John Watts

  • Avenues for Conflict in the Gulf: A Matrix Game Simulation

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    The Gulf remains one of the most strategically critical regions in the world. Its stability and security have global implications, yet are far from certain. Consequently, the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and the Arabia Foundation hosted a matrix game simulation with the intent to challenge commonly held assumptions of US and regional policymakers about the possibility for conflict in the Gulf, and plausible, but underappreciated, conventional and unconventional Iranian military options. Along with the Arabia Foundation, the Atlantic Council believes a convergence of trends...

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  • Why the US Marines Were Sent to Northern Australia

    Thousands of miles from home, 1,700 US Marines began slowly arriving for their newest mission. Their destination was not the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, however, nor the established bases of Europe and Japan, but the tropical city of Darwin, located far in Australia’s north.

    The contingent of Marines is the largest to visit Australia since Washington and Sydney agreed in 2011 to allow up to 2,500 US troops to use the country for basing and training. The deployment, known as Marine Rotational Force-Darwin, will remain in Australia’s north until October, primarily participating in large training exercises with Australian

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  • Diverse Perspectives are Key to Innovative Thinking

    Every industry today is awash with talk about “innovation” and how organizations can do it better. There are countless studies on the factors underpinning innovation and the key elements needed to incubate it. The defense industry is no different.

    While definitions of innovation often differ, we can broadly describe it as the process of transforming an idea, concept, or knowledge into a product or service that delivers significant new value. It is the combination of structured process with creative and diverse perspectives that creates the best chance of “innovative” thinking.


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  • United States, Intelligence Allies Expand Effort to Contain Chinese Influence

    The United States and its closest intelligence allies have been intensifying efforts to identify growing Chinese influence campaigns abroad since the beginning of the year. The effort by the “Five Eyes” alliance—consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—has also begun reaching out to other countries to share findings, according to an exclusive Reuters report on October 12.

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  • Whose Truth: Sovereignty, Disinformation and Winning the Battle of Trust

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    In an era of increasing technological, cultural and geo-political change, the rise of disinformation undermines the institutions that nations rely on to function and creates risks across society. At the heart of the challenge is the battle of truth and trust. In this report, “Whose Truth: Sovereignty, Disinformation and Winning the Battle of Trust, John Watts draws upon a rich discussion on the threat that disinformation poses to state’s sovereignty by a diverse group of experts as part of a US Special Operations Command program. The paper explores the themes and key takeaways of a discourse that explored the...

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  • Watts in Defense One: Stealthier Tanks Are On The Way


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  • 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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