Amy Zegart on North Korea’s Kim Jong Un

I’ve followed Stanford’s Amy Zegart since discovering her insightful research on analytical misperception in the United States intelligence community.


Zegart writes in The Atlantic:


Is Kim Jong Un crazy or hyper-rational? Is he bent on destroying America or deterring America? Is his model Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who averted nuclear war by building a large arsenal and threatening to use it? Or is Kim looking at the cautionary tales of Muammar Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein—two men who lost their power and their lives because American presidents either didn’t believe or didn’t care that they had given up their nuclear weapons programs?

Nobody knows.


Answering these kinds of questions is in part what Jack Snyder‘s original policy work on strategic culture sought to do. It’s also what Jeffrey Lantis and colleagues have done in their policy formulation advice for the Defense Threat Reducation Agency. Finally, Jerrold M. Post has published several political psychology books on individual leaders and how they interact with strategic culture.


Zegart’s insight gives the so-called fourth generation of strategic culture a new relevance: (1) the proliferation of nuclear weapons to nation-states outside the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; and (2) the crisis decision-making of foreign political leaders who are driven by different ideational factors: beliefs, norms, values, and worldviews.


This will inform post-PhD research.

Current Reading Pile

What I’m reading at the moment:


  1. Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson’s Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2017). A detailed analysis of three trends — artificial intelligence, platform ecosystems, and networked knowledge — which are the key leverage points for new, entrepreneurial companies.
  2. Josh Sullivan and Angela Zutavern’s The Mathematical Corporation (New York: PublicAffairs, 2017). Machine intelligence as the core competency for disruptive-like competitiveness: the innovation it unleashes requires new leadership. A key definition (p. 3):

The mathematical corporation focuses also on answering unknown questions by querying a universe of data – more open and ubiquitous all the time. By searching for and answering questions outside the spotlight of conventional thought, it provides knowledge about the future, breaking through the darkness of past constraints. From an expanded grid of detail, to which you apply new thinking and new approaches to knowledge discovery, the mathematical corporation opens up choices and lines of decision making you never had before.

POL20008 Australian Foreign Policy

I’m excited to co-teach POL20008 Australian Foreign Policy this semester with Swinburne Online. What this unit will cover:


This unit introduces students to Australia’s foreign policy with a particular emphasis on developments after WWII. It examines changing power dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region, explores post-colonial legacies and their relationship to the Anglo-American alliance, and highlights emerging ambiguities in this alliance. In addition, the unit draws on these legacies to analyse Australian bilateral/multilateral relations in its responses to 911, the Bali bombing, and the emerging resource challenges in the region.


Throughout the Teaching Period, I’ll be tweeting some relevant links with the hashtag #POL20008.