First up this week, a look at the curious incident of the lost carrier battle group in the Asia–Pacific. Let’s be clear: this whole episode is whack. President Trump’s claim that the US was ‘sending an armada’ turned out to have a couple of trailing caveats, the biggest being that the flotilla was inexplicably headed in the opposite direction to exercise with the RAN (the training portion was later cancelled). So in the end, the DPRK’s sabre-rattling had been met with a ghost fleet, an event which should give us all pause to reflect on just what reassurance means in the time of Trump. And how do we square this with Melania’s (Michelle’s) claim that ‘your word is your bond’?! There were a couple of useful WTF takes: Gail Collins in The New York Times and David A. Graham over at The Atlantic, as well as some local sentiments in The Wall Street Journal.
Two good pieces on Brexit to gulp down: the first, an interactive from the NYT, assesses London’s heath and asks whether the city is set to fall; the second, from the NYRB, parses the history of referenda on the EU question and looks at how this whole Brexit thing is working out (and where it could lead).
If you’re finding it a bit much trying to keep up with the ever-evolving Trump-Russia story (impactful think tank work being the latest), The Washington Post has you covered with this handy collection of the who, what, when and where. (“Why” to follow?) The Post has also released a cracking podcast/piece combo this week which looks at Russia’s emerging role as chief guardian of sovereignty and ‘the right’.
Kicking off our fresh research section this week is an excellent longread from CNAS which holds a magnifying glass to Chinese cyber intrusions into American and Taiwanese infrastructure, offering some thoughts on how to protect against them. A fresh report from CSIS looks at defending US interests in a slightly different way—through modernisation of its current missile defence program. Two new offerings from the Congressional Research Service and RAND examine the relationship between Chinese and American militaries: the first from CRS discusses the implications of China’s naval modernisation for the US Navy, and the second from RAND weighs up the extent of Chinese investment in US air power. Moving away from military capability, Charlie Winter of ICSR was recently interviewed by VOX-Pol on the development of Islamic State’s online messaging tactics since 2014—read the transcript here. And finally, a sobering report from UNICEF looks at how militant Islamist group Boko Haram has increased its use of children as suicide bombers in Central Africa, and offers firsthand accounts of the brutal treatment that abducted girls and boys are subjected to.
To wrap things up, a stand-out article from Nautilus looks at the dark side of nostalgia and its impact as a political force. While people are more likely to remember the good than the bad when reflecting on previous experiences, they’re unlikely to think about who might be negatively affected by what they might deem a better, simpler time—for instance, the America that Trump supporters long for as they push to ‘make America great again’. Some of these values have been up for debate in the lead up to the release of controversial Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, which will premiere next week. Check out these three reviews (one, two, three) that draw parallels to Atwood’s dystopian United States to the Washington DC of today.
CAUSINDY has done plenty to improve the relationship between Australia and Indonesia since its inception, but just this week, the youth organisation has upped its game once again—this time with the launch of a brand new podcast. ‘Aus–Indo in 30’, a fortnightly effort hosted by Nurina Savitri and Samantha Yap, both CAUSINDY alum, will zero in on a different aspect of the bilateral and feature a wide range of experts. To kick the new series off, this week Savitri and Yap discuss different representations of women and power across the two countries (28 mins). Subscribe here.
CSIS recently released a solid new report on US missile defence (available here). They launched the effort with a presentation from the authors and a speech from Republican senator Dan Sullivan, who stuck around for a meaty Q&A to dive into what’s necessary when it comes to ‘defending the homeland’. Check it out (2 hours, 23 mins).
Canberra: The ANU will soon host Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Witold Waszczykowski, for a speech on regional security and migration. Tickets are free and set to walk out the door, so get in quick.
Sydney: Although it’s hard to believe it has been that long, President Trump’s 100 days in office milestone is just around the corner. In conjunction with ABC News and Radio National, the United States Studies Centre will host a public debate on 27 April evaluating the President’s foreign policy progress.