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Defence & Security

The strategic order and the nature of conflict are changing. Security competition between nations and military strategy are growing in complexity even as new transnational challenges deepen. The Lowy Institute’s experts in security and defence look at changing strategic relations, security architecture, nuclear strategy, military capabilities and defence and intelligence policy.

What’s missing from the Strategic Update

Foreign Editor for The Australian, Greg Sheridan, got his hands on a copy of the yet-to-be-released Defence Strategic Update, and he wrote about it over the weekend.  The Strategic Update is yet to pass through cabinet, but if Sheridan’s account is accurate and the recommendations are

Weight on the scales

A few months back – only in January, yet seemingly a very different time ­– Mike Mazarr and I offered some initial reflections on America’s and China’s contrasting “theories of influence”. The article prompted a series of contributions, including an initial rejoinder from Sam Roggeveen

With US Afghan exit, Russia eyes Central Asian security

Three months have passed since the United States and the Taliban signed an “Agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan”. For the Americans, it aims to put an end to the US military intervention in Afghanistan, which has lasted more than 18 years. The provisions of the agreement stipulate a

Discontinued: America’s Continuous Bomber Presence

Since 2004, the US Air Force has rotated heavy bombers through the Western Pacific island of Guam. But no more. The Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP), which started in President George W. Bush’s first term and continued through President Barack Obama’s two terms, has now been abruptly terminated

Beyond the buzz: A primer on swarms

In the world of emerging technologies, few concepts evoke excitement like swarms. The power of the swarm is in its natural formation – from bees, to schooling fish and flocking birds – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Swarms can achieve far more complex tasks than single entities

Islands of ire: The South Korea–Japan dispute

In early 2020, Japan reopened its National Museum of Territory and Sovereignty. Displays at the museum in Tokyo assert that islands disputed by Japan, South Korea and North Korea are Japanese territory and refer to these islands as Takeshima. South Korea’s government, which also claims sovereignty

ISIS looks to prosper in a world distracted by the virus

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the heart of Europe. The severity of the virus has forced policymakers to shift their priorities almost exclusively to the home front. As a result, international security concerns, particularly the fight against the remnants of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which had until

If this is war, that Zoom call is part of the battle

In recent weeks, several world leaders, including US President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, have invoked combat-related terms to summarise efforts to contain and contest the novel coronavirus and its effects. As each day we track the progress of casualties, emergency

Safety of life at sea: Covid‑19 and naval operations

The potential impact of Covid-19 on naval operations has been highlighted by reports that over half of the 2,000-plus sailors aboard the French carrier Charles de Gaulle have tested positive for COVID-19. The ship left a NATO exercise ten days early and returned to port in Toulon to allow

Counterterrorism: A woman’s game

It’s often said you can’t be what you can’t see. Whether or not that’s true (hello … what about the pioneers in their field?), shining a light on the role of women in male-dominated professions has become mainstay of International Women’s Day. National security, counterterrorism, and the

Typology of Terror Interactive

This project documents the characteristics of Australians’ contribution to global jihad in the Islamic State era. The dataset represents the largest open-source examination of Australian terrorist offenders to date. It collates data on Australian citizens and residents charged with terrorism

Power and legitimacy go hand in hand

I was delighted to read Sam Roggeveen’s thoughtful reply to The Interpreter article by Ali Wyne and myself about the relative qualities of US and Chinese power. Roggeveen makes good points; I agree, for example, that US military power has been critical to the post-war order. But I remain convinced

Being one of the boys in the military

The ruling this week by the Indian Supreme Court that allowed women to command troops in India’s armed forces comes as the latest in a series of gender reforms in democratic militaries. Despite the protestations of the Indian government that troops were not ready to follow female commanders, that

Pushing the Philippines‑US alliance over the cliff

The termination of the 1998 Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) initiated by the Duterte administration will mark a historic disruption of American power projection in the Asia-Pacific, and deal a serious blow to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea–based maritime order

US-China competition in Asia: Who risks wins

If Australians could rely on the US to remain the uncontested most powerful state in our region, and the preferred security partner for our neighbours, we would be mad not to want a future like that. Maintenance of the post-Second World War American-led order in Asia has required major sacrifices

India: Navigating the straits of capability

Early in the new year, India’s defence industry witnessed a rare moment of glory when the domestically developed light combat aircraft made its first-ever landing on the navy’s aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. It was a major achievement for the Indian navy – a force that has spearheaded

The impact of accuracy

Of all the unfortunate events of last week’s hostilities between Tehran and Washington, the most tragic was undoubtedly Iran’s use of a surface-to-air missile to shoot down an airliner, killing 176 people. But this accident was not the most strategically significant development of those days

Australia’s new strategic geography

Australia’s strategic geography is not what it used to be. Technology has made the “sea-air gap”, an artefact treasured since the 1980s by a generation of Australian strategic planners, obsolete. Three developments compromise the idea that geography offers Australia defensive depth and

Afghan peace is elusive but not impossible

The need for a negotiated withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has increased in urgency after the Washington Post this week published an explosive article outlining the “Afghanistan Papers”, which documents that the US government long has concluded its efforts in Afghanistan were futile and

Strength in numbers in the eastern Indian Ocean

India is the most capable resident power in the Indian Ocean, but its expanding military footprint is uneven and reliant on partnerships with likeminded states. India’s military posture and activities have been largely weighted to the western Indian Ocean. A recently published Asia Maritime

Plus ça change – NATO summitry in the age of Trump

Since the election of Donald Trump as US president, NATO summits have assumed a somewhat familiar template – a growing discord among the allies, compounded with the drama and theatrics at the margins, followed by a predictable sigh of relief when it’s all over. All this in hope that the

Terrorism: The recidivist risk

The London Bridge attack by a knife-wielding terrorist who was attending a rehabilitation program and who had been released with monitoring provisions has again raised serious questions about contrition among the growing cohort of Islamist terrorists held in prison. My research paper into this

When our security makes the neighbours feel vulnerable

As every university student learns in their first-year international relations course, there is no global cop, no enforcer to make sure every country plays by the rules. It’s anarchy, every country for itself. The big ones build military forces to protect their territory and interests. The small

North Korea’s deadline logic

Ever since Chairman Kim Jong-un issued the end-of-year deadline in April for nuclear negotiations, North Korea has displayed a stubborn attitude. From launching a series of new short and medium-range missiles, dragging its feet at the working-level talks, to showing no signs of compromise at

Australia’s F-35s: Lessons from a problematic purchase

In a startling statement reported this month, two recent Air Force chiefs assert Australia has made some grave force structure errors. It seems the RAAF needs a new bomber, as the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter now entering service is inadequate for future strike operations. The chiefs’

The uncertain fate of Islamic State in Pakistan

On 26 October, the infamous caliph of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who rose to prominence in 2014 when he announced the creation of the caliphate of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was killed in Northern Syria. Two days later, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, spokesperson and deputy of al-

The vulnerable state of Islamic State

News broke last night that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – self-styled caliph of the Islamic State, murderer, rapist, and the man responsible for the trauma, displacement, and destruction of entire communities in Iraq and Syria – had been killed in a raid in Idlib, in north-western Syria. Even though

Finally, some plain talk on the Quad

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a foreign policy speech to the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday. Australia’s foreign policy analysts can be very grateful for these candid remarks, because they should prompt Canberra to rethink its policy stance on the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the “

The Wiranto attack and the ISIS impact

The stabbing attack last Thursday by an ISIS supporter on Wiranto, Indonesia’s top security minister, was a shock for several reasons. Attacks on senior officials in Indonesia are very rare, though terrorist attacks on police are common. Protection proved to be disturbingly lax – the stabber got

The women of ISIS and the fog of law

The difficulties of establishing a coherent policy towards women and children detained as members of the Islamic State or their dependents presents a longstanding challenge. One key question from an Australian point of view is whether all the women involved were still Australian citizens. News

Book review: Common enemies

Book review: Common enemies: crime, policy and politics in Australia–Indonesia relations, by Michael McKenzie (Oxford University Press, 2018) Next month marks the 17th anniversary of the Bali Bombing, which on 12 October 2002 claimed the lives of 202 people and injured 209 others. The attack

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