27th of July: Straight outta Skipton

I’m writing to you from a tiny village in Yorkshire (a proper one shop, two pubs place), showing you just how committed I am – from Spain to the provinces, I never fail to bring you the best reading the internet had to offer this week.

This week’s song is Kendrick Lamar’s “Real”. It’s a great song in itself, but comes at the end of an incredible run of songs in the middle of Good Kid M.A.A.D City, an album which took me five or six listens to actually appreciate once I had gotten over the hype, and now I listen to the songs from “m.A.A.d City” to “Real” all the time, so listen to this one, then those four, then the album.

Before I get into it, an announcement. Inspired by Kelsey Atherton (excellent for tech and especially drones), and Jamelle Bouie (lovely photos, recipes and brilliant writing on race), I’m starting a newsletter version of this series. Basically, if you’d rather receive the Reading List to your inbox every Sunday instead of seeking it out here, just click on the following link to subscribe!

  • First up, this week’s NATO Council piece was on the new British aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth. Unsurprisingly, the project has been a joke.
  • Speaking of absurd ship-building projects, here are three articles on France’s sale of Mistral-class amphibious ships to everyone’s favourite autocrat. One demanding they cancel the sale, one explaining why it’s not that easy, and one offering an alternative.
  • And while we’re talking about EU sanctions, this explainer from Vox on why the EU reaction to Putin has been so seemingly toothless strikes me as having a lot of truth to it.
  • Last week, posted a thing about Srebrenica – this by Stephen Saideman on the recent Dutch ruling that it was partly liable for the massacres, and the consequences for future peacekeeping operations, is interesting
  • Provocative argument: it’s time for the USA to let Iran deal with the mess that is Iraq, given their part in further destabilising it after the US smashed it up.
  • Avoiding posting any Israel/Palestine stuff because it’s depressing and may already have torpedoed a job interview for me this week, but this piece on writing about the Middle East is really well-written and thought-provoking, regardless of the rest.
  • Further writing on the BRICS Development Bank announcement from last week – will it fund coal plants? And will that be such a bad thing?
  • Properly brilliant piece on Brazil in the wake of the Cup.
  • Cord Jefferson excellent as ever on male entitlement to women’s affection
  • Interesting discussion of how we define “public”
  • This discussion/list of advice for writers and journalists of colour is valuable even to white non-writers like me for a variety of reasons. First, some of the advice is universally applicable. Second, no matter how much I read about discrimination and stuff, it’s still an eye-opener to see the different adversities people have to overcome. Finally, it’s good to be aware of the specific struggles people go through in an area to see if there’s a way to alleviate them.
  • About to start the second season of the excellent Orange is the New Black*, so this was relevant. This feature by the real-life Larry (Chapman) Kernan is really interesting, both on the experience of the outside-prison partner, and on the experience of being made into a TV series.

And that’s it! Have a lovely week, all x

*seriously fucking good. I might write something about it once I’m done, though I’m wary of pontificating too much on a TV series refreshingly centred on the perspectives of people who aren’t middle-class white guys like me (related to the penultimate link in the list). Still. Relentlessly humanising, critical without preaching, funny, sexy, heartbreaking stuff. Go watch it.

20th of July: Heatwave Reading

So, no more World Cup, and at least in South London, weather going from oppressive heat to torrential rain and back every two days. Perfect timing for some hopefully uplifting (at times) reading at the end of the miserable, terrible week the world has had.

First off, I’ve been holding off on this for weeks now for World Cup reasons, but Lana del Rey released a new album and I’m obsessed with her again, so here’s a song from Ultraviolence. Come for Lana, avoid the daft drug lyrics (or scroll down for the Lana supplement I’m gonna link and ponder what she means by it all) and stay for the delightful guitar lines.

Off we go.

So now there’s some sort of schedule, I think, and the first of my legit Junior Research Fellow articles is up! I wrote a thing about the coalition’s plans to restructure the Royal Army.

  • Meanwhile, also at NATO Council, this piece had me nervous because I normally find drone/robot-war pieces both sensationalist and dull, but this one is actually good!
  • Informative article on the collapse of the Iraqi Army, and a reassuring post suggesting the situation isn’t as dire as it looks (Optimism alert)
  • Essay on the strategic motives IS(IS) may have had in declaring the caliphate
  • Long critique of US policy in the Middle East for the past few decades
  • I’ve linked to a lot of articles that almost take China’s unpeaceful rise as inevitable. This article highlights domestic dynamics that may work against that, and how the rest of the world can support them. (Optimism alert)
  • Thought-provoking essay on the necessary(?) link between liberalism and Empire
  • Dispiriting list of civilian airliners that have been shot down in the past* along with a troubling analysis of the updated regulations for airlines in Ukrainian airspace
  • Article on the future of Ukaine (Optimism alert)
  • New York Times feature on Srebrenica today – long, at times upsetting, at times a bit moving.
  • The World Cup may be over, but the media are still hovering over Brazil** so plenty of good stuff. This column on our humiliation in the semi-final puts it in nice perspective. Mauricio Savarese has a nice post on the legacy of the Cup – I particularly liked this line: “If the 1950 Maracanazo was a tragedy for a country in the making, the 2014 Mineirazo was more of a sad comedy for a people that don’t depend on a sport to define itself.”
  • Meanwhile, for non-footballing things. 538 have hardly covered themselves in glory at this Cup, but this piece on how Brazil/the PT has reduced poverty and inequality is interesting. This analysis of Brazil’s interest in and potential contribution to the recently-announced BRICS Development Bank is good, though this, by Daniel Drezner, suggests we be cautious about seeing the Fortaleza conference as too much of a revolutionary moment***. Finally, a fucking surreal feature on a community of Confederate exiles in Brazil.
  • Depressing that this needs to be written, really, but this, again at NATO Council, lines up some of the most common terrible presumptions about contraception and knocks them down, in the wake of the Hobby Lobby ruling
  • Leigh Alexander has a good, clear, set of suggestions for combating online sexism
  • I still feel like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a legit term, but even its creator apparently disagrees.
  • Finally, I linked to this set of New Inquiry essays on Lana del Rey last week, assuming it was the start of a series, but it’s actually already there and available to download as a PDF. It’s got tossy cultural analysis, music theory, Yeezus quotes, and is just very interesting to read.

And that’s that. Have a good week! x

*though worth noting the different framing the author gives to the USS Vincennes shooting down the Iran Air flight

**or they were at the start of the week when I bookmarked these anyway

***what do I think, you ask? Glad and intrigued to see Brazil taking a leading role in defining and creating new models of development and global governance. Disappointed and wary of our partners in this good effort being China and Russia.


13th of July: They Think It’s All Over

And, mercifully, it almost is. It’s been a wonderful Cup but I’m ready for the footballing humiliation to end and the irritating coverage of Brazil to go away. That means it’s the last of the Brazilian choices. To suit the mood, the beautiful “Tive Razao” by Seu Jorge. Come for the effortlessly cool video, avoid weeping over the Brazil team’s goal difference in the last two games, and stay for Jorge’s gorgeous voice.

With that, off we go. One thing: I forgot how publishing works when it’s not just me alone in my room pressing “post”, so the next NATO Council piece will actually be up this week, maybe.

  • Somewhat reassuring look at how the USA will retain the capacity to deter Chinese expansion until domestic factors make China less of a threat
  • Then again, with the continuing absurdity that is the F-35 program, maybe the optimism is misplaced…
  • Analysis of the different possible motivations and strategies behind IS(IS?)’s violence
  • Great piece for the IR nerds by Adam Elkus on the “state of the state”. His “ISIS as Jay Gatsby” analogy is my favourite thing
  • Consideration of the pro-Russian narrative in Ukraine on Kiev’s atrocities
  • Bit glib, but within this comic there’s a really interesting story of the AU peacekeeping mission in Sudan
  • Charlie’s blog is really hitting its stride – I’m actually starting to get the hang of the complexity economics thing he keeps going on about
  • I snark enough about reporting on Brazil here, so only fair to highlight – this is a good piece on the World Cup serving as an introduction to Brazil for the world and vice versa*, this is a sweet piece on kids who won tickets to the final (Charlie Bucket eat your heart out), and this is both snark on crappy reporting and a nice look at Brazilian’s reaction to the Mineiraço
  • 😦 **
  • While it is all a bit obvious, this is a useful reminder that everything is fucked in case you’re also struggling to find a job and hating everything – it’s not all your fault***
  • Brilliant little Civil War story
  • Occasionally I think I might stop dodging the draft and go and do my Brazilian military service. This piece, on Royal Marine Commando training, was a nice deterrent. It’s also interesting to note how sophisticated it all seems compared to the “Curahee” episode of Band of Brothers
  • The Emmy nominations were this week, and I saw a lot of “OMG why didn’t X get a nod” stuff circulating. This is a good Voxplainer on the process behind the awards that goes some way to explaining all the anomalies, like Jon Hamm not winning all the awards ever.
  • I like Mindy Kaling a lot, The Mindy Project a lot less, but it’s great that it exists as a show if it inspires these sorts of conversations. Article itself is a bit flabby – it’s one of those Buzzfeed “roundtables” that gets too rambly. A lot of interesting stuff about second-generation immigrant alienation, among other things.
  • This is stunning – behind-the-scenes footage of the VFX work on Game of Thrones work
  • Looks like this could be an interesting series on Lana del Rey. Could also be tossy and dull of course, because it’s the New Inquiry, so one to watch
  • Super exciting news about a republication of The Sun Also Rises, along with a lovely collection of all the covers through the years

Finally, it’s back. I’m trying to be a more positive, professional voice here, but I made the mistake of reading this and ugh. I should have known better – king of the smug interventionists John Rentoul linked to it on Twitter, and the title itself is a warning as to just how smug it’ll get, but god. In response to all the sneering, let’s just take a whistle-stop tour through all the problems with it; massive public opposition to further intervention in the Middle East is dismissed as “cheap campaign promises”; the Iraqi government’s agency in refusing to sign the Status of Forces Agreement is dismissed in favour of scoring cheap shots at Obama; “an attempted détente” with Iran is pitched as a bad thing; the excellent Daniel Drezner is smeared as “one of the administration’s “realist” apologists”…. I mean I could go on, this is just me scrolling through and letting the irritation take me. There is only one thing left to say:


Enjoy the final tonight, and have a lovely week, guys xx


*of course if the introduction happens via shitty sensationalising and “oooh how exotic” reporting then….

**unless if you’re spending most of your day playing Skyrim and Crusader Kings… then it’s kind of your fault

***this is a link, in case it isn’t clear

6th of July: Late

This is late as a post has been, so sorry about that – was hanging out with a baby who is far more interesting than blogging.

Think this is the penultimate week of World Cup music, and I’ve missed so much. On the plus side, the delay from normal music choices has probably spared you an endless sucession of songs off Lana del Rey’s new album. This week, it’s the beautiful Chico Buarque (seriously, look up videos of him speaking and get lost in his eyes and voice) and “Apesar de Voce”. Come for the elated chorus, avoid laughing at how the censors let this one through, and stay to prove you’re smarter than them.

Before we start, got an announcement: following the NATO Council Canada articles from last week, am very pleased to have been asked to join their Junior Research Fellow program and write on a more regular basis. So that planned series on British defence spending and strategy will start appearing over there, probably mid-weekish. I’ll link to them in the reading lists too. So that’s exciting. And now let’s go!

  • On the subject of my own writing, here’s my review of John Mearsheimer’s The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.
  • I linked to this in said review, but this is a really interesting discussion of the domestic political factors that are, and will, undermine the pivot to Asia
  • Three interesting, and quite optimistic articles about recent military developments in Africa (I know, I know, Africa’s not a country but.). Here (Fr.), on Nigeria, here on the DRC, and here (less optimistic tbh, and as much about the French as anything), on Mali.
  • But a less optimistic take on things in the Congo with regard to the big steps taken in conflict mineral labelling
  • Thoughtful discussion from Noam Chomsky of the efficiency and justification for the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions campaign against Israel
  • Sobering outline by Tom Nichols of ways nuclear war could still happen
  • Bittersweet account of boxer Joe Dorsey’s fight against segregation in Louisiana
  • Very interesting discussion of Laurie Penny’s recent article on trans people – gets to the heart of quite complex issues of representation and appropriation
  • I’ve been thoroughly unconvinced by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) I’ve taken this year, so this critique was particularly interesting to me, even if it does occasionally stray into irritating academic-speak
  • On David Cameron’s continuing incompetence at European diplomacy: sigh
  • History essay on late nineteenth-century aristocrats, the Habsburgs and Franz Ferdinand
  • Lovely article on  MTV’s Catfish
  • I identified a lot with this Telegraph post on how house prices have become so absurd that they’re not even a concern to young people anymore
  • Football! Great piece on the tedious stereotyping of “physical” “tactically bemused” African teams. Deliciously provocative on how Brazil’s shambolic Latin American lazy shirking organisation compares to brave efficient brilliant clever Britain’s preparation for the 2012 Olympics. Very interesting take on diving in football – a defence that I really liked, having kind of gotten over of complaining about it. Lovely piece on how, even if we do go out against Germany on Tuesday, Brazilians as a people will have been the biggest winners of the Cup.
  • I giggled hard at this article on GTA: Online.
  • Funny comic on Bat-privilege.
  • When Caitlin Moran’s on form and not being dismissive of marginalised voices, she’s wonderful. This article on her teenaged “sex quest” is delightful.
  • I love warm weather but hate the outside and the people who inhabit it – this Buzzfeed list is everything to me.

And with that, we’re done! I’ve just got back to having good internet access so am going to dive headfirst into the Steam Summer Sale windfall. See you all next week!

The Tragedy of Great Power Politics: Review

nicked off Amazon.com

Earlier in the year, I wrote a review of an additional chapter John Mearsheimer had written for a revised edition of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics and published online – as I said at the time, I hadn’t actually read the original book. In my defence, the politics library at my university appeared to be a single room with some Spanish books in it, so I wasn’t confident I’d find it. Anyway, I’m back in London, and I’ve read it now. Review after the jump.

Continue reading