ASPI suggests

The world

Islamic State hasn’t claimed responsibility for last weekend’s blast in Mogadishu that killed more than 300 people, dispelling the popular myth that the organisation is willing to claim anything to boost its street cred. Foreign Policy’s analysis of al-Shabaab, the alleged perpetrators, discusses the Somali government’s military and political strategy against the terrorist organisation.

In the Levant, Iraqi armed forces moved into the Kurdish city of Kirkuk, which reignited their decades-long conflict. The Washington Post’s helpful analysis provides some clarity over popular misconceptions that have arisen, and this piece from the Spectator discusses Britain’s strategic role in the conflict.

The New York Times’ latest analysis of the post-caliphate future of IS excellently traces the roots of the organisation that became IS, why it gained such a huge following so fast, and how its decline will leave a vacuum guaranteed to be filled by other jihadist organisations. The latest CTC Sentinel is packed with brilliant material, especially a piece on the strong nexus between crime and jihadism in Europe, and another on the surprisingly sophisticated Sydney plane plot that was thwarted in July.

A few discussion pieces on the opioid crisis that is moving America to a public-health emergency: this piece on the family company manufacturing the addictive culprit drug OxyContin, an analysis of the failure to respond adequately to the epidemic, and a CSIS report from earlier this year detailing lessons learned from an empirical study.

For all the cloak-and-dagger types out there, the BBC is commemorating Mata Hari, ‘history’s most famous female spy’. They briefly trace Hari’s life from her birth as Margarethe Zelle in 1876, through the glamour of the ‘Belle Epoque’, and into the subterfuge of World War I. You can follow that with this piece from the Guardian about the murky world of espionage at international academic conferences. If that’s still not enough, round it out with the French show The Bureau (here on SBS), the story of French spy Guilluame Debailly, aka MALOTRU.

Moving on to some live debates. A few weeks ago, we discussed whether the nation-state was a thing of the past. Here’s an argument for why the nation-state model should remain a strong foundation, in the interests of protecting capitalism.

What’s the most effective method of interrogation? Here’s a compelling study from a husband and wife research team working to ‘revolutionise the study and practice of interrogation’.

Two fascinating pieces on the Eastern Bloc. First up, the Atlantic outlines how the Western press in Moscow during the 1930s suppressed the news of Stalin’s imposed famine of Ukrainians as a means of professional self-preservation. Second, ‘The evolution of Homo sovieticus to Putin’s man’ is a great explanation of how socioeconomic, cultural and political experiences have shaped the way Russians are today.

In a similar vein, an essay from the New York Review of Books demonstrates how cultural politics, mainly the arts, were central to Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.

In a strange twist of fate, prominent neo-Nazi Kevin Wilshaw revealed his homosexuality and his Jewish heritage after renouncing his far-right views. In other ‘people are complex’ news, a long read from the New Yorker traces political conversion through Mike Enoch’s transformation from ‘leftist contrarian to nationalist shock jock’.

Tech geek of the week, by Malcolm Davis

The return of a Russian threat to NATO is generating renewed interest in modernised tanks. Russian military modernisation emphasises updated armoured forces and nuclear weapons. Key technologies for tanks will include adding reactive armour and the active protection system from the T-14 Armata to older T-80 and T-90 tanks.

The US Army is also thinking about future tanks that will have active protection systems and be lighter than the M1A2 Abrams’ 80 tons. And it could have ‘laser’ weapons. The new tank won’t appear until 2035, alongside significantly upgraded Abrams and Bradley fighting vehicles.

Want to know what fighting ISIS is like in Marawi City in the Southern Philippines? Check out this video, which shows brutal house-to-house fighting by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the ruins of the city. After five months of fighting, it looks like government forces have won out, but the battle has been hard going.

Looking out on the technological horizon, some amazing and potentially destabilising technological shocks may appear. Technologies such as radical life extension and the development of AI are being funded by corporate billionaires, and could generate global insecurity if mishandled. Though it might not happen—the transhumanist and post-human proponents of such advances will have to battle the laws of physics to achieve their goals.

The cool idea of the week is an electromagnetic railgun to launch CubeSats into orbit. When they absolutely, positively have to be in space—fast!


Three interview podcasts for listeners this week.

The CSIS has an interview with Christine Mahoney, associate professor at the University of Virginia, about displaced people and the possibilities of integration.

For the thinking behind the Kurdish referendum, BBC Hardtalk has an interview with Masrour Barzani, the intelligence and security chief of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The New York Times’ podcast, ‘The Daily’, has interviews with Rod Nordland and Rukmini Callimachi about the state of ISIS as it loses territory.


Photos: Gallery of wildlife photographer of the year winners.

Vox gives us an interesting look into the relationship between Haiti and Dominican Republic, the two nations of the island of Hispaniola.

For a change of pace, here is the story of Laika, the heroic Soviet dog who was fired into space on Sputnik 2 and sadly never made it home.


Canberra, 23 October at 1500: ANU is hosting Dr Ryan Griffiths for ‘The Strategy of Secession’ seminar to discuss how breakaway regions become internationally recognised states. Details here.

Canberra, 23 October at 1730: Book launch of Learning from Fukushima: nuclear power in East Asia. The many authors will each present the results of their work. Register here.

Canberra, 25 October at 1800: Ben Archer will present at AIIA on ‘Bhutan: a new focus for Australia?’ Tickets here.