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27 Nov 2015|
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Audrey Griffith, points out an area of interest during a force protection drill to Spc. Heidi Gerke along the perimeter of Forward Operating Base Hadrian in Deh Rawud, Afghanistan, March 18, 2013.

The fallout from the Paris attacks and the shooting down of a Russian jet by Turkish forces earlier this week continue. British Prime Minister David Cameron has used this opportunity to outline the UK’s strategy for Syria for degrading ISIS, which includes airstrikes in the country’s north. Speaking to the House of Commons, he argued that destroying sanctuaries will ‘make [the British people] safer’ but must accompany diplomatic and humanitarian measures. In his speech, Cameron ruled out allying Syrian leader Bashar al Assad, advocating rather for ‘a political transition to a government the international community can work with’ against ISIS. Full text available here.

Meanwhile, for finer analysis of the UK strategy, read the latest by RUSI’s Shashank Joshi here. Also, Chatham House’s associate fellow in international law, Harriet Moynihan, concludes there is no specific UN Security Council authorisation for the use of force in David Cameron’s case for airstrikesUNSC resolution 2249 (2015), adopted on 20 November, determines that ISIS ‘constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and ‘has the capability and intention to carry out further attacks’. The resolution helps but the case for individual self-defence for the UK (referring to Article 51 of the UN Charter) must also meet other criteria including whether the threatened attack is imminent. Keep reading here.

The University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre has just published a new report on Indonesia’s relationships with the US and China. Authors Natasha Hamilton-Hart and Dave McRae reaffirm that Indonesia will continue to balance the US and China, cultivating ties with both but remaining committed to its ‘free and active’ foreign policy principles. The report provides a useful overview of the history of US–Indonesia and China–Indonesia relations, including in the socio-cultural sphere.

Sticking with Southeast Asia, Gregore Lopez chronicles the major developments in Malaysian politics and assesses the Prime Minister’s prospects of staying in power, amid this year’s corruption scandals. He concludes ultimately that although allies of the PM—the monarchy and Islamic religious bodies—will continue to suffer reputational costs through their associations with him, Nadjib Razak will likely stay in power until the next election. What remains unknown, Lopez notes, is the extents to which he’ll go to remain leader.

Le Hong Hiep also has a new RSIS commentary on the growing strategic partnership between Vietnam and Singapore, proposing that modest levels of defence cooperation be boosted by joint anti-piracy patrols near both countries to enhance regional maritime security as well as training exercises.

While our Department of Defence currently negotiates the ramifications of the First Principles Review, our American counterparts are similarly contemplating reform. James Carafano explores what acquisition reform for the Pentagon might look like.

Next is a special report by The Economist on climate change, published in anticipation of the COP21 talks in Paris commencing on 3o November. For Strategist readers, check out the section on China: it’s not the climate pariah you might think it is—much of its pollution, as the article notes, comes from making goods for other countries, for one. If you need a quick and dirty rundown on the main aims of COP21 and the achievements of past COPs, check out SBS’ ‘What you need to know about COP21’ and Forbes’ ‘The basics of COP21’.

For a quick and dirty summary of how NATO’s Article 5 (that an attack upon one is equal to an attack upon all) works, here’s Steve Saideman’s latest rundown of when NATO used it last and why France won’t invoke it. In short, NATO representatives need to meet and reach consensus to invoke the article which, interestingly, can be used against a non-state actor. In fact, after 9/11 it was used against al-Qaeda. But that doesn’t necessarily invoke a group military response, as Saideman explains; sometimes political solidarity is enough. Keep reading here.

How does the Islamic State’s favourite book on strategy explain recent terrorist attacks? Over on War On The Rocks, terrorism scholar Will McCants examines The Management of Savagery, a book celebrated by both al-Qaeda and ISIS followers. Written under a pseudonym, the author Abu Bakr Naji explains that, in order to establish a state, the jihadists can use whichever tactics they please and, contra to the teachings of Mohammed, even killing noncombatants if the situation is, as McCants puts it, ‘dire and the enemy is ruthless’. Naji advocates ‘vexation operations’ against enemies where they live to mitigate the risks of jihadists fighting in the open.


Charles Lister joins Jihadology’s Aaron Zelin for a discussion on the history of Syrian jihad. It’s really useful overview of the main players prior to and after the 2011 uprising. Of particular interest is Lister’s explanation of Jabhat al Nusra’s entry into the Syrian war and the group’s evolving relationship with ISIS as well as his discussion of different groups of foreign fighters and their motivations (1hr).

In a new episode of Incoming, a series that allows American veterans to tell their story in their own words, US Army’s Major Mariah Smith reflects on her time in Kandahar as well as her 15 years of experience in the military, which includes an attempt as one of the first female candidates in the Army’s integrated Ranger school (30mins, transcript also available).