ASPI suggests: Easter edition
19 Apr 2014|

Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin form up around Brig. Gen. John Frewen, 1st Brigade commanding general and senior Australian Defence Force officer for Robertson Barracks, to listen to him speak about expectations with the rotation, April 11. Frewen said the rotation is a tangible sign of the strength between Australia and the United States.

It’s a long weekend in Australia with Easter public holidays so regular blogging will resume Tuesday 22 April. Until then, here are ASPI’s picks in new reports and other interesting things to read, view or listen to.

Let’s kick off with a futuristic piece by Patrick Tucker over at Defense One on why there will be a robot uprising. Tucker explores research by computer scientist and entrepreneur Steven Omohundro that says artificial intelligence will be ‘anti-social’ unless design changes are made today. Essentially, robots are ‘utility function junkies’ which means that they’ll obsessively refine their primary task without worrying about ‘costs in terms of relationships, discomfort to others, etc., unless those costs present clear barriers to more primary function. This sort of computer behavior is anti-social, not fully logical, but not entirely illogical either.’ Keep reading here.

For policymakers working on how to deepen defence cooperation between states, this Clingendael report examines the interactions between sovereignty and defence cooperation in the case of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Although it relies on a European case study, some of the key findings are useful in contemplating the challenges of expanding defence cooperation and building trust in our region.

If you’re interested in what has happened to the US rebalance, this longer WaPo article explores how President Obama intends to reinvigorate his Asia strategy. It’s also a useful overview of the rebalance’s genesis and how it has responded to some of the region’s challenges like the announcement of China’s ADIZ.

Speaking of American ties to the region, the US and South Korea have just announced that they’ve agreed to bolster efforts to deter North Korean provocations. Of note is a joint statement (full text here) that includes the line ‘The two sides discussed ways to strengthen the combined defense posture to defend the Republic of Korea and to deter North Korean aggression by enhancing combined Alliance capabilities, and continuing combined exercises.’ This development follows the end of Exercise SsangYong, a bilateral amphibious assault exercise between the US Navy and Marines with South Korea Marines as well as a small contingent of Australian forces.

If you’re interested in private military contractors, check out CIMSEC’s special series that includes part I of Scott Cheney-Peters’ work on private maritime security companies (PMSCs) in South and Southeast Asia. It’s worth reading for a rundown of the historical trade context and threats like piracy that give rise to PMSCs.

For defence capability, our pick is an RSIS commentary by Wu Shang-su (PDF) that looks at the viability of Taiwan’s indigenous submarine program. In addition to establishing a domestic ship-building industry, Wu argues that Taiwan will also face political challenges in its bilateral relations with both the US and China as well as technological ones if it pursued a diesel (SSK) design.


In the first episode of a New Mandala video series (approx 12 minutes in length), ANU’s Ross Tapsell interviews his colleague Greg Fealy and prominent Indonesian activist and political analyst Usman Hamid on the implications of the recent Indonesian legislative elections for Jokowi and the presidency.

It’s been two years since the first 250 US Marines touched down in Darwin as part of a rotational force designed to further strengthen the alliance through training and working with the ADF. The latest contingent to arrive in Darwin a few weeks ago is now 1,150 personnel in size. This video is a brief behind-the-scenes glimpse of their arrival, including a look at the kinds of additional air assets the Marines have brought with them to support their rotation. For an insight on how the forces are sharing knowledge and building interoperability, this short video captures some weapons training and impressions of both the American and Australian personnel.


Lastly, listen to the first Asia Pacific segment in CIMSEC’s Sea Control podcast series, featuring interviews with ASPI analysts. This week, I interviewed Rosalyn Turner on her recent research on unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) including the type being used now in the MH370 aircraft search. The podcast also features Mark Thomson on the challenges of picking Australia’s future submarine.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user US Marine Corps.