Options for Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Five Eyes Alliance

Dan Lee is a government employee who works in Defense, and has varying levels of experience working with Five Eyes nations (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand).  He can be found on Twitter @danlee961.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Options for Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Five Eyes Alliance

Date Originally Written:  September 29, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  October 29, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of Five Eyes national defense organizations. 

Background:  The Five Eyes community consists of the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), Canada, Australia and New Zealand; its origins can be traced to the requirement to cooperate in Signals Intelligence after World War Two[1]. Arguably, the alliance is still critical today in dealing with terrorism and other threats[2].

Autonomous systems may provide the Five Eyes alliance an asymmetric advantage, or ‘offset’, to counter its strategic competitors that are on track to field larger and more technologically advanced military forces. The question of whether or not to develop and employ Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) is currently contentious due to the ethical and social considerations involved with allowing machines to choose targets and apply lethal force without human intervention[3][4][5]. Twenty-six countries are calling for a prohibition on LAWS, while three Five Eyes partners (Australia, UK and the US) as well as other nations including France, Germany, South Korea and Turkey do not support negotiating new international laws on the matter[6]. When considering options, at least two issues must also be addressed.

The first issue is defining what LAWS are; a common lexicon is required to allow Five Eyes partners to conduct an informed discussion as to whether they can come to a common policy position on the development and employment of these systems. Public understanding of autonomy is mostly derived from the media or from popular culture and this may have contributed to the hype around the topic[7][8][8]. Currently there is no universally accepted definition of what constitutes a fully autonomous lethal weapon system, which has in turn disrupted discussions at the United Nations (UN) on how these systems should be governed by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCWUN)[10]. The US and UK have different definitions, which makes agreement on a common position difficult even amongst like-minded nations[11][12]. This lack of lexicon is further complicated by some strategic competitors using more liberal definitions of LAWS, allowing them to support a ban while simultaneously developing weapons that do not require meaningful human control[13][14][15][16].

The second issue one of agreeing how autonomous systems might be employed within the Five Eyes alliance. For example, as a strategic offset technology, the use of autonomous systems might mitigate the relatively small size of their military forces relative to an adversary’s force[17]. Tactically, they could be deployed completely independently of humans to remove personnel from danger, as swarms to overwhelm the enemy with complexity, or as part of a human-machine team to augment human capabilities[18][19][20].

A failure of Five Eyes partners to come to a complete agreement on what is and is not permissible in developing and employing LAWS does not necessarily mean a halt to progress; indeed, this may provide the alliance with the ability for some partners to cover the capability gaps of others. If some members of the alliance choose not to develop lethal systems, it may free their resources to focus on autonomous Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) or logistics capabilities. In a Five Eyes coalition environment, these members who chose not to develop lethal systems could provide support to the LAWS-enabled forces of other partners, providing lethal autonomy to the alliance as whole, if not to individual member states.

Significance:  China and Russia may already be developing LAWS; a failure on the part of the Five Eyes alliance to actively manage this issue may put it at a relative disadvantage in the near future[21][22][23][24]. Further, dual-use civilian technologies already exist that may be adapted for military use, such as the Australian COTSbot and the Chinese Mosquito Killer Robot[25][26]. If the Five Eyes alliance does not either disrupt the development of LAWS by its competitors, or attain relative technological superiority, it may find itself starting in a position of disadvantage during future conflicts or deterrence campaigns.

Option #1:  Five Eyes nations work with the UN to define LAWS and ban their development and use; diplomatic, economic and informational measures are applied to halt or disrupt competitors’ LAWS programs. Technological offset is achieved by Five Eyes autonomous military systems development that focuses on logistics and ISR capabilities, such as Boston Dynamics’ LS3 AlphaDog and the development of driverless trucks to free soldiers from non-combat tasks[27][28][29][30].

Risk:  In the event of conflict, allied combat personnel would be more exposed to danger than the enemy as their nations had, in essence, decided to not develop a technology that could be of use in war. Five Eyes militaries would not be organizationally prepared to develop, train with and employ LAWS if necessitated by an existential threat. It may be too late to close the technological capability gap after the commencement of hostilities.

Gain:  The Five Eyes alliance’s legitimacy regarding human rights and the just conduct of war is maintained in the eyes of the international community. A LAWS arms race and subsequent proliferation can be avoided.

Option #2:  Five Eyes militaries actively develop LAWS to achieve superiority over their competitors.

Risk:  The Five Eyes alliance’s legitimacy may be undermined in the eyes of the international community and organizations such as The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, the UN, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Public opinion in some partner nations may increasingly disapprove of LAWS development and use, which could fragment the alliance in a similar manner to the Australia, New Zealand and United States Security Treaty[31][32].

The declared development and employment of LAWS may catalyze a resource-intensive international arms race. Partnerships between government and academia and industry may also be adversely affected[33][34].

Gain:  Five Eyes nations avoid a technological disadvantage relative to their competitors; the Chinese information campaign to outmanoeuvre Five Eyes LAWS development through the manipulation of CCWUN will be mitigated. Once LAWS development is accepted as inevitable, proliferation may be regulated through the UN.

Other Comments:  None

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Tossini, J.V. (November 14, 2017). The Five Eyes – The Intelligence Alliance of the Anglosphere. Retrieved from https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/the-five-eyes-the-intelligence-alliance-of-the-anglosphere/

[2] Grayson, K. Time to bring ‘Five Eyes’ in from the cold? (May 4, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/time-bring-five-eyes-cold/

[3] Lange, K. 3rd Offset Strategy 101: What It Is, What the Tech Focuses Are (March 30, 2016). Retrieved from http://www.dodlive.mil/2016/03/30/3rd-offset-strategy-101-what-it-is-what-the-tech-focuses-are/

[4] International Committee of the Red Cross. Expert Meeting on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems Statement (November 15, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.icrc.org/en/document/expert-meeting-lethal-autonomous-weapons-systems

[5] Human Rights Watch and
Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. Fully Autonomous Weapons: Questions and Answers. (October 2013). Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/supporting_resources/10.2013_killer_robots_qa.pdf

[6] Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Report on Activities Convention on Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems – United Nations Geneva – 9-13 April 2018. (2018) Retrieved from https://www.stopkillerrobots.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/KRC_ReportCCWX_Apr2018_UPLOADED.pdf

[7] Scharre, P. Why You Shouldn’t Fear ‘Slaughterbots’. (December 22, 2017). Retrieved from https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/military-robots/why-you-shouldnt-fear-slaughterbots

[8] Winter, C. (November 14, 2017). ‘Killer robots’: autonomous weapons pose moral dilemma. Retrieved from https://www.dw.com/en/killer-robots-autonomous-weapons-pose-moral-dilemma/a-41342616

[9] Devlin, H. Killer robots will only exist if we are stupid enough to let them. (June 11, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jun/11/killer-robots-will-only-exist-if-we-are-stupid-enough-to-let-them

[10] Welsh, S. Regulating autonomous weapons. (November 16, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/regulating-autonomous-weapons/

[11] United States Department of Defense. Directive Number 3000.09. (November 21, 2012). Retrieved from https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=726163

[12] Lords AI committee: UK definitions of autonomous weapons hinder international agreement. (April 17, 2018). Retrieved from http://www.article36.org/autonomous-weapons/lords-ai-report/

[13] Group of Governmental Experts of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects – Geneva, 9–13 April 2018 (first week) Item 6 of the provisional agenda – Other matters. (11 April 2018). Retrieved from https://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B8954/(httpAssets)/E42AE83BDB3525D0C125826C0040B262/$file/CCW_GGE.1_2018_WP.7.pdf

[14] Welsh, S. China’s shock call for ban on lethal autonomous weapon systems. (April 16, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.janes.com/article/79311/china-s-shock-call-for-ban-on-lethal-autonomous-weapon-systems

[15] Mohanty, B. Lethal Autonomous Dragon: China’s approach to artificial intelligence weapons. (Nov 15 2017). Retrieved from https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/lethal-autonomous-weapons-dragon-china-approach-artificial-intelligence/

[16] Kania, E.B. China’s Strategic Ambiguity and Shifting Approach to Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems. (April 17, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.lawfareblog.com/chinas-strategic-ambiguity-and-shifting-approach-lethal-autonomous-weapons-systems

[17] Tomes, R. Why the Cold War Offset Strategy was all about Deterrence and Stealth. (January 14, 2015) Retrieved from https://warontherocks.com/2015/01/why-the-cold-war-offset-strategy-was-all-about-deterrence-and-stealth/

[18] Lockie, A. The Air Force just demonstrated an autonomous F-16 that can fly and take out a target all by itself. (April 12, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com.au/f-16-drone-have-raider-ii-loyal-wingman-f-35-lockheed-martin-2017-4?r=US&IR=T

[19] Schuety, C. & Will, L. An Air Force ‘Way of Swarm’: Using Wargaming and Artificial Intelligence to Train Drones. (September 21, 2018). Retrieved from https://warontherocks.com/2018/09/an-air-force-way-of-swarm-using-wargaming-and-artificial-intelligence-to-train-drones/

[20] Ryan, M. Human-Machine Teaming for Future Ground Forces. (2018). Retrieved from https://csbaonline.org/uploads/documents/Human_Machine_Teaming_FinalFormat.pdf

[21] Perrigo, B. Global Arms Race for Killer Robots Is Transforming the Battlefield. (Updated: April 9, 2018). Retrieved from http://time.com/5230567/killer-robots/

[22] Hutchison, H.C. Russia says it will ignore any UN ban of killer robots. (November 30, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/russia-will-ignore-un-killer-robot-ban-2017-11/?r=AU&IR=T

[23] Mizokami, K. Kalashnikov Will Make an A.I.-Powered Killer Robot – What could possibly go wrong? (July 20, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/news/a27393/kalashnikov-to-make-ai-directed-machine-guns/

[24] Atherton, K. Combat robots and cheap drones obscure the hidden triumph of Russia’s wargame. (September 25, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.c4isrnet.com/unmanned/2018/09/24/combat-robots-and-cheap-drones-obscure-the-hidden-triumph-of-russias-wargame/

[25] Platt, J.R. A Starfish-Killing, Artificially Intelligent Robot Is Set to Patrol the Great Barrier Reef Crown of thorns starfish are destroying the reef. Bots that wield poison could dampen the invasion. (January 1, 2016) Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-starfish-killing-artificially-intelligent-robot-is-set-to-patrol-the-great-barrier-reef/

[26] Skinner, T. Presenting, the Mosquito Killer Robot. (September 14, 2016). Retrieved from https://quillorcapture.com/2016/09/14/presenting-the-mosquito-killer-robot/

[27] Defence Connect. DST launches Wizard of Aus. (November 10, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.defenceconnect.com.au/key-enablers/1514-dst-launches-wizard-of-aus

[28] Pomerleau, M. Air Force is looking for resilient autonomous systems. (February 24, 2016). Retrieved from https://defensesystems.com/articles/2016/02/24/air-force-uas-contested-environments.aspx

[29] Boston Dynamics. LS3 Legged Squad Support Systems. The AlphaDog of legged robots carries heavy loads over rough terrain. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.bostondynamics.com/ls3

[30] Evans, G. Driverless vehicles in the military – will the potential be realised? (February 2, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.army-technology.com/features/driverless-vehicles-military/

[31] Hambling, D. Why the U.S. Is Backing Killer Robots. (September 15, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a23133118/us-ai-robots-warfare/

[32] Ministry for Culture and Heritage. ANZUS treaty comes into force 29 April 1952. (April 26, 2017). Retrieved from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/anzus-comes-into-force

[33] Shalal, A. Researchers to boycott South Korean university over AI weapons work. (April 5, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tech-korea-boycott/researchers-to-boycott-south-korean-university-over-ai-weapons-work-idUSKCN1HB392

[34] Shane, S & Wakabayashi, D. ‘The Business of War’: Google Employees Protest Work for the Pentagon. (April 4, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/technology/google-letter-ceo-pentagon-project.html

 

Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming Australia Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) Autonomous Weapons Systems Canada Dan Lee New Zealand Option Papers United Kingdom United States

Options to Address Terrorism Financing in Australia

Ryan McWhirter has a master’s degree of Terrorism and Security Studies at Charles Sturt University.  He can be found on twitter at ryanmc__89.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The enforcement of terrorism financing for terror organisations such as the Islamic State (IS) within Australia.

Date Originally Written:  January 30, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  May 7, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of challenging the symbolism of investigating all terrorism financing with the effect of better employment of limited investigatory resources based upon an impact assessment of action or inaction.

Background:  Most terrorist organisations require vast amounts of external support to fund their operations.  At the height of its power, the Islamic State were vastly different in the way they funded their group, with an estimated valuation at $2 billion US dollars.  The group was almost entirely self-sufficient, relying on natural resources within their controlled territory, taxes and extortion[1].

Whilst the group is most certainly winding down due to being militarily defeated in the terrain they controlled, it is not unsound to assess that other groups will try to emulate them.  During their peak, only 5% of the group’s finances were obtained through foreign donation[2].

Significance:  The enforcement of all things terrorism has become a political hot point within Australia.  Governments profess to the public that they are doing all in their power to suppress the threat groups such as IS pose.  The financing of the group is no exception to this rule and many investigations have been squarely aimed at individuals funding terrorism.

However, when 95% of a groups finances come from internal resources, is the enforcement of external donations a cost-effective measure, particularly in a small nation such as Australia?  Whilst it is unknown the exact amount Australians contributed to IS at its peak, it can safely be measured to be a small amount of the 5% the group reaps from donations.

This situation is purely economic.  Counter terrorism operations are not cheap.  It would not be out of the realm of possibilities to estimate an operation may cost between $100,000 to $150,000 a day, given the amount of staff, resources and other intangibles required to thoroughly investigate.  If an operation runs for three months, the cost is $ 9 million.

Can these resources be put to better use?  A case in point occurred in 2016 when a young male and female were arrested in Sydney, Australia for sending $5,000 to IS[3].  This operation didn’t occur over night.  If for example it ran for two months, intelligence and security agencies spent an estimated $6 million dollars to investigate $5,000 going overseas.  The two offenders were refused bail and remanded in custody, with the male being sent to a supermax prison.  Is sending a young male to supermax for terror financing going to change his views or intensify them?

The key question is, for an almost entirely self-sufficient group, is enforcing this small amount of finance an efficient and productive measure?

Option #1:  The Australian government continues with total enforcement of laws regarding terror finance.

Risk:  This option maintains the status quo.  The continuation of the total enforcement of these offences may lead to effected communities feeling targeted and vilified by authorities.

A risk this option poses is that the resources and finances used in these investigations are not being used in more serious matters.  Whilst intelligence and security agencies are busy investigating small time terror financers, other serious offences are going unchecked, these offences include human trafficking, large-scale drug importations and actual terrorist activity being directed at citizens.

Gain:  This option allows political capital to be garnered, particularly with a government obsessed with giving the appearance of being tough on terror.  It also sets an example to other individuals who may be contemplating financing terror groups that their actions are unacceptable and will be investigated and prosecuted.

Option #2:  The Australian government conducts a cost and benefit analysis before investigating the financing of groups such as IS.

Risk:  The risks in this option are profound.  Individuals may use this loophole to contribute to their group of choice by only donating small amounts, knowing they won’t be investigated if the amount is small enough.  This small donation activity may be seen as a gateway to conducting further terrorist related activities and a key step in the radicalization process.

Politically, this option is problematic.  If this option became policy, it would be seized upon by the government’s opposition to imply they are soft on terrorism.

Gain:  Australian government terrorism-related resources and finances are diverted into more serious criminal offences and social programs.  Deradicalization programs in schools and community centers could be better funded, perhaps stopping individuals wanting to finance a terror group, or even help stop a terrorist attack before it happens.  The government could make the case that by saving resources in this area they are in fact showing a genuine attempt to stop terrorism before it happens, reducing the need to be tough on it.

Other Comments:  It should be noted that in cases of financing terror groups such as Al-Qa’ida who have a greater reliance on outside donation, option two would not be feasible.  As such, these incidents would be investigated as usual.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Centre for the analysis of terrorism. (2015). ISIS Financing

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  Olding, Rachel. (2016) Texts between schoolgirl terror suspect and co-accused Milad Atai released in court. Sydney Morning Herald.

Australia Economic Factors Islamic State Variants Option Papers Ryan McWhirter

China’s Options Towards the (Re)emerging Quadrilateral Security Dialogue

Adam Ni is a researcher at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University.  His areas of interest include China’s foreign and security policy.  He can be found on Twitter @adam_ni.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The People’s Republic of China (China) is facing the (re)emergence of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as the Quad, consisting of the United States, India, Japan and Australia.  The unstated aim of the Quad is to constrain China’s growing power in Asia through possible military and economic cooperation that would raise the cost if Beijing challenges the status quo.

Date Originally Written:  February 28, 2018.

Originally Published:  March 5, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a scholar of China’s foreign and security policy.  The article is written from the point of view of Chinese decision-makers considering policy options in response to the Quad’s challenges.

Background:  The Quad can be traced back to 2007 when diplomatic efforts culminated in a multilateral naval exercise off the Bay of Bengal.  While the countries involved contended that their activities were not aimed at China, it was clear that these activities were largely a response to China’s growing power.  However, the Quad was short-lived with Australia pulling out in February 2008 under Chinese pressure[1].

Recently, the Quad has been revived in the face of an increasingly powerful and assertive China with expanded geopolitical ambitions.  In November 2017, officials from the Quad nations met on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in the Philippines and agreed that a “free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region” is in the interest of all countries[2].  This meeting was followed in January by the meeting of the Quad navy chiefs at the Raisina Dialogue in India.  During the meeting, Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, characterized China as a “disruptive, transitional force” in the region, and urged Quad nations to take measures against China’s “unilateral ways to change the use of global commons” and uphold “rule-based freedom of navigation[3].”  This sentiment was echoed by the navy chiefs of the other three Quad nations.

Significance:  While it is still too early to tell what the Quad would entail, in theory, it aims to constrain China’s growing power and to ameliorate China’s behavior by altering Beijing’s strategic calculus.  The military dimension of the Quad could take the form of expanded military cooperation that would raise the cost for China to use or threaten the use of force, including in relation to the East and South China Seas.  The economic dimension could take the form of expanded economic and infrastructure cooperation that would compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a grand plan to reshape the world economy with China at the center.

Option #1:  Reassurance.  China continues to emphasize to the Quad nations its intent to develop peacefully through public statements and diplomatic channels.

Risk:  Without pushing back against the Quad, the Quad nations and others in the region may believe that China is unwilling to impose a cost on them for challenging China’s security and economic interests.  This lack of push back may lead to further coalescence of the Quad and may even draw in other states in the region that have become wary of China’s growing power, including those that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Gain:  Option #1 may help to undermine the narrative of an ambitious China with a willingness to adopt coercive means to protect and advance its interests.  This option would strengthen the arguments of domestic forces in the Quad nations that advocate a softer approach in responding to Chinese power.

Option #2:  Punishment.  China applies a high degree of economic and diplomatic pressure on Quad nations to demonstrate the cost of challenging China’s interests and thus deter further challenges.  This option could take the form of economic coercion, formal diplomatic protests, and the downgrading of bilateral cooperation in key fields.

Risk:  Option #2 would strengthen the rationale for the Quad and the argument for constraining China’s power in the first place by demonstrating China’s willingness to adopt coercive measures against those that challenge its interests.  This option may further exacerbate the negative perception of China among the Quad nations, especially where there is already a lively debate about China’s influence (such as in Australia and the United States).  In addition, economic coercion may damage the Chinese economy and in the long run make the target economies less dependent on China.

Gain:  China demonstrating strength and resolve early on may lead to the collapse of the Quad if the Quad nations are not willing to pay the high cost of challenging China’s interests.  For example, Australia is highly dependent on China for trade and investment flows.  The Chinese government could put in place measures to reduce Chinese tourists or students from going to Australia and link these restrictions to Australia’s involvement with the Quad.  Such measures may also deter other regional countries from cooperating with the Quad against China’s interests.

Option #3:  Reassurance and caution.  China continues to emphasize its peaceful intent while also signaling its willingness to impose an economic and political cost on the Quad nations should they continue to challenge China’s interests.

Risk:  Option #3 may not be effective due to a lack of concrete cost imposed on the Quad nations, through, for example, coercive economic measures.  At the same time, the cautioning may be interpreted as an aggressive warning of China’s coercive intent, further exacerbating public anxiety in the Quad nations.

Gain:  This approach may be enough to forestall the further development of the Quad through providing reassurance but also signals China’s resolve to protects its interests.  Option #3’s key benefit is that it does not incur large political or economic cost for China immediately, but hinges Chinese retaliation on further Quad activities.

Other Comments:  The revived Quad is still in the early stages of its development, and it is too early to tell what the Quad would entail.  The above options are presented on the basis that the Quad may involve military and economic dimensions that challenge China’s interests, including its territorial claims in the South China Sea as well as its Belt and Road Initiative.  Given the diversity of strategic interests between the Quad nations in relation to China, there is a likelihood that the Quad will not develop beyond a mechanism for dialogue.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Indrani Bagchi, “Australia to pull out of ‘quad’ that excludes China,” Times of India, February 6, 2008. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Australia-to-pull-out-of-quad-that-excludes-China/articleshow/2760109.cms.

[2] “India-Australia-Japan-U.S. Consultations on Indo-Pacific (November 12, 2017),” Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, November 12, 2017. Available at: http://mea.gov.in/press-releases.htm?dtl/29110/IndiaAustraliaJapanUS_Consultations_on_IndoPacific_November_12_2017

[3] “‘China a disruptive power,’ say navy chiefs of Quadrilateral nations,” Times of India, January 19, 2018. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/china-a-disruptive-power-quad-nations-navy-chiefs/articleshow/62562144.cms.

Adam Ni Australia China (People's Republic of China) India Japan Option Papers United States

An Australian Perspective on Identity, Social Media, and Ideology as Drivers for Violent Extremism

Kate McNair has a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology from Macquarie University and is currently pursuing her a Master’s Degree in Security Studies and Terrorism at Charles Sturt University.  You can follow her on Twitter @kate_amc .  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  An Australian Perspective on Identity, Social Media, and Ideology as Drivers for Violent Extremism

Date Originally Written:  December 2, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 8, 2018.

Summary:  Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) is a leading initiative by many western sovereigns to reduce home-grown terrorism and extremism.  Social media, ideology, and identity are just some of the issues that fuel violent extremism for various individuals and groups and are thus areas that CVE must be prepared to address.

Text:  On March 7, 2015, two brothers aged 16 and 17 were arrested after they were suspected of leaving Australia through Sydney Airport to fight for the Islamic State[1].  The young boys fouled their parents and forged school letters.  Then they presented themselves to Australian Immigration and Border Protection shortly after purchasing tickets to an unknown middle eastern country with a small amount of funds and claimed to be on their way to visit family for three months.  Later, they were arrested for admitting to intending to become foreign fighters for the Islamic State.  October 2, 2015, Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar, 15 years old, approached Parramatta police station in Sydney’s West, and shot civilian police accountant Curtis Cheng in the back[2].  Later it was discovered that Jabar was inspired and influenced by two older men aged 18 and 22, who manipulated him into becoming a lone wolf attacker, and supplied him the gun he used to kill the civilian worker.

In November 2016 Parliament passed the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2016 and stated that “Keeping Australians safe is the first priority of the Turnbull Government, which committed to ensuring Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the tools they need to fight terrorism[3].”  More recently, the Terrorism (Police Powers) Act of 2002 was extensively amended to become the Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Police Powers and Parole) Act of 2017 which allows police to have more powers during investigations and puts stronger restrictions and requirements on parolees when integrating back into society.  Although these governing documents aim at honing in on law enforcement and the investigation side of terrorism efforts, in 2014 the Tony Abbot Government implemented a nation-wide initiative called Living Safe Together[4].  Living Safe Together opposed a law enforcement-centric approach and instead focused on community-based initiatives to address the growing appeal of violent extremist ideologies in young people.

Levi West, a well-known academic in the field of terrorism in Australia highlighted that, in the cases of the aforementioned individuals, they have lived there entire lives in a world where the war of terror has existed.  These young men were part of a Muslim minority and have grown up witnessing a war that has been painted by some as the West vs Islam.  These young men were influenced by many voices between school, work, social events, and at home[5].  This leads to the question on whether these young individuals are driven to violent extremism by the ideology or are they trying to find their identity and their purpose in this world.

For young adults in Australia, social media is a strong driver for violent extremism.  Young adults are vulnerable and uncertain about various things in their life.  When people feel uncertain about who they are, the accuracy of their perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes, they seek out people who are similar to them in order to make comparisons that largely confirm the veracity and appropriateness of their own attitudes.  Social media is being weaponised by violent extremist organizations such as the Islamic State.  Social media, and other communicative Peer-to-Peer sharing platforms, are ideal to facilitate virtual learning and virtual interactions between young adults and violent extremists.  While young adults who interact within these online forums may be less likely to engage in a lone wolf attack, these forums can reinforce prior beliefs and slowly manipulate people over time.

Is it violent extremist ideology that is inspiring young individuals to become violent extremists and participate in terrorism and political violence?  Decentralized command and control within violent extremist organizations, also referred to as leaderless resistance, is a technique to inspire young individuals to take it upon themselves, with no leadership, to commit attacks against western governments and communities[6].  In the case of the Islamic State and its use of this strategy, its ideology is already known to be extreme and violent, therefore its interpretation and influence of leaderless resistance is nothing less.  Decentralization has been implemented internationally as the Islamic State continues to provide information, through sites such as Insider, on how to acquire the materiel needed to conduct attacks.  Not only does the Islamic State provide training and skill information, they encourage others to spread the their ideology through the conduct of lone wolf attacks and glorify these acts as a divine right.  Together with the vulnerability of young individuals, the strategy of decentralized command and control with the extreme ideology, has been successful thus far.  Based upon this success, CVE’s effectiveness is likely tied to it being equally focused on combating identity as a driver for violent extremism, in addition to an extreme ideology, and the strategies and initiative that can prevent individuals to becoming violent extremists.

The leading strategies in CVE have been social media, social cohesion, and identity focused.  Policy leaders and academics have identified that young individuals are struggling with the social constraints of labels and identity, therefore need to take a community-based approach when countering violent extremism.  The 2015 CVE Regional Summit reveled various recommendations and findings that relate to the use of social media and the effects it has on young, vulnerable individuals and the realities that Australia must face as a country, and as a society.  With the growing threat of homegrown violent extremism and the returning of foreign fighters from fighting with the Islamic State, without programs that address individual identity and social cohesion, violent extremism will continue to be a problem.  The Australian Federal Police (AFP) have designated Community Liaison Team members whose role is to develop partnerships with community leaders to tackle the threat of violent extremism and enhance community relations, with the AFP also adopting strategies to improve dialogue with Muslim communities. The AFP’s efforts, combined with the participation of young local leaders, is paramount to the success of these strategies and initiatives to counter the violent extremism narrative.


Endnotes:

[1] Nick Ralston, ‘Parramatta shooting: Curtis Cheng was on his way home when shot dead’ October 3rd 2015 http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/parramatta-shooting-curtis-cheng-was-on-his-way-home-when-shot-dead-20151003-gk0ibk.html Accessed December 1, 2017.

[2] Lanai Scarr, ‘Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said two teenage brothers arrested while trying to leave Australia to fight with ISIS were ‘saved’’ March 8th 2015 http://www.news.com.au/national/immigration-minister-peter-dutton-said-two-teenage-brothers-arrested-while-trying-to-leave-australia-to-fight-with-isis-were-saved/news-story/90b542528076cbdd02ed34aa8a78d33a Accessed December 1, 2017.

[3] Australian Government media release, Parliament passes Counter Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill No 1 2016. https://www.attorneygeneral.gov.au/Mediareleases/Pages/2016/FourthQuarter/Parliament-passes-Counter-Terrorism-Legislation-Amendment-Bill-No1-2016.aspx Accessed December 1, 2017.

[4] Australian Government, Living Safer Together Building community resilience to violent extremism. https://www.livingsafetogether.gov.au/pages/home.aspx Accessed December 1, 2017.

[5] John W. Little, Episode 77 Australian Approaches to Counterterrorism Podcast, Covert Contact. October 2, 2017.

[6] West, L. 2016. ‘#jihad: Understanding social media as a weapon’, Security Challenges 12 (2): pp. 9-26.

Assessment Papers Australia Cyberspace Islamic State Variants Kate McNair Social Media Violent Extremism

Options for Bougainville Independence

Iain Strutt has been involved in military, police and private security in Australia for over twenty years.  He is currently completing a Bachelor of Science (Security) degree with a minor in international relations at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organisation, or any group.  


Area_Map_Bougainville

National Security Situation:  Independence options for Bougainville Island, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Date Originally Written:  March 26, 2016.

Date Originally Published:  May 4, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  While Bougainville may be a small Pacific Island and seem minor geopolitically, the author believes the outcome of the independence vote in 2019 will have regional implications.

Background:  Bougainville Island will hold a referendum on independence from PNG on June 15th, 2019.  Independence from PNG has been deliberated and defeated before[1].  Historically, Bougainville was administered first by Germany, then Britain.  After World War 2, Australia administered the territory as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of New Guinea.  With PNG independence from Australia in 1975, Bougainville became part of the new nation[2].  Bougainville was originally known as the North Solomons’, being as they were, part of the Solomon Islands.

Secessionists caused an insurrection in Bougainville in 1988 and it continued until the late 1990s.  The conflict succeeded in closing the giant Panguna copper mine in 1989, situated in the southern highlands.  Panguna was vital to the economy of PNG and Bougainville, as it has copper in abundance.  The two most prominent causes for the guerilla war on Bougainville can be traced back to the longstanding imbalance between ethnicity and financial reward.  Inadequate sharing of revenue with the traditional landowners of the copper mine has since been settled, with their involvement in future mining now a reality[3].

Following the ending of the guerilla war, agreement was reached by the secessionists and the PNG government in 2001, seeing Bougainville declared an autonomous region, governed by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).  Both the ABG and PNG signed the Bougainville Peace Agreement, known as the Arawa Accord in 2001 which has three related processes: 

  1. Autonomy
  2. Referendum
  3. Weapons disposal plan[4]

Two of the three have been accomplished, although it is not known precisely how many weapons were cached or even in existence before or after the December 2001 disposal process, so questions remain over weapons numbers[5].  Of concern is that the independence votes’ outcome hinges upon its ratification by the PNG parliament as the “final decision-making authority[6].”  The state as a person in international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter relations with the other states[7].  Bougainville satisfies all criteria despite efforts to resist the breakup by PNG.

This region has previously been of strategic interest to the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) due to its resources[8].  Foreign powers attempt at influence is nothing new and it appears that the PRC is endeavoring to extend its influence past the so-called Second Island Chain.  The chain is a strategic line that stretches from Japan, to Guam, then to the “vicinity of New Guinea[9].”  Similarly, Australia has a profound strategic interest in South-East Asia, particularly PNG and the islands of the South Pacific[9].  Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) nations have fought wars and participated in peacekeeping missions in this area over the past 75 years and Bougainville lies within this region.

Financing the reopening of the Panguna mine is something that the PRC can afford, in keeping with its desire for infrastructure projects globally and commercial diplomacy[10].  To get the copper to market requires access from Panguna to Kieta port, with its adjacent airfield, on the east coast of Bougainville.  The strategic importance of Bougainville should therefore not be overlooked as the island is in a sound position to monitor the western Pacific.

Bougainville_Neighbourhood

Significance:  The recent visit to Australia by PRC Premier Li Keqinang has led to the increased warming of the bilateral relationship between the PRC and Australia.  Although Australia is still a firm ANZUS partner, U.S. foreign policy is now inward looking, prompting a refocus by the ANZUS partners.  Australian foreign policy can now act as a positive influence over the PRC in this region, with a “non-provocative, pragmatic diplomatic stance[11].”

Option #1:  Bougainville achieves independence in 2019 and ANZUS can assume defense duties in rotation on the island as there is no allowance for a defense force in the Bougainville constitution.

Risk:  Low.  This is the preferred outcome due to the minimal risk to regional stability.  It would give greater influence in the area to ANZUS nations.  The PNG military can benefit from cross training in keeping with Australia’s regional outlook.

Gain:  Positive.  Economic benefit for Bougainville.  The Panguna mine would reopen without PNG involvement with income provided to the local landowners.

Option #2:  The Bougainville referendum result is denied by the PNG government.  Bougainville declares sovereignty itself, following the examples of Bangladesh, Croatia, Georgia and Moldova (see Other Comments below).

Risk:  Moderate.  If PNG denies the result of the referendum to preserve its sovereignty over Bougainville, civil discontent is highly likely as Bougainville independence is preferred and has been over time.

Gain:  Negative.  An outcome regional partners would not want, due to the potential for violence and civil unrest.  Intervention requiring peacekeepers may occur, a situation the islanders have endured before.

Option #3:  Regardless of the result of the referendum, with closer relationships between Australia, the PRC and the ABG, a mining joint venture could commence at Panguna.  It is conceivable that this would involve the PRC as a partner in the joint venture with an Australian mining company.

Risk:  High.  Although PRC preference is for critical infrastructure projects globally, the risk would be high as there are elements within the ABG itself who have a definite preference not to deal with the PRC in any form.  Politically, this option would be impractical.

Gain:  Moderate.  Economically this would be of benefit to Bougainville for the life of the mine, which is expected to be twenty-five years.

Other Comments:  Bangladesh, Croatia, Georgia and Moldova, came to statehood in differing ways with one common denominator, at the time of their proclamation of independence there was no effective government in all four.  This differs from Bougainville, which has had effective governance for some time, elected officials, and its’ own administration separate from PNG.  Of the four nations mentioned above, Moldova is the most relative to Bougainville.  Moldova declared sovereignty on June 23, 1990, providing for the Moldovan constitution and laws to have primacy over those of the Soviet Union.  This was a proclamation of sovereignty and not independence but was a step towards it.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Jennings P. & Claxton K. (2013) A stitch in time. Preserving peace on Bougainville. Australian Strategic Policy Institute Limited.  p.3.

[2]  Jennings P. & Claxton K. (2013) A stitch in time. Preserving peace on Bougainville. Australian Strategic Policy Institute Limited.  p.15.

[3]  Bougainville Mining Act 2015. Autonomous Region of Bougainville (no.3 of 2015).

[4]  United Nations [UN] (2001) Bougainville Peace Agreement. Introduction and OutlineS/2001/988 Enclosure II Bougainville Peace Agreement.  23rd October 2001. p.8

[5]  Woodbury J. (2015) The Bougainville independence referendum: Assessing the risks and challenges before, during and after the referendum. Australian Defence College. Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies. p.9.

[6]  Woodbury J. (2015) The Bougainville independence referendum: Assessing the risks and challenges before, during and after the referendum. Australian Defence College. Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies.  P.7

[7]  Raic D. (2002) Statehood and the Law of Self-Determination. Brill Academic Publishers. p.406.

[8]  Hegarty M. (2015) Chinas growing influence in the South-West Pacific: Australian policies that could respond to Chinese intentions and objectives. Australian Defence College, Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies. p. 8

[9]  Holmes J.R. (2011) Island Chain Defence. The Diplomat. Retrieved 27th March 2017. http://thediplomat.com/2011/04/island-chain-defense/

[10]  Frost E.L. (2007) Chinas Rise and the Balance of Influence in Asia. Edited by William W. Keller and Thomas G. Rawsky. Ch. 5. Chinas’ Commercial Diplomacy in Asia. University of Pittsburg  Press. p.95.

[11]  Carr. B. (2017) Canberra’s sensible South China Sea Stand is contingent on continual pragmatism in Beijing. The Weekend Australian. March 18-19, 2017, p.24. News Ltd. Sydney.

Australia Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) Bougainville China (People's Republic of China) Iain Strutt New Zealand Option Papers Papua New Guinea Referendums United States

Islamic State Options: Pivot towards Australia

Phillip Etches is a fourth-year undergraduate student in the Australian National University’s International Security and Middle-Eastern Studies program where he focuses on networked non-state threats.  He can be found on Twitter @CN_Hack.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Possible shift in Islamic State’s (IS) operational focus towards Southeast Asia and the threat to Australian citizens.

Date Originally Written:  February 22, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  April 20, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This options paper is written from the perspective of an individual with command seniority within IS, or influence over the strategic-level policymaking of that organisation.

Background:  The overall goal must be the demonstration that IS remains a viable enterprise, whether as a landholding caliphate or a check on the Western threat to the Ummah.  Prior to Western intervention, a “balanced” strategy involved fighting for territory within “near enemy” spaces such as Iraq and Syria while also operating in as many “far enemy” spaces as possible.  Doing so allowed IS to show that it could establish a new caliphate while simultaneously using kinetic and information operations directed at Western Europe, Southeast Asia, and North America to demonstrate to believing people that IS was capable of projecting beyond its immediate territory.

Significance:  IS is at an inflection point where it must alter the balance of its strategy towards a new far enemy, and show that it retains the initiative by beginning to target Australian citizens and interests more aggressively.  Doing so will show that IS can still function despite territorial losses, that it retains the initiative, and inspire hope in those whose confidence has been shaken by IS setbacks in Iraq and Syria.  This pivot to Australia is vital if IS is to retain its control over its perception and reality.

Option #1:  Continue attempting to inspire remote or unaffiliated persons to conduct attacks by way of broadly targeted messaging or manipulation of social/familial ties between IS personnel and individuals in the country.

Risk:  The principal risk of the present course is a lack of impact and credibility.  The persons who have thus far answered IS’s call have been portrayed as alone, insufficiently lethal, or of compromised standards and morals[1].  This portrayal has allowed the Australian government and media to characterize operations in Australia as the products of mental illness or juvenile delinquency, lessening the kinetic and psychological effects of our operations.  Additionally, operational risk comes from institutions and legislation involved in Australia’s internal security, forcing willing persons to mount small, unsophisticated attacks only.  As such, broad messaging will therefore continue inspiring small attacks, but will not generate the psychological effect we desire.

Gain:  The main gain of Option #1 is the higher likelihood of successful – if small – attacks which will show that IS can operate without restrictions on time or location.  A secondary gain is the increased certainty which comes from following a proven course.  While the current approach does little to change the overall strategic situation, it will avoid provoking a change in behaviour on the part of the Australian internal security establishment, lowering the risk of creating unforeseen future operational challenges.

Option #2:  Targeting Australians in Southeast Asia via IS personnel displacing from Iraq and Syria or via cooperation with pre-existing networks in the region.

Risk:  The biggest risk to IS from this approach will be the immediate response, as the relevant network elements will be endangered by any post-operational security crackdown in the countries where they mount attacks.  In addition to likely immediate costs, Option #2 will alter the challenges faced by IS in future, particularly given that Southeast Asia is within Australia’s near abroad.  Should the Australian government be sufficiently provoked, it will use any available multilateral and unilateral means – as it has before – to prevent future operations.  Any networks known to be sympathetic to IS will also come under stronger Australian scrutiny.  As such, the principal benefit of operation against Australians outside the attention of the Australian government will likely be lost after the first satisfactory attack.

Gain:  The most obvious gain of Option #2 is that it responds to the challenges of Option #1.  Targeting Australians in Southeast Asia will address the risks of the current approach by enabling the use of competent pre-existing networks beyond the auspices of Australia-based security organizations.  Additionally, operating against Australians in Southeast Asia will enable IS to harness the fears held by many Australians about the Jihad in Southeast Asia and rekindle the anxiety they felt after the 2002 Bali Bombings.  This impact will be enhanced if notables such as Abu Bakar Bashir are able to lend their support to the attacks as they did with the original Bali Bombings.

Other Comments:  It may appear that the geographical remove between Syria and Southeast Asia, unlike that between Syria and Europe, is too great to feasibly conduct operations at a distance.  However, it should be noted that operations can and have been directed at such distances by IS, and tactics, techniques, and procedures can be devised to ensure smooth operation in the absence of direct control by Caliph Ibrahim.  Furthermore, IS has a number of brothers from Indonesia and Malaysia[2].  Their experience both at home and fighting in Syria will make them capable operatives, and with some preparation they should be able to carry out the requisite planning, targeting, and execution of operations against Australians.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Buggy, K. (2016). Under the Radar: How Might Australia Enhance Its Policies to Prevent ‘Lone Wolf’ and ‘Fixated Person’ Violent Attacks? Canberra, Australia:Australian Defence College’s Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies

[2]  Dodwell, B., Milton, D., & Rassler, D. (2016). The Caliphate’s Global Workforce: An Inside Look At The Islamic State’s Foreign Fighter Paper Trail. West Point, NY:USMA

Australia Islamic State Variants Option Papers Phillip Etches Violent Extremism