ASPI suggests

The world

The UN Human Rights Council has released a report of an independent fact-finding mission on Myanmar that examined allegations of human rights violations by the country’s armed services against the Rohingya people. The report found that the Myanmar security forces acted with genocidal intent in their treatment of the Rohingya minority in Rakhine State. It’s the first time a UN body has called for Myanmar officials to face possible genocide charges. Foreign Policy blames the international community for ignoring clear warning signs for years, and The Atlantic looks at what might happen next.

The perennial question of whether the US will remain the world’s sole superpower has come up again. War is Boring analyses America’s withdrawal from the world stage. War on the Rocks introduces China’s rise to the mix, focusing on geo-economic policies. Bloomberg offers two articles, one questioning China’s ability to become a global superpower and the other comparing the Chinese and American versions of superpowerhood. The military build-up in the Asia–Pacific as a consequence of both China’s military reforms and an uncertain White House are discussed at length by Jamie Smyth in the Financial Times. In the New York Times, Steven Lee Myers argues that China’s naval expansion has begun to affect the power balance in the Pacific. Learn more about China’s expansion of its marine corps in The National Interest.

On the other side of the world, suggestions for dealing with the current White House look a bit different: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas penned an op-ed in Handelsblatt calling for a new world order crafted by a united EU. DW analyses the ‘new strategy to deal with Donald Trump’.

Today marks the last day of a UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons meeting that discusses ‘killer robots’, the trending term for lethal autonomous weapons. They’ve been the subject of hot debate—more than two dozen nations and 76 NGOs have called for a ban. For a glimpse into the mind of the meeting’s chair, Amandeep Gill, read this interview. Amnesty International is steadfast in its belief that the weapons need to be banned, mirroring a report released by Human Rights Watch. A 2016 paper explains the opposing view, arguing that autonomous weapons may be a good thing.

The National Interest brings us a thought-provoking long read on irregular warfare. Seth Jones argues that the US needs to accept and prepare for its main adversaries’ continuing use of non-conventional tactics, including the use of non-state proxies. A prime example is the Kremlin’s use of the private military company Wagner, which has been involved in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, among other places. The Atlantic gives a background on the mercenary firm, while Jeanne Whalen and John Hudson explain why it’s so difficult to sanction Russian businesses without hurting others in the globally connected economy.

Looking at the cyber side of things, an Associated Press investigation revealed that Russian hackers targeted senior Orthodox Church officials in Ukraine, at a time when the institution is grappling with the decision whether to split from the Russian patriarchate.

This week also marked the 55th anniversary of the March on Washington. Time talked to Martin Luther King’s former legal counsel, Clarence B. Jones, about what it was like to hear King deliver his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech.

Tech geek

With former defence industry minister Christopher Pyne being appointed to the defence portfolio and former trade minister Steven Ciobo taking over Pyne’s old job, we can expect defence industry and exports to remain a high priority for the government. But what kinds of technology should Australia be focusing on?

This article in Defence Studies argues that the main benefit that a domestic arms industry provides to a small or medium state is not security of supply (that is, it shouldn’t aim to manufacture everything), but the ability to adapt. A senior figure in Israel’s defence industry makes a slightly different argument for the sector’s success in his country. After realising it couldn’t make everything, Israel embarked on a policy of ‘focused self-reliance’—it decided it would only build things that it couldn’t acquire overseas. There are lessons here for Australia.

On a related note, with the industry innovation programs announced in the 2016 defence white paper and industry policy statement now up and running, this progress report gives a good overview of what Australia’s defence innovation priorities are and where the money is going. Hopefully some of the results will be on display at Land Forces 2018 in Adelaide, 4–6 September.

The plan is that the investment in innovation will result in both capability for the ADF and exports. With Australia officially becoming part of the US national technology and industrial base in 2017, one would hope that export opportunities into the world’s biggest defence spender will open up. However, this CSIS paper suggests there are still a lot of barriers to exporting to the US.


A great visualisation of American and Soviet/Russian arms sales from 1950 to 2017 based on SIPRI data. [4:00; ignore the background music]

These BBC photos provide an insight into life on a Spanish rescue boat in the Mediterranean.

National Geographic has collated 20 amazing photos of abandoned villages throughout Italy.

This SBS Dateline documentary follows the ‘lifeline express’, a train in India that brings health care to those who don’t have access to medical centres. Surgeons perform dozens of surgeries in the hospital on wheels. [24:17]


The National Security Podcast talks to Anooshe Mushtaq, founder and chair of Raqib Taskforce, about countering violent extremism in Australia. [38:57; jump to 1:23]

The third episode of ASPI’s Policy, Guns and Money dissects the national security implications of the Liberal leadership spill, Huawei’s ban from Australia’s 5G network, press freedom and Venezuela’s economic crisis. [29:25]

Australian Politics Live looks at what’s next for Australian politics after the rolling of Malcolm Turnbull. [29:33; skip to 0:33 to get into the meat and veg]


Canberra, 5 September, 6–9.30 pm, ANU Law Reform and Social Justice: ‘Film screening: It Stays with You’, followed by panel discussion. Free registration.

Sydney, 5 September, 5.30–7.30 pm, Climate Justice Research Centre: ‘Globalization and the populist explosion: the significance of ideology’. More information here.

Melbourne, 5 September, 6–7.30 pm, Australian Institute of International Affairs: ‘Australia’s moment in the Indo-Pacific: ensuring security, stability, and prosperity’. Tickets available here.