Last weekend, following the shooting by a radicalised married couple in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people, President Obama gave a rare nationally televised address from the Oval Office on the threat of terrorism. Sam Roggeveen wrote on the speech, US sentiment on the threat of terrorism, and the really big question:
The big question is whether this policy stance can survive a further rapid escalation of the terrorist threat. What if we have two or three more Paris-style incidents, one of them in a major US metropolis? I still think the course laid out by Obama in this speech would be the right one, but the clamour for overwhelming military action, including through the deployment of ground forces, would be strong in such an event. The question is whether Obama would resist it.
Retired senior Army officer Jim Molan said the tactics being used against ISIS are working, and large numbers of foreign ground troops are not needed:
Those involved know what is needed: first, the air campaign needs to be made more effective by using appropriate rules of engagement and by placing air controllers into Iraqi ground units; and second, the training of Iraqi ground units needs to be extended to advisers who accompany the Iraqis into battle, as we did successfully in Afghanistan. These are simple, straightforward measures with no need for large numbers of foreign troops. Both of these techniques appear recently to have been put into practice in some areas of Iraq and Syria by the US and the UK, but they have not been applied universally.
Also, the media battle surrounding the Syrian civil war is getting more intense, says Rodger Shanahan:
It is early days yet, and Russian and Iranian strategic motives are not completely in sympathy with those of the Assad regime, but the more images of battlefield victories from pro-government forces that populate the airwaves, the easier it is to maintain support amongst pro-government elements of the Syrian population, or at least call into question the efficacy of the armed opposition. Morale and momentum are changeable commodities, and media can influence both. The Syrian government is trying to use recent battlefield advances to create a narrative of regime strength and, while it may not necessarily reflect the truth on the ground. this is certainly a stronger narrative than that of a few months ago.
Euan Graham called out an editorial in The Australian:
However, The Australian's view that 'Beijing's willingness to engage in closer ties with our defence forces is an indication that Australia has nothing to lose in challenging Chinese coercion in the region', entirely misses the point that Beijing sees value in courting Canberra's defence leaders to make a strategic point to Washington and Tokyo. If this sounds like a storm in a teacup, don't forget so did the sale of Darwin port until American officials learned about it in the media.
The following posts were written to mark the launch of Michael Fullilove's 2015 Boyer Lectures, 'A Larger Australia' this week. First, Allan Behm:
Whatever strategic issues the 21st century generates, we can be sure that they will be multi-dimensional, multi-factorial, more multi-faceted and probably more intractable than anything we have experienced hitherto. A larger and stronger population would not only provide additional resources for national security – the result of a bigger economy – but would also provide the additional skilled personnel that will form the backbone of Australia's future defence industry and defence force.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, Glyn Davis, wrote on the idea of establishing Australian cultural institutes throughout the region:
The sheer reach and extent of Australian alumni is little discussed in Australia, where international education is described as an export industry rather than a way to integrate this nation with its wider region. Yet with nearly 600,000 annual international enrolments in Australian schools, universities and vocational institutions, most returning to their country of origin to begin professional careers, this nation has a superb foundation for connectivity across Asia. Formative educational experiences create lasting personal links.
Andrew Leigh MP discussed his idea of a 'three-dimensional' Australian foreign policy:
In his lectures, Michael argues for a three-dimensional foreign policy, which emphasises depth (Asian engagement), height (alliance management) and width (multilateral diplomacy). To this most useful metaphor, I'd argue that our depth should be informed by economic openness, our height by the value of egalitarianism, and our width by a commitment to the community of nations. In short, liberty, equality and fraternity can teach us something about our place in the globe.
Establishment Republicans may now be beginning to rally against Trump, writes Emma Connors:
The disquiet many Republicans have about Trump's successful campaign is beginning to translate into action. The Hill reports billionaire Mike Fernandez, the largest donor to the Jeb Bush campaign, has decided to run full page ads that describe Trump as a 'narcissistic BULLYionaire'. This email from Fernandez says it's not about Jeb. Rather, Fernandez wants to 'protect or at least try to protect the core values of our adopted homeland. I felt I owe it for my friends to know how I see our future and the danger we face'.
Time will tell if the ads or other fightback strategies from despairing GOP rival camps will have any effect. At this point, Trump's supporters seem rusted on.
What is the essential element for a successful COP21? Fergus Green:
People often ask me what I think a successful Paris climate agreement would entail. I’ve said there is a handful of key elements, each tough but possible to get global agreement on, without which it would be difficult to credibly claim success. While I still think all the elements in that handful are important, after the first week of tortuous negotiations in which many now seem unattainable in a desirable form, there is one that stands out as crucial. This is a framework for reviewing collective progress and ratcheting-up countries’ individual targets and policy commitments every five years, and the next occasion to do so should be 2020 at the latest.
With the announcement of Joe Hockey as the next Australian ambassador in Washington, James Curran looked at Australia's ambassadorial history in DC and what challenges await:
So if there is a question to be raised about Hockey it is whether the times demand another diplomatic professional. The commentary surrounding his appointment seems to suggest so. The relationship, as Beazley himself has pointed out, is becoming more complex as it becomes more critical. 'Australian influence in this town fluctuates', Beazley told one gathering late last year, and the Obama administration has not always proved a ready opener of doors for its close allies. Alliance management – for both the US and Australia – is becoming more difficult. Privately, some former senior US officials in Washington wonder whether a period of drift is in store for US-Australian relations. As one put it to me recently, 'if it can happen to the US-UK relationship, it can certainly happen to the Alliance'.
Can Australia get away with disagreeing with the US on global economic governance issues? Stephen Grenville:
To what degree are Australia's mistakes linked to Washington's? We are one of the closest friends of the US, and a beneficiary of the global order it created. We were more than an innocent bystander: we cheered the US on at every stage. Its failure is our failure too.
What stops Australia from continuing to act as a close ally of the US while at the same time being ready to offer a well-argued case when American policy lacks the cohesion and strategic focus that Parkinson identifies? Our policy makers have some, but not all of the same political pressures: the influence of those members of Parliament with outlandish views is muted by our Westminster system.
The role of communication and the media is key to sustaining political will regarding climate change, says Bronwyn Lo:
I would argue that what has been inadequately communicated to the public is not only the scientific consensus and the impacts of climate change from particular perspectives but also, above and beyond that, this sense of ‘all’, and hence the true magnitude of the climate change threat. Thus we have a situation where the general public remains largely oblivious to the national security aspects and health consequences of climate change, and where misconceptions about the economics of climate change action and inaction abound.
With the likely China-originated cyber attack on the Bureau of Meteorology last week, Ben FitzGerald said that Australia needs a calibrated cyber deterrence policy:
Effective responses and cost imposition strategies to deter Chinese hacking, or that of any other nation, can only occur if we maintain a strong foundation of technical competence in both our cyber defenses and attribution methods. Australia possesses capability in both of these areas on a whole of government basis and continues to invest in maturing technical capabilities. But no cyber defence is perfect and, even with strong technical measures in place, sophisticated adversaries will continue to gain access to our networks and data. Therefore, what we and many other nations require, and do not yet possess, is the ability to combine technical, strategic and diplomatic measures to effectively deter such actions in the first place. Until we do, keep watching the news for the next major cyber attack.
Photo courtesy of The White House.