Friday 26 Apr 2019 | 21:41 | SYDNEY
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The International Security Program

The International Security Program looks at strategic dynamics and security risks globally, with an emphasis on Australia's region of Indo-Pacific Asia. Its research spans strategic competition and the risks of conflict in Asia, security implications of the rise of China and India, maritime security, nuclear arms control, Australian defence policy and the changing character of conflict. The Program draws on a network of experts in Australia, Asia and globally, and is supported by diverse funding sources including grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the Nuclear Threat Initiative. It convenes international policy dialogues such as the 2017 Australia-ROK Emerging Leaders International Security Forum and has a record of producing leading-edge, influential reports.

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Latest Publications

South China Sea: Trust vs confidence-building

Australians may be preoccupied with election politics, but the big strategic problems of their Indo-Pacific Asian region have hardly gone away. It was therefore refreshing to see Foreign Minister Bob Carr this week speaking at a conference on the security challenges in the South China Sea, with nary

Nagl: Drones precluded US invasion of Pakistan

Douglas Fry is a Fairfax Media writer. 'Were it not for drones, the United States would probably have had to have invade Pakistan.' So declared Dr John Nagl at a public lecture hosted by the ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in Canberra on Tuesday, 13 August. It's a bold – and alarming

Why are world militaries in decline?

Stanford Professor James Fearon explains his latest research (and here's a more readable version of the above graph): The black line is the average across countries of military spending as a percentage of GDP, using the Correlates of War (COW) estimate of total spending divided by World Bank

Flat-tops everywhere

A quick update on the regional boom in 'flat-tops'; that is true aircraft carriers for fast-jet operations and also amphibious ships with large flight decks designed to carry helicopters and maybe drones and jump jets. There's been something of a boom in this type of vessel in the region, though I

Indo-Pacific word games

Danielle Rajendram is a Lowy Institute research associate. Her work focuses on Indian foreign and domestic policy, India-China relations and Asian security. One slightly jarring note in this week's Australian foreign policy debate was the unusual way Shadow Foreign Minister Julie Bishop chose to

In 100 words: The most important issue of this campaign

Short posts from Lowy Institute experts on what they regard as the most important international policy issue of this campaign. See the Election Interpreter 2013 archive for the whole series. Australia needs to get ready for the risks as well as the opportunities of an Asian Century: that should

China's worrying blue-water ambitions

[youtube:HUPVW2ep4oc#] Compared with the Rudd Government's 2009 Defence White Paper, which was criticised for what many viewed as its alarmist treatment of China's rise, the most recent White Paper, released in April this year, has become known for its considerably more relaxed take on the issue.

Short film: The Flying Man

Via Sullivan, I came across a rather dark short film called The Flying Man, which takes a subversive look at the superhero genre. The critic Sullivan links to describes it as a commentary on vigilantism: In this beautiful, unsettling short film, “The Flying Man,” a powerful Übermensch

Australia's South China Sea chance

All those countries (including Australia) that so solemnly call for a 'rules-based order' in Indo-Pacific Asia have a chance today to show they mean it. At a major gathering in Brunei, the annual ASEAN Regional Forum, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr and his counterparts have an opportunity to

Why Syria is not like Bosnia

Gorana Grgic is a PhD candidate in the Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney. Ever since the Obama Administration announced it would provide direct military support to the Syrian opposition, foreign policy analysts have been busy recommending where to go from

Syria: It's the ground war, stupid

The Syrian civil war is a land battle. Comparisons with Libya and talk of no-fly zones (NFZ) as some kind of low-risk game changer ignore this fact. As the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted recently, 90% of the casualties inflicted by the regime (and 100% of those killed by the

Defence in depth: Better or worse?

Dougal Robinson is a Lowy Institute defence intern. As the Australian Defence Force approaches the end of a period of high operational tempo, this third Defence in Depth video (you can watch the whole series and read commentary about it on this debate thread) asks experts whether the ADF is

Defence cultural change will take time

Samantha Crompvoets is a sociologist, a research fellow in the ANU Medical School and a contractor to the Department of Defence. This week's Army sex scandal is not a reflection that cultural change and the intent behind the Defence Department's March 2012 Pathway to Change report on Defence

Defence policy: Self-reliant or self-deluded?

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq. The video cameos featured in Dougal Robinson's post, Defence in Depth: Strategic Partners, go to two of the most important concepts in Australian defence: self-reliance and self-delusion. Jack Georgieff looks more directly at

Reader riposte: NSA spying

Kirill Reztsov responds to my post arguing that those against government snooping of our online activity have only themselves to blame: Until Edward Snowden leaked the information about NSA's activities the public had no idea about the program because it was secret.They could not have assented

NSA spying: The enemy is us

I don't blame civil libertarians for being alarmed by revelations that the US Government is apparently tracking every electronic communication everywhere, although David Simon (of The Wire fame) makes a pretty solid argument (since partly revised) that the outrage has been overdone. I also

Counter-terrorism: Why meta-data matters

Simon Palombi is a Master of Laws candidate at the University of Sydney. When news broke that the US National Security Agency has been collecting meta-data off social networking and telecommunications companies, discussion instantly turned to whether PRISM, the NSA's data collection program, was an

Reader riposte: China-US surprises

Cecelia O'Brien responds to last Friday's Defence in Depth video: When I was a young grad student I had a professor who told us that if we had ten data sets and nine of those sets all had the same result, we should then devote our utmost attention to the one data set that did not get the same

Defence in depth: Strategic partners

Dougal Robinson is a Lowy Institute defence intern. In this second video of the Defence in Depth series (part 1 on the defence budget), we asked defence experts to identify Australia's two most important strategic relationships. There was a strong consensus that the US is Australia's most

Self-reliance: Mere lip service to a bygone notion?

Jack Georgieff is the 2013 Thawley Research Scholar in International Security at the Lowy Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC. The notion of 'self-reliance' that lies at the heart of Australian defence strategy is woefully under-analysed in our national

Reader riposte: US surveillance in China's EEZ

Mark Valencia responds to Is China 'Reciprocating' US Maritime Surveillance?: I usually enjoy Rory Medcalf’s iconoclastic analyses. But this one – unless it is tongue in cheek — is quite misleading and full of wishful thinking. Of course China resents US 'surveillance' in its EEZ because

The rebalance and the sequester

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was in full reassurance mode at the Shangri-La Dialogue over the weekend. Not so US congressman Randy Forbes in an interview on the rebalance to the Asia Pacific yesterday. Forbes is the vocal Seapower and Projection Forces Chair of the House Armed Services

Advice to McCain on Syria: Trust no one

It sounded so perfect. The hawkish Republican war hero John McCain visiting rebel-held Syrian territory to show the locals that not all US politicians are lily-livered liberals who have doubts about arming the Syrian freedom fighters. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which McCain is a

Shangri-La missile defence

As Rory Medcalf said yesterday, often the most memorable things to come out of big events like the Shangri-La Dialogue are from the working groups rather than the big set-piece speeches. That was true not only of Rory's session on incidents at sea, but the one I attended yesterday on ballistic

Is China 'reciprocating' US maritime surveillance?

The best stories from the Shangri-la Dialogue, Asia's leading informal defence gathering, do not come from the public utterances of high-profile figures like Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Indeed, the most extraordinary thing I heard at the first full day of this year's dialogue here in Singapore

Shangri-La snippets

One of the talking points so far has been how vocal the Chinese delegation has been from the floor. The blunt question put to Secretary Hagel is just one example; in every session so far, one representative from the PLA has put a polite but firm line. UK Defense Secretary Hammond suggested that

Chuck Hagel at the Shangri-La Dialogue

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has just finished his remarks here at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore and has left for bilateral meetings. What kind of speech was it? I ran into a couple of American journalists this morning who had seen a transcript of Hagel's speech and said there was

The Interpreter this weekend

Usually we observe strict radio silence on weekends here on The Interpreter, but do check in with us tomorrow and Sunday for analysis and (I hope) some interviews from the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore, a think tank conference that has become something of a staple in the Asia Pacific's regional

Cyber: Four Corners overcooks it

I've been mulling over Monday night's Four Corners report on cybersecurity, and I find that my feelings are captured nicely by a Bruce Scheier column from back in March: ...remember: none of this is cyberwar. It's all espionage, something that's been going on between countries ever since

An end to the war on terrorism?

On the face of it, President Obama's speech calling for an end to the 'perpetual' war on terrorism could not have been timed much worse. Obama's political opponents could easily accuse him of retreating in the fight against terrorism just as terrorists make another brutal statement of intent on

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