ASPI suggests

The world

Mexico voted, and The New Yorker has an in-depth profile of newly elected president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. AMLO, as he’s referred to, has a plateful of work in front of him now, from tackling domestic issues to establishing a working relationship with the man in the north.

While Donald Trump is in the headlines every day, his predecessor Barack Obama is a rare sight, even when former presidents and first ladies weigh in on recent events in the US. New York magazine put together a long overview of what Obama is up to now, and why he abstains from commenting on Trump’s latest doings.

With the NATO summit coming up next week, new CSIS research [PDF] dives into the debate of burden-sharing and whether it should be all about measuring actual troop contributions rather than adding up the $$ spent.

On the use of cyberspace as a battlefield, Steven Feldstein and David Sullivan argue in Just Security that international efforts to protect civilians in conflicts offline can teach vital lessons to help ‘protect human rights, democratic norms, and broader security of civilians online’ in potential future cyberattacks.

Social networks have started fighting on a new front: extremist and terrorism propaganda. The Sydney Morning Herald shows how Dr Erin Marie Saltman, who is responsible for counterterrorism and counterextremism policies at Facebook, attempts to do that. As most radicalisation starts online, it’s an important topic. Vice discusses the circumstances under which neo-Nazis and racists can be deradicalised and rehabilitated. Rehabilitation is also part of this read in the Washington Post about a Chechen woman whose husband was an Islamic State fighter. She was captured in Syria, but Chechen authorities returned her through their repatriation program, saying that it was ‘their duty’ to take back and rehabilitate women and children stranded in Syria or Iraq.

Another kind of battle is being fought in Poland: disputed law reforms came into effect on Tuesday, forcing retirement on Supreme Court judges. The move is causing another stand-off between Warsaw and the EU. The Guardian has the details on the legislation and the concerns of its critics, while the BBC tracks how the court’s president, Małgorzata Gersdorf, defied the law and arrived for work, dedicated to protecting the constitution. The EU Observer and Politico focus on Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s remarks in the European Parliament defending the judicial purges as necessary to fully overcome communism.

And the EU has more to worry about: this Handelsblatt analysis shows how close Germany was to losing its government coalition earlier this week, which could have paralysed European politics for months. With the EU’s full agenda, that’s a worrisome thought.

A group of lecturers from the University of Kent write on citizen preferences on the Irish border issue in The Conversation, and the Financial Times explores the difficulties to come for the UK’s civil service.

Tech geek

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Boeing are developing the Phantom Express space plane, which takes off like a rocket, releases an expendable upper stage with a small satellite, and then lands like the Space Shuttle. The program is aiming for 10 launches in 10 days by 2020. The space plane should drop launch costs to $5 million or less per launch.

China is developing the Long March 9 heavy booster that can deliver up to 140 tons to low-earth orbit. That’s more than NASA’s Space Launch System (130 tons) and challenges SpaceX’s proposed ‘BFR’ (150 tons). The rocket is designed to support China’s ambitions for a manned lunar landing and, interestingly, space-based solar-power satellites.

Google surprisingly withdrew from the Pentagon’s Project Maven, which aims to use AI to analyse massive amounts of imagery and data to better interpret highly dynamic battlefield situations. Google’s rationale for withdrawing is ethical, but former US deputy secretary of defence Robert Work argues that the company is at the same time indirectly assisting China in exploiting military-relevant AI.

The Cipher Brief looks at how Russia is trying to use cyberwarfare to sow division in strategically targeted societies to boost Moscow’s power and influence across the world. But the opportunities presented by cyberwar sit alongside a growing emphasis on nuclear capabilities, with Moscow expanding nuclear forces in Kaliningrad. Russia’s cyber, space and nuclear prowess contrasts with a patchy modernisation record for other forces, as War Is Boring explains.


The Atlantic features a photo series capturing the mission to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach in Thailand.

This DW documentary looks at the dark side of the growing interest in tea. Tea plantation workers in India don’t benefit from increasing profits and fair trade certifications; instead, pesticides and poverty dominate their lives. [28:25]

Al-Jazeera’s The Listening Post shows how coverage of anti-government demonstrations in the Democratic Republic of Congo depends on political ownership of the media outlet. [10:17]


The European Council on Foreign Relations’ ‘Mark Leonard’s World in 30 Minutes’ looks at Libya, the migration streams towards Europe originating from there, and what the future may hold based on recent domestic developments. [29:10]

A new discovery: The Popular Front Podcast focusing on modern warfare. The latest episode is about the Nagorno–Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. [1:03:27]

On the National Security Podcast, Bruce Hoffman and Sidney Jones share their insight and knowledge on jihadism with a special focus on the evolution of ISIS’s caliphate, al-Qaeda’s latest strategies and ISIS in Southeast Asia following the Marawi siege. [32:06]


Canberra, 9 July, 5–8 pm. National Archives of Australia: ‘Constitution Day Speakers’ Forum: Parliament and Citizenship’. Free registration.

Perth, 10 July, 6.30–7.30 pm. UWA Publishing and South Perth Libraries: ‘Living Green: David Ritter “The Coal Truth”’. Info and registration here.

Canberra, 12 July, 12.30–1.30 pm. School of Regulation and Global Governance: ‘Cosmopolitan Pluralism, Authoritarian Nationalism, and the Future of Liberal Governance’. More information here.