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Syria: What's in a name?

Most people understand what is involved in a ceasefire.  Fewer would be familiar with the term 'cessation of hostilities', and there would not be many at all who would know what a  'regime of calm' means. This melange of terms reflects the challenges involved in brokering any kind of reduction in

Syria: What's in a name?

Most people understand what is involved in a ceasefire.  Fewer would be familiar with the term 'cessation of hostilities', and there would not be many at all who would know what a  'regime of calm' means. This melange of terms reflects the challenges involved in brokering any kind of reduction in

Movie Trailer: Snowden

It's an Oliver Stone film, so it's no surprise to see a trailer that reflects the paranoid-conspiratorial strain in Stone's political views. Stone has ideological enemies who made much of the director's historical over-reach in JFK (1991). The problem for those critics now is that Stone's wild

Goodbye Option J: The view in Japan

Australia is sending one of its submarines, the HMAS Rankin, to Japan this week for joint training and to promote the bilateral relationship, following news last week that the Japanese company Mitsubishi Heavy Manufacturing lost its bid to build Australia's 12 new submarines. Some commentators in

A Budget that skims over a stormy outlook

We face ‘extraordinary’ times, ‘very sensitive’ times, international headwinds and fragility. But the overarching message we are meant to come away from this year’s Budget with is a positive one. In his 2016-17 Budget speech, Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison stated that the Turnbull

Jokowi faces challenges in launching his digital economy agenda

By Brittany Betteridge, an intern in the Lowy Institute's East Asia Program. In February, President Joko Widodo visited Silicon Valley to meet with US technology power players including Google, Facebook, Twitter and the start-up technology investment firm Plug and Play. It was his bid to show that

Testing times for Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is paying a high political price for spearheading a European Union deal with Turkey aimed at stemming the flow of refugees from the Middle East to Germany and northern Europe. The deal, which is based on Ankara taking back refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey,

Modi's panic button for women's safety: Pros and cons

The Modi Government’s quest to ensure women’s safety in India has resulted in a ‘panic button’ policy. From 1 January next year, all mobile phones sold in India must be equipped with panic button technology. From 2018, all mobile phones must have GPS tracking. Indian government ministers

Let's get strategic about border security

Over the last five or so years, Australia’s public policy discussions on borders have hardly been strategic. Discussions have instead coalesced on mandatory detention of irregular maritime arrivals, at-sea turn back policies, and Australian Border Force uniforms and accoutrements. The

The political economy of home-made submarines

So we’ve decided to build twelve submarines in Adelaide, a decision which: contradicts the only idea that economists unanimously endorse — free trade; ignores opportunity cost i.e what else might be done with $50 billion of labour, capital and managerial talent; had no apparent operational

Civilians are running out of options in Afghanistan

Two month ago I wrote a blog outlining the continued deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan. The situation does not look any better today. Last week a truck bomb was set off in Kabul killing at least 68 people and injuring 347. A friend of mine with whom I checked, and who was at quite a

The Taliban three years after Mullah Omar

By Catherine Hirst, an intern in the Lowy Institute's West Asia Program. This month marks the three year anniversary of the death of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the infamous, one-eyed cleric who led the Taliban for more than sixteen years.  Captured Taliban Militants, January 2016 (Photo courtesy of

Online censorship: A new flank in the US-China trade wars?

Remember Hillary Clinton's internet freedom agenda? In a groundbreaking speech in 2010, Clinton outlined her State Department policy for promoting internet freedom in the context of human rights and democratisation. This meant funding anti-surveillance tools, chiding repressive governments, and

The AIIB and NDB BRICS enter a new phase

'Only one of these institutions sounds like a new bank'. That was the conclusion of one attendee at the Think20 Conference in Shanghai in February after a session featuring four international financial institutions: the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the New Development Bank BRICS (

Australia's new strategic partnership with France

The choice of France to build 12 submarines under a $50 billion contract begins a new era in Australia's strategic relationship with that country, its longstanding partner within the western alliance and close collaborator in the South Pacific.  Signing France on to the submarine construction is

Rethinking economics: Cohen and De Long

The last decade hasn’t been kind to economists’ egos. Almost no-one saw the 2008 crisis coming. The subsequent recovery has been ‘too slow for too long’. And, at a deeper level, there is widespread discontent with the way the middle class has been left behind while a tiny fraction is

A constitution Papua New Guinea can be proud of

Once again, the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court has demonstrated its forthright independence by finding against the PNG Government over the legality of the Australian funded Manus asylum seeker detention facility. In a five to zero ruling, the judges declared that the Manus Island Processing

Australia's new cyber security strategy: A critical outlook

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet recently released a $230 million Cyber Security Strategy. Interestingly, the last such document, issued in 2009 under former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, was put forth by the Attorney General's Department. This change is most likely a display of Prime

How Britain is (and isn't) just like North Korea

A clever YouTube user has mixed audio of a BBC report about a military parade to mark Kim Jong Un's birthday with footage of a military parade in honour of Queen Elizabeth II: Before you get on your high horse, I don't think the point here is to say that Britain is just like North Korea. Rather,

Panama Papers: Do we need a global tax organisation?

Do the Panama Papers demonstrate the need for a global tax body? A number of tax advocates think so. Activists in Berlin demand legislative change in the wake of Panama Papers (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images) The idea of a global tax organisation has periodically received a run by academics and

Myanmar's new government: Intentions still unclear

The National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in November’s general election, and now leads Myanmar’s first genuinely civilian government in 53 years. The overwhelming popular mandate delivered by the electorate, and the strong international support it enjoys, has delivered the

A pause for ANZAC Day

Today Australians pause to remember those who have served, and fallen, in wartime. Normal service will resume tomorrow on The Interpreter. Photo by Flickr user Department of Veterans' Affairs

Washington in spring fails to inspire gloomy economists

Last week I was in Washington DC at the same time as the circus of the IMF and World Bank Spring meetings. Anyone paying attention to the headlines from those meetings would have been sullen. The World Economic Outlook, the IMF's six-monthly global economic health check, was titled 'Too Slow for

US-Saudi relations: Salman snubs, Obama shrugs

There has been a lot of parsing of yesterday's reputed snub of President Obama by King Salman of Saudi Arabia. It certainly was a snub. In 2009 the late King Abdullah greeted Obama off the plane during the US President's first to the Kingdom; yesterday King Salman sent the Governor of Riyadh to

It takes two to Thucydides

There has been a lot of talk of late in the security and international relations community about the Thucydides trap, and more specifically that China and the US find themselves in one. But there are two important problems with the way the maxim is being used that have more than just academic

Australia's new cyber ambassador

This morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull launched Australia's new cyber strategy, the first in seven years. Much has changed in that time in the world of cyber, and the internet in general. The strategy does a decent job in catching Australia up. The new strategy and review calls for the

Japan's submarine bid looks sunk

Yesterday the ABC's Chris Uhlmann delivered the scoop that federal cabinet had all but rejected Japan's bid to build 12 new submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. The Australian's Brendan Nicholson reinforced the story today, and last weekend Hamish Mcdonald had a piece along similar lines,

China's doves break cover to criticise foreign policy

The Global Times is one of the favourite publications for Western journalists and pundits on China. The nationalist tabloid is known for its hawkish stance and colourful English language. If you are looking for a punchy quote, the Global Times never disappoints. The paper’s editor-in-chief Hu

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