February 25, 2011

What We Are Reading (And What We Are NOT Reading) UPDATED

What I am reading today:

1. I just finished the very solid new Crisis Group report on Egypt. The first 15 pages read like a thriller, and the analysis on the Egyptian military strikes me as solid.

2. Max Rodenbeck on Tunisia and Egypt in the New York Review of Books.

3. And speaking of Rodenbeck, the Economist on Libya.

(Update II: 4. Be sure to read Michael Knights talking an incredible amount of sense about no-fly zones here.)

What am I not reading? (Okay, I actually read this.)

1. Joan Juliet Buck's breathless profile of Asma al-Assad, "A Rose in the Desert". Probably should have spiked this one, Vogue! The only thing worse than Buck's prose -- "Despite what must be a killer IQ, she sometimes uses urban shorthand" -- is seeing the skills of a fine photographer like James Nachtwey applied to taking cuddly shots of Bashar al-Assad playing with his kids. Gross. What's next, Vogue? At Home with Kim Jong-il? Dining with Grace Mugabe?


2. Gah! I have to add another one nicely illustrating that fact that the difference between the neoconservative fantasy in the efficacy of military power is really no different than the same liberal interventionist fantasy.

There are various ways in which the horror can be brought to an end. Is a no-fly zone really too complicated to negotiate? Then let NATO planes fly over Tripoli to shoot down any Libyan aircraft that make war on the Libyan population. Is the United States really prevented by its past from deploying the small number of troops that would be required to rescue Tripoli from Qaddafi’s bloody grip? Then let a multilateral expeditionary force be raised and a humanitarian intervention be launched to free Libya from its tyrant and then leave Libya to the Libyans.

We are now paying the price for having waged two very difficult wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that far too few Americans have participated in or been made to sacrifice for. I sometimes get accused of being a hawk because I have argued that resource-intensive counterinsurgency campaigns have represented our best chance to salvage bad situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but my experiences in both countries also taught me that a) force has its limits and b) we should all be very cautious about committing U.S. troops to combat operations in the first place. I'm horrified to read liberal interventionists continue to suggest the ease with which humanitarian crises and regional conflicts can be solved by the application of military power. To speak so glibly of such things reflects a very immature understanding of the limits of force and the difficulties and complexities of contemporary military operations. And then there is this:

I do not see a Middle East rising up in anger at the prospect of American intervention.

Hoo boy. Have I read that before?