ASPI suggests
5 Feb 2016| and

21072860643_8781d35a19_zMonday’s Iowa caucuses meant no shortage of analysis for US politics wonks this week. For some choicer pieces, check out Stephen Walt’s unforgiving look at the top five presidential candidates: HRC, The Donald, Cruz, Bernie and Rubio; this piece at The New York Review of Books, which laments the elongation of the Trump Summer and the rise of the far right well beyond what anyone could have imagined last year, and The Economist’s profile on the persona, policies and predelictions of Republican victor Ted Cruz. For a slightly more Australian spin on the race to the Oval Office, check out ABC’s Planet America with John Barron and Chas Licciardello. Head over to iView if you’re after an explanation of how candidates are chosen and why Iowa plays such a pivotal role in the contest.

Drones are a big deal in Beijing. China, which has previously used drones to track and catch a Burmese drug kingpin, is now employing the tech to take it to Boko Haram in Nigeria. The Daily Beast has a detailed report on China’s first drone war.

Talks on the horrors of the Syrian conflict disappointingly ground to a halt in Geneva on Wednesday, but not before the leak of a confidential paper detailing that the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is attempting to pull together an intelligence collection cell to help any potential ceasefire agreements. See Foreign Policy’s breakdown of the report, ‘Draft Ceasefire Modalities Concept Paper’, here. For a different angle on what’s been happening in Syria of late, check out this piece at The Economist which makes a series of recommendations about how to alleviate Europe’s migrant crisis. For a broader look at some of those issues, check out the Center on International Cooperation’s new Global Peace Operations Review (PDF), which contains poignant articles on a range of topics, from trends in peace operations through to women peace and security.

Are we really ‘going dark’? Broadly, no. That’s the conclusion of a cracking new contribution from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, which this week released their new report, ‘Don’t Panic’. The full paper is here (PDF), with some of the authors posting blogs over at Lawfare, including Bruce Schneier and Susan Landau, along with Jonathan Zittrain, who writes:

‘As data collection volume and methods proliferate, the number of human and technical weaknesses within the system will increase to the point that it will overwhelmingly likely be a net positive for the intelligence community. Consider all those IoT devices with their sensors and poorly updated firmware. We’re hardly going dark when — fittingly, given the metaphor — our light bulbs have motion detectors and an open port. The label is “going dark” only because the security state is losing something that it fleetingly had access to, not because it is all of a sudden lacking in vectors for useful information.’

And finally, CSIS Asia heavyweights Michael Green and Matthew Goodman proffer some useful reflections on the state of geopolitics in Asia now that the Trans-Pacific Partnership has concluded. Head over to The Washington Quarterly to take a look (PDF).


Monocle Radio has been trotting out the goods again this week in their daily series, The Globalist. Top picks from this week include a discussion on whether there’s any chance of success in the Geneva talks on Syria, and what defence wonks can expect from the US–India aircraft carrier collaboration (both 1 hr).

ABC’s Richard Fidler recently sat down with Maajid Nawaz talk about his journey from Islamist recruiter to co-founder of Quilliam Foundation, the London-based think tank focused on counterextremism. It’s a fascinating story, available here (50 mins).


While working for then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Alec Ross carved out a niche bringing innovation and technology to international relations, spearheading Clinton’s 21st century statecraft and digital diplomacy (and making him one to watch should Clinton make it to the White House). In a recent TED talk in his hometown of Baltimore, Ross runs through some of the main themes of his new book, The Industries of the Future. The video (15 mins) and book are both worth your time.

In case you missed it, Defence News recently hosted a worthwhile panel discussion (10 mins) with Bonnie Glaser, Patrick Cronin, Paul Giarra and Michael Pillsbury, who ran through China’s strategy, Obama’s pivot and developments in the East and South China seas, among some other pertinent issues.


A big couple of weeks for Canberrans ahead, starting with the Australia China Relations Institute and the University of Technology Sydney’s collaborative panel event as part of their Ambassadors Series. The second in the series will host David Irvine, Ambassador to China from 2000–2003, and Ric Smith, Australian Ambassador to China from 1996–2000. Both panellists will share insights from their time in Beijing, and the future of Australia–China relations. Mark your diaries for 16 February.

ASPI will host AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin on 25 February for a night of discussion on what’s in store for the future of the Federal Police Force, and what its capabilities might be. Register your interest for this free event here.