Articles by " Natalie Sambhi"

ASPI suggests: Australia Day edition

Breaking BadIt’s a long weekend with Aussies preparing to celebrate their national day, Australia Day, on Monday 26 January, so here’s our pick of articles, podcasts and events for your defence fix.

No doubt many readers have seen or plan to see the movie American Sniper that looks at the life of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. Alex Horton looks at why the the Clint Eastwood film might be distorting civilians’ understanding of combat duty. As a supplement, he recommends the book Redeployment by Phil Klay and writing workshops like Words After War which brings civilians and vets together to dispel misconceptions of ‘heroism’. Also worth reading is Alex’s older piece on what the TV show Breaking Bad teaches us about ‘moral injury’ which he explains is a state of mind often experienced by veterans where one’s internalised moral code is turned on its head.

With the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Adbul Aziz on Friday, his half brother, the 79-year-old Crown Prince Salman, has now taken over the country’s leadership. But this still leaves questions open as to whether the next generation of princes will take over. The WaPo looks at the challenges of succession including a useful graphic showing the reigns of the Saudi monarchs, while Michael Herb writing for the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre wrote back in August about succession and Saudi Arabia’s stability. Read more

Let’s turn now to Sri Lanka: while we don’t often focus on that Indo-Pacific state, Carnegie Endowment’s Frederic Grare writes the country’s upcoming presidential election has important implications not only for domestic policy, but foreign relations with China and India. He advocates for Western countries to strike while the iron is hot to ensure Sri Lanka’s commitment to combating corruption and fostering postwar reconciliation are kept on track.

Sticking with the region, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict has a new report out on support for Islamic State in Indonesian prisons. It’s an important issue given the high number of inmates convicted of terrorism offences in Indonesia, including the prominent figures from groups like JAT, and the risks of radicalisation while incarcerated.

To this day, Winston Churchill remains a controversial figure. For the history and strategy wonks, BBC Magazine has rounded up the ten greatest debates surrounding his legacy.

While the Cold War ended decades ago, this week marked the end of another era: Russia formally ended its cooperation with the US on reducing its nuclear stockpiles. While it was expected (Russia gave a heads up back in November), American officials still described the development as ‘dismaying’. Both sides will continue cooperation on securing industrial sources of nuclear material (to prevent ‘dirty bombs’) and inspections on each other’s active nuclear arsenals as part of arms control treaties. For more on this issue, two nuclear scientists from Stanford University have an op-ed on why the US shouldn’t end nuclear security cooperation with Russia.

Also related to the Cold War, Andrew Metrick looks at one of its legacies: the decline of stealth. Metrick writes, ‘the threats to stealth technology are shifting, as well—at a rate that is exceeding the pace of stealth technology development’ but keep reading here to find out why stealth isn’t dead.

How does history influence Chinese thought and behaviour today? Michael D. Swaine has a piece reposted on The Diplomat that provides nuance to how schools of thought in China respond to ideas of international order and hegemony.

Ebola no longer dominates global headlines but its continues to ravage parts of Africa with 21 689 reported cases and 8 641 deaths (as of 18 January). What Africa really needs to fight Ebola and other emerging diseases isn’t just reactive emergency health teams and plastic suits, but sustained anti-corruption efforts that begin well before the onset of a disease, writes Princeton’s Laura Kahn. Keep reading here for her policy recommendations. Another sobering (non-security) fact about Ebola: it has wiped out one third of the great apes since the 1990s, with a mortality rate among gorillas of 95% and 77% for chimpanzees, compared to just 50% for humans.

Turning to capability matters, US defence acquisition is in desperate need of reform, writes Alex Ward over on War on the Rocks. Ward looks at why, despite the dream team of Ash Carter, Robert Work, Frank Kendall, John McCain, and Mac Thornberry, world events and the final term agendas of key figures like McCain will throw obstacles in their way.

Each year the University of Pennsylvania ranks the world’s think tanks in a variety of fields as part of the Global Go To Think Tank Index. This year, we’re pleased to announce ASPI ranked 27th in Top Foreign Policy and International Affairs Think Tanks as well as getting other honourable mentions including for Mark Thomson’s The Cost of Defence and for social media. To see how the world’s wonks went, including strong performances from other Aussie outfits like the Lowy Institute, the Strategic Defence Studies Centre and the Australian Institute of International Affairs, check out the full report here.


The team at Loopcast interview Mia Bloom, author of Bombshell: women and terrorism, on the role of women and children in the Islamic State (44mins).


Canberra: ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre are hosting a special book launch and workshop Power and International Relations: essays in honour of Coral Bell, edited by Des Ball and Sheryn Lee. The launch is Tuesday 3 February at 12.15pm, with the workshop commencing at 1pm, followed by a cocktail reception at the Hedley Bull Building. Details and registration here.

Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Peter Varghese, will be discussing Australia’s foreign policy challenges, hosted by the AIIA ACT at its Deakin offices on Wednesday 4 February at 6pm. Registration here.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user jaroh. 

ASPI suggests

Edge of TomorrowWelcome back for the second 2015 round-up of new reports and recommended links.

Not to be outdone by the Army, the US Navy is now looking at Iron Man suits aka military exoskeletons (like the ones featured in the 2014 movie Edge of Tomorrow). To read more on the issue, check out a new CNAS report, ‘Between Iron Man and Aqua Man’, by Andrew Herr and Scott Cheney-Peters that gives a brief history of the exoskeleton before delving into its potential for maritime uses including HADR and amphibious ops scenarios.

While the Paris attacks dominated headlines last week, Boko Haram launched an attack on towns in Nigeria’s northeast in early January and was reported to have carried out ‘indiscriminate killing’. While the government and humanitarian organisations dispute death toll figures (which range from 150 to 2,000), Amnesty International has resorted to ‘before and after’ satellite images to show clearly the extent damage inflicted on the towns. Read more

Our colleagues at NBR have produced ’15 for 2015: forecasts for the Asia-Pacific’—15 essays that highlight things to watch in the year ahead, including what the Ukraine crisis means for Asia, Xi Jinping’s new foreign policy, changes to the global energy landscape, and cyber insecurity. See here for the full list of essays, all of which can be read online or downloaded for free.

Another forecast read is Vijay Sakhuja’s new CIMSEC piece that looks at maritime challenges in the Indian Ocean for 2015, which kicks off with analysis on the Indian Ocean Rim Association’s change of chair from Australia to Indonesia.

Sticking with the Asia Pacific, two pieces on defence budgets: the first is on Japan’s newly announced budget increase to US$42bn, with funds going towards new amphibious vehicles, surveillance aircraft and F-35 fighters. For more, see this VOA article for analysis on what this means for relations with China and coverage in The Diplomat and at the CATO Institute blog. The second from CogistAsia looks at the shift in Malaysia’s national security focus in the 2015 defence budget towards its eastern flank of Sabah which shares a porous maritime border with the Philippines.

Russia plans to build 10 more Arctic airfields in addition to the existing four by this year’s end, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. This follows news in December that Russia’s new military command centre in the Arctic had become operational, which is part of an overall trend to exploit the new trade routes and potential oil reserves that melting ice have provided. For greater detail on Russia’s Arctic strategy, read this SIPRI report from September 2014 (PDF).

Turning to domestic capability, blogger Gregor Ferguson over at Rumour Control has a post on Australia’s defence industry which distills insights from his research on the projects that developed the Vickers Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane aircrafts into 12 lessons. One of those is ‘A group of people in overalls and a factory building with some machinery inside it do not an industry capability make unless and until they embody the technical, design and management skills and equipment necessary to design, develop and manufacture the product (or service) the market requires.’ Keep reading here.

On veterans’ issues, a magnetic resonance therapy (MRT) technique which ‘zaps’ the brains of veterans with PTSD appears to be working. Although unproven in the case of PTSD, the procedure has also been used for those with Alzheimer’s, anxiety, addiction and tinnitus, and works by ‘realign[ing] and synchroniz[ing] the firing of neurons in each patient’s brain depending on the condition’. For more on the story, keep reading here.

Two photoessays from around the world this week. In the first, BBC Indonesia shows powerful images of students in Peshawar returning to school after December’s shooting in which 133 students were killed. The second from We Are The Mighty showcases what it’s like to live on a US Navy nuclear submarine. Check out how submarines cook up a few snags on the barbie!


Monash University’s Andrew Zammit spoke to Lowy’s Sam Roggeveen this week on ISIS and al Qaeda involvement in the attacks in Paris last week, in which Zammit provides a bit of background on networks operating in Western countries and the nature of extremist violence (7mins).

CSIS’ blog CogitAsia has launched a new podcast series: in episode one, host Colm Quinn discusses key news stories in Asia including the impact of the AirAsia crash and MH370’s disappearance on Southeast Asia’s air travel infrastructure, and the US rebalance (31mins).


Canberra: Don’t forget, the results of the Global Go To Think Tank Index compiled annually by the University of Pennsylvania will be released on Friday 23 January at the AIIA’s national offices in Canberra. The event is co-hosted by AIIA, ASPI and the ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. For more info and registration, see here.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user Chris.

ASPI suggests

Show of solidarity in Madrid against the Charlie Hedbo shootingWelcome back for 2015! Of the news items and commentary surrounding this week’s Charlie Hebdo shooting, consider reading these thoughts by The New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch on which is mightier: the pen or the gun.

Turning to Asia Pacific matters, CSIS has a new report ‘Pivot 2.0’ or, as I like to put it, ‘how the Administration and Congress learned to work together and love the rebalance’ in which a number of leading experts share their recommendations for bipartisan action on trade, China, defence and resourcing (for the Mark Thomson fans), Korea, India, and Southeast Asia.

If that isn’t enough pivot talk, Murray Hiebert and Gregory Poling also have a snappy summary here of how the Obama administration can ‘advance the rebalance’ in each ASEAN state. Read more

‘It’s difficult to say ISIS is winning by any objective measure’. That’s a quote from a new piece by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross on how ISIS has ‘convinced us of its growing power while actually treading water’. For more on the jihad hype and whether ISIS can maintain its ‘slick, shocking PR’, keeping reading here.

The makers of ‘The Interview’ got a lot right about North Korea, writes DPRK-watcher Barbara Demick. And while the low-brow comedy has generally received tepid reviews, drawing on her extensive interviews with North Korean defectors (compiled into this book) Demick defends the accuracies of how the hermit kingdom is portrayed. Keep reading for Demick’s explanation of the psychology of North Korea.

The Australia–Japan strategic relationship is the subject of a newish piece by Malcolm Cook and Thomas S. Wilkins for The Tokyo Foundation, worth reading for its comprehensive look at both factors warming the relationship as well as areas for future cooperation.

If you’re following the Russian bear, Dmitri Trenin reviews Russia’s new military doctrine, signed by President Vladimir Putin in late December last year, and its implications. Add to that Trenin’s Global Times op-ed on why Russia’s got tougher economic times ahead.

Will China change its South China Sea approach in 2015? The Diplomat’s Prashanth Parameswaran looks at recent developments in the region to describe what he calls China’s strategy of ‘incremental assertiveness’. For more on that formula as well as the outlook for 2015 and beyond, keep reading here.

In Southeast Asian news, Indonesia plans to set up a national cyber agency. And good thing too, given the country was reported to be the world’s largest source of cyber crime attacks (38%) during the second quarter of 2013. In light of growing internet use in the country, current efforts to combat cyber attackers were deemed insufficient, according to the country’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno.

Finally, in central France sits the bedroom of Hubert Rochereau, a 22-year-old soldier who died in Belgium during World War I. His parents preserved his bedroom as he left it, with the wish that it remain so for 500 years, even in the event the house is sold. For a glimpse into Hubert’s world, see here.


Canberra: Which think tanks are at the top of their game? Find out when the results of the Global Go To Think Tank Index compiled annually by the University of Pennsylvania are released on Friday 23 January at the AIIA’s national offices in Canberra. For more info and registration, see here.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user Adolfo Lujan/DISO Press.

ASPI suggests: Christmas edition

Military Working Dogs

We’re kicking off the last round-up for 2014 with peek into the new year: our colleagues at CSIS have predicted five events that will shape Southeast Asia in 2015 including a ruling on the Philippines’ South China Sea case and the state of Thailand’s democracy (for more on Thailand, the International Crisis Group have a newish report on the country’s prospects of stability). While not an event per se, I’d add to that list social and political changes in Indonesia under President Jokowi as he pushes ahead with reforms such as reducing fuel subsidies.

Meanwhile, is Indonesia turning away from ASEAN under Jokowi? Over at The Diplomat, Prasanth Parameswaran suggests, from statements made by Jokowi and his advisors, that Indonesia’s foreign policy will adopt a more bilateral than multilateral stance.

Winter is coming, warns the International Crisis Group in a report released just yesterday on the state of eastern Ukraine. The report evaluates the effect of winter on Ukraine’s separatists and their need for further Russian aid as well as discuss the conditions under which hostilities involving the Russian military could return. Read more

Sticking with the northern hemisphere, if you need a snapshot of British defence policy, here’s a speech by the UK’s Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, delivered this week to RUSI that outlines the legacies of Iraq and Afghanistan, capability priority areas and how Britain sees the future.

In submarine news, last week Brazil’s president inaugurated a naval shipyard that will construct a nuclear-powered submarine. While keen to join the ‘nuclear subs club’, here’s a Defense Industry Daily overview that explains the vessels Brazil intends to construct, the deal with the French that started it all and a timeline of events. Meanwhile, India’s first indigenous nuclear submarine is ready to make its maiden voyage.

If you’re interested in broader international security, Thomas de Waal has a new piece that explores the politics of the word ‘genocide’. Looking at the Ottoman Empires actions towards Armenians, de Waal explains the history of the word and the angst it has caused US–Turkish–Armenian relations.

Speaking of US relations, Adam Tiffen over at Defense One looks at what the new Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, has in store for the Asia rebalance.

This week’s pick on future trends concerns the costs of antibiotic resistance. A new study by the RAND Corporation calculates the global economic costs of antimicrobial resistance out to 2050, and while there are no surprises in their findings—that is, lower population estimates, smaller global economy and so on—it’s worth thinking about the impact of this trend given the existence of strains of antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis in the region.

For the humour pick of the week, the US Army has welcomed its first openly transgendered military working dogs. Paws Across the Rainbow, the US’ leading advocacy group for LGBT animals, called it a ‘landmark achievement for all military working animals, no matter what their sexuality.’

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user The US Army.

ASPI suggests

Guantanamo Jumpsuit Detainees

This week’s top story has been the detailed report dissecting the CIA’s justification of its ‘enhanced interrogation’ program. For a quick rundown, see this New York Times piece summarising the report’s findings on the major cases like the bin Laden raid where the CIA claimed torture provided actionable intelligence. (For an even snappier summary, see ‘7 key points from the CIA torture report’.)

For information on the CIA’s practices, Mother Jones rounds up some of the report findings on threats against detainees’ children, detention conditions and torture techniques.

Interrogations saved lives, write ex-CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden as well as their former deputies in the Wall Street Journal. Challenging the report’s findings, the authors admit the program was imperfect but justify its value in terms of the information received. Keep reading their case here. Meanwhile, in a throwback to 2011, Glenn Greenwald and David Frum debate on torture and prosecution during the Bush administration. Read more

The end of 2014 is fast approaching. Test yourself on the facts of this year’s major world event with this Carnegie Endowment quiz. For some analysis on what to expect in global security in 2015, see this piece by Carnegie experts on areas like the Middle East, nuclear proliferation, China, Ukraine, the global economy and more.

Turning now to Indonesia, TNI’s chief General Moeldoko and US Army Pacific’s General Vincent Brooks team up for a Military Times piece on furthering military bonds in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile here’s some analysis on Eurasia Review by Hipolitus Yolisandry Ringgi Wangge on the ongoing power struggle between the Indonesian military and police (see here for the latest flare-up), which includes some policy recommendations for President Jokowi. Meanwhile, the government tried to quell the latest police–military tensions by throwing a pop concert for soldiers and police officers in Riau province.

Subnational governments are some of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s new instruments for his country’s diplomacy. Once monopolised by the national government, states are being encouraged to build closer ties with sister states. Read more about India’s burgeoning diplomacy and its economic dividends here.

It’s really not the best week for the US and torture revelations. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, herself a former guerrilla fighter and victim of torture, wept as she read the findings of a Truth Commission investigation into systematic murder, torture and abuse, during the country’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985. One hundred and ninety-one people were killed and 243 others ‘disappeared’. According to The Guardian’s coverage, the US and UK ‘were found to have trained Brazilian interrogators in torture techniques.’

On capability, the US Navy has tested a new ship-based laser weapon system aboard the USS Ponce this week. The laser is expected to be used against threats like UAVs, slow-moving helicopters and fast patrol craft. For more on the laser’s development, USNI’s Sam LaGrone has a backgrounder here. Watch the video of the test here.

On Wednesday 17 December the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security will hold the first of its public hearings for the Inquiry into the Telecommunications (Interception and Access Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014. Representatives from the Attorney-General’s Department, ASIO, AFP and the Crime Commission will appear before the committee at 9.10am. Further details here.

Got some extra reading time these holidays? Check out this list of the best texts to read for the strategy enthusiast, recommended by strategists and practitioners and compiled by David Andrews.


In this Smart Women, Smart Power podcast, Bonnie Glaser discusses President Xi Jinping’s vision for Asia Pacific security, the meaning of ‘that handshake’ between Xi and Shinzo Abe, her impressions of the PLA behaviour and its leadership, the Hong Kong protests and how she became interested in studying China (33mins).


VICE News interviews a former Air Force psychologist, James Mitchell, alleged to be the ‘architect’ of the CIA’s interrogation program. Although reluctant to answer some questions like whether he personally waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohamad, he discusses why he believed ‘enhanced interrogation’ would work (25mins).

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user

ASPI suggests

Henry Kissinger‘The warrior ethos is at risk!’ Headlining today’s round-up is a speech by the US Army’s Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster at a Veterans Day ceremony. Specifically, it’s worth reading the second half, which discusses the importance of the warrior ethos while ‘remaining connected to those in whose name we fight’.

Need the facts and figures behind the Asia Pacific’s most pressing maritime security issues? Check out the 18 maps assembled by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (an initiative conceived and designed by CSIS) that show major trade routes and straits, South China Sea LNG flows, the location of oil and gas reserves, membership of security forums and EEZs. The maps are accompanied by analysis and a searchable timeline spanning 175 years of Asia Pacific maritime affairs.

Also on regional order, Farish Ahmad-Noor has a new RSIS Commentary on how China sees itself and its role in Asia. Looking at Xi Jinping’s speeches, Ahmad-Noor’s piece is a useful insight into what the Communist Party of China thinks about Asia (spoiler alert: better without the West). Read more

Meanwhile, Paul Dibb and John Lee have a new Security Challenges article (PDF) on why China will not be the dominant power in Asia.

Turning now to Japan, CSIS has a quick primer on Shinzo Abe’s decisions to postpone a tax hike and hold a snap election in December this year, with analysis on the implications for Abenomics and relations with the US. Meanwhile, the Stimson Center’s Yuki Tatsumi asks, can Japan’s National Security Strategy outlive Abe?

Obama has a lot to learn from Kissinger’s book on foreign policy, writes Anne-Marie Slaughter. In an interesting but longer read, Slaughter identifies elements in Henry Kissinger’s conceptualisation of international order, including his interpretation of American exceptionalism and position on military intervention, that are instructive to the current administration.

Looking further beyond the Asia Pacific, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Stewart Patrick offers four ways the African Union can stand on its own to better deliver peace and security. Meanwhile, here’s an interesting interview with Northwestern University’s Richard Joseph on why defeating Boko Haram is a global imperative.

In this week’s science and technology pick, DARPA is looking at synthetic biology in the fight against Ebola. As the name suggests, synthetic biology involves redesigning living organisms to carry out specific functions by creating new DNA (which kind of makes me think of this).

On capability, the Russian army will introduce a new family of armoured combat vehicles next year. Over at The National Interest, Dave Majumdar looks at the implications of the replacement vehicles, including the potential for Russia to operate them in the Arctic Circle.

Last but not least, there has been (more) debate overseas about women in combat. In Britain, a former Army officer has said women lack a ‘killer instinct’ (a position the two Strategist female editors would happily challenge). While in the States, War On the Rocks has published Anna Simons’, professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, post against moves to place women in combat units, drawing a pointed critique from blogger Gary Owen.


Listen to this CSIS Smart Women Smart Power podcast on the re-election of Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff for the analysis on the country’s economic prospects but also for the impact Rousseff’s background as a Marxist guerrilla fighter has had on her political style.


Canberra: It’s back! Kokoda Next is on again next Friday 28 November, featuring seven future strategic leaders on national security. The event is at the Palace Electric Cinema, New Acton from 4.30pm. Tickets available here.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user david son.

ASPI suggests

PredatorCSIS has just released its 2015 Global Forecast which examines the crises and opportunities likely to arise in the year ahead. But you’ll have to flick past chapters on Putin’s new Russia and US influence in the Middle East before you get to the section on Asia, which begins with an essay on Asian perceptions of the rebalance (PDF).

What would you do with a cool US$180 million? To put the price of the next generation aircraft in perspective, Defense One editor Patrick Tucker uses cost estimates generated by NASA’s chief scientist to find five things you can buy for the price of an F-35. Focusing on trade-offs in national security, Tucker’s list includes boosting literacy (and he explains why this is military-related) and building a robotic air force.

It’s been a year since the International Court of Justice revised its decision on who—Thailand or Cambodia—owned the disputed Preah Vihear temple but, as Greg Raymond notes, not a lot has happened on implementing the revised judgement. For more on the challenges in intra-ASEAN border issues, keep reading his explanation for the lag here. Also on Cambodia, with the ASEAN Economic Community set to be established in 2015 (but likely to be delayed), read Heng Pheakdey’s piece on how to unlock the country’s economic growth. Read more

Cash doesn’t rule everything around China, writes Joseph Nye. While the World Bank has announced China’s economy will surpass the US’ (in PPP terms) this year, Nye argues differences in structure and sophistication between the economies, not to mention an ageing work force, mean China won’t challenge US economic power for some time.

Next are two items from the Center for a New American Security: the first by Ely Ratner asks, can China make peace in the South China Sea? It’s part of a larger collection of essays penned by American and Chinese foreign policy experts that explores the different visions that the US and China have for Asia-Pacific security order.

The second is a brief piece by Michael Horowitz, Paul Scharre and Kelley Sayler on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) and the United Nations. LAWS can select and engage targets without further human intervention, and while they don’t exist today, read why the authors argue it’s better to discuss the legal, policy, moral and ethical issues associated with them sooner rather than later.

Also on technology, the Philae lander on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has beamed back images of what comets look like, but what do they sound like? Like Predator, apparently. Although sound doesn’t travel in space, what you’ll hear are variations in the magnetic field around the comet converted into frequencies within the human hearing range. Keep reading here about what the scientists think are making the alien clicks and growls.

Wilfred Owen’s poetry, the New Dinkum Aussie Dictionary and the novel Trainspotting are among the books banned from detainees at Guantánamo Bay. VICE has published the thoughts of 14 writers, some of whom made the Gitmo blacklist, on why the Pentagon has beef with some of their books.

Lastly, if you need a quick primer on what ‘net neutrality’ means, look no further than this comic by The Oatmeal that breaks down the issue in simple yet colourful language.


Check out Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Rafaello Pantucci discussing China’s foreign policy in Afghanistan, hosted by Loopcast (42mins).


Canberra: How hierarchic was the historical East Asian system? Dr Feng Zhang looks back to ‘early modern’ East Asia (1368–1800) and China’s ties with Korea, Japan and the Mongols to answer this question. Head to ANU’s Hedley Bull Centre on Monday 17 November at 12.30pm, details here.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user [White bear].

ASPI suggests

Spying in China is easier than you might think ...

Why isn’t the Pentagon using supply drones to move medical goods in the fight against Ebola? Over at Defense One, Michael Auerbach argues that US military-grade drones could and should be deployed as part of Operation United Assistance to overcome logistics issues, including the disruption of supply chains by corrupt local warloards. Read his case for drones here.

It’s not as hard as you’d think to operate as a spy in heavily-surveillanced China, writes Adam Brookes. Over at Foreign Policy, Brookes discusses some of the success stories and limitations of foreign, particularly American, espionage on Chinese targets.

Malaysia’s Elina Noor explains why Malaysia can and will maintain good ties with both the United States and China. Rejecting a zero-sum approach to foreign relations, Noor says pragmatism and multilateralism are among the factors shaping Malaysia’s stance. Keep reading her arguments here. Read more

Can ASEAN develop a robust nuclear energy regime? Writing for Singapore’s RSIS, Mely Caballero-Anthony, Alistair D.B. Cook, Julius Cesar Imperial Trajano and Margareth Sembiring look at the implications of Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia planning to diversify their respective energy sources, as well as the lessons of Fukushima for Southeast Asia.

For Myanmar/Burma watchers, Trevor Wilson presents a relatively positive assessment of the country’s reform program on the New Mandala blog. In his view, the trajectory and extent of reforms are driven, in large measure, by the level and quality of public discourse as well as greater opposition participation in public policy reviews. Keep reading his assessment and take on the role of external actors here.

Writing under a pseudonym on the UK-based blog Kings of War, a serving British Army officer introduces an American audience to the UK experience of training and war. The post doubles as an insight for Australian observers into British military affairs.

It’s time for India to punch above its weight with Japan, write Keshav Kelkar and Marc McCrum on East Asia Forum. In addition to the bilateral trade potential, the authors argue that the absence of serious historical tensions bode well for expanding ties.

Writing for the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) in India, here’s a piece by Lieutenant General (rtd) Prakash Katoch worth reading for an Indian’s view of US-led military operations against ISIS and the role of social media, but also for his call for the private sector to be involved in counterterrorism in cyberspace.

For the humorous pick for the week, The Economist rounds up some of the best campaign ads from the US mid-term elections.


Over at, Robert Wright and Jonanthan Kay discuss the recent lone-wolf attacks in Canada, asking whether Canadians believe they’re blowback and how we can make ISIS a less effective brand (42mins).


Canberra: SDSC’s Charles Miller delves into what the latest techniques can tell us about how Australians view major foreign policy challenges. His talk is on at the ANU’s Coombs Extension Building on Wednesday 19 November at 5.30pm. Register here.

Meanwhile, SDSC’s Brendan Taylor and John Blaxland are joined by Nick Bisley (La Trobe) and Peter Leahy (University of Canberra) for a talk on defence diplomacy to launch a Centre of Gravity paper on the same topic. The panel discussion is on Thursday 20 November at the Hedley Bull Centre at 5.30pm. Register here.

Hobart: Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tanya Plibersek, will discuss the Australia–India relationship in a changing world. Hosted by the AIIA Tasmania and University of Tasmania, it’s on Thursday 20 November at 1.45pm. Register here.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user abrinsky.

ASPI suggests

Under a high magnification of 15549x, this colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicted some of the ultrastructural details seen in the cell wall configuration of a number of Gram-positive Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria.

Kicking off today is Russia’s attempt to cosy up to Indonesia. A week after President Joko Widodo was inaugurated, the Russian government announced it’ll support Jokowi’s maritime policies and offer Indonesia ‘various types of ships, multi-level intelligence systems, as well as establish a ship service center and a production center for spare parts.’ The president of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, established by President Putin, will be in Jakarta next week. That development was reported after the US Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, expressed interest in boosting maritime cooperation with, you guessed it, Indonesia.

Also on Indonesia, CNAS’ Alexander Sullivan has a new report on strengthening US–Indonesia defence ties which recommends Indonesia ensure its goal of 1.5% GDP defence spending is met within Jokowi’s first term. Keep reading here. Read more

Underwater drones with microphones are being used to listen for Chinese nuclear submarines. US and Singaporean researchers are testing this technology as part of an operation, Project Mission, to link Singapore underwater surveillance systems to an American one designed to track submarines. The article notes that Singapore has made ‘significant advances in underwater acoustics’, and this resonates with some of Andrew Davies’ thinking, that (now for Chinese submarines) there are limits to being stealthy.

Medical researchers are warning of a looming co-epidemic where higher rates of diabetes among developing countries, particularly in Asia, renders the population two to three times more susceptible to contracting active tuberculosis (TB). One third of the global population harbours the dormant TB germ. In our region, countries at risk include China, India and Indonesia, where white sugar is increasingly consumed, but industrialised countries could also be affected.

What did we learn from the ‘Kim Jong-un has disappeared’ hysteria? Writing on Lowy Interpreter, Robert E. Kelly drew three conclusions, which included the observations that the Kims are the Korean version of the Corleones and that there’s far too much focus on them. ICYMI, here’s The Onion’s speculation on why KJU was MIA.

China has extended its deadline for Australia to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, after originally only offering a two-day deadline. China is seemingly desperate for Australia to join. Opposition from Washington is partly responsible for the reluctance to sign up, along with division within the cabinet. Will this damage Sino-Australia relations, especially as free trade deals are being finalised?

A new interactive game ‘1000 Days of Syria’ helps you get inside the mind of a Syrian and face ethical decisions between self preservation and societal demands. The creator believes that the game will incite moral questions regarding different scenarios the player encounters in the game, and hopefully will raise greater understanding of the Syrian conflict.


Loopcast’s latest podcast features Dr John Horgan who discusses terrorism behaviour and deradicalisation (46mins).

Following the launch of the Women in Defence & Security Network, here’s a CSIS-hosted podcast series called Smart Women, Smart Power featuring leading women from national security and the private sector discussing international issues, including ISIS, sexual slavery and radical Islam; commercial diplomacy; and politics in Putin’s Russia.


Canberra: Xunchao Zhang explores a hypothetical scenario of a US energy blockage against China and the counter-strategies China is likely to employ. The talk is at the ANU on Tuesday 4 November at 11.50am.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Penelope Czyzewska is currently completing a degree in national security, and is undertaking work experience at ASPI through the University of Canberra. Image courtesy of Flickr user Microbe World.

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Robot wars!Could future wars be fought between robots? CNAS’ Paul Scharre has a new report that examines how swarms of ‘cooperative, autonomous, robotic systems have the potential to bring greater mass, intelligence, coordination, and speed to the battlefield.’ Part II of his Robotics on the Battlefield report sees Scharre delve into each of those attributes as well as swarm C2 models and countermeasures. For more on unmanned systems, Scharre and Daniel Burg look at how they can save costs over at War On The Rocks.

We haven’t heard much in world news about Myanmar lately … CSIS has compiled the observations of a delegation that travelled to Myanmar to assess health and development, political reform and governance, and conflict resolution with the country’s minority groups. The resultant report concludes that active US engagement is critical to supporting further transition. Meanwhile, New Mandala features a two-part series by Josh Wood on Myanmar’s Special Economic Zones.

Also from New Mandala, a round-up of their blog posts on Indonesia’s newly inaugurated President Joko Widodo as well as the performance of Yudhoyono’s administration, the state of Indonesia’s democracy, economic challenges and political reform. Read more

For those interested in landpower, RAND has a new report out on improving strategic competence, drawing on the lessons from the US Army’s 13 years in war. Based on a workshop that collected the views of policymakers and academics involved in national-level strategy making, the report finds that land warfare has increasing relied on special operations forces and that Army often struggles to incorporate broader strategic lessons. For a useful overview of the findings, lessons and recommendations, see this summary. Download the eBook for free here (PDF).

The US and Russia aren’t always at loggerheads with one another. They’ve teamed up against a Swiss plan to increase the resilience of nuclear reactors against natural disasters. Both countries oppose plans that would force greater investment in safety, but China and India have lent their support to the initiative.

As China’s economic and military clout increases, so too does its role in regional affairs, including in Central Asia. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Daniel Trombly and Nathaniel Barr look at China’s post-2014 role in Afghanistan (PDF). Interestingly, the paper examines China–Pakistan–Afghanistan relations, observing that Pakistan’s support of Islamist proxies in Afghanistan is having a destabilising effect on the country, and is increasingly at odds with China’s interests. That’s prompted China to seek cooperation with India on stabilising the central Asian country. For more on those dynamics, keep reading here.

Add to that Lowy Institute’s Dirk van der Kley who also has a new report out on China’s foreign policy in Afghanistan which notes that ‘China’s main interest is ensuring instability doesn’t spread to Xinjiang.’

Imagine working at an all-male university where students spied on each other and were guarded only by female soldiers. American journalist Suki Kim worked as an English teacher at the elite, all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. She has compiled six months’ worth of secret notes into a book, Without You, There is No Us. Read/listen to Kim’s interview with NPR, which includes this insight:

And once I began talking about [democracy], I got very nervous because the students were all watching each other and reporting on each other. After we discussed democracy at the table, later, another student, who’s a roommate of that student, told me that he’s with me. Meaning, he thinks like me. And that really scared me because I thought, then, some of them are questioning the system.


Covert Contact is a new podcast series brought to you from the Blogs of War creator John Little. The latest episode is on what the attack in Ottawa teaches us about terrorists—and ourselves (7mins).

The Lowy Institute’s Aaron Connelly has some useful insights into Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s future administration (7mins).


For more on that CSIS report on Myanmar, here’s the video of the report’s launch featuring reflections by delegation members and a panel discussion on political and health developments (audio here).

Military drum battle time! For a bit of frivolity today, check out the US III Marine Expeditionary Force band go head to head with the Republic of Korea Army band. Bangnam style!


Canberra: This year’s Vietnam Update will be held Monday 1 – Tuesday 2 December at the ANU, featuring presentations by 16 scholars on political, economic, development and social issues. Register for this free event here.

Don’t forget to register for the Kokoda Foundation’s Future Strategic Leaders’ Congress, ANU’s coast campus at Kioloa, 7 – 9 November. This iteration’s theme is Australia’s role in addressing global nuclear security challenges and Professor Gareth Evans will deliver the keynote speech. Applications for Kokoda Next to be held on 28 November are due Friday 31 October, register here.

Sydney: One of Japan’s leading experts, Dr Ken Jimbo, will discuss maritime security challenges in Asia and their implications for Japan and Australia followed by a panel discussion with Rory Medcalf and Murray McLean. Hosted by the Lowy Institute, it’s on Thursday 30 October at 12.30pm.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Edited image courtesy of Flickr user Evert Haasdijk.

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President SBY will hand over the presidency to Joko Widodo on Monday.

On Monday, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will hand over the keys to the world’s fourth most populous country and Southeast Asia’s largest state to the president-elect, Joko Widodo aka Jokowi. To find out what that means for Australia, the Lowy Institute’s Aaron Connelly has a new paper on Indonesia’s foreign policy under President Jokowi. With useful backgrounders on key figures in Jokowi’s inner advisory circle, the paper examines the impact they may have on the country’s global outlook and Indonesia’s bilateral relations with its southern neighbour.

According to Dutch law, it’s not illegal for Dutch bikies to fight with the Kurds against Islamic State. It is illegal, however, if they want to join a fight against the Netherlands or join the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). Keep reading here.

With the world currently gripped with the biosecurity risk associated with the Ebola virus, you wouldn’t think genetic engineering would be the next big global security threat. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Jamie Metzl argues that the time has come to debate the ‘national security implications of the human genetic revolution … to prevent dangerous future conflict and abuse’. Closer to home, he writes:

And what would the United States do if it learned that China had an effective human genetic enhancement initiative that would give China an insurmountable competitive advantage in a few decades?

While a bit alarmist, the piece raises some interesting points about the implications of combining human and animal genes, unequal global access to genetic engineering and the policy approach to this issue. Keep reading here. Read more

If running operations in the Middle East and responding to Ebola in West Africa—among other things—weren’t enough, the Pentagon released a report (PDF) this week that states climate change ‘poses immediate risks to US national security’. While climate change preparedness for the military isn’t new (it began with the last Bush administration), this is the first time the threat has been framed as a challenge for today, rather than in the future. Mother Jones has a useful run-down on the Pentagon’s report here.

Turning to the Asia-Pacific, Alexei Arbatov of Carnegie’s Moscow Center, argues that cooperation and competition between the US, China and Russia will determine the region’s nuclear outlook. The piece discusses at length China’s strategic posture, missile systems and nuclear arms limitations. He suggests Beijing’s nuclear arsenal might be bigger than expected which will challenge the nuclear disarmament process.

Former Army officer and Soldier On CEO, John Bale, has written (PDF) that the Australian Army exhibits higher levels of stigma towards PTSD and higher barriers to care when compared to Navy or Air Force. Beginning with an overview of PTSD, his paper examines initiatives by the Canadian, British and American militaries to de-stigmatise the condition, including the use of ‘operational stress injury’ to better describe psychological difficulties resulting from service.

Former US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (also known affectionately as ‘Uncle Leon’ on Twitter) has released his book, Worthy Fights: a memoir of leadership in war and peace. Adding to the library of recent political memoirs taking aim at the Obama government, Panetta describes the White House as unwilling to devolve power to its Cabinet and that the power vacuum left after its failure to secure a Status of Forces Agreement with Nouri al-Maliki contributed to the rise of ISIS. For a frank assessment, read David Ignatius’ review in the New York Times.

Lastly, and on a lighter note, dogs have played a faithful role by soldiers’ sides in many conflicts. Building on her weekly war dog column in Foreign Policy, a new book by Rebecca Fraenkel shares her insights into the furry world of the military working dog, from deployments in Vietnam to Iraq to their use in PTSD (or operational stress injury) treatment today.


For a thought-provoking look at the human condition, psychology professor and expert witness on Abu Ghraib, Philip Zimbardo has a TED talk on why good people do bad things (part 1 of an NPR series on The Violence Within Us). He reflects on the results of his notorious 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, funded by the US Office of Naval Research, and how its lessons in authority and institutions can help us understand the acts of torture and abuse committed at Abu Ghraib.


The Kokoda Foundation is currently recruiting future strategic leaders to speak at its next round of Kokoda Next, where they’ll present to an audience of Defence and national security leaders. If you’ve got a fresh idea on Australia’s security thinking, apply by Monday 31 October. Register here.

Australia is involved in the early stages of a long conflict in the Middle East against extremism. Join us for a panel discussion with Peter Leahy, Peter Jennings and Tobias Feakin, moderated by Cath McGrath on the three fronts of this conflict (between Sunnis and Shias, between radicals against regional governments, and between groups of radicals against the West and the West) and Australia’s response. The event is free and will be held on Tuesday 21 October at ASPI offices at 5.30pm. Register here.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of the official website of the President of the Republic of Indonesia

ASPI suggests


We’re kicking off today with an interesting question: can diplomats be interdicted as part of new screening measures to detect Ebola? This is just one issue of many raised by Lawfare blog’s Paul Rosenzweig on the law and policy of Ebola interdiction.

Kobane, a Kurdish town on Syria’s northern border, is under attack by Islamic State militants. Although airstrikes alone are unlikely to save the city, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has stated ‘It’s not realistic to expect that Turkey will lead a ground operation on its own.’ The New Republic examines the Islamic State’s challenge to Turkey’s multiculturalism, as well as the relationship between the ruling Justice and Development Party and the Turkish Kurds.

CNAS’ Alexander Sullivan has a new report on US–Malaysia security cooperation. Read Sullivan’s work for its useful overview of Malaysian interests and defence policy as well as its discussion on how US cooperation can address the country’s priorities in an evolving security environment. Read more

There’s been keen interest in the US decision to sell arms to its historical foe, Vietnam—proof that Asian strategic relations aren’t always prisoners of history. Still, Vietnam’s future depends more on domestic reform than international change. Over on cogitASIA, Jonathan London explores Vietnam’s domestic agenda including how the country will cope with China and whether political reform will improve the overall wellbeing of the economy and the Vietnamese people.

All aboard! Here’s an infographic of China’s vision for a high-speed rail that extends to Europe, Central Asia, India, North America and down to Southeast Asia, including graphs that measure the terrain between China and planned destinations. Geographic let alone diplomatic challenges mean this won’t be happening in a hurry. Nevertheless, it’s an insight into how extensive China’s ambitions are.

For those researching counterterrorism issues, read how Australia is debating issues like ‘subversion’, intelligence oversight and foreign fighters from the transcripts of last and this week’s public hearings of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and security on the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014.

IISS’ Mark Fitzpatrick makes a contribution to discussions on nuclear latency and nuclear hedging by looking at Iran’s case. He argues that, although Iran has a more primitive nuclear program than a nuclear latent state like Japan, the reality of its track record renders it a nuclear hedger. In his view, this is why we shouldn’t be in a hurry to lift limits on Iran’s nuclear program. And although a bit older, an interesting post by Shashank Joshi that asks, when, exactly, did India get a nuclear weapon?

It seems like challenges to building a local defence industry aren’t country specific. Although Brazil’s defence industry is experiencing a mini-comeback, if it’s to remain competitive, it’ll face similar challenges ahead as domestic defence programs in Singapore, Indonesia and South Korea, writes RSIS’ Richard Bitzinger.

Lastly, the Indonesian military (TNI) celebrated its 69th birthday on Tuesday with an annual parade in front of President Yudhoyono and President-elect Widodo (photoessay). For more on the celebrations, watch this naval warship display, TNI’s martial arts demo (start from 2:25) and female soldiers kicking some serious butt.


Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, Pham Binh Minh, discusses the current state of affairs in his country and the relationship with the United States. His remarks are followed by a roundtable discussion hosted by CSIS (37mins).


Two videos from the Wilson Center; the first with author Aaron David Miller who previews his new book on why American can’t have, and apparently doesn’t want, another ‘great president’ (10mins). The second with Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, on the complex relationship between China and Hong Kong (7mins).

The Council on Foreign Relation’s John Campbell brings you three things to know about Ebola and West Africa (3mins).

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user leg0fenris.