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The FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile is the sort of ‘lethal defensive weapon’ the US may consider supplying to Ukraine. Wikimedia Commons/US Army

Purely ‘defensive weapons’? There’s no such thing for Ukraine or anywhere else

Barack Obama is considering supplying "lethal defensive weapons" to Ukraine. But how meaningful is that description? There are simply "weapons", all of which can be used for defence or for aggression.
The Allied bombing of Dresden, which killed 25,000 civilians, during the Second World War is but one example of state terrorism. German Federal Archive

When talking about terrorism, let’s not forget the other kind

To overcome the kind of relativism captured by the cliché “one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter”, we need to define terrorism independently of who is employing it. Here is the definition…
A war footing for business? DVIDSHUB

Planning for war: a guide for businesses

The turmoil of 2014 was a timely reminder to businesses that they need to be prepared and have contingency plans for global conflict. The crisis in Ukraine brought Russia and the West to the brink of military…
The US’s refusal to track civilian casualties in the conflict against Islamic State represents a radical departure from established military protocol. EPA/Sedat Suna

The politics of (not) counting: why war on terror’s civilian toll matters

Lieutenant-General James L. Terry, commander of US forces in Iraq and Syria, recently admitted he had no idea how many civilians have died as a result of coalition airstrikes in the region. In a briefing…
A military covenant sounds noble, but it opens up many pitfalls in the relationship between the Australian Defence Force and public. Andrew Mercer/Flickr

Dealing with defence: the problems with a military covenant

The ANZAC centenary will be full of symbols. After all, commemoration is cheaper than defence. ANZAC symbols, in particular, have an uncanny way of dismissing any doubts about defence policy and spending…
It is estimated that 73,000 people died within seconds in Nagasaki, the second Japanese city to fall victim to the atomic bomb. AAP/Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

The nuclear threat: reflections on the atomic age

With the end of the Cold War, the nuclear arms race came to a virtual halt, but the nuclear threat remained. In regional rivalries, such as those in the south Asia subcontinent, northeast Asia, and the…
Despite the importance of Remembrance Day in marking the end of the ‘war to end all wars’, it sits below Anzac Day in the estimation of most Australians. AAP/Julian Smith

Lest we forget: why November 11 lives in the shadow of Anzac Day

For all its importance, Remembrance Day, November 11, does not capture the Australian imagination in the way that Anzac Day does, despite the sustained efforts of successive governments to promote the…
Most media outlets lined up behind the ‘coalition of the willing’ last time around. This time seems no different. The US Army

When governments go to war, the Fourth Estate goes AWOL

A year after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the University of California, Berkeley, conducted a postmortem of the media coverage of the so-called “Iraq war”. The conference included academics, journalists…
Religious leaders have come together to promote community harmony, but some political and media agendas have encouraged Islamophobia. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Politicians and media let us down in fight to curb rising Islamophobia

Many incidents of violence and harassment directed at Australian Muslims have been reported recently. These are visible confirmation of fears expressed by their community, that support for the government’s…
Air strikes in Syria are the latest phase of the war against Islamic State, each stage involving a fresh set of moral judgements. EPA/US Air Force

Moral dilemmas of war against Islamic State lack easy answers

Every generation in recent memory has had seminal historical conflicts which demand that lessons must be learnt. The baby boomers had the Vietnam war. Their parents: the second world war. And our generation…
Hear no evil? Many politicians have labelled Islamic State ‘evil’, but what does that really mean? See-no-hear-no-speak-no-evil monkeys/Shuttterstock

Unique evil, death cults and War on Terror: do these labels help?

Our time, this decade even, has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. – Then United Nations' Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 1997 Over the past few weeks leading up to the US-led bombing…
Barack Obama’s speech to announce a strategy to destroy Islamic State had a familiar ring to it because it followed the script of the past half-century. EPA/Saul Loeb/pool

My fellow Americans: the familiar sound of American belligerence

A few years back, an honours student in linguistics at Macquarie University did a small study of American presidential oratory. The student chose four speeches, in which four different American presidents…
Does Tony Abbott’s justification for Australian involvement in Iraq amount to a legal basis for our commitment? AAP/Dave Hunt

Australia’s military involvement in Iraq is legal – for now

The humanitarian missions by the Royal Australian Air Force in Iraq are in accordance with international law, despite a confusing statement by Iraq’s ambassador to Australia, Mouayed Saleh. But continued…
Yes…but is it war? Inspecting weapons seized in east Ukraine. EPA/Tatyana Zenkovich

Explainer: when does a conflict become a war?

Is the conflict in Ukraine a war? This question has been raised in recent reports about a Russian invasion in Ukraine on the Caspian Sea. The USA and other NATO powers call it an “incursion”; the Baltic…
After 70 years, Don Carter (back row, fourth from right, with his cousins Darryl Watson in front of him and Donald Carter jnr beside him) finally met his extended family at a reunion in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 2013. Margaret Carter

Children born of war: a neglected legacy of troops among civilians

New kinds of histories are raising alternative stories that temper the celebratory focus of conventional war histories. These are putting new emphasis on the costs of war in economic and human terms, and…
The First World War has different resonance and meaning across the Commonwealth nations, which should be reflected in the UK and Scottish government’s commemoration plans. EPA/Andy Rain

UK WWI commemorations should embrace Commonwealth experience

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond’s speech at the recent UK and Commonwealth First World War centenary commemoration subtly emphasised its politicised nature. At no point did he use the term “British…
‘Memorial diplomacy’, on display in June’s D-Day commemorations, is a mode of symbolic soft power politics which uses sites of memory and commemorative events to boost relations. AAP

The WWI centenary in France and the diplomacy of shared memory

When French president François Hollande rose to deliver the keynote address for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings earlier this year, he set in motion an unprecedented five-year cycle of commemoration…
A field of poppies, symbolising the soldiers' sacrifice, has been sown in Northwood, London, for the centenary of the First World War, but the civilian losses are no less worthy of remembrance. AAP/Newzulu/Stephen Chung

On Hiroshima Day, remember the civilian victims of ‘total war’

Hiroshima Day is the closest we come to a day that focuses on the plight of civilians in war. The two atomic bombs dropped on Japan immediately killed over 120,000 civilians, but over the years the day…

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