ASPI suggests

The world

In the US, all eyes were on the hearings on sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The BBC provides a quick overview of the case. The New Yorker explains why the FBI investigation has been criticised for overlooking several testimonies. Two very different pieces in The Atlantic throw more light on the story: Emily Yoffe advocates listening to both the victim and the accused, and not jumping to conclusions; and an acquaintance of Kavanaugh’s, Benjamin Wittes, explains why he wouldn’t confirm him. Also revisit this older New York Times op-ed for a scientific explanation of why some memories, including sexual assault, stick with us forever.

China has been causing consternation this week after PLAN and US warships nearly collided in the South China Sea. War on the Rocks talks about why global powers need strong maritime strategies and, as water covers 71% of the earth’s surface, it’s easy to ‘sea’ why. Business Insider examines the escalating tensions in the South China Sea and how the Philippines is reacting.

As President Xi Jinping’s campaign to reunify China continues, Foreign Brief claims that Taiwan’s days of independence are limited, while War on the Rocks argues that Taiwan’s new defence plan will enable it to retain its independence. Who knows? In the end, it may be the Pope who decides the outcome

Lawfare seems to think China might attempt to meddle in the upcoming US elections, although it points out the differences between influence attempts by China and Russia. Foreign Policy, on the other hand, asserts there’s little to support the White House’s claims. Apparently nowhere is free from Chinese cyberattacks, as nations throughout the Asia–Pacific strengthen their cyber capabilities. On a different note, here’s the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on bribery and corruption in China’s branch of German company Siemens, which fits nicely with The Economist’s piece on general, growing Chinese influence in Europe.

Put some time aside for this The New Republic long read on the changing approach to jihadism in France. The article focuses on the court case of Abdelkader Merah, a Franco-Algerian man. Merah was accused of radicalising and being an accomplice to his brother, who killed several people in 2012.

The Wall Street Journal believes the deal on a demilitarised zone around Idlib could be threatened. After the vetoing of 12 UN Security Council resolutions focused on the Syrian civil war, The Conversation describes how Russia enabled the continuation of violence in the nation, while The National sees dissent among the ranks of Assad’s followers.

The Calvert Journal has a fascinating read on how Diloram Ibrahimova, editor of BBC News Uzbek, reports for the Uzbek minority of Afghanistan, acknowledging differing cultural and socioeconomic factors between communities. The majority of her features and reporting focus on Uzbek women in Afghanistan.

And lastly, The Guardian reviews the adaption to animated film of Another Day in Life, in which Ryszard Kapuściński reflects on his experiences as a Polish Press Agency reporter in 1975 during the Cold War proxy war in Angola.

Tech geek

The latest US nuclear bomb, the B61-12, has completed its final design review, enabling it to go into production as of March 2020. The new bomb is designed for precision attack, and has ‘dial-a-yield’ from 50 kilotons down to 0.3 kilotons (300 tons TNT equivalent)—that’s 50 times less powerful than the Little Boy bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the University of Plymouth in the UK are now researching ‘quantized inertia’ (QI), which is considered fringe physics in many quarters. The idea seeks to explain how galaxies rotate without dark matter, but could potentially be applied to create space propulsion without fuel—a holy grail for space travel.

The future of army aviation is taking shape in a contest between Sikorsky/Boeing and Bell as part of the US Army’s ‘Future Vertical Lift’ program. The team of Sikorsky/Boeing is claiming that its SB>1 Defiant compound helicopter design will be much more manoeuvrable, if a little slower, than Bell’s V-280 tilt rotor design. This program could one day lead to the Australian Army acquiring new types of army aviation—so it’s important to watch.

There’s a lot of talk about how AI and robots will affect our future, but transhumanism is another area that could lead to very significant change, not only in our day-to-day lives, but also in military affairs. There’s a good article on ‘humans 2.0’—merging humans and machines—in Forbes.

Finally, Russia has begun flying MiG-31 Foxhound interceptors carrying what looks suspiciously like an air-launched anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon, which would sharpen tensions over the prospect for war in space.

This week in history

Sputnik 1, the first man-made object in space, was launched on 4 October 1957, escalating the already tense relations between the US and the USSR. See this BBC television clip for the quick story behind the launch and its aftermath.


This RFE/RL photo series shows the ruins of Stalin’s failed ‘Transpolar Mainline’ gulag project in the no-man’s land of Russia’s north.

Jump into history with National Geographic on American Cold War–era nuclear-weapon sites and accompanying photos.

The devastating aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is captured in these before-and-after images by Time and the Economic Times.

The head of United Nations Peacekeeping, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, talks about the role of peacekeeping and the essentialness of women’s contributions. [6:59]


Get the latest on the bilateral relations between China and the US with China in the World, which dives into the trade war and the US Indo-Pacific strategy. [33:57]

CSIS discusses the challenges associated with the key institutions and norms that govern nuclear weapons on a global scale. [27:25]

Did Trump and Kim ‘fall in love’? Pod Save the World analyses some hopeful signs of progress on the Korean peninsula, Iran’s nuclear program and tensions with China. [36:21]


Melbourne, 8 October, 6–8 pm, University of Melbourne: In the name of security: secrecy, surveillance and journalism book launch. Information here.

Canberra, 9 October, 5.30–7.30 pm, 50/50 By 2030 Foundation and DFAT: ‘The cost of gender inequality and global sexism: the World Bank’s Dr Caren Grown in conversation with Virginia Haussegger’. Register here.

Canberra, 11–12 October, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific: ‘2018 Malaysia update—regime change in Malaysia: how, why and the future’. Free registration.