SASR soldier killed in action on his 7th operational tour in Afghanistan in 11 years

Much public discussion about the tragedy of our latest casualty in Afghanistan is missing the real point involved about his large number of operational tours.


Tuesday, 03 July 2012
Letter to The Australian

(published in part, Wednesday, 04 July 2012)

Most Australians seem to be asking the wrong question about our latest casualty being killed in action on his seventh operational tour in 11 years.

Many are also drawing the wrong conclusions from him being a volunteer, a very experienced professional soldier and someone who will have seen over a decade what our military effort in Afghanistan has progressively achieved at a local level.

The Australia Defence Association has long voiced concerns about the risks inherent in sending our diggers to the frontline too often and for too long.

The risk of death, wounds or subsequent and long-term psychological trauma increases with the number of tours (even when they volunteer and are well-trained and motivated professionals).

But the even greater national problem is that countries, not defence forces, need to fight wars.

But most Australians are now so disengaged from our modern wars, and our troops, that they have intellectually and morally sub-contracted their citizenship responsibilities to the ADF.

Many assume it is the ADF’s war not Australia’s war.

Unlike the mass participation in the world wars, or the significant community participation in Vietnam through conscription, Australia now fights its wars with a very small part of the national community.

And, indeed, quite a small part of our small defence force.

Australia now relies on this small force, and their families, shouldering a disproportionate burden of our country’s current wars because there are no alternative defence capability options.

Largely because Australians acquiesce to perennial under-investment in defence capabilities, because it is personally convenient for the funds needed to be diverted to buying their votes elsewhere.

And because governments so fear the perceived political risk of casualties they have fallen for the myth of niche contributions by Special Forces being somehow “safer”.

If Australia is going to fight wars to win we need a larger and better balanced defence force

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