ASPI suggests
17 Jun 2016|


Image courtesy of Flickr user Rhea Daley-Serieux

The world is once again on high terror alert mode after a series of tragic developments over the last week. As Orlando, Florida, reels after 49 people were shot down in a nightclub last weekend, Belgium and France have raised their guards after warnings about an ‘imminent’ terrorist attack from extremists traveling from Syria. The tragedy in Orlando has unfortunately led to a significant amount of over-politicised tit-for-tat: John McCain pointed the finger at President Obama; the NRA refuted the connection between guns and mass shootings; victims were blamed for not arming themselves before heading out for a night on the town; and Donald Trump celebrated his psychic abilities to predict Islamist violent extremism (but also weighed in on the debate about banning those on terrorist watch-lists from purchasing firearms). Taking a contrary stance, a poignant piece from The Atlantic Council warns about the dangers of being sucked into campaign rhetoric surrounding the massacre: avoid it at all costs. And CNN takes an interesting look at whether the shooting was an act of terror or homophobia, a hate crime or home-grown extremism. Fundamental extremism and terrorism comes in many more forms than Trump seems capable of understanding, however: the murder of British MP Jo Cox overnight—reportedly over next week’s Brexit referendum—has been predominantly referred to an act of ‘hatred’ rather than an act of terror.

With the referendum now less than a week away, this stellar report from the Quilliam Foundation (PDF) asks an important question: considering the EU’s problems with domestic terrorism, is Britain safer in or out? The Economist’s Intelligence Unit has weighed in, too—this new report maps out the impact of Brexit across a range of UK industry sectors.

It has also been a big week of new research on violent extremism, with fresh reports from all around the world. A brand new publication from Carnegie by Hassan Hassan discusses the complex genealogy of Daesh’s ideology and how understanding it key to defeating it, while James Khalil and Martine Zueuthen over at RUSI offer some thoughts to CVE policymakers on frameworks for countering the influence of radicalised individuals. The Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner has released the findings of its inquiry into Daesh’s treatments of Yazidis, finding the extremist group guilty of committing genocide; and a controversial report from The Syria Campaign has accused the UN of breaching humanitarian principles in its work in the Middle East—and perhaps prolonging the course of the conflict.

As ASEAN hangs its head in shame after an attempt to take a unified stance on aggression in the South China Sea that was quickly squashed by China, CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has created a comprehensive list looking at international support for both China and the Philippines’ claims in the upcoming Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling. For an eye-opening look at China’s regional targets by 2020, check out this brand new interactive micro-site named Perfecting China, Inc., which takes a look at China’s 13th Five-Year Plan.

Two recent releases give impressive insight into the experiences of coalition soldiers. The first is this New York Review of Books piece which looks at the experiences of injured returnees, and the second, James Brown’s Quarterly Essay, Firing Line: Australia’s Path to War, takes a more macro perspective as it asks, ‘what is it that we are willing to fight for?’ Read an excerpt here.

And finally, an incredible interactive report card from the Council of Councils looks ten major global challenges ranging from climate change to cyber governance, and grades the success of international cooperation in taking them on. Each challenge includes statistics and comments from think tank leaders around the world, and is well worth testing out.


There’s been plenty of top-notch podcasts floating around this week—kicking off with two great offers from CSIS. The US think tank has launched a brand new interview series called ‘State of Journalism’, which will examine the impact of journalism and free speech on developments in policymaking and politics. Four episodes are out already, and topics range from BuzzFeed to The Washington Post. Expect more than a handful of Trump references. The second gem from CSIS is an interview (12 mins) with former US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who discusses the root causes of violent extremism and a comprehensive  international strategy to address it. It’s a must listen for CT wonks.

The Diplomat also has an interesting listen in Anders Corr’s firsthand account of visiting the disputed Scarborough Shoal with Kalayaan Atin Ito activists. Corr recounts a rumble with Chinese Coast Guard vessels and gives an overview of the Philippines’ approach to rising tensions in the South China Sea. Check it out here (20 mins).


That time of year has come around again: the US Special Operations Command has been rolling out the goods at its downtown Tampa headquarters—and lucky for us, some choice moments from the annual display has been captured on camera. Check out footage of some of SOCOM’s reenactments of real-life combat scenarios, along with some background on the demonstrations, here.

IHS Jane’s has published a brief video interview (3 mins) with Brian Gathright, BAE Systems’ campaign manager for their bid for the ADF’s LAND 400 project. It’s a great view for anyone after a bit more context on this multi-million dollar project.


Canberra: Bill Schneider, a former senior political analyst for CNN who has covered every race for the White House since Jimmy Carter took office in 1976, will offer some thoughts on the current state of US politics at ANU on 22 June. Book your tickets here.

Sydney: A dream come true for Sydney-based Indonesianists, Dewi Fortuna Anwar, senior advisor to Jusuf Kalla and former director of the Habibie Center in Jakarta, will speak at Lowy HQ on 22 June. Be sure to reserve your spot ASAP as this is bound to be a good one.