ASPI suggests
25 Sep 2015| and

The red carpet was rolled out in Washington DC this week as some A-list visitors hit the town. On Thursday, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to address US Congress—full text and video here. In his speech, the Pope challenged US policymakers to ‘make a difference’ on a wide range of issues, from environmental degradation to the abolition of the death penalty. DefenseOne carries an interesting piece on the Catholic Church’s zero tolerance stance on nuclear weapons, which sits in contradiction to Ash Carter’s defence of the US nuclear budget last week. For more on the papal visit, check out this excellent photo essay from Sam Ellis, and The Atlantic’s break-down of the address to Congress. And for all the transportation fans out there, The Washington Post has a short history of the Popemobile.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s much-anticipated first state visit to the US began within hours of the Pope’s departure on Thursday, after the GOP failed to have the visit cancelled. US National Security Advisor Susan Rice defended the visit on Monday, branding alternative views as ‘dangerous and short-sighted’—a burn that was reportedly directed at ex-GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker, who dropped out of the race earlier this week. Check out CSIS for some quality reads on two of the meatier topics expected to be addressed at the Summit: cybersecurity and US–China economic relations.

The Climate Council this week released a cracking new report called ‘Be Prepared: Climate Change, Security and Australia’s Defence Force. Their effort is well worth a read.

If you love a good map as much as we do, head over to The True Size to play around with an interactive map that will give you a real sense of country size—a perspective that you won’t get from the familiar Mercator presentation. The project was inspired by the West Wing and a similar infographic that focused on Africa (PDF).

Dark Fields of the Republic, a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in DC, shines a light on the battlefield photography of Alexander Gardener, whose dramatic images show the ravages of the US Civil War. The BBC carries a compelling piece that highlights the collection, Gardner’s story and some of the abiding questions around the appropriateness of war photography.

CSIS’s drip-feed of South China Sea satellite images has been collected by the ABC, which has compiled some handy before-and-after snapshots of China’s land reclamation work across seven different reefs. Catch up with it here. New PM Malcolm Turnbull this week said that China’s efforts in the South China Sea have been ‘pushing the envelope’.

Foreign Policy has given a whole new meaning to #flashbackfriday by shredding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Instagram account @syrianpresidency. Sifting through pages of happy, shiny images taken around Syria, FP has chosen some choice shots from the account, and contrasted them with what was actually happening in Syria at the time they were captured.

Head over to The Economist for a primer on Japan’s recently passed security bills, as well as some consideration of the Chinese reception to the legislative changes.

Laser-drones: the future is nigh—and it’s awesome! San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is aiming to mount a 150-kilowatt solid-state laser onto an Avenger drone to create a new generation of military weapon by 2017. Or, if mounting weaponry on drones is too high-tech for your taste, why not try dogs? Visual Engineering has created the Cerberus camera system, which can be attached to the backs of military and police dogs to give their human counterparts advantages in warzones.


As part of its Global Thinkers series, Foreign Policy’s Elizabeth Dickinson and Yemeni activist Farea al-Muslimi sat down to chat about how the West could contribute to a solution for the Middle East’s proxy wars, and why Saudi Arabia is taking big risks in Yemen. Listen here.

The Bridge recently featured a piece which argued that returning foreign fighters actually present a marginal threat to their homelands, and evaluated counter-radicalisation efforts. The author, Collin Hunt, was recently interviewed by The Loopcast.


Brookings recently hosted a discussion with Will McCants on ISIS’s strategy and the future of jihadi terrorism, on the back of the launch of his recent book, The ISIS Apocalypse.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, sat down with Jon Alterman and Ben Daus-Haberle as part of a three-part series on foreign policy, global politics and global crisis. In part one (6 mins), Brzezinski thinks about how the US should approach its relations with China and Russia.


Canberra: The AIIA’s National Conference will kick off on 19 October, and is set to include a stellar line-up of speakers, such as Julie Bishop, Tanya Plibersek, Gareth Evans and Brian Schmidt. Be sure to register your interest here.