ASPI suggests

The world

This week marked the 18th school shooting of 2018 in the US. The Daily Beast discusses how the perpetrator trained with Republic of Florida, a white supremacist separatist group, from which he acquired firearms. The tragic attack comes only days after a former neo-Nazi turned anti-racist activist revealed that white supremacists have joined law enforcement agencies and the military to get access to weapons and combat training. They’ve used these networks to recruit followers. The hypocrisy of Congress members who’ve received NRA funding but took to Twitter offering condolences after the shooting was exposed by Bess Kalb. See last year’s New York Times piece on this.

In Italy, following yet another shooting rampage by a far-right gunman last week, thousands of anti-fascist demonstrators gathered across the country. Michael Ebner offers a glimpse into Italy’s fascist past in this book excerpt. With elections around the corner, The Local has a who’s who of the main candidates, while Politico looks at the main parties’ manifestos—some more ridiculous than others.

Despite Olympic distractions on the Korean peninsula, all eyes remain fixed to the north. Tensions will mount if North Korea begins missile testing or detonates another nuke. So, details of possible US planning for a ‘bloody nose’ strategy on the peninsula assume greater relevance. Yochi Dreazen chillingly writes at length about what a war would look like:  nukes yes, but biological and chemical weapons as well.

The gap between rich and poor is widening across the globe, but it’s in India where the lack of a middle class becomes especially apparent. The Economist argues that India won’t be the next China and offers advice for companies to prepare accordingly. Meanwhile, this Foreign Affairs analysis by Chris Miller explains Putinomics—the secret recipe for Vladimir Putin’s success.

February 12 marked the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers. IRIN published a piece highlighting that 40% of child soldiers are girls. And this new report from the United Nations University, ‘Cradled by conflict: child involvement with armed groups in contemporary conflict’, looks at non-state actors that recruit children and advises how the international community can respond. Personal stories of former child soldiers can be listened to here and here.

The Combating Terrorism Center’s 15th anniversary issue is jam-packed, with an excellent analysis of the conflict dynamics of al-Qaeda’s factions in Syria and Yemen, as well as interesting commentary on policing and law enforcement cooperation in the UK, US and Europe. Fred Wehrey examines what drives Libyan youths to militancy and extremism in The Atlantic.

And for a few unorthodox pieces: The Age investigates the Catholic church in Australia, valuing the institution at over $30 billion and raising troubling questions about the church’s failure to compensate survivors of child sex abuse. A long read in Wired discusses Facebook’s impact on global affairs following a two-year saga that forced Mark Zuckerburg to (somewhat belatedly) accept the integral relationship between Facebook and politics. And finally, here’s a compelling account of the friendship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Martha Gellhorn.

Tech geek

Following SpaceX’s successful launch of its Falcon Heavy launcher last week, China, Russia and India have all announced that they’ll develop similar launch vehicles.

With China moving ahead with naval railguns, the US is responding with ‘lasers’ at sea. While railguns blast projectiles at hypersonic speeds, lasers have the speed-of-light advantage—300,000 kilometres per second—and are potentially far cheaper to operate. Lasers, though, are line-of-sight to the visible horizon, whereas railguns potentially can fire projectiles over hundreds of kilometres.

Finally, angst is rising over plans in the US Air Force’s new ‘bomber vector’ roadmap to prematurely retire the B-2 well before the end of its operational life.


Channel 4 spent a week in Ciudad Juarez, a crossing point for people and drugs bound for the US, and one of the main sites in Mexico’s drug war. Guillermo Galdos speaks with forensic teams, journalists and families whose daughters have gone missing, and also interviews a cartel hitman. Disclaimer: contains some scenes viewers may find distressing. [15:16]


In its 50th episode, the CSIS’ Russian Roulette podcast was lucky enough to speak to presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak  about her experiences in the election campaign, challenging Putin and how she would change the country. (No worries, it’s in English!) [19:31]

Shaping the conversation in defence industry. Defence Connect speaks to Kate Louis, former First Assistant Secretary, Defence Industry Policy, about how cybersecurity threats affect the defence industry [34:26]


Canberra, 21 February, 5.30–6.15 pm, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific: ‘A foreign affair with Geraldine Doogue, Bob Carr, Menna Rawlings and Professor Michael Wesley’. Register here.

Canberra, 23 February, 6–7 pm, National Centre for Indigenous Studies, ANU: ‘The 2018 Annual ANU Reconciliation Lecture: Reconciliation, treaty making and nation building’. Information here.