ASPI suggests
6 Nov 2015|
Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones

Update: ICYMI Henry Kissinger penned a WSJ op-ed back in mid-October entitled, ‘A path out of the Middle East collapse’.

Headlining the first Suggests for November is an Intelligence Squared debate on the topic ‘Containment is not enough: ISIS must be defeated’, featuring Michèle Flournoy and Philip Zelikow arguing for the proposition, and Anne-Marie Slaughter and Dov Zakheim against. Bringing to bear their collective experiences both in policymaking and research, the speakers traded blows on whether ISIS should be allowed to keep territory or whether America should lead a ‘coalition’ (or as Zakheim cynically notes, ‘coalition means if the Brits want to play’) to roll them back. Recorded in August, it’s worth listening/watching for the big picture policy vs strategy arguments and for the Q&A in which David Petraeus, sitting as a member of the audience, corrects Slaughter’s criticism of the Iraq Surge (full transcript of the event here). Food for thought for Australia, with its history as a coalition partner.

Heading now to the Asia Pacific: in a move that seemed to come out of nowhere, China’s Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s Ma Ying-jeou are set to meet in Singapore this weekend. It’ll be the first time leaders of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) have met since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Representatives from both sides have stressed that no agreements will be signed nor joint statements released, however the meeting is seen by Taiwan as an opportunity to ‘consolidate cross-strait peace’. Xi and Ma will hold a 20-minute private meeting before a press conference and dinner. Against a backdrop of tension with China, the White House has expressed cautious optimism about the meeting though welcomes moves to reduce tensions. For more on the visit, check out this NBR primer and this rundown by The Economist.

As part of his first trip overseas, Malcolm Turnbull will stop off in Jakarta next week to meet his counterpart Joko Widodo aka Jokowi. Economics and trade set to dominate the agenda. For a heads up on how Indonesia’s economy has fared in Jokowi’s hands, read Matthew Busch’s even-handed assessment over on Lowy’s Interpreter. On a more controversial note in Indonesia’s history, after Jokowi’s recent trip to the US, Margaret Scott on the New York Review of Books revisits allegations of the CIA’s links to the events of 1965 and 1966 in which hundreds of thousands of suspected Communists in the country were killed in systematic fashion.

Also in the region, Myanmar’s general election is this Sunday 8 November—the country’s first since the military junta transitioned to a ‘civilian’ government in 2011. All eyes are on leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi. For a rundown of the major players and a forecast of what will happen if Suu Kyi’s party wins, check out this BBC feature. Gateway House’s Rajiv Bhatia delves more deeply into why Myanmar’s vote matters, including for international partners like India and the US which, in his view, appears to be maintaining some distance from the NLD. Meanwhile, Damien Kingsbury expresses skepticism about the process, arguing on The Drum that it might produce unpalatable results. Lastly, CSIS’ Phuong Nguyen grapples with the obvious question: what is the military’s role in all of this?

On the health and bio security front, International Crisis Group (ICG) has brought the goods with two new reports. The first covers the politics behind the Ebola crisis which explores, among other things, the time lag in reaction between West African States and the second explores why Pakistan has remains, as ICG put it, the ‘greatest impediment to a polio-free world’.

In the EU, it’s been a decade since Angela Merkel became German Chancellor, making her one of the most powerful leaders (and women) in the world. This week The Economist looks at why, despite weathering the Eurozone crisis and successfully coralling Europe into imposing sanctions on Putin, she’s facing her greatest challenge yet—just when the region needs her most. Also in the neighbourhood, John Gower of Carnegie Endowment explains why it’s time for the UK to have a strategic review of its nuclear weapons.

Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a gender-equal and diverse cabinet this week. Among the portfolio-holders is Lieutenant Colonel (rtd) Harjit Singh Sajjan, a Sikh immigrant from India and the first from the religion to command a Canadian army regiment. First working as a police officer in Vancouver for 11 years, Sajjan deployed with the army to Bosnia and three times to Afghanistan—an experience that was ‘humbling’, he says. Lastly, there’s potential synergy between Canada and Australia in the area of Women, Peace and Security. Sajjan’s position on inclusion is clear: ‘There is no debate at all for women not being in combat. I consider Canadian forces probably one of the most welcoming organizations in Canada.’ Watch this space.

Lastly, is fiction useful for the strategist? In a Scholar’s Stage post, T. Greer explores the limits of the (not so original) practice of using fictional works like Game of Thrones to teach strategy. For a rebuttal, check out Diane Mayne’s thoughts over on The Bridge.


Shifting gears to the Baltics, US Ambassador to Lithuania Deborah McCarthy discusses Russia’s information war in Baltic states and their concerns about Moscow’s aggression. That’s in the latest Smart Women Smart Power podcast by CSIS (30mins).