ASPI suggests
24 Mar 2017| and
Image courtesy of Pixabay user Freeimages9.

There’s been a heft of useful reads in the last week about new US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, born of curiosity about the man, the outcomes his recent jaunt to Asia, and judgements on his performance to date. On the first count, the Independent Journal Review dives deep into Tillerson’s transition from oil exec to America’s chief diplomat. (The journo, Erin McPike, has also whacked up the interview transcript.) On the second, Mike Green wrote a positive report card on T.Rex’s Asia appearance, while Ely Ratner offered a negative assessment over at POLITICO. And on the third count, this effort judges Tillerson as ‘Low-Energy’, while this one is concerned with where he’s headed. (And ICYMI, Julia Ioffe checks in on how things are going at the State Department these days…)

President Trump sat down with TIME’s Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer this week, to chat about how the President handled truth and falsehood through the campaign and now that he’s ensconced in 1600 Penn. The interview covers off a range of issues, from James Comey, wiretapping, Sweden, Ted Cruz’s father, the US Intelligence Community, and more. Check out the transcript here. For a punchier rendering and to save some time, The Slot have redacted everything that’s not verifiably true. It all chimes rather well with this much-discussed/tweeted Wall Street Journal editorial on the truth and the President’s credibility.

In a stellar series of infographics published this week, The New York Times breaks down what Donald Trump’s proposed expansion of America’s armed forces might look like in real terms. The article asks a poignant question: if defeating ISIS is the reason for the boost, how would a pumped-up military help Trump accomplish his goal? Now’s as good a time as any to reflect on the thought-provoking piece James Fallows wrote for The Atlantic in 2015 which seeks correlation between the American populace’s vague understanding of, but undying support for, the US military, and the declining number of recruits.

RSiS kicks off our fresh research recommendations this week, with an excellent short read on the unlikelihood of joint patrols between Australia and Indonesia in the eastern part of the South China Sea. Two choice picks on countering drug use and organised crime, the first from Australia 21, which has just released their findings from a roundtable involving Australian law enforcement and policy heavyweights on how to develop safer and more effective laws and long-term strategies for Australia’s drug policies. And the second, from RUSI, looks at factors that enable the illicit drug dealings of organised crime groups across Europe. And a little closer to home, ASPI released its inaugural Counterterrorism Yearbook, a publication designed to shine a spotlight on CT developments in hotspots around the globe. Keep an eye on The Strategist over the coming weeks for some short excerpts.

And finally, last week marked the 72nd anniversary of the first ever jet airstrike—conducted by the German military against Ally-held Ludendorff Bridge towards the end of WWII. Luckily enough, the Germans learned in their six-day offensive that bridges make for very difficult targets, with every single bomb released missing entirely. Ironically, the bridge collapsed on its own terms a few days after the airstrikes ceased.


In case you haven’t come across it yet, Aviation Week’s ‘Check 6’ podcast is a handy listen for any airpower wonks. In a recent episode, editors Jen DiMascio, Lara Seligman and Graham Warwick sat down with Marine Lieutenant Colonel David Burke for a chat about the F-35 program, and, from an operator’s perspective, why it’s a superior aircraft to the F-22 and the F-18.

Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Pacific Forum CSIS, was in the country this week for a handful of events hosted by ASPI. Alongside the punishing schedule we set for him, he found time to talk with RN’s Eleanor Hall about Rex Tillerson, dynamics in North Asia, the US-Australia relationship, and a range of other points. Catch up here (11 mins).


Described as ‘The Hurt Locker meets An Inconvenient Truth’, new doco The Age of Consequences casts climate change as a significant threat to US national security and global stability. The film recalls the Arab Spring, events in Syria and the rise of ISIS to explore how climate change is bringing about more conflict, resource scarcity and human migration. Directed by Jared P. Scott for PBS, it aired on ABC’s Four Corners program Monday night. Catch up on iView.

Although Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s Australian tour has opened the door for plenty of discussion on bilateral security and trade issues, Vox reckons that another brand of Chinese diplomacy takes the cake. In a recent video (5 mins), the news outlet discusses the evolution of the Asian superpower’s ‘panda diplomacy’. A useful watch for anyone seeking to better understand China’s foreign policy processes—or anyone seeking their daily dose of baby animal footage.


Canberra: Busy on Tuesday night? If not, get along to the SDSC to talk Trumpian Asia policy. The SDSC’s Andrew Carr will talk with the USSC’s Ashley Townshend, whose new report was released last week. Register here.

Sydney: After an eventful week north of the 38th parallel, the Perth USAsia Centre, in conjunction with the United States Studies Centre, will host a timely discussion next Thursday focusing on the US administration’s growing concerns over Kim Jong-un’s provocations and how those trepidations may translate to policy. All the details you need are right here.