In this new (regular) feature, we will be providing a round-up of what we at The Smoke-Filled Room have been reading that seems interesting and especially germane to the problems of contemporary political science. We’ve noticed that other blogs regularly include links to interesting content they’ve found on the web, and we’ve decided to shamelessly follow that example. Like good academics avoiding our own work, we have eclectic reading habits, as you will no doubt come to see. So, what we’re reading this week:
- Albert Hirschman lived a more interesting life than most social scientists. “In dealing with events during the difficult period between 1935 and 1938, Hirschman… decided to fight in the Spanish civil war against Franco with the very first Italian and German volunteers, some of whom were killed on the battlefield. For the rest of his life, Hirschman remained entirely silent about this experience, even with his wife, though ‘the scars on his neck and leg made it impossible for her to forget.’ Returning from the war, he worked closely with the anti-Fascist Italian underground, carrying secret letters and documents back and forth from Paris.”
- Patrick Cockburn provides an excellent account of the war in Syria, which “no one” is winning, in the London Review of Books.
- Jeffrey Lewis decides to pivot from a technical topic, the overhyped threat of electromagnetic pulses, to questions of threat inflation and isolationism. “One of the criticisms of the Bush administration’s preemptive doctrine was its ‘unilateralism.’ Well, unilateralism is just isolationism on steroids.”
- Jane Mayer, Human Rights Watch’s John Sifton and Ross Douthat offer their thoughts on President Obama’s National Defense University speech.
- Check out the funky cover art on this old CIA study of the 1962 China-India War.
- Boiling over: Sweden finally has to deal with two decades’ worth of inadequate immigrant integration policies. Colin Freeman with a nice take in The Telegraph.
- Shikha Dalmia blames the harassment faced by women in India (“eve teasing”) on “free-floating male libido with no socially acceptable outlet.”
- On the naming of American bases: “Fort Lee, in Virginia, is of course named for Robert E. Lee, a man widely respected for his integrity and his military skills…[yet] he was responsible for the deaths of more Army soldiers than Hitler and Tojo.”
- Turkey’s Parliament is debating a bill to restrict the selling of alcohol. Domestic critics have suggested that the bill’s supporters are pushing an Islamist agenda. However, as Marya Hannun points out, this is not dissimilar to alcohol sale restrictions in Texas. As some of the supporters of the bill point out, it is also not dissimilar to alcohol sale restrictions in Sweden. Coincidentally, Swedish restrictions, which have progressively loosened over time, are directly related to the strong influence of religious temperance movements upon the Swedish Social Democratic Party, which dominated Swedish politics for most of the 20th century. So perhaps the Sweden comparison is not one Turkish pro-restriction politicians should make.