Wednesday 20 Nov 2019 | 15:03 | SYDNEY
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The Americas

War on the Korean Peninsula: Targeting a better peace

The rhetoric emanating from Washington and Pyongyang may soon reach the point at which a peaceful resolution is no longer be possible. A year ago the chance of war on the Korean Peninsula would have been considered remote. Now, the call for a US pre-emptive strike is gaining support while North

Tillerson doubles down on US-India partnership

Yesterday US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered his most substantial remarks on India to date, ahead of his first official trip to South Asia. While Tillerson’s influence in the Trump Administration is in considerable doubt, his speech pointed to yet more convergence between Washington and

On a Trumpian track for the next Middle East war

In some respects, US President Donald Trump and the Iranian theocratic regime deserve each other. Neither respect international agreements, except when it suits their purposes. Trump's badmouthing of the Iranian nuclear agreement is of one with his behaviour over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the

Trump’s high-risk Iran strategy

This week US President Donald Trump could announce that Iran is not complying with the 2015 nuclear deal, despite a number of US allies and officials - including some inside the Trump administration - insisting that Iran has not breached the terms of the agreement. Under the 2015 Iran Nuclear

Americans not so in love with America First

Last week, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released the results of a recent national survey on what Americans think about 'America First'. More bumper sticker than policy framework, America First has been President Donald Trump's signal for more self-interested US positions on trade, foreign

Najib’s US visit: A warranted reinvigoration

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's meeting with US President Donald Trump last week drew sharp criticism from within Malaysia and the US even before the leaders sat down to talk. It was Najib's first working visit to the White House and detractors were quick to view the invitation from

Trump breathes fire but the UN is safe

Thirteen post-war US presidents have addressed the UN General Assembly, from Truman to Obama, from Kennedy to Reagan, but Tuesday's address from Donald Trump will surely enter the history books as the most hard-hitting speech delivered by an occupant of the White House in front of this global body

All eyes on Trump’s United Nations debut

President Trump’s first visit to the UN General Assembly this week will indicate whether he intends to promote America’s global engagement or double down on America first. In the process it will give some sense of the power balance within the post-Steve Bannon White House between populist

A new proposal to normalise US monetary policy

If financial markets were expecting clear guidance on future US monetary policy moves from the annual central bank get-together at Jackson Hole in Wyoming last month, they would have been disappointed. Fed Chair Janet Yellen confined her speech to setting out how much progress has been made in

The future for US Marines in Darwin

This article is the second in a two-part series. Part one focused on the Exercise Crocodile Strike. Part two reflects on the future of the Marine rotational force. The Top End’s monsoonal weather pattern is the major reason why US Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) is currently limited to

How Trump’s new approach to Pakistan might pan out

Perhaps the most notable part of President Trump's new Afghanistan 'strategy' is its treatment of Pakistan, with Trump saying out loud what was once largely debated and threatened in private: The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. We can no

Why do US warships keep having accidents?

James Goldrick has identified possible systemic problems in the US Navy that help explain recent accidents involving US warships. These problems may not be unique to the US Seventh Fleet and there has to be sympathy for Vice Admiral Aucoin, the Commander of the Seventh Fleet, who was made the

Trump’s Afghanistan policy: Best in 16 years

Part One of this series looked at what President Trump’s recent Afghanistan policy announcement told us about the President and his administration. This post examines the policy itself and its consequences for Australia. Trump claims he has learned from history in his study of the Afghan war. If

Trump’s Afghanistan speech: The beginning of coherence?

President Trump's long-awaited announcement on Afghanistan earlier this week probably told us more about the man himself than it did about his policy. This two-part series will look first at what it what the speech told us about Trump. Part two will look at the policy and its consequences for

Collision at sea

The recent spate of US Navy accidents at sea has focused attention on the state of that service and raised questions about readiness and operational effectiveness in the Seventh Fleet. It has also been the subject of obvious schadenfreude on the part of at least one Chinese media outlet. Although

This week, it’s Trump the conventional Republican hawk

The task of those who will determine, at some later stage in the 45th US president’s tenure, what exactly constitutes the ‘Trump Doctrine’ may have become easier this week. Donald Trump the Republican candidate campaigned as a committed opponent of nation-building and other traditional

What the US would need to deter China

I am reassured to see from Ely Ratner's most recent post in our exchange on US-China relations and the South China Sea how much he and I agree about, because I have such a high regard for his ideas on these important questions, and for his lucid and gracious way of presenting them. In fact, we

The increasingly fragile Iran nuclear deal

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last month, US President Donald Trump called into question Washington’s continue support of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Last year on the campaign trail Trump made his dislike of the deal very clear but, for the last seven months, his

Australia and Korea’s wars: A debate worth revisiting

Tensions have temporarily abated on the Korean Peninsula, following the latest blustery exchanges between Washington and Pyongyang. In typically mercurial fashion, after threatening 'fire and fury', President Donald Trump has now praised Kim Jong-un’s 'decision' not to launch missiles at Guam as '

South China Sea patrols: Does the Trump team get it?

On 10 August, a US Navy warship challenged China’s implied claim to a territorial sea around Mischief Reef in the South China Sea. By lingering for six hours within 12 nautical miles of the massive island China has constructed on the reef, the USS John McCain affirmed the principle, clearly

US-Russia relations: No light at the end of the tunnel

Each month – each week – brings new and alarming developments in US-Russian relations. No one seriously expects any improvement in the near future. The only question is: how much worse can things get? During the initial period of the Trump presidency, the fear was that Trump would make some

Korea: Trump's nuclear bluster has just one precedent

President Donald Trump's threat to rain 'fire and fury' on North Korea has shocked the world. Commentators have rushed to remind us that American leaders normally try to turn down the heat when an international crisis threatens to escalate out of control. Trump has done the exact opposite. In fact,

What Trump has done right

Speaking at the Lowy Institute in July, Dennis Richardson warned that when it comes to the Trump Administration, Australian officials and pundits must: Take a deep breath; Avoid getting caught up in the ‘poison’ of US domestic politics; and Read about the United States from different

North Korea has goals other than nukes

As you will no doubt have seen by now, President Trump has issued a threat to North Korea: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said, they

The Trump/Turnbull transcript: The PM’s parting gift

So mesmerised have Australian commentators become with the Trump/Turnbull telephone conversation from late January that the leaking last week of the verbatim transcript was always going to breathe new life into the episode. Some journalists even appear to be the modern day equivalent of the Roman

Making sense of the known unknowns in the South China Sea

I'd like to thank Hugh White for his continued thoughtfulness and collegiality in our ongoing exchange on the South China Sea. I thought it might be interesting to pivot from debating strategic dynamics in the region to a dialogue about what our divergent assessments mean for the making of US policy

America: Full employment is not enough

On the surface the US economy has had a successful recovery from the 2008 Great Recession, with eight years of unbroken growth and unemployment well below 5% for more than a year. So why is the national mood so joyless? Why do many commentators attribute the unexpected Trump victory to economic

Chinese spy ships: The devil in the detail

Recent posts in The Interpreter (by Iain Henry, Euan Graham and James Goldrick) have commented on the presence of a Chinese intelligence-gathering ship off the Queensland Coast during Exercise Talisman Sabre. All these posts are broadly correct – the incident suggested Chinese hypocrisy with its

For sale, cheap: Armed drones

Once the domain of only a handful of states, weaponised drones are now part of the military arsenal of no less than a dozen countries. That number is set to expand after China announced it would begin to sell and export its most powerful drone, the CH-5 Rainbow, that's modelled on the US MQ 9 Reaper

What NAFTA renegotiation means for Australia

It was always part of the Trump agenda to do something about the North American Free Trade Agreement (‘one of the worst deals ever’) covering the US, Canada and Mexico: the outcome is renegotiation rather than the threatened termination. The Office of the United State Trade Representative has

Empathising with China

The recent presence of a PLA-N auxiliary general intelligence vessel off Queensland has generated some interesting discussions. Euan Graham and James Goldrick are right that the incident undercuts Beijing’s own objections about US close-in surveillance of mainland China. There is no small amount

Syria: A farewell to arms

Last week’s confirmation that the CIA-run program to vet and arm Syrian rebel groups in the north of the country was coming to an end was a tacit acknowledgement of the flaws in the scheme. It should also have come as little surprise as, if there has been one thing that Trump has been consistent

Trump in Warsaw, Hamburg and Paris

Trump divides. Most people are either staunchly against or for US President Donald Trump – if not the man, then what he supposedly stands for. As most commentators find themselves in the former camp, there is no shortage of Trump critiques. Thus this piece will concentrate not so much on

Trump’s slow adjustment to global trade realities

The most striking message of the Hamburg G20 leaders meeting is not that the US did not lead the discussion but that it clearly didn’t even wish to. President Trump is most comfortable as a belligerent outsider, not only in Washington but also among his fellow global leaders. His only friend on

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