ASPI suggests
12 Aug 2016|

Image courtesy of Flickr user World Bank Photo Collection

The New York Times this week put out some compelling investigative work on the US think tank scene. The first piece explores the degree to which research agendas at outfits like Brookings, CSIS and the Atlantic Council are being wooed by issue-driven corporate donors, blurring the perceived independence of their analysis. (Some of the organisations quickly shot back.) The second piece is a story of murky disclosure and conflict-of-interest considerations when it comes to think tankers simultaneously wearing researcher and lobbyist hats on issues as diverse as net neutrality, defence acquisitions and urban development. (US think tanks can apparently now plan coups in Turkey, too…) The Times has kicked of a Room for Debate series, canvassing perspectives from those in government, the law and the media.

A valuable player in this space is, which for the last few years has produced a report ranking the financial transparency of a heap of think tanks worldwide—and seems to have encouraged greater disclosure. Those seeking to get a grip on the Australian think tank landscape could do worse than check out the chapter (PDF) recently penned by one-time ONA head and foundational Lowy Institute boss, Allan Gyngell. The AIIA’s Melissa Conley Tyler has also written on the Aussie think tank experience.

The latest issue of The Atlantic features a rather epic read evaluating whether the gargantuan spend on US national security in the 21st century has provided value/safety for money. The six-part series tracks the response to security threats following 9/11, how they plugged the gaps, the gaps that remain and the impact of ‘prioritizing everything’. A must read.

With Trump continuing to strive for peak crazy since the DNC, some are feeling premature pangs of nostalgia for the good old Obama days. So here’s a few choice reads to soothe those frayed nerves. In The New York Review of Books, Obama’s ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, meditates on the form and function of American diplomacy (paywalled). Another fascinating read in the NYRB hoists in four recent efforts on drone warfare, and tries to square Obama’s non-interventionist tendencies (and Nobel Peace Prize) with his enthusiastic use of armed drones—‘the stuff of death squads, not democracies’. Over at The Atlantic, Kathy Gilsinan sits down with Rosa Brooks, Obama’s one-time civilian advisor in the Pentagon, to go through key questions of war and peace in an age of expansive US military operations. Brooks’ new book, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything, is out now.

Wikileaks is back in the news after their role in the DNC email disclosures. A lot has been said about the group over the years, but its latest agenda—damaging Hillary Clinton’s White House run—deserves to be interrogated. Look no further than this damning piece from The Daily Beast on Assange, Trump and Putin—‘a troika of world-historical solipsists: one in charge of 11 time zones and many nuclear weapons; one confined to a Third World mission and still hungry for press clippings; and one who thinks that wars only exist depending on the time of day and his own particular mood.’ (h/t Rory)

And finally, Ian Buruma’s latest piece over at Project Syndicate combs through the unique ‘dos of the rogues and rascals of global politics .


The first week of August saw the ABC’s indefatigable Richard Fidler file two conversations that’ll likely be of interest to Strategist readers. The first was with Allan Behm, a former senior defence official and occasional writer for this site, on his time as chief of staff to Greg Combet (50 mins). The second is with Mike Carlton, who helps us dive into the history of HMAS Australia II (49 mins)

CSIS has the goods too, with a look at how well the US is prepared to deal with the emergence of the Zika virus in North America (14 mins), and a CogitAsia effort on Japan’s recent upper house elections (27 mins).


Michael Morell, former acting director and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2010–2013), has been in the media of late after an op-ed in the NYT endorsing Clinton and blasting Trump, who he says has been recruited by Putin as an ‘unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.’ Morell recently wrote a corker of a piece for The Strategist on populism in the US today—available here—which he spoke about during an expansive interview this week with the famed Charlie Rose (46 mins).


Canberra: Gareth Evans and Hugh White, two preeminent voices on Australia’s place in the world and in Asia, will share the stage at the National Press Club on 23 August as part of the Canberra Writer’s Festival (full program online).

Also in the capital, the ANU’s Humanities Research Centre will later this month gather for a substantial conference on ‘Putin’s Russia in the Wake of the Cold War’. Richard Sakwa and Andrey Kortunov are just two of the big names on the bill. Check out the conference program here (PDF) and register here.

Sydney: It’s going to be a busy few weeks at the United States Studies Centre, which will host a series of stellar public events. In particular, be sure to register for the 17 August chat with Michael Singh on the US’s future role in the Middle East, and the 22 August panel discussion examining the challenges that the US’s peculiar brand of conservatism is facing with the rise of populist politics.