What should Australia want from a Biden National Security Strategy?

If President Biden produces a National Security Strategy in 2021, Australia should hope for a major shift away from that of President Trump. But not an uncritical return to the 2015 version of President Obama. If stability and a workable international system are the outcomes the Biden Administration seeks, then three deeply interwoven issues need to be given serious attention: leadership, democracy, and sovereignty.

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No power in the Lowy Asia Power Index 2020

The Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index 2020 is a substantial undertaking that purports to map “out the existing distribution of power as it stands today, and tracks shifts in the balance of power over time” by ranking “26 countries and territories in terms of their capacity to shape their external environment”. However, a misunderstanding of the concept of power, and some underlying subjectivity and biases, undermines its usefulness.

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Primer on Hypersonic Weapons in the Indo-Pacific Region (Atlantic Council)

With Russia, China and the United States leading the development of operational hypersonic weapons, other Indo-Pacific states, including Australia, have indicated that they intend to do so in the intermediate future. This comprehensive Atlantic Council primer seeks to marry technological characteristics, geostrategic and military imperatives, and regional dynamics in order to provide a basis for further analysis about hypersonic development and application trajectories in the Indo-Pacific.

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Today’s risks and the history of war: recognising the unknowable

Is a great power war in prospect? The study of war provides insights into the preconditions for conflict and an awareness of the unpredictable nature of war. It shows that great power wars can be as unpredictable as they are transformational. The winners are hidden from sight at the inception, and the losers risk everything. If Australian leaders assume they could come out unscathed on the winning side of an East Asian war they are taking a huge gamble on behalf of Australian citizens.

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Australian strategic policy: why we need a robust public debate

Only a select group of voices is heard most often and most loudly on the subject of Australia’s strategic policy. This creates a false sense of certainty around what is a speculative and inexact policy area. The policy choices, and the connection between strategic policy and force structure, deserve to be intensively examined and validated through public debate – not least of all because the opportunity cost of defence investment is huge.

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AUSMIN 2020: confirmation of Australia’s abandonment of strategic autonomy?

Australians should not take comfort from recent government statements around the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations – claims that Australia makes its own decisions, its own judgments, in the Australian national interest, in order to uphold Australia’s security, prosperity and values. Reassuring words are the slippery province of diplomacy. Strategic policy is founded in force structure and force posture.

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The rationale for Australia’s 2020 Force Structure Plan: A 2040 war?

There is a mismatch between the urgent need to respond to the supposed recent deterioration in Australia’s strategic circumstances, and the timeframe for investments proposed in Australia’s recently-released 2020 Force Structure Plan. Bringing capabilities into the ADF inventory within the next 20 years doesn’t seem to be the priority for government, despite the apparent deterioration in the strategic environment.

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A replay of the 1930s: Fact or fearmongering?

The Australian Prime Minister compares the current strategic environment to “the existential threat we faced when the global and regional order collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s”. If he believes current global circumstances are comparable to those that preceded the Second World War, the response in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update is inadequate. If he doesn’t, his references amount to fear-mongering.

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Australia’s strategic quandary: political leadership and the abandonment of strategy

Australia’s strategic quandary emerges from its status as an ally to a great power. If it abrogates its responsibility to set national policy aims by joining in a coalition in which one great power antagonist determines the goals of the war it cannot claim to have a strategy. It cannot claim to be linking Australia’s national priorities to the military actions. Its fate would be in the hands of its great power ally.

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Strategic strike, deterrence and the ghost of the F-111

Some confusion has emerged in Australian strategic thinking over ‘strategic strike’, where a threat to an adversary’s key war-making assets produces a deterrent effect, and ‘tactical strike’, where an effect is sought on the battlefield. The result is the inability to see that strategic deterrence is a game for the nation with the preponderance of power and broad options.

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