ASPI suggests
18 Sep 2015|


Wednesday brought confirmation that the RAAF had carried out its first successful airstrikes in eastern Syria. While it was only mid-last week that Tony Abbott announced the expansion of Australia’s operations in the Middle East, we had a new Prime Minster in Malcolm Turnbull by the time the confirmation came through. There was plenty of commentary on the leadership change from all parts of the world, so we’ll leave you with just two: one from The Economist, and one from Gareth Evans.

The Japanese Diet is today expected to pass 11 national security bills, marking a new stage in the development of Japan’s post-war security and defence policy. Public protests against the contentious bills have continued outside the Parliament this week, while inside legislators scuffled as the chairman yesterday called a vote. (Japan’s debut on the incomplete ‘legislative violence’ Wikipedia page is expected soon.)

If two’s company and three’s a crowd, then what’s four? When we’re talking airstrips in the South China Sea, China’s neighbours could likely donate some adjectives. Just ahead of Xi Jinping’s visit to the US, CSIS has released new satellite imagery this week that appears to show China’s preparations for two new airstrips at Mischief Reef and Subi Reef, as the paint dries on the runway at Fiery Cross Reef. Work on the three runways has unfolded over the past twelve months to complement existing facilities on Woody Island. The images come as a senior Chinese naval officer claimed that the South China Sea ‘belongs to China’.

News this week that the Pentagon is pushing to protect individual privacy probably surprised some in our post-Snowden/Manning world. The Brandeis program was just one of the emerging tech efforts highlighted at DARPA’s recent conference in Missouri. Also on the privacy front, a new map has been produced showing the 6,000 nodes that support the Onion Router’s operation worldwide.

Another week passes bringing a slew of interesting Islamic State-related reads. A longform piece over at The Guardian seeks to explain why ISIS fights. President of the Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer, has an op-ed in The Financial Times on the ‘ugly allies’ the US will need to engage with in order to defeat ISIS. And General Lloyd Austin, head of US Central Command, hasn’t had an easy week: first, the Pentagon’s inspector general began investigating the reported politicisation of Centcom intelligence products related to the campaign against ISIS; and second, Austin’s testified that only ‘four or five’ Syrian fighters remain on the battlefield, despite the $500 million that has been spent on training.

If you’re yet to be convinced that Russia is setting up a forward operating base in Syria, a Pentagon spokesperson this week confirmed it. And if you won’t take his word for it, Foreign Policy has got its hands on some satellite images showing the construction efforts near Latakia.

Finally, vale smart underwear: Motherboard carries news that R&D on the piece of tech-enabled kit is longer a priority for the US military.


Harvard Law School recently released a new legal brief examining whether we should consider medical care to terrorists in armed conflicts to be a form of illegitimate support for terrorism. The authors of the research sat down with Lawfare Blog to discuss.

Monocle magazine pulls together a daily podcast called The Globalist. This week’s episodes cover everything from Singapore’s elections, EU refugee negotiations, the ethics of weapons sales, press freedom in Thailand, Tony Abbott’s ousting and a chat with Norway’s defence minister Ine Eriksen Søreide. Access them all here.

America’s exceptionalism, power and role in the world are all up for discussion in Foreign Policy’s latest E.R. podcast.


In case you missed it, regular Strategist contributor David Kilcullen spoke with Tony Jones on Lateline last night. The counterinsurgency expert gave his views Russia’s involvement in Syria, the Assad regime and the reported politicisation of ISIS-related intelligence. Video and transcript here.

A video out of Taiwan this week called in all Australian tropes to tell a story of our political machinations: a blindfolded Abbott can’t see the brewing animosity; Turnbull dives into a pool of gold; and a croc, an emu and a kangaroo watch the leadership spill unfold in a bar. Bizarre and amazing all at once.


Melbourne: Head to the National Gallery of Victoria on Monday to see Bob Carr, Linda Jakobson, Geoff Raby and John Lee join Nick Bisley to explore the drivers of the Australia–China relationship.

Canberra: ANU Fellow Feng Zhang will launch his new book, Chinese Hegemony: Grand Strategy and International Institutions in East Asian History, on Tuesday evening. We hosted a primer earlier today on The Strategist.

Save the date: The third Annual Civil Society Dialogue on Women, Peace and Security is set to be held at the ANU on 22 October. Keep an eye on the ANU’s Gender Institute for further details.