ASPI suggests
11 Dec 2015|
Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur.

Welcome back to another round-up of reading picks, podcasts and videos in security and defence.

America is not ready to fight today’s ‘grey war’s, says former US Special Operations Commander Eric T. Olsen. Defined as conflicts that fall just short of the formal state of war between state and non-state actors, they’re characterised by ambiguity including the nature of the parties involved and the relevant legal frameworks. The concept at length in this US SOCOM white paper entitled ‘The Gray Zone’, relevant to our understanding some of the ways to address entities like daesh and al Qaeda.

Malaysia’s new National Security Council Bill passed Parliament last week. The legislation formally establishes a National Security Council comprising eight high-ranking Cabinet members and grants the Prime Minister the power to declare any area a ‘security area’, among other powers. Also established under the bill is the Director of Operations role vested with ‘the power to do all things necessary or expedient for or in connection with the performance of his duties in the security area’. It’s worth reading this critique of key clauses in the bill by the president of the Malaysian Bar who called it an ‘insidious piece of legislation’. Also check out Mong Palatino’s rundown on The Diplomat and Austin Ramzy’s coverage on The New York Times.

For more on the current play of domestic politics in Kuala Lumpur, The Economist looks at PM Najib’s staying power despite the 1 MDB corruption scandal that broke earlier this year.

New Mandala continues to deliver expert analysis of Myanmar’s post-election future, with Gregory Catchcart on trends in the militarisation of government ministries and Tamas Wells on understanding Myanmar’s communal violence.

Also, two new RSIS commentaries on Indonesia’s submarine ambitions: the first by Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto evaluates the strategic imperative for submarines and the perils of a slow acquisition process, while Adhi Priamarizki, Fitri Bintang Timur and Keoni Indrabayu Marzuki argue that the country needs to revamp its current strategic policy guidelines and enhance naval operational support.

Why does violence perpetrated by some women like Chechnya’s ‘black widows’ continue to be sensationalised but others, like female suicide bombing, normalised? Laura Sjoberg looks back on a decade of research on women, gender and terrorism and draws important conclusions about the women of daesh today. For an inside account of daesh women (heads up, it’s a long read), the NYT‘s Azadeh Moaveni interviews three women who were recruited as part of the Khansaa Brigade (the all-female morality police) on their collaboration in punishments against their former neighbours, their anguish and eventual escape.

For those following the Paris COP21 talks, a draft version of the Paris Agreement (version 2 of 10 December, PDF) was released overnight. CIGI’s Christopher Campbell-Duruflé has a useful summary of the modest developments, though noted that there seemed to be an increasingly broad consensus that the global temperature increase should be kept below 1.5 degrees, rather than 2 degrees. More commentary, check out The Guardian‘s live blog here.

Also on climate change, this new Observer Research Foundation report compiles essays by Samir Saran on India’s specific challenges as a developing country.

Meanwhile, can cyber warfare be deterred? Joseph Nye argues that attribution is a ‘matter of degree’ and that economic entanglement can raise the stakes for states like China. For the rest of his points, keep reading here.

It’s official, former Treasurer Joe Hockey will replace Kim Beazley as Australia’s Ambassador to the United States. Responding to rumours of the appointment back in September, former Australian Ambo to DC John McCarthy had a few words of wisdom to impart to the incoming envoy:

Over the years we Australians have lost the capacity to make up our own minds on our security (even though we have been robust on trade issues). In an era of growing geopolitical complexity, remember that in the final analysis Australian interests may not be the same as those of America. Recognise that and when you have to, put our case.

You will be an ambassador – not a sycophant. You may have uncomfortable days – but if you know what you are doing, you will win respect. The best ones do.

Lastly, the US Navy unveils its new strategic planning technology for the maritime battlefield, BATTLESHIP.


Does the United States have a gun problem or terrorism problem? That’s the latest topic debate by Foreign Policy‘s David Rothkopf, Rosa Brooks, Kori Schake and Lara Jakes (34mins).


Canberra: ANU is hosting a free panel event deciphering the Paris COP21 talks on climate change and their implications for Australia. The panel features experts who attended the summit including HE Sem Fabrizi, Ambassador of the delegation of the European Union to Australia. The event is on Wednesday 16 December at 6 – 7.30pm, registration and details here.