Saturday 28 Mar 2020 | 20:55 | SYDNEY

Australia in the World

Reader riposte: How not to do defence planning

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq. Chris Skinner has this reply to my previous post (my thoughts follow): General Molan has good reason to complain that Australia does not make clear what the ADF should be able to do. However, who better than him to

Another step backwards by Fiji

Fiji’s interim Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama announced on Tuesday that he would not attend the special meeting of Pacific Island Forum leaders in Papua New Guinea on 27 January because his priority was to oversee relief efforts following devastating floods in Fiji. He has requested the

We know what the ADF owns, but what can it do?

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq. Jim's earlier post on defence spending is here; it prompted a reader reply and some thoughts from Sam, which you can read here. There is, of course, a real opportunity cost in defence spending. Every dollar spent on

Reader riposte: A Pakistani view on defence spending

Jehangir Karamat, former Chief of the Pakistan Army, former Pakistani Ambassador to the US and now head of Spearhead Research has thoughts on Jim Molan's post of yesterday warning about the costs of cutting defence spending: We get flak on defense spending all the time here in

Barack Obama: Pacific man, not Pacific warrior

Amid all the imaginings about Obama's leadership, my favourite future symbolic moment will be his first visit to Jakarta. In this scenario, the US President begins his speech with a couple of well-rehearsed sentences in Bahasa, constructed on the rusty foundations of his childhood schooling in

Fiji: Many two many complaining about DFAT

During last November's Mumbai terrorist siege, Fergus Hanson expressed some well justified exasperation about Australians caught up in the chaos who complained that the Department of Foreign Affairs was doing too little to help them. '(A)pparently anything short of rolling the ADF out

Fiji: An opportunity and an obligation

I argued a couple of days ago that the flooding disaster in Fiji provided an opportunity to engineer a diplomatic thaw between Fiji, Australia and New Zealand. As the damage bill increases and more adverse weather conditions are forecast for the coming week, that opportunity is looking more like

Some questions before we cut defence spending

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan (pictured) is author of Running the War in Iraq. In September 2008 he gave a presentation on his Iraq experiences at the Lowy Institute. Can Australia cut $3 billion from its $22 billion defence budget, as discussed in The Australian yesterday? Of course it can

The United States and the cockatoo chorus

In 1978, the US Vice-President visited Canberra and confronted a cockatoo chorus. Walter Mondale was standing on the terrace of the US embassy, facing the row of television cameras to discuss his full and frank talks with the Fraser Government. Behind the cameras stood a row of trees, holding

Middle East food security: Buying the farm

Mark Thirlwell highlighted the move by Gulf nations to ensure food security by using their massive oil revenues to buy or lease arable land from developing countries. Despite the massive drop in the oil price, GCC countries are still engaged in the same quest for land, with the UAE doing a

Defence cooperation with Japan: More, please!

I was critical of the Rudd Government’s early handling of Australia’s most important relationship in Asia, that with Japan. Since then, two visits to Tokyo by Mr Rudd and no fewer than four by Stephen Smith have helped, as has a less confrontational Australian approach to Japanese whaling. But

Cross-pollination: Australia nuclear futures

Polling in Australia, including the 2008 Lowy Poll, shows an evolution in Australian thinking about nuclear power and other things nuclear. The Australian reported with some fanfare on 7 January findings from UMR Research that 1 in 5 Australians believes nuclear energy will provide most of the

Kurt Campbell would be good for Australia

If they turn out to be true, media reports that Kurt Campbell will be Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia are welcome news. Campbell is a longstanding friend and advocate of Australia in Washington. He is engaging, straightforward and – importantly – ‘gets’

Why the Left should embrace power politics

Ed Cohen is a research associate at the Lowy Institute. Often in Australian international security discourse we hear that our interests are best served through the creation and maintenance of a ‘rules-based international order’. This is often juxtaposed with the Howard-era mantra of

Is New Zealand a great land power?

Hold the ad campaign. It seems attacking New Zealand, like some Australian advertising executives suggested, might be an even dumber idea than it first appeared. (More on this in a moment.) Sam Roggeveen has categorised Australia as a ‘weak’ land power and Indonesia as a ‘strong

Reader riposte: Sport and war

Graeme Dobell's post on sport and Australia's foreign policy brought back a memory for reader Stewart: Some years ago a friend and I took his four-year old son to the Australian War Memorial. Looking at a photo of diggers being rowed ashore at Gallipoli, the small boy asked

Reader riposte: Sport and national character

OK, so we're moving away from international policy a bit with this one, but it's too good not to share. Richard Green responds to Graeme Dobell's post about the sporting national interest:  As much as I am wary of discussions of national character, there's another

Non-provocative defence: Response to Raoul and Hugh

It's taken me far too long to respond to Raoul Heinrich's critique of my non-provocative defence proposal, but here goes. Raoul's right that there has been no regional 'balancing' against Australia's military capabilities. As I note in the paper, Australia ordered its F-

The sporting national interest

Summer heat has arrived and the cricket is on. Time to consider sport, national character and foreign policy. Sport is a useful metaphor for the way a country acts, but can take you only so far. US gridiron seems a perfect fit with the American way of war – heavy and high tech. The

Defence policy: Coping with uncertainty

Anton's response to Sam’s richly provocative paper about defence policy touches on a point which deserves more attention in the wider defence debate. Defending the decision to buy LHDs, Anton says quite correctly that we cannot today know with any precision what the ADF will be called upon

Climate change diplomacy: Missing our big chance

Fergus Green has been a research analyst at an energy and resources consultancy. He recently completed an internship at the Lowy Institute, where he worked on the forthcoming Review of Australia’s Instruments of Foreign Policy. Thanks to Hugh White for zeroing in on the most important

Reader riposte: More on non-provocative defence

Anton Kuruc writes (my somewhat piqued grumpy reply follows): I have been following your posts on 'non provocative' defence. There are so many reasons why your argument is not only wrong but dangerous.    You don't understand the nature of long term and fundamental

NSS: The story the media missed

Given the exhaustive detail of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s National Security Statement a fortnight ago, it is not surprising that so little media attention was paid to one of its more substantive elements: a change to Australia’s intelligence co-ordination system. The statement announced the

Non-provocative defence: A reply to Neil James

I intend to take up Raoul Heinrichs' critique of my non-provocative defence proposal in a separate post, but first I want to respond to Australia Defence Association Executive Director Neil James, who wrote a rather biting letter to the Financial Review in response to my op-ed. Unless

Offensive force structure serves defensive strategy

There is something intuitively attractive about Sam’s case for a ‘non-provocative’ defence policy – the idea that Australia might enhance its own security by adjusting its force structure and declaratory policy in ways that make its neighbours feel more secure, and hence less inclined to

Five obvious points about climate change

Obvious point 1: The hardest thing about greenhouse gas emissions as a policy challenge is that it is so unrelentingly global. Individual countries acting alone can do nothing to protect themselves or anyone else from the long-term effects of carbon emissions.  So what matters to

Non-provocative defence

I have a Lowy Perspectives paper out today on Australia's defence policy (and an accompanying op-ed in the AFR). Regular Interpreter readers will recognise some of the arguments; as Andrew Sullivan has said, blogs are an excellent way to test and refine ideas for longer-form writing.

Kevin everywhere

When I heard the PM would personally launch the Climate Change White Paper today, elbowing out his minister, Penny Wong, it reminded me of someone

The 5-minute Lowy Lunch: Rudd ambition

This week Lowy Institute Executive Director Allan Gyngell launched a Perspectives paper on Australian foreign policy in the Rudd Government's first year.  In the interview below, Allan discusses why Rudd is a new type of Australian Prime Minister, and Rudd's efforts to reconcile

Rudd, votes and the foreign policy $

Alex Duchen (pictured) is a Research Associate at the Lowy Institute.   Today, our Executive Director, Allan Gyngell, spoke of the ambition of the Rudd Government’s emerging foreign policy, after an election campaign in which the words ‘foreign policy’ were barely mentioned (his

Australia and its commitment to development

I've just caught up with the Centre for Global Development's annual Commitment to Development Index which aims to assess 'rich countries’ policies to build prosperity around the world' and has some interesting findings on Australia. While we still have a relatively low

Public opinion and the NSS

In a few recent posts on the National Security Statement Sam has discussed the relative weightings the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader have given to different security threats. Specifically he's asked is the Prime Minister ahead of the curve on downplaying terrorism and noted Turnbull

Reader riposte: More on academic bias

Two more responses on our academic bias thread. Here's John Shipp: I thought I would relate my experiences studying international studies in year 11 and 12, and from my first two years at Melbourne University. There isn't much to be said for studying international

NSS: The Opposition Leader response

When Malcolm Turnbull assumed the office of Opposition Leader in September, the evidence (or lack of it) suggested he was an unknown quantity when it came to foreign policy and national security. So what can we now say of Turnbull's views on these matters, based on his reply to the Prime

Reader riposte: Academic bias

Below, three responses to my post yesterday, prompted by this Miranda Devine column, asking for impressions of academic bias in Australian university courses relating to international politics and economics. Thanks also to the reader who sent me this link to a NY Times piece that suggests this

Further (mostly trivial) thoughts on the NSS

The Prime Minister's National Security Statement (NSS) has come in for plenty of stick. Hugh White had the ouch-iest line: 'if committees can make us safe, then we're going to be a very secure country indeed.' As other critics have said, the document is unimaginative and lacking

Rudd inaugural National Security Statement

Just after its first birthday, the Rudd Government has offered a formal picture of how it views the world and the threats Australia faces. The National Security Statement promises more cash for diplomacy, a unified national security budget, a new Security Semi-Supremo, and lots more White Papers.

Paying for our diplomatic baubles

To return to an old hobby horse of mine, it is safe to assume that the Remuneration Tribunal's recommendation that MPs receive a $100,000 pay rise will not be implemented by the Government. The 'if you pay peanuts, you'll get monkeys' principle is a sound one, but it is clearly

A call to students reading The Interpreter

Prompted by this Miranda Devine op-ed in today's Sydney Morning Herald, I'd like to hear from our student readers about their experiences of academic bias in courses on international political, economic and strategic affairs. My undergraduate experience, somewhat dated now, was that the

Engaging Pakistan

The Mumbai terror attacks have once again focused attention on Pakistan's position as both a critical ally in the war on terror and a country in which a number of key terrorist groups have found safe haven. The international community faces a difficult dilemma in balancing demands that Pakistan do

Joern Utzon gift to Australia and the world

I was seven when my family came to Australia from The Netherlands. I knew almost nothing about Australia (not even the language), but I knew Sydney had skyscrapers, which was terribly exciting for a boy who had never seen a building of more than ten stories. And I knew about the Opera House

Helping Indonesia to help ourselves

So Indonesia has requested budget assistance from Australia. Whatever we might provide will be relatively small compared with the magnitude of the problem, so we have a choice: to go bilaterally and put our own 'label' on what will inevitably be seen as a modest amount, or join a larger

The Alexander Downer legacy

In a major series for the Lowy Institute's blog, The Interpreter, veteran ABC journalist Graeme Dobell explores the legacy of Australia's longest-serving foreign minister, Alexander Downer. The three introductory posts to Graeme Dobell's series can be read here: Introduction, part one: http://www.

The Downer legacy (part 1): Howard and Downer

Ed. note: Graeme Dobell previously wrote three introductory posts to this Downer Legacy series. This is the first of his in-depth analyses. In the beginning, there was a moment when Alexander Downer’s term as Foreign Minister could have been as short as his leadership of the Liberal

Reader riposte: The misguided affection for secrets

John Hannoush writes: I greatly appreciate the material on the NIC estimate. Graeme Dobell's interesting back comparison seem to suggest that forward looking stuff  is a linear (or some other functional) projection of the present.   One question: the competitive advantage of

US intelligence community shows us the way

The US National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World is available now on the web. It’s well worth your attention: a thought-provoking, judicious and geographically and thematically sweeping account of how the world may change between now and 2025. It doesn’t try to

The Defence White Paper: Owning and believing

The real problem for Australia’s Defence Department isn’t completing the first White Paper in eight years – although that is proving difficult enough. Getting agreement within Defence and then securing Cabinet’s endorsement is clearly a massive undertaking. Yet the moment when