Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:17 | SYDNEY


The future of the internet

Yesterday I had the pleasure of introducing Dr Jeffrey Eisenach's Wednesday Lowy Lunch presentation on the challenges governments face in trying to regulate the internet. Dr Eisenach is a leading regulatory economist and a global expert on content filtering technology. You can now listen to

I question Robert Mugabe competence

We know Robert Mugabe is a bad dictator, but who knew that he was so bad at being a dictator? Really, when you control the executive, legislature, judiciary, bureaucracy, police, military and media, how hard can it be to successfully rig an election? Just asking

Tuesday linkage

Hard to fault Opposition Foreign Affairs Spokesman Andrew Robb's logic when it comes to selling uranium to India. But Henry Sokolski put the opposing case well in a couple of guest posts he wrote for us in December and January. Recordings from last week's launch of the Lowy Institute's new

Update on the Wilders post

When I originally published this post on the Geert Wilders film about Islam, I included a link to the film, which I have now removed. I noted in my post that Dutch TV networks had refused to air the film. A colleague has reminded me that, given I agreed with the networks' judgment on this, it

The Wilders film

The Dutch MP Geert Wilders has released his much-anticipated (at least in The Netherlands) short film about Islam, Fitna (which apparently means 'ordeal' in Arabic, though other sources say it means 'strife' or 'conflict'). It shows some extremely graphic images of

Thursday linkage

The New Republic's blog, The Plank, draws parallels between John McCain and Walter Subchak from The Big Lebowski. On a more serious John McCain note, here's his latest foreign policy speech. It's more sober and statesmanlike than I have heard him recently, and

Wednesday linkage

NY Times columnist David Brooks thinks Hillary Clinton's campaign is almost finished. I wonder if this will become the broader media narrative, given the interest the media has in keeping the race going. The UK has released a new National Security Strategy. Former Iraq Survey Group

The emerging global order

Guest blogger: Senator Russell Trood (pictured), Liberal senator from Queensland and Deputy Chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee. His Lowy Institute Paper, The emerging global order, was launched last week. The international system is going though a period of

Terrorism and strategy

Sam has attempted to reconcile my view that terrorism should not be seen as a strategic threat and Mr Rudd’s view that it should. He argues that terrorism becomes strategic when it becomes nuclear-armed. For me that still doesn’t work. I think nuclear terrorism is a very dangerous problem

Thursday funny: Leningrad Cowboy

With tomorrow being Good Friday and normal blogging to resume next Tuesday, I thought I'd bring this semi-regular Friday feature forward by a day.  World Politics Review called this clip 'globalisation's unintended consequences': a Finnish rock group named after a Soviet

The threat of nuclear terrorism

I'm grateful to Greg Sheridan for introducing me, in his latest column, to the phrase 'plastic gangster'. It may come in handy one day. But I'm puzzled by the apparent debate he sees on whether terrorism is a strategic threat. Sheridan disagrees with Hugh White, who says

Email of the day II: Notes on visibility in Washington

Jeremy Shapiro, who recently contributed to our Afghanistan debate, has this response to Michael Fullilove's lament about America's lack of interest in Australia:  I'm a European expert here at Brookings, and truth be told, before Michael Fullilove appeared on my hallway, I

Wednesday linkage

Yesterday I linked to the first English-language blog I found that was reporting news and posting photos from Tibet. One of Wired Magazine's in-house blogs, Threat Level, has loads more links. Alexander Downer pens an op-ed which says of Saddam Hussein, 'In the modern world, such

Democrats can speak too loudly on national security

Last week one of my favourite blogs, Global Dashboard, presented a clip from one of my favourite TV shows, The West Wing. The blogger, Alex Evans from New York University, posted the clip as a diversion, saying it was one of his favourite moments from the program. But I'll use the post as an

Email of the day II: Repeating our Pacific mistakes?

In response to my post of last week questioning whether the new Government's Pacific initiatives were really so different from previous failed policies, Robert Cogger writes (my response follows): The difference is that there may now be a possibility of AusAID working with the

Welcome to the meltdown

When it came to my turn to speak at our regular research meeting at the start of this week, I noted that the main items on my agenda were to liquidate what small financial wealth I have, turn it into an optimal combination of gold, canned food and bottled water as quickly as possible, and then

Tuesday linkage

The Washington Note links to video of a speech on the urgency of the climate change problem — by the CEO of the worlds 12th largest carbon emitter.  Did you see the International Space Station last night? You might have if you were in the eastern states of Australia, and you'll get

Infrastructure as a terrorist target

This is a good example of the threat terrorists pose to systems or infrastructure, the effects of which could be far more crippling than the current favoured terrorist tactic of causing maximum casualties: the Taliban is taking out mobile phone towers in Afghanistan's south, forcing operators to

How cheap does alternative energy have to be?

President Bush had this to say recently on the message Vice President Cheney would have for Saudi king Abdullah during Cheney's upcoming visit to Riyadh: I hope that the king will listen very carefully to the vice president when he makes the following points: One, high oil price is

Email of the day: Comments policy

Will Grant writes: I've just signed up for your Interpreter blog posts via the email you sent — but you don't allow comments!  I really don't trust blogged opinions hidden behind comment barriers — it seems a little one sided to me. If you plan to change this, I'

Rules of thumb for social progress

Andrew Lee Butters of Time Magazine's Middle East blog writes: One of my favorite -- if obvious -- metrics of the health of civil society in any given place is celebratory gunfire. If locals mark major events like weddings, sporting victories or the start of spring break by shooting

The new world of privacy

It's astonishing how much personal history the New York Times was able to discover about the prostitute allegedly involved in the Eliot Spitzer scandal. What's more, it all took little more than a day to compile, and the reporters probably never left their desks to do it — much of the

Welcome to new Email Digest subscribers

Today we sent an email to people on the Lowy Institute's mailing list inviting them to subscribe to The Interpreter's email digest. We got a great response, with over 300 new subscribers already. For those not familiar with the email digest, it brings The Interpreter straight to your

Wednesday linkage

The New Yorker puts microfinance in perspective: it's useful, but not the solution to under-development. India's Foreign Minister pours some cold water on prospects that the US-India nuclear agreement will be settled soon. (Via World Politics Review.) Arms Control Wonk has some

Fallon fall

Bush Administration critics will see the hand of the White House behind CENTCOM Commander William Fallon's resignation, and maybe they are right. The explanantion that Fallon and Defense Secretary Gates offered for the decision — that a recent Esquire profile of Fallon created a damaging

A new terrorism (part 2)

This post is a continuation of some thoughts I laid out yesterday on the relative ineffectiveness of terrorism as it is currently practised, and how bad it might be for us if terrorists ever adopt better tactics. So given that current methods of terrorism suffer from diminishing returns

Hillary primary colours

Joe Klein's novel Primary Colors, and the movie based on it, are more morally ambiguous about Bill and Hillary Clinton than Atlantic Monthly blogger Andrew Sullivan allows. Klein does show their political dark side, but his characters also make the fair argument that it can be hard to

A new terrorism (part 1)

Tim Dunlop of Blogocracy was kind enough to link to a post I wrote last week advocating 'resilience' as the centrepiece of our counter-terrorism strategy. Re-reading that post, I see that my description of the terrorist threat needs some refinement. Based largely on my reading of this

Monday linkage

The OECD releases its Environmental Outlook to 2020 report, finding that tackling major environmental problems is both achievable and affordable. The Washington Post discovers a far more alarming study. Also on climate change, an essay on Arctic melting, which creates new economic

Diverse appetites

The funnest fact from this new book about Chinese food in the US is that there are more Chinese restaurants in America (40,000) than there are McDonald's, KFCs and Burger Kings combined. As the book argues, these aren't authentically Chinese restaurants, but Americanised versions, and much

A footnote to our aid debate

It's interesting to note how closely our debate of last week resembled this pithy summary (link via Global Dashboard): Until very recently, if you spent anytime thinking about development policy, the chances are that you fell into one of three groups. One group believes the problem

Friday funny: Accents

Meet Amy Walker. She's, actually, she could be from any of 21 different places. Enjoy your weekend

Friday linkage

My Tuesday post on Airbus' victory over Boeing in the US Air Force tanker contest quoted the figure of US$40 billion for the deal. As this neat bit of number-crunching shows, that's probably a large exaggeration. File under 'climate change mitigation': In arctic Norway, a high-

What Erdogan turking about?

One of the arguments in my Lowy Institute Paper, World wide webs, is that homelands are reaching out to their emigrant populations. States as diverse as China, India and Morocco are redefining their emigrants and instituting policies aimed at engaging their diasporas, either to protect or exploit

Introducing 'American Interpreter'

Today we're launching a new blog feature called 'American Interpreter'. There's such intense interest in this US election season that we wanted to highlight our reporting under this special banner. We also want to exploit the presence in Washington of our Global Issues Program

Thursday linkage

This has received very little coverage in Australia as far as I'm aware, but the US bombed Somalia earlier this week. Robert Kagan almost breaks my self-declared Nixon metaphor embargo. (He doesn't mention Nixon, but he uses the same dodgy logic I described in my post.) A few weeks

Hillary may yet surprise us and go quietly

Too much is being made of indications that Hillary Clinton will press on with her campaign no matter what happens in today's primaries. She has little choice but to give her supporters those indications — imagine the signal she would be sending them if she said, instead, that this was her

Starting now, I'm on Nixon Watch

I think it may be time to retire the 'Nixon-goes-to-China' metaphor, or at least replace it with a substitute so that Richard Milhous can get a rubdown and an orange quarter. Just last week, Hugh White and I debated the merits of the presidential candidates' policies on China, with the

Pentagon stiffs Boeing, picks Airbus

Given the way US policy-makers and military types felt about France until recently — culminating in the widespread adoption of the epithet 'Cheese-eating surrender monkey' — this is a huge upset: the Pentagon has picked a consortium led by the European airline manufacturer Airbus

Friday linkage

The NY Times Baghdad bureau has a blog (via Passport). Design guru Michael Beirut gives an interesting interview on the intricacies of political branding (via Yglesias). From Time magazine's Middle East blog, a first hand account of blood-letting ceremonies during Ashura. Before you click

Nuclear arms control: Good news from Oslo

Message to the Australian Government: spending cuts and saving the world do not go together. I was reminded of this point at a nuclear disarmament conference in Norway this week. This event, supported by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, featured such important figures in the new movement for nuclear

Reframing the war on terror

Atlantic Monthly blogger Matthew Yglesias yesterday wrote a post about terrorism which captures neatly a point that I have clumsily been trying to make on this blog for some time: ...ever since 9/11, we've adopted a set of incredibly harmful and counterproductive policies. Rather

Greg Sheridan on the US presidential candidates

Having recently patted myself on the back for avoiding blog jargon on The Interpreter, I'm now going to reverse course to revive a blog practise that has fallen into abeyance: fisking. For those unfamiliar with the term, I'm going to attempt a point-by-point rebuttal of someone's

I'm confused by Paul Kennedy

A truly odd argument by eminent historian Paul Kennedy in a recent International Herald Tribune. Ever since his Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, which I and my fellow international relations undergraduates endured in the early 1990s, I have been a little wary of his grand theories and

Identity politics in the US primaries

Guest blogger: Kate Mason (pictured) is an intern at the Lowy Institute.  She is a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales writing on 9/11 in American literature.  In the last week or so, pundits have begun to bestow the mantle of Democractic presidential nominee on Barack

Wednesday linkage

Airline Business Blog worries about the sustainability of the rapid growth in Asia's low-cost aviation market.  Kevin Drum is right: the purported war between blogging and long-form journalism is a damp squib. There's room for both.  Killer robots are a threat to humanity, says UK