Ahoy, loyal readers.
The Trump–Russia story continues to roll on, or does it? A few voices have piped up in the last week or so to warn Trump’s critics/the media about the difference between finding a smoking gun and conjuring Don-Vlad collusion through smoke, mirrors, innuendo and fantasy. We brought you Massa Gessen in the NYRB last week, so let’s look further afield. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone recently counselled against the expectation that there’s a lot more to come: ‘Reporters should be scared to their marrow by this story. This is a high-wire act and it is a very long way down.’ And Ben Smith of Buzzfeed (which fed the beast by releasing the Steele dossier) offered a similar warning about the ‘false temptations of the Russia story’. On a different but no less important note, our main suggestion here is pure hedonism: watch (or rewatch) The Americans. Vulture will tell you why.
And actually, while you’re at it, The Crown is well worth your time, too. On the subject of Queen Elizabeth II, The Guardian carries a riveting and beautifully constructed long read on the secret plans that will unfold when the British monarch dies. Dive in.
A flurry of reportage has dominated American media after the overnight release of the Trump administration’s first budget blueprint. The Washington Post has a handy series of infographics that give a good rundown of the winners and losers. As predicted, Defense has won very bigly indeed, with the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department receiving cuts of almost 30% to their funding. But does slashing a department’s funding actually equate to a cut? Apparently not, according to Sean Spicer.
Plenty of great new research on the US and the new administration’s defense posture has emerged this week. First off, from our friends at USSC, this brand new report argues that Australia must develop a more extroverted security stance in Asia to bolster against Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy. A fresh CSIS publication takes a closer look at the security dynamics between the US and China in a completely different arena, the Middle East. A Strategic Perspectives paper from the Institute for National Strategic Studies discusses the importance of the India–Japan strategic relationship to the US’s strategic goals in the ‘Indo-Asia-Pacific’. And in the midst of all that, a new offering from CNAS compares and contrasts historical trends in the size and capability of the US military (it’s heavy on the graphs, if you’re into that sorta thing).
And finally, people of all stripes will mourn the loss of the Cisewu tiger, an unintentionally jovial, cartoon-ish statue erected outside an Indonesian Army base to strike fear into the heart of adversaries. After spending time this week at the wrong end of a viral social media campaign, TNI members used hammers and chisels to remove the statue, proving it to be the greatest paper tiger to date—despite the fact it was made of concrete.
This pick is a bit different to our usual offerings, but we hope you find it as compelling and ambitious a podcast as we do. US journo Alexis Madrigal, now editor-at-large at Fusion, has kicked off an 8-part audio documentary, Containers, on how global shipping has transformed our economies and realities. The first episode, ‘Welcome to Global Capitalism’, is available over at Soundcloud.
Back in January, The Washington Post launched a brand new podcast series, ‘Can he do that?’ Each week, host Allison Michaels zeroes in on a logic and convention-defying aspect of The Donald’s time in the White House. This week’s episode, for instance, looks at Trump and the fourth estate—‘the enemy of the people’ (32 mins). Keep an ear out over the next 200 weeks.
In a useful little clip, Vox takes a look at what happens when, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, an American president renders himself obnoxious and is deemed unsuitable for office. This 6-minute video examines impeachment (or near impeachment) through the ages, and looks at how the US system of disposing of state leaders differs dramatically from British conventions.
Melbourne: Those trying to discern the contours of Trump’s Asia policy (read: everyone) could do worse than get along to the NGV on Monday to hear some thoughts from Brookings’ Fellow Thomas Wright, who recently penned a sterling piece for POLITICO on Trump’s ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ foreign policy. Sign up here.
Canberra: Following on from #IWD last week, UNSW’s Laura Shepherd will offer some thoughts on 28 March at ANU on how the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations promotes female participation in peace and security governance.
Also here in the capital, please join us at ASPI HQ on 22 March to discuss the future of the Japan–US–Australia trilateral, and how it might alleviate heartburn over the South China Sea. Register here, and see you then!