7 Underrated Military Blogs That Can’t Get No Respect

Rodney+Dangerfield

I tell you, I can’t get no respect!

I’ve been writing this blog since 2011, and I like to think I write some pretty good stuff. True, it’s not all gold, but generally speaking, I post frequently on topics that are of interest to the milblog community.

Yet whenever a list of the ‘top military blogs’ comes along, Carrying the Gun is never on it.

An article with the headline ‘7 Military Blogs You Need To Check Out‘ has been making the rounds over the past couple of days. Carrying the Gun isn’t on the list – no surprise there.

I think I know why I got the snub:

Here are 7 of the best military blogs out there right now if you’re looking for professional, well-written content. What I like about these site is that they’re either created/hosted by an active duty service member, or they’re a repository of active duty writing. So, you know you’re getting relevant content.

I’ve written some pretty professional stuff on this blog – stuff that’s been picked up by national and international news outlets. But, I also, quite often, write about nonsense, like the matriarchal town of Troia in Final Fantasy IV and GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, on war. I suppose that if I just wrote about military stuff, maybe I’d get on one of these lists.

And while the death knell for milblogs has been rung prematurely before, I am a little frustrated by the fact that the blogs that usually make these lists are either conglomerate sites that pool articles from a bunch of sources or sites that serve as a traffic driver for something else. Milblogs that speak “ground truth” are becoming less and less common. Yes, lots of folks have moved on to Twitter or to mainstream publishing to tell their stories (I’m looking at you, @inthedeserts, @AlexHortonTX). I like to believe there is still a place for more junior folks to lay out their own canvas and say what it is they have to say, without simply trying to drive traffic or go through a round of professional editing to get posted.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to make my own list of milblogs that I enjoy reading. When a new post from one of these blogs appears, I’ll automatically save it for later because I know I’ll enjoy it. These are milblogs that often get no respect, but are both entertaining and informative. This is the “Wack Pack” of milblogs, if you will. Admittedly, a lot of these blogs don’t update as often as they should, probably because they’re tired of getting the ‘ol mainstream milblog snub. Check them out, they need your love.

1. WAR IS SCHLEP – A milblog told mostly through comics (think Terminal Lance, but for junior Army officers). The story of a young Infantry Lieutenant, from his days at ROTC, studying abroad in the Middle East, to Infantry training and beyond. Hilariously captures some of the absurdities of military life. HASN’T POSTED FOR A YEAR!

2. Grand Blog Tarkin – Security issues told through a fantasy/sci-fi perspective. A conglomerate site that allows writers – many who are active-duty service members and veterans – to get creative. Example article title: Eating Soup with a 900′ Powerglove: Mass Effect, Mechanical Armies, and the Reaper as Counterinsurgent Fever Dream

3. On Violence – Run by two brothers (Michael and Eric), one a former Army officer, one an anti-war activist (I realize activist might be the wrong word, Eric). They write brilliant and easily digestible articles on, well, violence, and everything that word touches. One of the most reasonable, sane milblogs you’ll find.

4. Fear and Loathing in the Infantry – Ground truth from a junior infantry officer. Does not post nearly as much as he should, but fortunately makes up for it through his Twitter account (@intheinfantry)

5. Kings of War – Kings of War is a blog run out of the War Studies Department at King’s College, London. I learned of it when I went to the peacenik school down the street from them. They go through spurts where their stuff is fantastic (this is one of my favorite KoW articles ever – Killing them Softly: Warriors Lost in a Twilight of Sentimentality and Nostalgia), and they are intermittently prolific, sometimes offering up multiple articles a week before going dark for a month or two.

6. The Best Defense – True, The Best Defense is well known in milblog circles, but the typical 3 posts a day that show up right next to each other in my feedly almost always gets saved for later. Tom Ricks finds interesting things going on in the security universe and almost always has an interesting comment, headline, and picture to go along with it. Usually very short articles, sometimes just a sentence or two. Always enjoyable.

7. Carrying the Gun – The most underrated blog in the milblogosphere. War, the Middle East, and video games are the usual topics, but the author has been known to dabble in nonsense. A must read for everyone on the internet.

Bonus Blog! True Boots – A “boots on the ground” perspective from a prolific and thoughtful veteran. You won’t always agree with her, but she will usually have a better argument than you.

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So you wanna know about the Middle East?

Battle of Karbala

A friend recently sent me an email asking for book recommendations to get up to date on the Middle East. I didn’t have any good recommendations for her, but what I did share was the list of news sources and blogs that I read daily that helps keeps me up to date.

Shortly after firing off that email, I realized that it was a pretty good list and would make a good post.

Below are the sources in my feedly list that I have collected over the years.

If you know of any good ones that aren’t listed here, please let me know in the comments.

News:
Al Jazeera English (Middle East): News outlet with a focus on the Middle East.
Baghdad Bureau (New York Times): This is the ‘At War’ Blog at the New York Times. It often runs essays by military/veteran personalities and others usually in regards to wars in the Middle East.
Middle East Channel (Foreign Affairs): Short excerpts from Foreign Affairs on the Middle East.
NYT>Islam: News from the New York Time’s Islam section.
NYT>Middle East: News from the New York Time’s Middle East section.
The Independent – Middle East: News from The Independent’s (UK) Middle East section.
Robert Fisk: Controversial and outspoken journalist that covers the Middle East.
WP: Middle East: News from the Washington Post’s Middle East section.
BBC News – Middle East: Middle East section of the BBC.

Blogs:
hawgblawg – Ted Swedenburg, ME anthropologist. Mostly blogs about the kufiya and Arab pop music.
Informed Comment– Juan Cole. ME Studies Professor. Liberal bent. Very good ME stuff.
Jihadology – a source for translated statements from muslim extremist groups.
MEI Blog – Blog of the Middle East Institute. Sporadic historical posts.
al-bab – Blog of Brian Whitaker, Middle East journalist.
Letters from the Underground (was ‘Frustrated Arab) – blog by an anti-imperialist activist.
gary’s choices – Tumblr blog by Gary Sick, former National Security Council Advisor. Iran-hand.
intelwire – Blog of J.M. Berger, Middle East analyst focusing on extremism, especially in social media.
Jadaliyya – Ezine on Middle East. Mostly political stuff. English/Arabic.
Jihadology – Mostly translated Islamic extremist releases/messages.
jihadica – more jihad stuff.
jillian c. york – prominent blogger on ME issues and social media.
Marc Lynch – Formerly ‘abu aardvark,’ blog on ME stuff hosted at Foreign Policy.
Musings on Iraq – Iraq centric blog by Joel Wing.
Mondoweiss – Blog focusing mainly on Israel/Palestine issues.
Sandbox – blog by Middle East Scholar Martin Kramer.
Saudiwoman’s Weblog – Blog focusing mostly on Women’s Issues in Saudi Arabia.
The Arabist – blog about Arab politics and culture.
The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer– Arab politics through football.
Views from the Occident – Blog by PhD student in Islamic Studies. Focused mostly on extremist groups and imagery.

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Introduction

I’ve toyed around with blogs in the past. I had a blog while I was studying at the American University in Cairo. It was shortlived, though, since it was soley based on me being in Egypt. I enjoyed the process, and enjoyed writing.

Since then, I’ve started a few blogs for a day or so, and then quickly deleted them. Always too worried about taking on the added responsibility and feeling compelled to produce, while putting myself out there for criticism.

I thought about doing an anonymous blog, but why? I don’t intend on writing anything nasty towards anyone, and wouldn’t that be the purpose of an anonymous blog? To be able to say what you want without worrying about being revealed? Then, though, I would worry about being revealed.

So here I go again. This will be my personal blog. The title comes from a line that caught my attention from executed ex-President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. You can read about it on the About page. The blog is centrally about soldiering, writ large. Sometimes, I’ll write about things only remotely connected to soldiering, but there will be a connection there, somewhere.

From time to time, I’ll also write about some of my other interests, like Arabic, the Middle East, or the arts.

I don’t anticipate posting daily. Maybe weekly. Maybe longer. I’d like to write longer pieces. With good research and an appropriate number of hyperlinks. A lot of people blog about other blogs, or post news links. I don’t want to do that.

I have a good feeling about this one.

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