ASPI suggests
6 Sep 2013|

President Obama, August 2013The big story this week is still Syria, and expectation has reached a fevered pitch. The Economist writes that

…The congressional votes and the action to follow [will be] one of those episodes that will define America’s—and the West’s—place in the world. It will signal what is left after the hubris of Iraq and unfathomable complexities of Afghanistan. Amid challenges from Russia and Iran and the growing weight of China, both as an economic power and a champion of authoritarian purpose (as opposed to democratic indecision), it is also a measure of the West’s self-belief. The world is watching.

But it’s not simple for President Obama. Foreign Policy has this piece on Obama’s dilemmas in Syria, and Gideon Rachman writes in the Financial Times that:

For better or worse, Mr Obama drew such a red line over Syria… The governments of Japan, Israel and Poland – to name just a few – will all feel less secure if Congress votes against military action in Syria.

The National Interest has an analysis of whether Syria could ‘kill’ the US rebalance to Asia, and the Wall Street Journal has this look at who makes up the Syrian Opposition.  And on a more operational note, here’s a map of relevant US (and French) military assets in the region, and a potential target list in the Washington Post.

Speaking of targets,

Al-Qaeda’s leadership has assigned cells of engineers to find ways to shoot down, jam or remotely hijack U.S. drones, hoping to exploit the technological vulnerabilities of a weapons system that has inflicted huge losses upon the terrorist network, according to top-secret U.S. intelligence documents.

Syria isn’t the only security issue that Britain has been lukewarm on recently. The Commons Public Accounts Committee has released a scathing report on the decision-making to determine the type of aircraft to be flown from Britain’s new 65,000 ton Queen Elizabeth Class carriers. The BBC looks at the issue here—it’s starting to look like the UK’s strategic policy makers should have asked the question posed by ASPI’s Andrew Davies:

If this was to cost twice the number we have before us, be delivered in twice the time estimated and with only 75% of the capability, would we still think it’s a good idea?

The outcome of this weekend’s election will also determine the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence who will play a leading role in helping to formulate Australia’s foreign and security policy. If Labor wins, it’ll probably be Bob Carr and Mike Kelly, respectively. If it’s the Coalition, then expect Julie Bishop and David Johnston.

Another coalition parliamentarian with an interest in defence matters (and sometimes contributor to The Strategist) is Senator David Fawcett. His recent guest editorial for Australian Aviation magazine sets out his views on the pros and cons of buying ADF equipment through the American Foreign Military Sales process.

The Australian Army Journal‘s culture edition has also been released

The Atlantic has a moving photoessay of the women of the Afghanistan War, featuring images of predominantly American and Afghan women as soldiers, civilians, family members of veterans, police officers, injured or deceased, and more. (Warning: includes images of violence)

Indonesian special forces soldiers accused of killing detained gangsters in a Yogyakarta prison in March have been found guilty, with three receiving prison sentences of 11, 8 and 6 years. Their accomplices were given 21 months. Supporters of the soldiers were angered by the military tribunal’s decision as they believe the actions of Kopassus were helping to rid the streets of criminal gangs.

The European Leadership Network’s Kenneth Luongo has a useful overview of the Nuclear Security Summits and how they can become more effective in nuclear security governance, especially where nuclear terrorism is concerned. In his view:

The current nuclear security system is a patchwork of mostly voluntary requirements that allows states to opaquely pick and choose among them. It includes no requirement that the international community be informed of the adequacy or comprehensiveness of a nation’s nuclear security system. A framework agreement on nuclear security can provide a durable forum for regular high-level meetings on this vital subject after the NSS process has ended.

And on the lighter side, Think Progress’ Hayes Brown has critiqued the foreign policy record of President Bartlet (yes, of The West Wing) as an interesting counterpoint to President Obama’s actions over Syria.


Canberra: Why Israel/Palestine peace talks now? Princeton University professor emeritus Richard Falk will be presenting at the Crawford School, ANU on Friday 13 September at 11am.

The Pakistan military’s Brigadier Syed Aamer Raza, Chief Instructor Command & Staff College Quetta, will be talking about leadership in the Pakistan military, hosted by the Kokoda Foundation, Russell Theatrette, Defence, on Wednesday 18 September at 5pm, register here.

The annual Indonesia Update is coming up, featuring leading international authorities with diverse perspectives who will examine Indonesia’s regional diversity and dynamics in the wake of democratic and decentralisation reforms. It’s on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 September, Crawford School, ANU. Registration required.

Sydney: What has Australia achieved at the UN and how will it handle is top seat? AIIA NSW is hosting a talk by Mike Smith at Glover Cottages on Tuesday 10 September at 6pm.

Melbourne: Are the US and EU pivots to Asia necessary and useful? Professor Dr Giles Scott-Smith will be presenting at Monash University’s Caulfield campus on Thursday 12 September at 5pm. RSVP here.

Image courtesy of The White House.