Although it took place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars has again been making headlines this week, not only due to the release of The Force Awakens, but also because of the epic series’ notable parallels with life here on Earth. Technology, counterterrorism, politics and cybersecurity wonks will be over the moon with the smorgasbord of analysis on offer—although, if you’re yet to see the new film, take a look at The Washington Post’s handy guide to avoiding spoilers. Choice pieces include Foreign Policy’s look at how the rebels can create permanent peace in the galaxy through counterinsurgency (check out Luke Skywalker’s journey to jihad for a different angle), Raytheon’s examination of the technology from the series, and The Wall Street Journal’s effort on both science and tech in the films and how they relate to real life—and these two Council on Foreign Relations pieces on the inadequacies of the Empire’s cybersecurity strategies. Alternatively, to get in touch with your artier side, check out this War is Boring piece on the US Marine who takes shooting Stormtroopers and droids to a whole new level—with his camera.
Back in the Milky Way, Rizal Sukma, the executive director of CSIS Jakarta, has penned an interesting opinion piece for The Jakarta Post countering critics who argue that Indonesia is slowly leaning towards China, with a prime example being Indonesia’s snub of Japan over a high-speed rail deal earlier this year. It’ll be interesting, then, to watch the outcomes of discussions between Indonesian, Japanese and Australian defence and foreign affairs officials as they continue into next week.
The Council on Foreign Relations has released a fascinating and extensive InfoGuide on the Taliban. The interactive tool gives a detailed look at Afghanistan’s most vigorous insurgent group, beginning at their conception in the 1990s, and concluding by posing a number of interesting policy questions, such as whether a negotiated settlement with the group is actually possible. The side effects of Islamic radicalism got an interesting look-in on War on the Rocks this week in a great article by Julia Santucci, who examined the links between violent extremism and gender inequalities—and how bolstering the work of women working to promote the positive principles of their faiths is an effective counterterrorism strategy.
For a different angle on global conflict hotspots, check out the Global Peace Operations Review’s new infographic on UN Peacekeeping. Looking at the 10 states that contribute the most finances, and the 10 states which contribute the most troops, the report finds there’s little (read: zero) crossover between the two groups. ‘Those who pay, rarely play…’.
The Perth USAsia Centre has released findings on the strategic implications that gas has on energy security here in Australia, concluding that it’s difficult to ascertain if we even have an energy security strategy at all. The report concludes that hard decisions will need to be made on the future of the Australian energy sector, forced either by the necessity for discussion, raised by public discussion on issues like foreign investment, or changing conditions in the region. In a similar vein, the Sea Power Centre has published a report for the Chief of Navy on protecting fuel trade flows from a shipping perspective.
And finally, if you feel that your Christmas wish list is still lacking (unlike US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter’s), check out this handy piece of robotics designed to read your body’s signals as you look at Tinder profiles, and then swipe left or right for you accordingly. You don’t even need to lift a finger to find a new romance for 2016.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll probably have noticed that Season Two of the hit podcast series Serial has been launched, this time focusing on the story of Bowe Bergdahl—the US soldier who was captured and held by the Taliban for five years. For a deeper look at Bergdahl’s history and host Sarah Koenig’s decision to examine the accounts of his time in Afghanistan, see this piece on The New Yorker. Episode two is available here.
Chatham House has released footage (19 mins) of an interesting panel discussion between Sara Silvestri, Matthew Goodwin and John Gaffney on how the Paris attacks could come to shape politics in the European Union and the implication for the EU’s Islamic population—a poignant topic as Marine Le Pen’s National Front party made international headlines despite a significant loss in French regional elections this week.
Are you interested in building your very own Death Star? NASA knows that the answer is ‘yes’—and they know that galactic domination is a pricey business (US$193 quintillion, in fact). Check out this video (2 mins) where Brian Muirhead, chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, recommends mining asteroids to create the base for your colossal and cost-effective space weapon.