ASPI suggests
29 Jan 2016|
PHOTO CAPTION: A U.S. Army Ranger pilot and female crew chief conduct flight operations in a helicopter.

My final Suggests! Keep reading for this week’s best reports, podcasts, videos and more.

Top of today’s list is the stellar biography The Good Spy: the life and death of Robert Ames (h/t Kramerbooks), a CIA officer who possessed a deep knowledge of the Middle East and an extraordinary ability to forge meaningful relationships and back-channel connections with key Arab figures. Apart from being an in-depth look at Ames’ life starting from his early days in training, it doubles as an education of Middle East politics and the dealings of the American intelligence machinery from the 1970s until his death in a 1983 truck bombing in Beirut. Listen to author Kai Bird, Ames’ neighbour in Beirut, in this Brookings podcast with Bruce Riedel on the lessons from Ames’ life and how relations between the Arab and Western worlds might be different but for his work (90mins). For more, read James Mann’s review of The Good Spy here.

Who run the world? Congratulations to the latest batch of Foreign Policy Interrupted fellows, women with impact and attitude set to amplify diverse voices in foreign policy commentary and analysis! They are Yolande Bouka (a research associate specialising in African politics and security), Cori Crider (a lawyer specialising in the most serious violations of the ‘war on terror’ including Guantánamo and CIA torture), Elina Ribakova (a fellow specialising in policy initiatives ranging from global financial architecture to migration) and Irene S. Wu (author of Forging Trust Communities: how technology changes politics).

Anna Powles and Jose Sousa-Santos have a fascinating piece on Lowy’s Interpreter on Russian arms shipments to Fiji (h/t DL). While the deal wasn’t secret (nor transparent), Powles and Sousa-Santos look at why the Fijian government was so hush-hush and whether this signal’s Fiji’s pivot away from the West. In their view, Fiji had cultivated deeper defence ties with countries like Russia and China during the era of sanctions applied by Australia, New Zealand and the US and ‘a whole new cadre of RFMF officers who received their staff course education in Russia, China, or India, for example…have no ties to Australia and New Zealand. Keep reading for Russia’s interests in the South Pacific.

The National Bureau of Asian Research has just dropped a new report that sheds light on what non-claimant states think about the South China Sea disputes. Indonesia is out of its comfort zone (daaaaaanger zone?), according to Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto while Rory Medcalf says it’s uncertain how far Australia is willing to go in asserting its rights to FoN.

Two newbies from War On The Rocks: the first by Radha Iyengar and Rebecca Friedman Lissner looks at Iran, terrorism and nonproliferation after the nuclear deal, and the second by CNAS’ Jerry Hendrix says that America has a naval presence problem.

The German military is not fit for purpose. That’s the finding of the German parliamentary ombudsman, Hans-Peter Bartels, responsible for reviewing the Bundeswehr. VICE News looks at Bartels’ report, discussing the small and ‘demoralised’ force that, according to one analyst, never created a ‘warrior class’ after the end of World War II. Even Poland’s Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz remarked that his country is ‘seriously worried’ about weaker German forces (that irony is lost on no-one). But how weak is weak? As a snapshot, only 38 of Germany’s 114 Eurofighters are operational and 29 of its 93 Tornado jets. Keep reading here for Angela Merkel’s plans to address the state of Germany’s defence.

To the special forces film junkies, Gareth Evans (no, not the foreign minister), director of the Indonesian martial arts/police action films The Raid and The Raid 2, has something new for you: a samurai film (h/t Nick Prime). Check out this five-minute clip of Evans’ latest piece, set during a civil war, on a young warrior delivering a treaty between two rival lords.


What did the five fingers say to the face? In a new Military Affairs podcast, Samantha Newbery discusses the history, efficacy and impact of the so-called ‘Five Techniques’ of enhanced interrogation used by British authorities in Aden, Northern Ireland and Iraq. She explores that subject at length in her book Interrogation, intelligence and security: controversial British techniques 1963–2003 and, together with Brian Stewart, examines the uses and abuses of intelligence in the real world in Why Spy? The Art of Intelligence.

What’s life like on a US Navy submarine? Do submariners listen to Lauryn Hill? What kind of whiskey do they drink? In the latest Sea Control: Asia Pacific podcast, I interview former US Navy submariners and Navy divers Walter Lyon and Josh Toth who host podcast series Diver Tough. We chat about #submarinerlife, the best tunes to listen to under the sea, the end of combat exclusion for women and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (49mins).


We need to talk about war. has been encouraging a conversation on one of humanity’s oldest activities for a number of years now. Worth watching in its War Stories playlist are the then Netherlands Chief of Defense, General Peter van Uhm, on why he chose the gun (17mins), Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on the Taliban school for suicide bombers (9mins) and Deborah Scranton on her Iraq war movie crowd-sourced from soldiers (17mins),

Check out the trailer for the latest war film in the vein of Restrepo and Armadillo, A War. Made in Denmark, it’s a fictional story of a Danish company commander in Helmand who, making a decision that results in civilian casualties, faces a court martial upon his return home (2mins30s).

To all Strategist readers, thank you for your support over the past three and a half years.

This is Natalie Sambhi, last survivor of the original Strategist team, signing off.