Hello friends and welcome to 2022! Coming to you live from Adelaide, this week’s quick brain-expanding and eye-widening pick in security and defence.
Out of the shadows. First up for this week’s edition is the increasingly public head of ASIO Mike Burgess who, in his Annual Threat Assessment delivered on 9 February, talked about the importance of being open because it has become “increasingly clear that there is much more we can say than ‘no comment’”. Although ASIO “must be secretive about [its] capabilities”, he believes, “we can be open about our values”. The bulk of the speech covered trends in extremism, particularly in light of the pandemic and its impact on national security:
The behaviours we are seeing in response to COVID lockdowns and vaccinations are not specifically left or right wing. They are a cocktail of views, fears, frustrations and conspiracies. Individuals who hold these views, and are willing to support violence to further them, are best and most accurately described as ideologically motivated violent extremists.
He also dropped some confronting stats on radicalisation among young Australians, particularly minors:
A few years ago, minors represented around two to three per cent of our new counter-terrorism investigations. In the last year, though, the figure’s been closer to fifteen per cent. And perhaps more disturbingly, these young people are more intense in their extremism [ …] At the end of last year, on average, minors represented more than half of our priority counter-terrorism investigations each week.
Aside from those figures and his refrain that “security is a shared responsibility”, it’s valuable to skim the speech (or watch it in full) to see where ASIO is focussing its attention as well as the helpful distinction Burgess makes between foreign influence and foreign interference in Australian politics—something worth noting with an upcoming election.
Don’t look back in anger. History and strategy nerds, this one’s for you! Check out this recent Lawfare Podcast interview with Prof Hal Brands on what understanding Cold War history can teach us about great power rivalry (also the subject of his new book The Twilight Struggle). The episode covers origins of containment, the rise of Sovietology in academia (and how that compares with present-day Sinology) and what the Biden administration could learn from the Cold War (57mins).
Sweet surrender. My last pick today is a sobering and heart-pinching one. My friend and colleague Mick Cook literally stripped himself bare to talk about his experiences with post-traumatic stress and his service in the army (5mins). Working with artist Michael Armstrong and filmed in black and white, the result is a subtle yet powerful telling of his realisation he was constantly living with intense emotions like anger. As Mick gently pulls on his cams on top of molasses smeared onto his skin, he wistfully reflects on the meaning of his uniform and life after army. Mick, thanks for your courage and vulnerability. Please check out it.
See you next week, folks! Image courtesy of Flickr user Transformer18—NS