ASPI suggests
1 Apr 2016| and

Image courtesy of Flickr user MrT HK

Head honchos from 50 nations gathered in Washington DC this week for the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit, a biennial gathering launched by President Barack Obama after he set out his vision for a nuclear free world in a speech in Prague soon after his 2009 inauguration. Head on over to CNN and Brookings for useful primers on the 2016 iteration; Defense One looks back over the past 12 months to pull together seven solid pieces of background reading; and the NTI Nuclear Security Index has a cheat sheet to help outsiders decode ‘summit speak’. Breaking Defense carries Michael Krepon’s critique of American and Russian nuclear modernisation plans. The New York Times reports that action on the sidelines threatened to overshadow the Summit: Russia’s Putin wasn’t invited; Turkey’s Erdogan was initially refused an audience with the US President, and while the meeting between Xi and Obama was cordial on the subject of climate change, it took a turn for the worse when contentious issues like the South China Sea came up.

If Xi Jinping is a more powerful leader than his predecessors, why isn’t his impact being felt in the lives of everyday Chinese people? In this week’s cover story, The Economist examines the personality cult surrounding the Chinese premier, and how his policies have worked to fuel discontent among China’s elite.

Two compelling reads on terrorism this week. The first, from Lapham’s Quarterly, is a historical survey of barbarism, which notes the many precedents to Daesh’s brutality. The second is from CSIS’s Burke Chair in Strategy, Anthony Cordesman, who has this week updated a graphic survey to illuminate some of the recent trends in terrorism. Cordesman writes:

‘Virtually all of the data available indicate that [terrorist] threats to the United States and its allies remain critical and that the geographic scope and intensity of terrorism continues to increase. At the same time, there are critical problems and shortfalls in the data available, a near total lack of credible unclassified data on the cost and effectiveness of various counterterrorism efforts, and critical problems in the ways the United States approaches terrorism.’

While it landed a few days before April Fools’ pranks were in full swing, Donald J. Trump has this week used two interviews to give us a glimpse of the foreign policy he would prosecute in the White House: the first is at The Washington Post, and the second comes courtesy of The New York Times (see here for highlights). Reactions to The Donald’s ‘America First’ policies have been frosty at best: The New York Times Editorial Board branded Trump’s policies as ‘dangerous babble’ that shifts from one minute to the next; Japan and South Korea have lashed out over the proposal to withdraw US military support to the two countries and the recommendation that they acquire nuclear arsenals to protect themselves (arms race, anyone?); and TIME dived into the political baggage behind the branding of Trump’s foreign policy position. War on the Rocks also weighs in with this piece which ask whether the idea of presidential doctrines is outdated.

In tech news, the USN’s next generation guided missile destroyer, USS Zumwalt has successfully completed builder’s trials. The Diplomat has a short but sweet piece on the project, while Defense News offers a more exhaustive exploration, along with an exclusive photo-laden look inside the new destroyer.


Monocle’s The Globalist series continues to deliver the goods, with two exceptional listens this week. The first (59 mins) looks at Daesh’s defeat at the ancient ruins of Palmyra and whether that loss has dealt a fatal blow to the terrorist organisation—as well as what Japan’s new security laws mean for the country’s traditional pacifist stance. And the second (1 hr) examines the horrors that unfolded in Pakistan last weekend and China’s freshly appointed special envoy to Syria, and what an increasing Sino presence might mean in the Middle East.

Over at the Council on Foreign Relations, Professor Elizabeth Saunders of George Washington University, an expert in US foreign policy and the American presidency, discusses how high-level diplomatic visits can shape bilateral relations and how differences in perceptions between leaders can lead them to pursue different intervention strategies. Check out the interview here (19 mins).


Head on over to The Atlantic explore Daesh by the numbers. The site has put together a bite-sided primer exploring the group’s territorial control (or lack thereof) in Iraq and Syria, its rule over 6–7 million living in those territories, its fighting force, and its international efforts and allies. Check it out here (3 mins).

Fusion has a fascinating easy-access video on the use of big data in police work, specifically looking at the risks and reality of predictive policing. (13 mins)


Canberra: Rock up to the Hedley Bull Centre at 6pm on 12 April to hear Dr Meleah Hampton, a historian at the Australian War Memorial, will speak about the World War One battle that never was: Mouquet Farm 1916. Register here.

Sydney: Dr Parris Chang, the former deputy head of the Republic of China’s National Security Council, will speak at the AIIA’s Sydney branch on 5 April on how Taiwan’s sixth democratically elected president, Tsai Ing-wen, will manage a range of economic and security-related issues facing her country when she takes office on 20 May. Register online.