ASPI suggests
27 May 2016| and

Image courtesy of Flickr user Christian Haugen

Barack Obama will today make history as the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima. The Atlantic has two photo essays: one looking at the modern city of Hiroshima and A-bomb survivors today; another juxtaposing the vibrant pre-war city with the devastated remnants that were left behind. (If you’re after a history of Japan’s struggles in those post-war years, look no further than John W. Dower’s Embracing Defeat—a stunningly written effort that took out the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 2000.)

Roger Cohen, a columnist with The New York Times, is currently spending some time working out of Sydney, where he’s doing his bit to put Australia up in lights. Cohen’s focus so far has been trained on our dirty laundry: he started the week on our asylum policies (Australia’s Offshore Cruelty) and ended it on our environmental policies (Coral vs. Coal). Serendipitously, Cohen’s column came as it was revealed that a new UNESCO report had been scrubbed of references to Australia and the Great Barrier Reef.

A new Brookings Essay landed this week, just in time for Memorial Day state-side. Penned by Phil Klay, a US Marine Corps veteran, The Citizen-Soldier is a brilliant read on morality, the modern military and ‘what it means to be an American in an age of perpetual war’.

‘I can’t say that I joined the military because of 9/11. Not exactly. By the time I got around to it the main U.S. military effort had shifted to Iraq, a war I’d supported though one which I never associated with al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden. But without 9/11, we might not have been at war there, and if we hadn’t been at war, I wouldn’t have joined.’

Congratulations to Brendan Nelson and his standout team at the Australian War Memorial, which was recently anointed the number one landmark in both Australia and the South Pacific for 2016. If you find yourself in Canberra, get along to check out their great galleries and exhibitions.

For your weekly dose of brand new analysis from around the world, we’d recommend having a gander at the latest release from CNAS on the challenges China’s A2/AD capabilities pose to security in the Asia–Pacific. The report recommends that US efforts to counter Chinese aggression should have a focus that transcends unilateralism, arguing that:

‘More operational and integrated alliances with Japan, Australia, Korea, and the Philippines will go a long way toward creating a geographically dispersed network that can work more closely on a web of security partnerships with Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, and others.’

Charlie Winter’s Special Report for ASPI, An integrated approach to Islamic State recruitment, is also worth a look. Winter examines IS enlistment in our region by examining the three complementary mechanisms involved in the recruitment process: The Echo Chamber where a recruit is exposed to jihadism; The Propaganda that ‘realigns a curious individual’s moral norms’; and contact with The Enlister. Winter also published a stellar article over at War on the Rocks on IS’s nascent presence in Southeast Asia. By decoding ‘the difference between being an Islamic State “fan” and an Islamic State “affiliate”,’ through the lens of propaganda, Winter judges that ‘a fully ratified “Philippines Province” of the caliphate could well be on the horizon’.

An interesting read over at The Economist argues that one of the Obama administration’s biggest failures in its nuclear deterrence strategy has been its lack of response to North Korea’s nuclear program. With a fully-fledged program able to ‘strike New York’ expected sometime during the second term of Obama’s successor, it’s time for the US to start taking the hermit kingdom’s ambition seriously. (ASPI’s Rod Lyon has also ventured down this path.) And on just as sombre a note, here is the enormous, smiling, (surprisingly) un-Photoshopped, hi-res photograph of Kim Jong-un that you didn’t know you needed in your life. Kim and 27 other DPRK top guns had their professional mugshots published on the Korea Central News Agency on Wednesday, and it doesn’t seem too much thought was put into having unique ‘dos for staff photo day.


CSIS launched a new podcast series yesterday, On Violent Extremism, which explores the violent extremism phenomenon—its causes, manifestations, and responses. In each episode, CSIS’s Shannon Green sits down with a different expert or practitioner from all around the world, building a chorus of voices and perspectives on violent extremism. The first episode is an interview with Imam Mohamed Magid, head of the largest Muslim congregation in the United States (1 hour).

The Perth USAsia Centre’s Perspectives podcast series this week hosted Sidney Jones, renowned terrorism expert and director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta. In the interview (30 mins), Jones discusses the problems Indonesia faces on the home front despite its comparatively small number of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.


After the departure of US President Barack Obama, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc sat down for a rare interview with foreign media. Discussing Vietnam’s role in the South China Sea and the fine balance Vietnam must strike between the US and China now that the former has lifted its longstanding arms sales embargo on Vietnam. Watch some snippets of the interview here (3 mins).

ASPI alumna Natalie Sambhi continues her efforts for the Foreign Entanglements series, alongside Robert Farley. This week, Natalie sat down with Lauren Dickey, a PhD candidate at King’s College London, to muck into Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration, what it means for the US, for Taipei–Beijing relations, and a range of other China-centric matters (57 mins). And while we’re here, the Foreign Entanglements archive is a veritable goldmine.


Sydney and Melbourne: The always-impressive Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law will soon host two panel discussions on human displacement and climate change. Sydneysiders, mark your calendar for 7 June; Melburnians, you’re up the following day.

Canberra: James Brown of the US Studies Centre is the author of the next Quarterly Essay, where he has written on the how, where and why of Australia in war, as well as considered the ANZUS alliance and the future of warfare in new domains. On 29 June, the SDSC’s John Blaxland will sit down with James for a chat. It’s sure to be a popular event, so get in quick for this one.