroying, war in EVE:Online with bafflement, and the author of this piece starts from the same place as me and goes on a really interesting investigation into the game. Still very confused about EVE, but it sounds as cool/boring as ever.

Speaking of boring things, most of what happened around Flappy Bird left me cold, but this is a great defence of the developer, and it gets the last chapter of Voltaire’s Candide right which makes me love it.


An interesting Buzzread (ugh) about the ‘cool girls’ that came before Jennifer Lawrence.

Finally, a very intriguing argument at The New Inquiry suggesting that the way social media and the internet have fragmented teenage identities have had a big effect on how peer pressure and cliques and all those things I’ve been seeing in Freaks and Geeks operate.

And we’re done! No footnotes this week. Managed to keep it under a thousand words, pretty proud.

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