ASPI suggests
22 May 2015| and
Storm trooper in China

Headlining today’s wrap-up are three must-read pieces on Australia’s strategic choices and China.

In the first, Bonnie Glaser (who’s visiting Australia at the moment) argues that ‘Australia should join the US to implement a cost imposition strategy aimed at changing China’s risk/benefit calculus and thus its behaviour.’ But to do this, she warns, we’ll have to accept greater risk. Second, Linda Jakobson is aghast at the serious gulf between Australia’s security officials and China’-focussed business community on how they see China. She argues a more nuanced and honest discussion between both sides about China’s rise will promote a better policy—it’s the very reason she established China Matters. Lastly, John Garnaut drops this truthbomb: ‘ever since Rudd was savaged for his 2009 white paper he and his successors have not been game to publicly acknowledge that there is anything to hedge against.’ In fact, when asked by Angela Merkel in November last year how he drove his China policies, Tony Abbott responded, ‘fear and greed’. Read more on why Garnaut believes our twin imperatives of economic engagement and security hedging towards China must be reconciled.

South Pacific watchers, ANU’s Melanesia Program has some new discussion papers on nation-making and memory in Timor-Leste by Lia Kent, urban-living in Papua New Guinea by Tim Sharp and co-authors, and regional political settlement by Greg Fry. For the full catalogue, see here. Meanwhile, Scott Leis makes the case over on East Asia Forum for considering ‘climate refugees’ given that intense weather exacerbated by climate change might force many Pacific Islanders to leave their homes.

Check out Osama bin Laden’s bookshelf, found by Navy SEALs at his Abbottabad compound in 2011. The US government released the list this week as well as a surprisingly generic job application form for prospective al Qaeda members, asking applicants to ‘write clearly and legibly’ and to divulge the details of their next of kin in the event of their martyrdom.

With negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program still prevalent in US media and Russia threatening to deploy nuclear weapons in Crimea, check out this interview with US State Department Under Secretary for arms control and international security Rose Gottemoeller. Despite a ‘crowded nuclear policy landscape’, Gottemoeller was optimistic about the future, stating that nuclear nations’ moves since the Cuban Missile Crisis towards nuclear limitation speaks of a ‘positive legacy’. For the full interview, see here.

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has approved the US Air Force’s decision to temporarily decrease its number of drone combat air patrols from 65 to 60. Why? Not because of a decrease in demand for drone patrols, states Marcus Weisgerber over at Defense One, but because their pilots and related intelligence operators have been pushed ‘to breaking point’. Giving these airmen a break makes Air Force ‘healthy’ and happy for long-term operations.

In this week’s technology pick, Australia scientists are a step closer to developing a bionic brain. They’re refining a nano memory cell that more closely mimics the memory functionality and performance of the human brain, the first step in building artificial neural networks and circumventing ethical barriers in testing on human ones. It’ll be some time before the technology is deployed but scientists anticipate its use includes as replacement parts for individuals with brain damage—a potential treatment for those injured by IEDs, for instance.

Danish director Janus Metz’s powerful film Armadillo (2010) is available to watch for free on the SBS website—check it out here (1hr 40mins). The film follows a Danish platoon just before and during their six-month deployment to Afghanistan’s Helmand province. So candid was the film about the realities of combat deployment that it shocked the Danish public who had believed previously their soldiers were only handing out soccer balls and candy. A worthwhile insight into the life of the modern soldier (warning: graphic scenes).

Lastly, eight years after being elected, Barack Obama finally arrived on Twitter—and he’s already mastered the ‘dark art of snark’ with his third tweet. Check out his exchange with former president and potential ‘first lady’ Bill Clinton:


This week, check out this #allfemalepanel of intellectual heavyweights on China’s behaviour in the East and South China Seas. Hosted by the Lowy Institute, Bonnie Glaser, Linda Jakobson and Merriden Varrall talk about the PRC’s intentions and their implications (1hr).


In case you missed it, ASPI has released videos of last week’s two packed panel discussions, Australia and Indonesia: Getting back on track and Understanding Putin’s Russia—a Soviet Union 2.0?.

With Ramadi’s fall to ISIS forces, assistant professor at King’s College London Andreas Krieg and professor of modern and contemporary history of the Middle East at Qatar University Mahjoob Zweiri discuss on Al Jazeera the factors contributing to the city’s loss, with Zweiri noting the need to have more US forces on the ground.