John Watts

  • Cause to Celebrate Democracy in Southeast Asia

    Southeast Asia does not often get the attention it warrants in Washington, but a cluster of events this month deserve reflection and celebration for showing that democracy in Southeast Asia is still a force to be reckoned with.  

    Namely, two elections in May bucked a growing authoritarian trend in Asia with strong electoral processes resulting in new governments to reinvigorate their countries.

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  • Trump's 'Unity' Speech Draws Political Battle Lines for the Year Ahead

    Touted as a speech of unity, US President Donald J. Trump’s first State of the Union address is likely to do little to mend the divisions and gridlock in Washington.

    The speech on January 30 did reflect the maturation of Trump in the role of president along with that of his administration. It was a more even, sophisticated, and coherent speech than the one he gave as a political rookie to a joint session of Congress last year. This was a reflection of the firm hand of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly as well as the departure of some of the polarizing and divisive personalities that had previously occupied the White House. But it also contained a fierce and combative restatement by the president of many campaign themes that sets clear battle lines for the year ahead.

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  • Addressing Asia’s Security Challenges

    When approaching security in the Asia-Pacific region, new trends such as deepening intra-Asian defense cooperation and significant increases in Asian defense spending, now on par with that of North America, must be considered, said an Atlantic Council analyst.

    “There is a trend of very significant increases in Asian defense spending, as well as concomitant intra-Asian defense cooperation” which provide opportunities for “multilateral hedging against some of the uncertainties associated with China’s rise,” and “in some cases North Korea,” said Barry Pavel, senior vice president, Arnold Kanter chair, and director of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

    Pavel said recent agreements between Singapore and Vietnam, Japan and Australia, India and South Korea are all examples of how Asian countries can “train together, exercise together, develop new capabilities together,” with the broad mission of promoting security and prosperity...

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  • Odd Couple: The Future of the Australia-UAE Partnership

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    Considering its geographic distance and lack of formal allies, the Middle East has played an outsized role in the history of Australia's global engagement. While Australia's interests in the region are real and increasing, as a middle power with finite resources it must take a smart approach to pursuing them. Australia has a strong track record of effective security partnership and investing in a close relationship with a key partner there offers a range of benefits. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an ideal candidate as the two countries have rapidly built a strong and collaborative relationship, and

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  • Watts Joins 1+1 TV Ukraine to Discuss Terrorism and Counterterrorism

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  • Submarine Data Leak Puts Spotlight on European Defense Industry’s Role in Asia

    The leak this week of sensitive technical data on India’s French-designed Scorpene-class submarines has sent ripples across Asia. India and France have launched investigations and both have implied that the source of the leak was at the other end.

    The leak was initially blamed on a “hack” and concerns were raised about whether this information would give China an advantage in any future regional confrontation. It has also set off a fresh round of handwringing in Australia over the government’s recent decision to acquire a variant of the submarine design, which represents the country’s largest ever defense project. All major parties involved, including the Indian and Australian governments as well as the French manufacturer, have downplayed the impact of the leak. But the incident has served...

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  • Watts Testifies Before House Committee on Homeland Security on ISIS in the Pacific

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  • Watts Quoted by Voice of America on ISIS' Strategy in Libya

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  • Indonesia an Obvious Target as ISIS Seeks to Expand Footprint

    The terrorist attacks in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, on January 14 are concerning, but hardly surprising. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks, a first for the group inside the world’s largest Muslim country.

    It is clear that ISIS is seeking to increase its global footprint and searching for new ground to grow its supporter base. Indonesia is an obvious target for ISIS for a number of reasons, and in some ways it is surprising that such an attack did not happen sooner.

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