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ASPI suggests

Posted By , and on November 1, 2019 @ 15:19

The world

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is likely to take centre stage at the ASEAN+ leaders’ summit underway in Bangkok today, in which leaders from the 10 ASEAN member states and eight other countries, including Australia, are participating. The Conversation has a nice context setter [1] for what Australia hopes to achieve at the summit. To get a general sense of what’s on the table, read this report [2] in The Australian. And while we’re talking about free trade agreements, have a look at this piece [3] in The Diplomat on why Australia and India have been unable to sign one yet.

Meanwhile, the APEC summit in Chile that was slated to start in two weeks has been cancelled amid growing violent protests around the country. Vox [4] has a great explainer about the origins of the protests, while Reuters [5] and Politico [6] investigate how the cancelled summit will affect the US–China trade deal that was expected to be finalised there. An alternative location for the signing is yet to be identified.

The APEC summit’s cancellation has also put Australia’s hopes for a rapprochement with China on hold. Scott Morrison had been seeking a bilateral meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping at APEC, according to the Financial Review [7]. With the prime minister having enjoyed a state dinner at the White House in September, it may still be some time before Xi agrees to official bilateral talks. And as Australian policymakers continue to grapple over the rules of their engagement with China, Greg Sheridan’s article [8] in The Australian offers some great advice.

President Donald Trump announced in classic Twitter [9] fashion that a US raid in Syria had led to the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Starting off on The Strategist, ASPI’s Isaac Kfir discusses [10] how al-Baghdadi’s death will affect global terrorism, which could potentially include moving away from establishing a caliphate to explore new strategies. That view is complemented by Aaron Zelin in Foreign Policy [11], who examines al-Baghdadi’s legacy, his rise to infamy and how he surpassed even Osama bin Landen in notoriety. Finally, The Atlantic [12] hits the nail on the head by explaining how the West has failed to understand IS and noting that, while the US operation that led to al-Baghdadi’s death was a success, ‘self-congratulation will take us only so far—and not nearly far enough’.

For all China buffs, War on the Rocks has a must-read article [13] this week on Xi Jinping’s grand strategy and what it entails for China’s future. On a related note, check out this Foreign Policy article [14], which argues that by adopting strategies of horizontal escalation or cost imposition in any conflict with China or Russia, the US would find itself ‘playing right into their hands’. To round it off, don’t miss this piece [15] in Foreign Affairs which argues that China’s economic failure would invigorate the Chinese Communist Party’s project of ultra-nationalism and present a big strategic threat to the US and the world in the short term.

Elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific, Natalie Sambhi has an excellent article in The Strategist that looks at what Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s decision to appoint his former rival Prabowo Subianto as the country’s defence minister means for the future of the country’s civil–military relations. And this article [16] in The Hindu analysing the apparent shift in New Delhi’s foreign policy thinking and behavioural norms also makes for good reading.

Finally, the Modern War Institute [17] provides a blueprint for how artificial intelligence can be used in the defence realm, even as Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, cautions that [18] the technology could cross a ‘moral boundary’.

Tech geek

The US Army War College has released a new report on the impact of climate change on future operations. The blog Vice has an overview analysis [19] of the main report [20] and it makes sobering reading, in particular the potential impact of tipping points and feedbacks generating systemic collapse.

Breaking Defense [21] has a great piece on emerging electronic warfare threats and the analysis [21] suggests that the US military isn’t ready for such threats from Russia and China. The article suggests that training in the US is unrealistic and doesn’t adequately prepare the US military for high-intensity interstate warfare.

Turning to outer space, South Korean company Perigee Aerospace plans to launch its ‘Blue Whale’ [22] rockets [23] from South Australia’s Whalers Way launch site, which is operated by Southern Launch [24], from 2021, building up to 40 launches a year, at a cost of just US$2 million per launch.

The Whalers Way site is best suited for polar orbit missions, while Equatorial Launch Australia’s [25] Nhulunbuy site in the Northern Territory is best placed for launches out to the important equatorial low-earth orbit.

And if you’re trying to get your head around the ‘terrain of space’, see this great animation [26] on orbits, orbital velocities and altitudes.

UK company Spacebit [27] has demonstrated a cubesat-based lunar rover called Moon Crawler [28]to be launched in 2021 and delivered to the lunar surface by another commercial lander, the Astrobotic Peregrine [29]. Commercial operations such as these, and others on a larger scale such as Jeff Bezos’s Blue Moon [30] cargo craft, will support human activities on the lunar surface in the 2020s and beyond.

And not to be outdone, the Scots are getting into the space launch business, with Skyrora in Edinburgh aiming to develop orbital class rockets [31] for commercial payloads.

This week in history

On 28 October 1919, the US Congress passed the Volstead Act [32], ushering in the Prohibition era that lasted nearly 14 years. While it wasn’t actually illegal to drink alcohol, the 18th Amendment outlawed the making, importing and selling of wine, beer and spirits. Organised crime syndicates quickly filled the void and ‘speakeasies’ selling bootleg booze popped up in big cities all over the US. See History Stories [33] for 10 things you should know about the dry days.


Al Jazeera’s The Bottom Line [34] covers off on US foreign policy and the impact it’s having on America’s global alliances. [24:59]

Following al-Baghdadi’s death, PBS’s Frontline has reposted The secret history of ISIS [35], a feature-length documentary detailing how he came to power and more. [53:51]


World Affairs this week interviews [36] Amaryllis Fox who, at the age of 22, became the CIA’s youngest female officer. She explains life as an undercover agent working throughout the Middle East. [59:01]

This week on the Council of Foreign Relations’ The President’s Inbox [37], the impact climate change is having and will have on national security, global health and more are discussed with Alice Hill. [31:50]

Check out the latest episode [38] of the On China Podcast, in which Ian Hall speaks about the complicated Sino-Indian relationship and its many dimensions. [57:32]


Canberra, 4 November, 5.30–7.30 pm, ASPI: ‘WDSN In-Conversation with Michèle Coninsx’. Register here [39].

Melbourne, 7 November, 6–7.30 pm, Australian Institute of International Affairs: ‘The present and future of autonomous weapons’. Tickets here [40] ($30).

Article printed from The Strategist: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au

URL to article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/aspi-suggests-153/

URLs in this post:

[1] context setter: https://theconversation.com/as-the-prime-minister-heads-to-asean-trade-vietnam-and-china-will-be-high-on-the-agenda-126005

[2] report: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/world/india-to-give-cold-shoulder-to-asiapacific-trade-deal/news-story/791f364ad99c18186a0a8a2786886f11

[3] piece: https://thediplomat.com/2019/10/why-australia-and-india-havent-settled-an-fta-yet/

[4] Vox: https://www.vox.com/world/2019/10/29/20938402/santiago-chile-protests-2019-riots-metro-fare-pinera

[5] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-china/chiles-apec-cancellation-raises-new-hurdle-for-u-s-china-trade-deal-idUSKBN1XA01I

[6] Politico: https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/30/chile-cancels-apec-summit-amid-economic-protests-061671

[7] Financial Review: https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/apec-cancellation-delays-plans-for-china-rapprochement-20191030-p535w5

[8] article: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/fifteen-rules-for-politicians-whenever-talking-of-china/news-story/1165974fb361dd0b27d3f671def6c90f

[9] Twitter: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1188264965930700801

[10] discusses: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/terrorism-landscape-set-to-shift-in-the-wake-of-al-baghdadis-death/

[11] Foreign Policy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/29/baghdadi-is-dead-but-his-legend-lives-on-isis-terror/

[12] The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/what-america-never-understood-about-isis/601156/

[13] article: https://warontherocks.com/2019/10/make-china-great-again-xis-truly-grand-strategy/

[14] article: https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/29/united-states-china-russia-great-power-war/

[15] piece: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2019-10-28/united-states-should-fear-faltering-china

[16] article: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/indias-big-foreign-policy-shake-up/article29801640.ece

[17] Modern War Institute: https://mwi.usma.edu/augmented-intelligence-warrior-artificial-intelligence-machine-learning-roadmap-military/

[18] cautions that: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/crosses-a-moral-boundary-chief-scientist-warns-against-risks-of-artificial-intelligence-20191031-p5360a.html

[19] analysis: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/mbmkz8/us-military-could-collapse-within-20-years-due-to-climate-change-report-commissioned-by-pentagon-says?fbclid=IwAR0JrGUuuUpVT3nhfW0zvA7lKmV-A51_LLHHRHYKGmURMcXtTobzWmweggI

[20] report: https://climateandsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/implications-of-climate-change-for-us-army_army-war-college_2019.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2q432tfSCQ9nxhfHxvaNCiKwqmETn0IWyCK1tqchIp4Vlevok-Dx307kE

[21] Breaking Defense: https://breakingdefense.com/2019/10/us-forces-untrained-not-ready-for-russian-jamming/?fbclid=IwAR26fO7xsS1P0-lVa1Nja1yNgoxJIQdwI4jIHkRRKsPmPGY5ounA6u588dM

[22] ‘Blue Whale’: https://www.spaceconnectonline.com.au/launch/3783-southern-launch-signs-rocket-launch-deal-with-korean-space-agency

[23] rockets: https://spacenews.com/backed-by-samsung-south-korean-startup-perigee-aims-for-2020-maiden-launch/

[24] Southern Launch: https://southernlaunch.space/

[25] Equatorial Launch Australia’s: https://ela.space/

[26] animation: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b4/Comparison_satellite_navigation_orbits.svg

[27] Spacebit: https://spacebit.com/

[28] Moon Crawler : https://spacebit.com/mooncrawler

[29] Astrobotic Peregrine: https://www.astrobotic.com/

[30] Blue Moon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4E6Y32CLO_0

[31] rockets: https://www.skyrora.com/skyroraxl

[32] the US Congress passed the Volstead Act: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/prohibition-legacy-100-years-after-the-volstead-act/

[33] History Stories: https://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-should-know-about-prohibition

[34] The Bottom Line: https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/the-bottom-line/2019/10/america-america-191029223412437.html

[35] The secret history of ISIS: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/trump-raid-baghdadi-killed-isis/

[36] interviews: https://player.fm/series/world-affairs-council-of-northern-california/a-life-undercover-in-the-cia

[37] The President’s Inbox: https://player.fm/series/the-presidents-inbox/the-coming-climate-disruption-with-alice-c-hill

[38] episode: https://soundcloud.com/onchina/pod007

[39] here: https://www.aspi.org.au/event/wdsn-conversation-michele-coninsx?fbclid=IwAR1_gSLh9qPIDUsU9iZNpef070NAl9QKlCypFHZYLNiXfFXn6rsW0aKlPiY

[40] here: https://aiiavic.tidyhq.com/public/schedule/events/27189-the-present-and-future-of-autonomous-weapons

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