ASPI suggests
8 Jul 2016|

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jasn

Welcome back to another week of ASPI suggests, where we’ll kick off with a quick look at some of the debate around FBI chief James Comey’s announcement on Tuesday that the Bureau won’t be recommending criminal charges over Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information. Politico asks the simplest question: while everyone’s looking at the emails that have been made public, what’s missing from Clinton’s email history and why might those emails have been deleted? The Washington Post questions Comey’s presentation, which saw him spend 14 minutes building an unquestionable case for Clinton’s negligence before branding it as solely ‘extremely careless’. And The Atlantic takes a detailed look at this and other familiar scandals (from Lewinski to Benghazi) that might come back to bite Clinton during the race for the Oval Office.

But there’s no way HRC is having a worse week than The Donald, who has missed the opportunity to use the ‘ready-made attack ad’ that is Comey’s verdict. (Check out this piece from Vanity Fair on how Clinton’s victory is actually Trump’s gain). This week, Trump not only made his (thinly-veiled) debut as Marvel Comics’ latest villain and praised Saddam Hussein at a North Carolina rally, but was also forced to defend an image used by his campaign—widely viewed as anti-Semitic—which degenerated into a Twitter row with Clinton on… Frozen. Let it go, Donald.

Another headline-topper this week was the release of the long-awaited Chilcot report on the reasons behind the UK’s entry to the war in Iraq, which clocked in at a cool 2.6 million words. Two good pieces from The Economist unpack the findings of the report: the first on the lessons on supporting the invasion of Iraq, the second on the report’s significance. An article by Peter Leahy in The Australian argues that we shouldn’t be calling for our own inquiry anytime soon, and openDemocracy UK republished a 2003 interview with Ron G Manley—who was responsible for chemical weapons destruction operations in Iraq in the early 90s—on the legitimacy of claims about Iraq’s WMDs. But if an in-depth understanding of the whole report is what you’re after, follow The @ChilcotBot: the Chilcot report, one Tweet at a time.

But if Chilcot hasn’t been enough to distract you from what’s been happening in the UK with the Brexit referendum, have a gander at this Venn diagram from Vox which looks at why no moves have been made towards formally withdrawing from the EU—because it’s impossible to do so ‘without causing a political or economic crisis’.

For a longer weekend read, look no further than this stellar new piece from The New Yorker which frames music as a tool of evil and discusses its use by various authoritarian dictatorships and in interrogation techniques:

Music has accompanied acts of war since trumpets sounded at the walls of Jericho, but in recent decades it has been weaponized as never before—outfitted for the unreal landscape of modern battle’

And finally, as the PCA’s ruling on The Philippines v. China case approaches, this week’s fresh research is dominated by maritime security analysis. In International Affairs (PDF), Katherine Morton asks if it’s possible to balance China’s South China Sea ambitions with a legitimate maritime order, while over at War on the Rocks an interesting new piece (adapted from this report by The National Bureau of Asian Research) offers some thoughts on cooperative initiatives to ease US–China maritime tensions. A new publication from the International Crisis Group (PDF) looks at methods to prevent China and Japan butting heads in the East China Sea from becoming all-out war, and CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative examines Vietnam’s island-building plans, comparing them to China’s larger-scale and less environmentally-friendly efforts.


Harvard’s Shorenstein Center has released an interview (14 mins) with Paul Wood, a BBC world affairs correspondent, on his new paper, ‘The Pen and the Sword: Reporting ISIS’. Not for the faint-hearted, Wood’s research focuses on the experiences of journalists kidnapped and held hostage by the caliphate. He also queries the role of journalists reporting on the Middle East: are they there to unbiasedly inform the world, or to emotively rally a global response to atrocities?

In this week’s episode (28 mins) of Foreign Policy’s podcast series The E.R., David Rothkopf, Kori Schake, Ben Pauker and Financial Times’ Ed Luce ask whether globalisation—or simply a rise in nationalism and xenophobia—is to blame for the UK’s au revoir to the European Union, and if similar voter demographics across the Atlantic might spell trouble for the US presidential election.


Love him or hate him, there’s no doubt that Barack Obama is one of the most consequential presidents in the history of US politics. Vox takes a brief look (5 mins) at some of his most divisive accomplishments, including appointing two of the four women who have served in the US Supreme Court (both of whom played a role in legalising same-sex marriage in the US) and moving to normalise US–Cuba relations.

Another pick on the US, this great little video (4 mins) from the Council on Foreign Relations looks at how the trade policy of the future president will affect the lives of millions of Americans, and offers some thoughts on how to ‘promote growth, while helping Americans adjust to new competition and ensuring regulatory standards’.

And finally, Slate offers a big-picture look (4 mins) at the military strategies employed by the Bolton army and Jon Snow’s troops in the mind-blowing 9th episode of Game of Thrones, which is said to be inspired by the battle of Cannae from the Second Punic War in 216 BC. A must-watch for any GoT and/or strategy wonk.


Canberra: ANU’s Bell School will host a discussion next Monday with Dr Andrew Futter on the nexus between the rise of cyber warfare capabilities and nuclear weapons. This talk will be a great way to get ahead of the curve on a significant issue for regulating global nuclear security, so make sure you register your interest here.

Melbourne: Head along to AIIA’s Melbourne HQ on 12 July for what’s bound to be a great talk on India’s response and reaction to China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ policy initiative. Dr Pradeep Taneja will take a look at the changing discourses of India’s neighbours and expanding the Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean