ASPI suggests
30 Oct 2015|
Syrian refugees in Vienna, September 2015.

This week’s most talked about security development has been the freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) conducted by the USS Lassen within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, one of China’s controversial artificial islands. For multiple takes on what the development means, read Scott Cheney-Peters via CIMSEC and Bonnie Glaser via The Interpreter on why the move was justified, and Graham Webster over on The Diplomat on how China maintains strategic ambiguity in the South China Sea. For a quick refresh of the islands’ geography and history, check out AMTI’s new feature here as well as their maps illustrating the evolution of Asia’s contested waters.

With Australia set to engage the PLA-N in naval exercises next week, here’s a new report from the Australia–China Relations Institute (ACRI) by Thomas Boak that finds Australia’s bilateral economic, diplomatic, cultural and defence ties with China are overall solid, when compared with ties with other states including the US. Check out the full report and its metrics here (PDF).

In other international developments, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo dropped by Washington, DC this week. In their joint statement, Jokowi and Obama agreed to enhance the US–Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership and strengthen ties in areas such as maritime cooperation and defence, including greater interaction on defence trade and cybersecurity. Outside of the White House, it’s worth watching the full video of Jokowi’s visit to the Brookings Institution in which he describes Indonesia’s role in the world. Of note are his statements that his country is ‘not becoming inward-looking’ and is ready to play a more active role in the South China Sea disputes—what kind of role that entails remains to be seen. Lastly, Jokowi announced that he intends for Indonesia to joint the US’ Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. Read Bloomberg’s Chris Brummitt on why that’s easier said than done and CSIS Jakarta’s Rocky Intan on why waiting to join the agreement has cost Indonesia the chance to shape it.

Closer to Europe, Katarzyna Pisarska (who was recently in Australia) explains on Australian Outlook exactly why some parts of the EU have welcomed refugees with open arms while others have built walls as part of a hardened anti-immigration policy. In particular, she highlights the different historical experiences between Western and Central Europe as one of the drivers for the divergent policies. And it appears Russia can’t be counted on to help with this issue: one Syrian family has been living out of Moscow’s Sheremetyeveo airport for seven weeks, in limbo, accused of using fake passports and denied thus asylum.

Three US Army captains built a gun that kills drones, and it took them 10 hours at a cost of US$150 (AUD$230). This week’s technology pick is a War On The Rocks article, authored by those Army captains, on what the US military can learn from innovating like insurgents. Meanwhile, in other technology news, China’s DJI, a leading manufacturer of consumer drones, is set to open a new R&D centre in Silicon Valley, seen as an attempt to capitalise on American engineering talent.

For the bibliophiles looking for something different, here’s a list of ten fiction books about war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And for a more personal account, Associated Press Baghdad bureau chief Vivian Salama, set to leave her post on 24 November, penned a reflection of her experience in Iraq through the many meals she shared with politicians, tribesmen and colleagues. Enjoy.


This week’s podcasts picks hover around the Middle East. The first is Jihadology‘s latest offering with Mokhtar Awad on the development of jihadism in Egypt and the influence of the Islamic State there (1hr 23mins). The second (and highly recommended) pick is an interview with Will McCants and Joby Warrick on their respective books on ISIS and why Zarqawi has had a stronger influence on the movement’s fighters than its leader, Baghdadi (51mins).


As Australia develops its own amphibious capabilities, what’s happening with the US Marine Corps? Capability wonks might like to check this recent CSIS and USNI event featuring Lieutenant General Robert S. Walsh, Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration on the future of the USMC (1hr).


Canberra: the Institute for Regional Security has two upcoming events. The first is the Spring Networking Event in Braddon’s Hopscotch next Thursday 5 November at 5.30pm, details and registration here. The following week, check out IFRS Next featuring seven up-and-coming strategic leaders at Palace Electric, Friday 13 November at 5.15pm, details and registration here.