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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.

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

The sharp sword: China and the drone threat to Australia

In Saudi Arabia, a combined drone and cruise missile attack conducted by still-unknown forces (either Iran, Iraqi proxy groups, Yemeni militia forces, or a combination of all three) caused significant damage to the Kingdom’s most important oil facility. Defence writer Tyler Rogoway is alarmed

INTERFET and the defence of Australia

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the International Force East Timor (INTERFET), a multinational mission led by Australia to stabilise the country in 1999. As a former Army officer posted to Timor-Leste after INTERFET, I’m proud to be back in Dili today to represent the

Afghanistan – what’s next?

Ten days ago, US President Donald Trump called off negotiations with the Taliban about withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, widely expected to be followed by intra-Afghanistan peace talks, which Norway hoped to host and President Ashraf Ghani had begun to prepare for by selecting a negotiation

Pressure upon pressure builds around Kashmir

The political talk in South Asia at this moment is reminiscent of the 1990s. The Taliban are returning to Afghanistan and conflict is escalating between India and Pakistan in a seething Kashmir region. There is even debate on the potential use of nuclear weapons amid India-Pakistan crises ­–

Secrets and laws

Since the Australian Federal Police raids on the offices of the ABC and the home of News Corporation journalist Annika Smethurst, there has been an understandable debate on the tensions between national security and press freedom. This has extended to questions around whistle-blowing and

Suspicion creeps into the Five Eyes

The world’s oldest intelligence partnership turned 73 this year. Traditionally, trust amongst spies is a rare commodity, but the UKUSA Agreement of 1946 (commonly known as the “Five Eyes”) has more than stood the test of time. Forged under the pressure of the Second World War, the Five Eyes

Gender-based violence and the Arms Trade Treaty

This week, the 104 states parties to the Arms Trade Treaty are meeting in Geneva to discuss the world’s only international agreement on the sale or transfer of conventional weapons. This covers everything from small arms and light weapons to battle tanks, attack helicopters and warships,

Australia in the Gulf: Will we make a difference?

Australia’s commitment to the US-led coalition to provide maritime security for the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf will be one maritime surveillance aircraft, to start operations later this year, and one frigate from early 2020. Military personnel will also help staff a coalition

The reluctant coalition

The Australian government’s announcement today that it will contribute assets to a maritime coalition force in the Persian Gulf comes as no surprise, given the very public way the US request was delivered in Sydney at the recent AUSMIN meeting. Washington doesn’t make those type of requests

It’s time for a “Quad” of coast guards

The so-called Quad group of Indo-Pacific maritime democracies – Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – is a valuable grouping, although it is still underutilised in many ways. One of the most effective ways that these countries could work together to enhance maritime security in the

US foreign policy: restraint without retrenchment

US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War has come under growing criticism for its expansive, even aggressive, character. Despite its name, “liberal hegemony” often seems illiberal, belligerent, even militaristic. The US has used force regularly over the last 30 years, often with dubious

The curious case of Hamza bin Laden’s death

This week at least two US officials have anonymously confirmed to US news outlets that Hamza bin Laden, the son of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was killed in a targeted operation. It is clear that counterterrorism and intelligence officials from around the world have been tracking him for

Gender: workforce transformation in Defence

The comprehensive analysis in the Lowy Institute report, Foreign Territory: Women in International Relations reinforces the already compelling case for why gender diversity matters, and from a Department of Defence perspective, as one of the main areas of the bureaucracy examined in the report, the

China’s head-spinning defence white paper

Readers of the white paper China’s National Defence in the New Era can be forgiven for their headaches as they move from one conflicting statement to another in Beijing’s latest effort to help “the international community better understand China’s national defence”. This best of times/

The changing face of violent extremism

The Easter bombings in Sri Lanka killed 258 people, including two Australians among 46 foreign nationals, and injured 500 more. Its perpetrators according to Sri Lankan State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene were “well-educated and come from the middle or upper-middle class”, and were “

‪ISIS: women’s work?

Should domestic labour be valued the same as work outside the home? What is the contribution of a stay at home wife and mother? How can we evaluate emotional labour when it often goes unseen? No, these are not topic questions during a “Lean In” circle. These are questions that many courts are

The burden of friendship: Germany, Trump and NATO

“Burden sharing” has long been a totemic term in discussions about NATO. Behind the happy paeans to shared values and mutual security interests uttered publicly by national leaders has always stood the hard reality of American power and Europe’s complete dependency upon it. Yet under the

Book review: Hugh White’s How to Defend Australia

Book Review: How to Defend Australia, by Hugh White (La Trobe University Press, 2019) Defence commentator Hugh White never shouts from the rooftops, and his new book How to Defend Australia is written in the same measured tone that has long driven his more strident critics crazy. Yet if White

National security: Australians and their elites

It may be distasteful to some, but there is no escaping the need for political elites. The trick, particularly in a democracy, is for those elites to carry a sense of legitimacy. Australians are disconnected from politics, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they differ from politicians in their

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