ASPI suggests
20 Nov 2015|


Last Friday’s terrorist attacks in the City of Light made headlines across the world this week, from the unfolding of the tragedy to the demise of its orchestrator. Jihadology has released a podcast interview with Timothy Holman on the history of French and Belgian jihadi networks and how the recent attacks fit into a larger picture of plots planned in France since 2012. While security legislation across Europe will surely come under fierce scrutiny in coming weeks, The Guardian has published an interactive timeline of developments of Australia’s national security laws and powers since 9/11. For a different angle on the attacks, read this The Wall Street Journal piece by Ryan C. Crocker, former US Ambassador to both Iraq and Afghanistan, who makes the case for the US to welcome Syrian refugees—to not do so would risk helping daesh achieve its end goal of alienating Arab and Islamic communities.

International online hacktivist group Anonymous has always been shrouded in controversy, but the hackers have received cautious praise for their attempts to drive daesh out of cyberspace. Anonymous posted a video last Saturday threatening ‘the biggest operation ever’ against the terrorist group as retaliation for the Paris attacks. However, Russell Brandom argues on The Verge that their actions might do more harm than good by preventing intelligence agencies and journalists from tracking extremists’ online footprints.

Moving to the Middle East, Carnegie Endowment’s David Butter has written a timely piece on the motives behind Russia’s involvement in Syria. He argues that its intervention less about the need to protect its dominance of the European gas market, rather it’s more likely that Russia wished to advance its ‘prosaic strategic interests’.

The Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare project has culminated in a volume of short science fiction stories which explore the future of armed and social conflict, available to download free here. The project was headed up by August Cole (co-author with Peter W. Singer to Ghost Fleet: a novel of the next world war) and features a number of established writers as well as up-and-coming thinkers on privateers in cyber war, bio-enhanced targeting, drone operations in space, swarm warfare and more.

Also looking to the future, CSIS released its Global Forecast for 2016 (PDF), featuring short essays by CSIS scholars that focus on the issues that matter most to the US and global security in coming years. This year’s edition includes pieces on daesh, cyber policy, and China’s economic slump.

Tech wonks, Defense One has an interesting piece analysing the Obama administration’s Restoring Active Memory (RAM) project, announced in 2014 as part of DARPA’s brain improvement initiative. As part of the RAM project, the Pentagon will work with the US Veterans Affairs department over the next five years to develop brain implants that will boost memory and heal PTSD.

And finally, although their suggested initiatives (more milk, less dogs) failed to be adopted by members of the G-20, three cats took to the stage this week at the G-20 Summit, in the most notable display of #multicateralism at a global summit yet.


Karen Abbott, author of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: four women undercover in the civil war, discusses her new book which looks at the stories of four women who, at great personal risk, turned to espionage during the American Civil War. Listen to the podcast here (51 mins).

This week on Foreign Policy’s Global Thinkers series, David Scheffer and Erica Chenoweth discuss the pros and cons of confronting oppressive leadership with weapons and aggression, rather than nonviolence and peaceful protest (37 mins).


Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday on US national security in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, and US foreign policy. Offering a strategy to defeat daesh, Clinton argued to arm the Kurds and Iraqi Sunnis and establish a no-fly zone in northern Syria among other recommendations. Watch the video of her address on the CFR website (1 hr), or read the transcript here.

Should militaries be part of the solution when providing humanitarian assistance in conflict zones and war torn countries? This question was debated by panelists in a recent event held in Canberra by the International Committee of the Red Cross and ANU’s Centre for Military and Security Law. Watch the video of the discussion here (1 hr).


Canberra: The Institute for Regional Security will host its end of year networking event on 3 December. To mingle with peers and experts from national security field over some friendly beverages, register here.

For a stellar event on US–China relations, be sure to mark your calendars for 26 November. The USSC’s Bates Gill will be at ANU discussing the negative aspects of the relationship, why it’s likely to become more contentious in the future, and what this means for the US future in the Asia–Pacific.

Sydney: Julian Burnside will speak at AIIA NSW’s branch on the truth and lies about Australia and boat people, drawing on his expertise as a barrister and a human rights and refugee advocate. Register here.

Brisbane: Natalia Szablewska, an international law and human rights expert, is offering her thoughts on human trafficking in post-conflict societies from a transitional justice framework at the AIIA Queensland branch next Tuesday.