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July 20, 2005

Here we go again doing empire duties in the war against against al-Qaeda.


Weren't we in Afghanistan before? Wasn't that part of empire sorted? That is why we the moved on to do our duty in the borderlands of Iraq. Now are returning to do counter-insurgency duties in Afghanistan, cos there is ongoing Taliban troubles on that part of the empire's frontier.

Maybe the troubles never went away? I understand that the Taliban has lot of support from within Pakistan, an ally of the US. Why don't they send in their troops to help with the counterinsurgency? Or has the US aligned itself with India against China and left Pakistan out in the cold?

No doubt Australia will be required to do more in Iraq to help settle things down, and establish a client state within the empire. Funny I thought that the way things were going is that a democratic Iraqi regime run by the Shi'ites would align itself with Iran. That has to unstable and a threat for empire. Doesn't that outcome defeat the purpose of going in there in the first place?

Hugh White thinks through some of the consequences of Australia's empire duties.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:41 AM | | Comments (8)


Gary, The ASPI have been pushing for a bigger Army for years now. They have neo-con values. When White was heading it up they wrote the "Our Failing Neighbour" report which led to the expeditionary force to the Solomons to stabilise it.

A nation's military doctrine is defined by its vulnerabilities. Ours are the North-West shelf, the Timor Sea and the Coral Sea. The F111, Collins sub and P3C Orion are our teeth - yet the F111 is being retired early, with nothing to replace its projection power.

The "great and powerful friends" doctrine of foreign policy, which places our foreign policy in the hands of the current superpower is leaving is with less ability to defend ourselves. It is the 1930s all over again.

IMO the Howard government does not get defence or foreign policy. They are far too reflexive to the past, and far too reliant/forgiving of the USA. ANZUS was a cold war document designed to keep Australian forces in the Middle East should there be another world war. It is not what the government, or public, thinks it is.

Another issue is; it is possible that the Australian SASR is heading over to Afghanistan because US special forces are needed in Iraq.

I am not a fan of special forces, they operate outside of the public space. Which is why government loves them, and probably also why Howard has been quick to offer them as part of the Australian tribute to the US.

My heart sank back in 2000 when the SMH had pictures of black clothed, balaclava wearing special-ops dropping from Australian helicopters just before the 2000 Olympics. Special operations turned inwards - focused domestically. Another step on the road to tyranny.

As I understand it the Bush Doctrine sets out vision of America's global role since the end of the Cold War. This role commits America to use armed force, if necessary alone and if necessary pre-emptively, not only to protect American interests, but also to promote its values around the world, and defend global capitalism.

Since Australia is a loyal and steadfast ally of the US, that means we are required to adapt our strategic and defence policy to the demands and opportunities of this US vision?

How far should the Australian Defence Force be reshaped to support it? Howard has made the decison to abandon self-reliance and throw our lot in with this new doctrine of American power in a global world.

In the Australian Strategic Policy Institute recent Beyond Baghdad: ASPI's Strategic Assessment 2004 it is stated that:

Australia’s involvement in the Coalition is an important signal of our support for the US and for the essential work of rebuilding Iraq. Australia’s interests are served by maintaining a strong commitment to the Coalition and the reconstruction of Iraq.

Then we have this:
We must ensure that our forces have the technical capabilities to operate with the US military, and also that this investment works to enhance our independent military capabilities....Australia’s defence alliance with the US remains vital, and we should look for new ways to strengthen cooperation while retaining our independent approach to security. We should establish a regular Australia–US dialogue on China, and increase practical cooperation on intelligence sharing, military exercises and, in a limited way, on ballistic missile defence.

I cannot see how you can be aligned with the US in security, defence and operational terms and retain independent approach to security.

The independent approach is a furphy. This report is all about becoming a part of the US military machine. Or does it mean Australia doing its thing in areas where the US is not interested eg. PNG


As far as I can make out the national security, strategic defence debate in Australia is fairly low key.

The accepted doctine is based on the principle that Australia's defence is based on a series of concentric circles r thatare based on three priorities. Priority one is the defence of Australia. Priority two is the stability, security and co-operation of our region. And third, is making an effective contribution to international coalitions when our interests are engaged elsewhere in the world. That's the established Government principle, and it is endorsed by ASPI.

If I recall the Defence Minister,
Robert Hill, seems to be saying that it does not make sense to conceptualise our security interests as a series of diminishing concentric circles around our coastline. He argues for seeing a fundamental change to the view that our security responsibilities are confined largely to our own region.

Crudely put the debate is between the view that defence is primarily about defending the continent; and the view that a modern defence ought to be a mobile expeditionary force that's equipped to fight anywhere in the world.

You advocate defending the continent not trucking about in Iraq or Afghanistan giving the US a hand.

Gary, I am out of touch with the ASPIs recommendations and thinking since they started charging for their PDFs. It is a goverment funded thinktank, you would think they would release their reports for free so bloggers could discuss/propagate their policies. Retards.

The AWDs, LHDs and Abrams tanks are dumb decisions, from both an expeditionary and regional point of view. They solve no strategic or doctrinal need.

I suspect that may be the services asking for big ticket items and pulling the wool over a government that doesnt *get* defence.

As Hugh White said, if expeditionary forces are the focus, then get more troops. They are the cheapest form of coalition good will. If defending Australia's approaches are the focus, then buy more JSFs (to make up for the F111), more UAVs, more AAR assets, more AEW&C, greater airlift capability and space based surveillance/communications.

Australia is doing neither.

I can only assume that the government is a headless chook when it comes to defence. I thought Labor lost a real chance to beat the Liberals into pulp on foreign policy last election. They have the oppurtunity to do it on defence too. The Liberals have pursued an ad-hoc, thoughtless policy that is leaving Australian defence weaker than when they first came to power.

For a party that is enthralled by power politics, they are doing everything they can to make Australia weak. Paul Dibbs warned that we are moving to the world's laughing stock on defence because we have a loud mouth, but back that mouthing off with a small stick. That is Liberal defence policy in an anecdotal sentence.

Gary, "You advocate defending the continent not trucking about in Iraq or Afghanistan giving the US a hand."

Probably my thinking on this issue are pretty much all contained in this article on the Austral-Asian Strike Fighter.

I would not have Australian military assets in Iraq, for the invasion, or two years later. I would prefer the ADF was a regional projection force.

Re your comment:

"I am out of touch with the ASPIs recommendations and thinking since they started charging for their PDFs. It is a goverment funded thinktank, you would think they would release their reports for free so bloggers could discuss/propagate their policies. Retards."

The executive summaries of their reports are online. Security and defence remains an elitist discourse, even though these key political issues touch everyone since 2001. The management of Australia's international affairs is a specialist's business and the public sector has developed a monopoly of expertise. It is a discourse behind closed walls and concerned citizens are not invited or welcomed to join this debate.

In their 'Attitude Matters: Public opinion in Australia towards defence and security' it is stated that:

While a majority of the electorate believes that Australia would not be able to defend itself if attacked, increasing numbers also believe that defence has become stronger in recent years.

In general, the public is most supportive of operations that involve defending Australia, either directly (by repelling a foreign aggressor), or indirectly (by stopping illegal immigrants or drugs coming into the country). The public is least supportive of operations that are intended to assist allies and, most particularly, operations that are conducted on behalf of the United Nations."


The public is generally positive in their attitudes towards the United States, and trust in the US to defend Australia increased significantly after the September 2001 attacks. There was least trust in the US at the end of the Cold War, and again at the time of the East Timor crisis.

It also said that there is widespread support for the ANZUS alliance as being important to Australia's defence, and that proportion has gradually increased since the early 1990s.

Presumably that means the public opinion is comfortable with Washington having deputized Australia to do the neighborhood policing job, that is in harmony and does not require the use of American muscle.

However, the public opinion is in favour of a continental defence strategy, and not one based on small mobile forces engaged on the frontiers of empire.