Lavin Weekly: Threats at Home and Abroad—Graeme Wood on ISIS, Andrew Bacevich on Foreign Policy, and Martin Ford on Automation
1. Graeme Wood’s The Way of the Strangers “the best insight yet into what makes the Islamic State tick”
The Islamic State, or ISIS, is an ill-defined foe. Who are they? What do they want, exactly? And how can we stem their messages of fear and acts of mass terror? The definitive book in understanding ISIS—their structure, motivations, ideology, and theology—is Graeme Wood’s The Way of the Strangers. Wood took the world by storm with his 2015 Atlantic piece “What ISIS Really Wants” (the most read article on the Internet that year); Strangers expands it into a captivating, fully engrossing book. A new review from The Week sums it up nicely: “As with any enemy, the best way to defeat the Islamic State is to understand it. And to do that, the best place to start is a new book by Graeme Wood, The Way of the Strangers. This book gives us the best insight yet into what makes the Islamic State tick.” The New Republic, too, recommends Wood’s book, saying, “Unlike most journalists writing about Islam today, there is no partisan axe to grind here, no hidden agenda to subtly advance.” To better understand ISIS yourself, grab a copy of The Way of the Strangers, or see Wood speak live.
2. After Years of Failed Middle East Policy, Will Trump Shake Things Up? Andrew Bacevich Weighs In
One of The Lavin Agency’s sharpest foreign policy analysts is military historian Andrew Bacevich, whose clear-eyed, nonpartisan criticism of American action in the Middle East is second to none. This week, two prominent pieces feature Bacevich. Firstly, a Vox interview discusses his most recent book, America’s War for the Greater Middle East (named to Kirkus Reviews’s top nonfiction of 2016), which treats all of our Middle Eastern entanglements as part of a greater war, beginning with the Carter Doctrine in 1979. “The war has become unwinnable and misguided because it's a war to affirm the notion of American exceptionalism,” he says.
And what of Trump—will he follow the same path as other presidents? In a brand-new op-ed for The Spectator, Bacevich questions the tack a “foreign-policy novice” like Trump will take. “The things that set Trump apart from his immediate predecessors are his lack of fixed convictions and his erratic temperament,” he writes. “There is no playbook to which he will conform, no past practice he will feel obliged to honor.” If Trump sees some measure of success in stabilizing the Middle East, “some modified version of American globalism may persist.” But in failure, he may pull back, and continue a “tentative retreat from globalism that began under Barack Obama.”
3. Automation Will Take More Than Blue-Collar Jobs, Says Martin Ford
While President-elect Trump’s foreign stances remain unclear, his domestic policies have already begun to take hold. Following recent criticism from Trump, the Ford Motor Co. decided to cancel a $1.6 billion investment in Mexico, instead opting to spend $700 million on operations in Michigan. Patriotism aside, the investment will only create 700 jobs—automation, especially in the auto manufacturing industry, drastically lowers the need for human labor. A recent Bloomberg article on the issue cites Lavin speaker and automation expert Martin Ford (no relation, as far as we know). The author of The New York Times bestseller Rise of the Robots, Ford says AI is poised to supplant more than just blue-collar work:
While lower-skill occupations will no doubt continue to be affected, a great many college-educated, white-collar workers are going to discover that their jobs, too, are squarely in the sights as software automation and predictive algorithms advance rapidly in capability. Employment for many skilled professionals -- including lawyers, journalists, scientists, and pharmacists -- is already being significantly eroded by advancing information technology. They are not alone: most jobs are, on some level, fundamentally routine and predictable.
Disruption leaves us all vulnerable, industry notwithstanding. To truly comprehend the new world of work, a grasp of the coming (or perhaps, already present) wave of automation is a necessity. Ford, in his highly sought-after keynotes, provides this in spades.
To hire author Graeme Wood, Andrew Bacevich, or Martin Ford as your organization’s next conference speaker, contact The Lavin Agency by phone, email, or social media.