June 19, 2013

Future Tense

ABC Radio National


Contents


Military Expenditure and the Arms Trade Treaty

Climate Change and the Top End


Future Tense


Antony Funnell

  • Micro-spacecraft and macro ambition, 28 July 2013.
  • Technology: why is it still a man's world?, 14 July 2013.
  • Rewilding, 30 June 2013.
  • You're never too young to be targeted, 23 June 2013.
  • The FairPhone, 16 June 2013.
  • A truly useless machine, 16 June 2013.
  • Military expenditure and the arms trade, 13 May 2013.
    Sam Perlo-Freeman: PhD, Director, Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
    David Barno: Lieutenant General, USA (Retired); Senior Advisor and Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security.
    Rory Medcalf: Director, International Security Program, Lowy Institute for International Policy; Non-resident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution, Washington DC.
    Paul Holtom: PhD, Director, Arms Transfers Program, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
    Binoy Kampmark: PhD, Lecturer in Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.

    Antony Funnell:
    Last year … the world spent $1.75 trillion on matters military. …
    China's military expenditure upped considerably [by 7.8%], and Russia's has also increased by 16%, but the biggest military spender in the world is still the USA, isn't it?

    Sam Perlo-Freeman:
    [Yes,] they're spending some four times as much as China …
    And if you look beyond the spending figures to actual military capabilities, then that lead is even greater.
    For example, the United States has 11 aircraft [carrier battle groups.]
    The Chinese have one which is largely a training platform decades behind in technology and they've just started building another.
    [The] technological capability gap is closing, but it is considerably larger even than the military spending gap.
    It takes time for spending increases to actually translate into sustained capability increases. …

    [Militarily they're not] in the same league.
    [Their spending is] on things like anti access area denial capabilities …
    [Weapons that] would prevent the US's overwhelming naval forces from operating freely … around China's coasts [in the event of, say, a localized conflict over Taiwan —] asymmetric capabilities that would blunt the US's overwhelming advantage. …

    Antony Funnell:
    … China's military expenditure has been steadily increasing [but] it still only accounts for 9.5% of total world spending. …
    Whereas the US in 2012 accounted for a full 39%.
    [The] current US military budget is … greater than it was in 2001.

    David Barno:
    [As] of 1 March, and we're seeing about a 10% cut back in [US] defence spending here this year and cuts that will continue for about the next nine years that will add up to somewhere between $450 billion and $500 billion over 10 years. …
    [We] still have 60,000 Americans fighting in Afghanistan …

    Rory Medcalf:
    [With] the increasing economic weight [of the] Asian powers [—] China and India in particular [— they can now] afford much bigger militaries …
    [The] Asian century will involve stronger [Asian powers with] more reasons to clash with one another [and being able to afford the hardware to] fight more dangerous conflicts than in the past. …

    [There] is a great degree of strategic mistrust between China and other powerful states in Asia …
    [As a counterbalance we] are seeing countries strengthen their [existing] alliances with the United States [—] Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines …
    [And we're] seeing countries form soft partnerships with the United States that [fall short of] an alliance but do involve [increased] military cooperation [— India, Singapore and Vietnam. …]

    ["Mini-lateralism" is emerging — where three or four countries] share their strategic assessments with each other, perhaps a limited degree of military corporation. …
    • the United States, Japan and India …
    • the United States … Japan [and Australia …]
    • the United States, Japan, India and Australia, perhaps with Singapore thrown in …

    Antony Funnell:
    [This heightens fears] within China that China is being encircled …

    [The Arms Trade Treaty] was approved by the UN in early April.
    154 nations supported it and only three voted against it: North Korea, Iran and Syria. …

    In the period between 2008 and 2012 the Asian region accounted for almost half of the global imports of major conventional weapons.
    [China is again] one of the world's five biggest arms suppliers {[— its arms exports having] risen by 162% over the past half-decade.}

    Paul Holtom:
    In the past two decades since the end of the Cold War the top five major suppliers [have] traditionally [been:]
    • the US …
    • Russia,
    • Germany,
    • France and
    • the UK.
    They've tended to make up between three-quarters to 80% of the volume of arms exports globally.
    The last time we saw China in the top five was … at the end of the Cold War [during] the Iran-Iraq war …
    [This] time it's [largely due] to exports to Pakistan. …
    [It's about] building political relationships [in pursuit of] security [and economic interests — gaining access to resources and markets.]
    [The figures include] donations [as well as] exports and sales …

    Antony Funnell:
    [There] are serious doubts about just how effective the UN Treaty will be.
    It … needs 50 states to [ratify it before it comes] into effect. …
    [22 countries abstained including] two of the major exporters: China and Russia. …

    Binoy Kampmark:
    [If] the major exporters are not included in the arrangements, then the treaty has no teeth.
    [On] the other side of the coin, we've got major importers [—] India, for example …
    [They] want to get the best weapons [and] these may not always come from so-called state-sponsored entities [—] they might come from private armaments firms …
    [There are also] certain types of weapons that … may not be on the so-called good list …
    … India is afraid that they will be discriminated against because they are such [a major importer] of weapons. …

    [There] are numerous embargoes that are in place … North Korea … Iran …
    These … are essentially hollow. …
    There will be groups that will always be able to bypass these embargoes.
    [In] the Syrian conflict [weapons has reached] the al-Nusra Front [—] which is regarded by [Western] countries … as a hard-core terrorist organisation. …
    [There] is no way that [the treaty can] guarantee the security and the credibility of weapons transfers and imports and exports. …

    [The US has a long history] of domestic opposition to [ratifying] various international treaties …
    There has been very vocal opposition in the Senate to [the ATT —] the National Rifle Association [sees it as] possibly curtailing the entitlement to bear weapons.
    James Inhofe [Senator for Oklahoma]:
    The UN Arms Trade Treaty that passed in the General Assembly today would require the United States to implement gun-control legislation as required by the treaty, which would supersede the laws our elected officials have already put into place.
    [The Americans] have huge domestic problems regarding the control of weapons …
    [Private] individuals [have legal access to] extraordinarily devastating weapons that would actually be outlawed by the treaty …
    [It demonstrates] that a legal market is [still] a very lethal market. …
    [In point of fact,] we're looking for legalising a market that is designed for one fundamental thing [—] killing.

  • Academic journals and the price of knowledge, 10 June 2012.
  • Bringing GPS indoors, 3 June 2012.
  • The techno-human condition, 27 May 2012.
    Dan Sarewitz: Professor of Science and Society; Co-Director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes; Arizona State University.
  • Digital classrooms and computer coding, 29 April 2012.
  • The changing nature of work, 22 April 2012.
  • Privacy, trust and responsibility, 15 April 2012.
  • Energy efficiency = new technology + people, 4 March 2012.
  • How common sense fails us, 8 December 2011.
    Duncan Watts: Principal Research Scientist, Human Social Dynamics, Yahoo! Research.
  • Climate change and the Top End, 27 October 2011.
    Andrew Campbell: Director, Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University.

    It seems very likely that we are going to get overall hotter conditions, and the oceans off Darwin are warming faster than most other parts of the world's oceans.
    They're also rising faster than most other parts, averaging about 7 mm per year for the last 18 years.
    Fewer cyclones, but … a greater proportion of more intense cyclones, so potentially more category 4 and category 5 cyclones.
    It seems very likely that we're going to see an increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases …
    At the moment in Darwin we have about 11 days a year where it's above 35°C, which in Darwin is extremely sticky.
    By 2030 that's going to be more like 60 days a year.

    Would you like to know more?

  • Sci-fi: the return, 3 March 2011.
  • Solar Roads, urban mining, the Jevons Paradox and energy efficiency, 4 November 2010.

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