April 21, 2010

Linkage to some Readage

I have been crashing on a new paper on Afghanistan, which just went to the copy editor last night, and have not been blogging (or answering phone calls or emails) as a result. I have, though, been reading in my spare time, and if you are not one of the nearly 1,000 people who subscribe to this blog's Twitter feed, here's the best of what I have read recently:

1. Yesterday, CNAS released a new report that I edited. The team we put together explored several international peace operations in order to determine some of the risks of a peace operation in a future Palestinian state. This was a really fun project, because it was think-tankery at its best: a bunch of people with a variety of experiences gathered in a room to discuss something that might never happen but which is worth sorting through anyway because it might very much concern U.S. policy in the future. I learned a lot from reading and editing the chapters written by the other contributors, and I think you will especially enjoy Marc Lynch's concluding chapter, but Lebanon geeks should read what Kyle Flynn and I wrote about UNIFIL. (Kyle, by the way, is perhaps the most kick-ass intern in the history of interns. He served two tours in Afghanistan in 3rd SFG as an 18E before matriculating to Georgetown. I don't mean to brag, but how many other think tanks in this town enlist Green Berets to assist with their research, do you think?) Initial reaction to our report can be found here and here.

2. Just when CNAS takes up the cross, a very broken Aaron David Miller puts it down. It's not hard to see how a good guy like Miller could have grown so discouraged by U.S. peacemaking efforts in the Middle East given the many disappointments of his career. But mine his essay in Foreign Policy, and you'll actually find quite a few good warnings for any U.S. policy-maker who wades in the mess that is Israel and the Palestinians. (ex. "Negotiations can work, but both Arabs and Israelis (and American leaders) need to be willing and able to pay the price.")

3. Joe Klein has written a wonderful article on the trials and tribulations of Captain Jeremiah Ellis in southern Afghanistan. So many questions popped into my head while reading this article, like how the hell a general officer could, at this stage in the war in Afghanistan, convince a unit of soldiers that they would not be doing COIN but would instead serve as "storm troopers," thus sending units into Afghanistan better prepared mentally to kick ass kinetically than to do all the other things one has to do to be successful. Regardless, Joe's excellent piece is also a reminder to advocates of COIN that doing it on the ground is significantly more difficult than advocating for it from Washington or explaining it on CNN.

4. What the hell is Holman Jenkins going on about in this public relations memorandum for Goldman Sachs disguised as an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal? If the SEC was really trying to wage war on shorts, as Jenkins alleges, would they not have sued John Paulson rather than Goldman Sachs? That said, Jenkins is probably correct when he argues that the SEC has a tough case to prove, as my friend Binya (C'01) helpfully explained yesterday in the New York Times. This is a blog on counterinsurgency, national security, and security issues in the Middle East, not finance, but the most readable three books I have read on the financial crisis over the past several months are:

  1. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machineir?t=abumuqa-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0393072231
  2. Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System -- and Themselvesir?t=abumuqa-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0670021253
  3. Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the Worldir?t=abumuqa-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0143116800

That last book isn't about the current crisis at all, actually, but just won the Pulitzer for non-fiction and sheds some light on a previous generation of central bankers and their financial crisis. Anyway, now you know way too much about what I read when I'm not reading Flashman novels or books about Afghanistan. On the positive side of things, I was able to explain, in English, what a collateralized debt obligation was to Lady Muqawama over the weekend. (It helped that she has a math-oriented brain as well as an advanced degree in engineering. And is way smarter than me.)