Welcome back to our weekly round-up of new reports, podcasts and other news in the defence, security and strategy world.
Today’s headlining item is a timely exploration by Usman Hamid on New Mandala of the human rights record of Indonesia’s presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto and, somewhat surprisingly given his clean reputation, Joko Widodo (Jokowi). On the Prabowo front, Hamid delves into unresolved cases of abduction and torture of democracy activists around 1997–98. For Jokowi, Hamid draws attention not to his personal record (because frankly, he’s pretty clean), rather the implications of his association with generals of questionable human rights backgrounds. It’s a recommended read for those interested in the finer details of Indonesia’s future leadership, particularly in light of Australia’s position on human rights.
War, huh, what is it good for? Quite a bit argues historian Ian Morris in his new book of that title. Here’s a thoughtful review from The Spectator. To give you a sense of the argument, the review begins with this challenging thought:
At the heart of this work is a startling and improbable statistic and the equally surprising and counterintuitive thesis that flows out of it. We are used to looking back on the 20th century as comfortably the most violent in all human history — the silver medal usually goes to the 14th — but if Ian Morris (a fellow at Stanford University) is to be believed, the century that could wipe out perhaps 50 million to 100 million in two world wars and throw in the gulags, the Cultural Revolution, civil wars, government-orchestrated famine, trench-stewed pandemics and any number of genocides for good measure was, in fact, the safest there has ever been.
Also on the topic of war, it seems that the CIA and Pentagon are at odds over the drawdown in Afghanistan. The LA Times reports that the CIA plans to close its bases and withdraw its people mid-2014, which the Pentagon fears will leave it without vital intelligence during the ‘fighting season’. The CIA has linked the withdrawal of US troops—who provide protection for intelligence posts—to their exit plans. This is a case in point about the close relationships between intelligence organisations and the military as well as the level of inter-agency coordination required to meet security objectives abroad.
Turning now to peace (or peacekeeping), SIPRI has a newish report on the lethality of peace operations. Authors Jaïr van der Lijn and Jane Dundon examine the reduction in the contribution of peacekeepers to Africa from European and North American countries. They found peacekeeping missions in Africa were not the most dangerous for peacekeepers and can’t be used to justify Western countries not contributing. In other words, they argue, if it’s not in your national interest, just say so.
In our technology pick for the week, DefenseOne reports that US researchers have come up with a fabric containing carbon nanotubes that could protect wearers against the effects of nerve agents, with obvious application to CBRNe contexts.
In recognition of May 4th, Strategist co-editor Kristy Bryden recommends this Medium piece that applies the notorious Field Manual (FM) 3-24 on counterinsurgency to Star Wars and systematically analyses the Empire’s failure on Endor. Drawing on COIN history, the article notes:
In addition to their ignorance of physical terrain (the Imperials often showed their ignorance of METT-TC; probably because they didn’t have doctrine writers), the Imperials ignored their successes on Tatooine and failed to engage the local populace, the Ewoks. One reason could be that perhaps they underestimated the Ewoks, due to their rural society and non-threatening outward appearance. If this is the case, then the Imperial forces made the same mistakes the British did in the 18th century when encountering the Ghurkas of Nepal.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was removed from office by a constitutional court this week for abuse of power. CSIS’ Ernest Bower, the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies, has a new video on the court’s decision and Yingluck’s dismissal (duration: 3 minutes).
CNAS’ Ben Fitzgerald, director of technology and national security, discusses a new co-authored paper on decentralising cyber command and control (C2) in this Loopcast podcast (duration: 50 minutes). In the paper, the Fitgerald and LTCOL Parker Wright (USAF) note cyber security as a key priority for the Pentagon and examine four existing C2 models.
Lastly, here’s an opportunity to be part of the dynamic ASPI team—internships officially open on Monday. Interns are engaged for six months during which they develop their skills in strategic policy analysis, research and presentation. For more details and requirements, see here. Applications close Friday 23 May.
Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user US Marine Corps.