"Defender": Autumn-Winter 2008


A pdf copy of the full journal may be downloaded here.



Recycling past errors: A perennial and pervasive cultural belief in the Australian community is that conservative governments meet their national defence responsibilities better than Labor ones. The truth, with limited exceptions either way, is that governments of both political persuasions have been equally prone to neglect defence investment – and generally always keen to spend revenue elsewhere where the political and electoral advantages are much greater. Arguably this is an inherent consequence of our three-year parliamentary cycle. After some questionable budgetary legerdemain in the 2008/09 budget, the Rudd Government needs to ensure that the 2009/10 defence budget dispels rather than reinforces the entrenched belief that Labor governments are unreliable about meeting their national defence responsibilities.


Letters to the Editor:

Appalling media coverage of many defence issues; soldiers are wounded not injured; need for the media to employ journalists with experience and understanding of defence issues; comparison of national interest in our Olympics team with general uninterest in the defence force; confusion of infantry and Special Forces roles; needless concerns about operational security affecting the release of information the public need to know in order to understand why we are fighting; ivory-tower academic opinions on submarines would result in an unbalanced defence force.


The two worst modern failures by Australian governments in meeting their national defence responsibilities have been the Hawke Government's 1991 Force Structure Review and the Howard Goverment's 1997 Defence Efficiency Review. Both have caused serious and long-term damage to our defence capabilities. As the first Labor government since the Hawke-Keating era the new Rudd Government therefore needs to emulate Caesar's wife in being above suspicion about Labor's real commitment to any government's national defence responsibilities.

Some pea and thimble trickery in the 2008/09 defence budget mean that the Rudd government will have to work harder in the 2009/10 budget to restore confidence that they are properly managing their defence responsibilities. By not supplementing the Department of Defence for the cost of overseas wars and peacekeeping operations, and making these costs come out of the existing budgetary allocation instead, the Rudd Government has in effect cut around $A1.3 billion from the allocation. This is despite Labor assurances throughout 2007 that if elected, they would not reduce defence investment because they understood that sustained and sufficient funding was required to cancel out a very long period of neglect under governments of both political persuasions.

The government is correct in not publicly discussing an increase to our military commitment to Afghanistan at present while so many of the Western European members of NATO are not meeting their alliance or moral obligations in this regard. Eventually, however, this will need to change.

If the Netherlands ceases to be the senior ISAF partner in Oruzgan Province in the second half of 2010, it would be in Australia's operational and strategic interests, and probably that of the Afghans, if we assumed the senior partner responsibility rather than the USA.

In deterring or fighting all conflicts, the option of escalating a war in order to end it remains a legitimate and proven strategy.

Calls to promote General Sir John Monash posthumously to field marshal are misguided. Even worse, they exemplify some of the serious problems in public debate on current defence issues that hamper such debate from being as informed as it should be.

Because so many Australians have little or no knowledge of our military history, contemporary public debate on defence and strategic policy issues is often marred by politicians, single-issue activists and other polemicists ignoring or misrepresenting historical facts that are inconvenient to their argument.


Towards a general theory of geopolitics in our time: Phillip Bobbitt and the rise of the market-state by Dr Paul Monk

Ships, SLOCs and Security at Sea by Dr James Boutilier

Saving the nation or serving the government? by Ric Smith

Afghanistan myths and legendsby Major General Jim Molan (Retd)

Reviews and Review Essays:

Gallipoli: Attack from the Sea by Dr Victor Rudenno
(a review essay by Vice Admiral Rob Walls (Retd))

Gallipoli Sniper: The Life of Billy Sing by John Hamilton
(reviewed by Major Kenneth Thomas)

The Battle for Wau: New Guinea's Frontline 1942-1943 by Phillip Bradley
(reviewed by Dr Michael McKernan)

Song of the Beauforts: No 100 Squadron RAAF and Beaufort Bomber Operations by Colin King
(a review essay by Commodore Jack McCaffrie (Retd))

Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics and Public Opinion in the United States, 1950-1953 by Steven Casey
(reviewed by Professor Peter Edwards)

The Battle at Ngok Tavak: A Bloody Defeat in South Vietnam, 1968 by Bruce Davies
(Reviewed by Major Bill Deane (Retd))

Why We're Losing the War on Terror by Professor Paul Rogers
(reviewed by Brian Agnew)

The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History (second edition) edited by Professor Peter Dennis, Professor Jeffrey Grey, Dr Ewan Morris and Professor Robin Prior with Dr Jean Bou
(reviewed by Neil James)

The Collins Class Submarine Story: Steel, Spies and Spin by Peter Yule and Derek Woolner
(a review essay by Rear Admiral James Goldrick)

The Three-Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict by Professor Joseph Stiglitz and Professor Linda Pilmes
(reviewed by Neil James)

The Emerging Global Order: Australian Foreign Policy in the 21st Century by Senator Russell Trood
(reviewed by Ian Dudgeon)

Rivals: How the Power Struggle Between China, India and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade by Bill Emmott
(a review essay by Andrew Shearer)

Securing the State: Reforming the National Security Decision-making Process at the Civil-Military Nexus by Colonel Christopher P. Gibson
(a review essay by Lieutenant General Peter Leahy (Retd))

Ethics Education in the Military edited by Paul Robinson, Nigel de Lee and Don Carrick
(reviewed by Dr Hugh Smith)


Sir Charles Walter Michael Court, AK, KBE, KCMG

Major General Kenneth Joseph Taylor, AO (Retd)

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