ASPI suggests
9 Oct 2015| and


The US-led airstrike on a Médecins sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which killed 12 MSF workers and 10 patients, is a story that has a long way to run. General John Campbell, the American commander of the US and NATO operation in Afghanistan, this week appeared before a Senate panel, with his testimony widely noted as the fourth version of events in as many days. Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon characterises the bombing as ‘the greatest tragedy caused by US forces in several years in this war’, and a ‘bigger disaster’ than the US recognises. MSF has pulled out of Kunduz, likening the attack to a war crime and calling for an inquiry.

On the back his earlier effort The Virtual ‘Caliphate’: Understanding Islamic State’s Propaganda Strategy, Quilliam Foundation’s Charlie Winter this week released a fascinating study of ISIL’s propaganda proper. Winter sought to understand the group’s strategy by archiving and analysing 30-days’ worth of videos, photos, audio clips, news bulletins and theological essays, among other propaganda ‘events’ (of which there were 1,146 all up). The full report is available here (PDF), as well as an interview with the author here.

With almost 40 years since David Bowie asked, ‘is there life on Mars?’, NASA is now considering a manned mission to the red planet and has the US Navy in its sights. The collaboration is all about teamwork and team resilience, and takes the confined space experience of submariners and applies it to astronauts in outer space.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter, this week penned an op-ed for the Financial Times on the situation in Syria. The piece calls for ‘strategic boldness’ from the US, and has been billed by CSIS as one of the ‘most thoughtful pieces you will read on the crisis.’ Head to FT for the paywalled piece, or to Politico for some analysis sans paywall.

Foreign Policy have got you covered for all your GOP needs this week, with this piece on the national security implications of the race to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Looking a bit further into the future of US politics, The Atlantic has an article on why Americans are increasingly likely to want a less experienced president in the Oval Office—but not too inexperienced (*cough* Trump).

Admiral Bill Gortney of the US Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command confirmed on Wednesday that the US government believes that North Korea is capable of launching a nuclear weapon that could reach the US, while South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the DPRK is estimated to hold up to 22 nuclear weapons’ worth of fissile material. For some background reading, check out Victor Cha’s statement before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations this week, where he argued that the US, Japan and South Korea should tighten trilateral cooperation to counter the rogue state. For a different perspective, have a look at the footage from Chatham House’s 30 September discussion with Hyon Hak-bong, the DPRK’s ambassador to the UK, on the future of the Korean Peninsula here.

From blowing up Assad’s opposition (and rural Iran?!) to blowing out birthday candles, it’s been a good week for Vladimir Putin. The Russian President celebrated his 63rd birthday in style on Wednesday, by playing ice hockey against Soviet-born NHL stars. In a development that will shock few, he won, 15-10. If hockey isn’t your thing, Russia-wide celebrations extended from the art exhibition ‘Putin Universe’—where the leader is depicted in various heroic forms, including as Gandhi and Batman—to this excellent music video by Russian rapper Timati, in which he breaks it down in Red Square to the chorus of ‘my best friend is President Putin’.


In a sobering addition to their Global Thinkers podcast series, Foreign Policy’s Seyward Darby discusses commonalities between a long history of global refugee crises with FP columnist Lauren Wolfe, and Kids in Need of Defense president Wendy Young (25 mins). Discussion focuses primarily the difficulties faced by children fleeing war zones, and is a must-listen for anyone interested in the humanitarian aspects of what’s happening in the EU.


With Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington DC done and dusted, what happens next with actually implementing some of the promises made between Xi and Obama during the trip? The Diplomat’s Shannon Tiezzi sat down with Michael Swaine of the Carnegie Endowment and had a chat about where US–China relations are headed after the new affirmations (15 mins).

CT wonks, PBS are releasing a three-part series named My Brother’s Bomber on the investigation into the Lockerbie Bombing, which destroyed Pan Am Flight 103, and took the lives of the 270 on board. The series follows Ken Dornstein, who lost his older brother in the attack, as he attempts to track down potential suspects. Parts one and two have already been released and can be viewed here (55 mins each); part three will be released on 13 October.


Canberra: Calling all Japanophiles! Monday is your day, with the ANU’s Crawford School set to host the Japan Update 2015. The full-day event will cut across political, economic, social and regional matters for a holistic snapshot of ‘our best friend in Asia’. Further details available here.

Canberra: John Blaxland will launch the second volume of his history of ASIO, covering 1963–1975, at Old Parliament House on 11 November. Be sure to register early for this one.

Sydney: Raising the Bar, a global initiative that began in NYC and aims to make education a part of a city’s pop culture, is coming to Sydney. The 20 speakers, with expertise ranging from climate change and the Australia–Indonesia relationship to HRC’s prospects for presidency and women on the frontline, will speak at 20 bars around the city on the night of 20 October. Choose your topic, and book ASAP!