Welcome back, readers! ASPI has just wrapped up its Army Future Force Structure Options Conference 2015. Catch up on the highlights with #FutureForce2015 on Twitter and blog posts by Chief of Army Lieutenant General Angus Campbell on the future of land operations, Major General Rick Burr on Army international engagement, Andrew Davies on Army aviation, and Patrick Walters on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s speech at the forum.
Update: Fifteen stories, fifteen powerful black-and-white-images of fifteen wounded warrior athletes of the US Defense Department’s Warrior Games profiled by TIME magazine. Here’s US Army Corporal Jasmine Perry:
My amputation has made me more resilient. It built me up mentally; I can handle just about anything mentally. It humbles you. It tests your character. It shows what type of person you really are and how you will overcome.
If you’re looking at global trends, check out the results of the Fragile States Index 2015, based on aggregations of risk and political, economic and social indicators. No surprises this year: South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic and Sudan in the top spots (‘very high alert’). In our region, countries on ‘alert’ include Myanmar (27th), North Korea (29th), Bangladesh (32nd), Sri Lanka and Timor Leste (tied in 34th place), and Nepal (36th). Australia was ranked 170th out of 178 countries while Cuba was ‘most improved’, moving from 107th in 2014 to 112th in 2015. For an analysis of the indicators and trends, see the report here.
How much would you pay for your loved ones? The New Yorker looks at how five American families dealt with the kidnapping of their family members by groups like Islamic State and Abu Sayyaf. Frustrated by government actions and sometimes secrecy, some families resorted to negotiating with terrorists and raising funds for the release of the prisoners. The Obama administration recently announced a shift in the rules surrounding ransoms: families would no longer receive threats about prosecution for paying ransoms and communications with families would be improved.
Keen to crack down terrorism and extremism, Chinese authorities have discovered that being more lenient towards its Uighur communities, rather than restricting their Islamic practices, could be the answer. As part of a ‘hearts and minds’ operation in Xinjiang, officials locals opted to throw locals a beer festival in preparation for Ramadan. Keeping reading here for the festival’s outcome and China’s approach to counterterrorism.
Meanwhile, Linda Jakobson and Rory Medcalf have a new Lowy Institute report on how different perceptions of China’s maritime interests in the Indo-Pacific are adversely affecting regional security.
The US should develop low-yield, tactical nuclear weapons to deter other countries from seeking nukes of their own. That was a major finding of a new CSIS report, Project Atom. For a quick rundown of the highlights, read the Defense One coverage. The full report is available here (PDF) and a video of the report’s launch with some of the authors (Elbridge Colby, Keith Payne, Barry Blechman and Clark Murdock) here (1hr 20mins).
For the futurists, The Atlantic looks at what the world might look like without work (that is, if even more of our tasks were carried out by drones and robots). How would we earn money? How would we spend our day? Make time for this thoughtful examination of the meaning of employment and the intersections of technology, consumption and creativity.
Sticking with the future, DARPA announced this week that it’s investigating ways to terraform Mars into a planet that looks more like Earth. How? By heading up the red planet’s atmosphere and populating it with genetically engineered plant life. Keep reading here. For more on DARPA’s plans to genetically engineer bacteria and other lifeforms, read here.
And lastly, for a bit of humour relief, Duffel Blog fans can read about the NCO who gives a 45-minute speech daily on the importance of not wasting time.
The latest Monocle Foreign Desk podcast features writer Elizabeth Pisani and journalist Johannes Ngugroho on both the domestic obstances to the Indonesian president’s waning political power as well as his foreign policy challenges. It also features a short segment on Australia–Indonesia relations (28mins).
Listen to former Homeland Security and Counterterrorism advisor to President George W. Bush Frances Townsend discuss the spread of ISIS and fighting terrorism in the latest CSIS Smart Women Smart Power podcast (46mins).
Secretary of the Department of Defence Dennis Richardson sits down with Niree Creed to talk Defence White Paper and the South China Sea in this AIIA video (14mins).