Security Defense

ANZUS and the new Defence White Paper

F/A-18 and F-16's fly in formation over Sydney, Australia
F/A-18 and F-16’s fly in formation over Sydney, Australia. Photo: Department of Defence/flickr.

Last Friday’s Defence White Paper (DWP) rightly drew a lot of praise from (most) of the analytical community and the media. Many commentators, including myself, welcomed the more cautious tone regarding China’s military rise and the dismissal of Australia having to choose between Washington and Beijing. Does that mean Australia is less supportive of our US alliance? I’d argue that exactly the opposite is the case. There are several key points that support my view.

First, being more nuanced about China’s military capacity and intentions shows a maturation of Australian strategic thinking which surely is welcomed in Washington. As it seeks to integrate (not contain) China, Washington doesn’t need alarmist rhetoric about Beijing from its allies. It also doesn’t want us to invest in military capabilities such as nuclear submarines or long-range strike assets which would unnecessarily duplicate theirs and send provocative signals to China.

Government Security Defense

Praetorian China?

Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division
Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division. Photo: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/flickr.

OSAKA – Do China’s rulers have full civilian control of their country’s military? Asian governments are now regularly asking themselves that question as China hardens its stance on its claims to islands in the South and East China Seas.

Perhaps the gravest incident so far came this January, when Chinese naval forces twice locked their weapons’ radar systems – the final step before firing – on a Japanese destroyer and a patrol helicopter. In the diplomatic ruckus that ensued, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson was, at first, utterly ignorant of the incident and asked that the journalists posing the questions put them directly to the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) leadership.

International Relations Defense

Implications of Independence: Scottish Defence

Referendum consultation - press conference
Referendum consultation, press conference. Photo: Scottish Government/flickr.

When the Scottish National Party (SNP) won the majority of seats in the 2007 parliamentary elections, the movement for Scottish independence had finally gained momentum. With the referendum now set for 18 September 2014, the idea of an independent Scotland, once a distant dream of SNP-supporters, has now become a realistic possibility. Although opinion polls currently predict an outcome favoring “devolution-plus” – extensive regionalisation and decentralisation – rather than fully-fledged independence, the possible implications of a “Yes” vote are worth considering given the wide-ranging consequences of such a result, particularly in the area of defence.

A pro-independence decision would likely lead to uncertainty caused by a range of policy conundrums not only for Scotland but for the rest of the UK. In an effort to alleviate such fears, the Scottish government has announced that it will publish a White Paper on the possible future structure of an independent Scotland. But while the Scottish government has adopted an optimistic view, 10 Downing Street has already released a report emphasizing the possible negative repercussions, were Scotland to terminate the more than 300-year old Union.

Government Security Defense

The Pros and Cons of Drafting Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox

Ultra-Orthodox soldiers in Israel
Israel Defense Forces share a photo on flickr of Ultra-Orthodox soldiers finishing a course in 2010 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Many Israelis object to decades-old legislation that allows the country’s ultra-orthodox community to avoid military service. However, this may be about to change. For the first time in 18 years, an Israeli prime minister has formed a government without the ultra-orthodox parties and loyal coalition partners Shas and United Torah Judaism. As a result, Israel’s ultra-orthodox Jews may eventually be required to undertake national service. .

The reason for the surprising exclusion of the ultra-orthodox parties is the meteoric rise of the secular Yesh Atid party, headed by former TV personality and columnist, Yair Lapid. One of the main focuses of Lapid’s campaign was the demand for an “equal share of the burden” of military service. This would mean an end to the policy of allowing ultra-orthodox men to avoid army service if they continue their religious studies past the age of 18.


US and South Korea: A Show of Force, But Running Out of Options?

US troops rendering honors to the Republic of Korea Navy destroyer (ROKS). Photo: US Navy/flickr

North Korea’s third nuclear test provided the ideal opportunity for the United States and South Korea to respond with their own displays of military muscle. Two days after the test, South Korea showcased a cruise missile that Seoul claims can hit targets anywhere in the North. This month was also the first time in almost two decades that an American nuclear submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles entered South Korean waters.

Thus, the endless cycle of North Korean provocation, joint military drills and verbal war continues. Yet it remains difficult to find to find good analysis on next steps that need to be taken to address the impasse on the Peninsula.