ASPI suggests

The world

It was another chaotic week in Spain as the central government imposed direct control of Catalonia, rescheduled elections, and arrested eight Catalan regional ministers for rebellion. Nearby, in Greece, it was a tough week for financial planner George Papadopoulos, who was repeatedly confused with the other George Papadopoulos, the former White House foreign policy adviser who was indicted after pleading guilty to lying to federal agents about his involvement with Russian intermediaries in 2016. Court documents analysed by the Atlantic offer further clarification about the role of a ‘proactive cooperator.

Saudi Arabia is being courted by a new player. China has reportedly offered to buy 5% of Saudi Aramco. Foreign Policy analyses the future benefits of this strategic investment and the political implications of such a geoeconomic shift.

Two upsetting pieces appeared in the Guardian this week on the plight of migrants and the ‘humanitarian horrors’ of immigration detention. First, a piece discussing Libya’s ‘dead end’ for African migrants hoping to get to Europe. Newly implemented EU policies are designed to keep would-be immigrants at a distance and prevent them from travelling further. Closer to home, a diary entry from one of Manus Island’s refugees, and journalist, Behrouz Boochani, describes life in the last few days before Australia’s offshore immigration centre was closed.

Defeating the Islamic State—or, for that matter, any insurgency—requires a long-lasting strategy comprising soft and hard power measures. Former US secretary of defense Ash Carter recounts how the US and allied forces succeeded in defeating IS in Syria and Iraq in this in-depth, honest op-ed. Two international counterterrorism experts, J.M. Berger and Amaranth Amarasingam, move beyond IS’s recent military setbacks and consider the wider spectrum of losses it’s contending with. Highlighting loss is particularly useful in the aftermath of attacks, which remind the public of the group’s ongoing threat.

Is Facebook’s crisis-response system well intentioned, or just another way to encourage inane engagement with mass tragedy? New York became the latest city hit by rudimentary terrorist tactics when a truck ploughed into a bike lane on 31 October, killing at least eight people. The Daily Beast discusses Facebook’s new ‘fundraiser’ feature, and an older piece from the Independent debates the utility of the ‘mark as safe’ button in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Sticking with the digital debates, in the aftermath of the Uber saga in London, Jamie Bartlett’s insightful piece for the Spectator illustrates how tech lobbyists harness the power of grassroots activism through ‘a bottom up organic movement, all orchestrated from the top’. The latest issue of the Demos Quarterly features excellent critical analysis on different tech debates, including digital skills, encryption, online hate and cyber warfare.

As we approach the hundredth anniversary of Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution (confusingly also known as the October Revolution due to calendar differences), the New Statesman has put out a long read chronicling ‘five great upheavals’ in Russia between 1917 and 2017. In a similar vein, the Guardian has this piece discussing the depth of Russian society’s historical understanding at the time of the revolution and lamenting the lack of it in contemporary society. To round out our revolutionary theme, the Pew Research Center has released the results of a survey on attitudes to different systems of government, which makes for very interesting reading.

A stunning photo series this week in the Atlantic allows us to experience the journey of Georgian shepherds in the Tusheti mountains, as they herd their 1,200 sheep down towards winter pastures.

Tech geek of the week

The field of electromagnetic manoeuvre warfare is producing new weapons and new ways of war. There’s a growing recognition of the importance of winning across the electromagnetic  spectrum, and of exploiting advanced directed-energy weapons in a domain in which cyber and electronic warfare converge for both offensive and defensive operations at the speed of light.

There are some pretty interesting current developments in unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). Boeing is developing a large UUV called Echo Voyager, and Lockheed Martin is looking to develop an ‘extra-large unmanned undersea vehicle’ called Orca. Both suggest a future that includes sophisticated UUVs that are able to operate autonomously for months.

Japan is set to get its own marines, modelled on the US Marine Corps. Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force, an ‘amphibious mobile landing force’, will defend Japan’s outermost islands, notably those territories claimed by China in the East China Sea.

The Washington-based Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessment’s 2018 Weapon systems factbook  (PDF) is out. This useful document details the ‘status, plans, procurement quantities and funding requirements’ for each major defence capability being acquired by the US military, as well as the B-21 Raider bomber, Long-range Standoff Missile, and Ground-based Strategic Deterrent (Minuteman III ICBM replacement).


On RN’s Between the Lines podcast, Tom Switzer interviews British journalist and historian Sir Max Hastings on a range of topics in international politics.

War College this week addresses the American presence in Niger following the death of US soldier La David Johnson. The discussion touches on West African politics, extremism in the region and the political mechanisms for deploying American troops.


In an interview with Sky News, captured British ISIS fighter Shabazz Suleman discusses life in the caliphate.

The third instalment of Vox Borders gives us an intriguing and nuanced look inside the insular Korean community in Japan.


Sydney, 13 November at 1800: A lecture and interview with Professor Gordon Houlden on Canada’s relationship with China. Register here.

Melbourne, 17 November at 1400: The ANU’s Nonie Tuxen presents on international education and class status in Mumbai. Register here.

Canberra, 17 November at 1500: Professor Rosemary Foot discusses the subject of her current book project: China, the United Nations and human protection. Register here.