"Anzac's long shadow: The cost of our national obsession" by James Brown

James Brown's new book has provoked knee-jerk reactions. It should be provoking considered thought. Every Australian shares a universal civic responsibility to concern themselves seriously with strategic security and defence issues. Instead, many only think about defence issues on Anzac Day and then only in an historical sense, and even then mostly via ahistoric misunderstandings and mythology.


Letter to The Australian
Friday, 14 February 2014
(not published)

Controversy thus far over the thrust of James Brown’s book, “Anzac’s Long Shadow”, has unfortunately been simplistic or sensationalised.

No-one is objecting to perpetual due commemoration of the substantial wartime sacrifices made to preserve our national sovereignty.

Nor to due acknowledgment of the 100th anniversary of “the landing” at Anzac Cove.

But, as James’ subtitle aptly notes, there have been great and enduring costs to our national obsession with the Anzacs.

Not least that the degree of attention given to “Anzac” is now surely diverting due national care for the long-term plight of ill and disabled war veterans of all ages.

Moreover, ahistoric cultural mythology about, say, “unnecessary", "avoidable" or "foreign" wars, or all Aussies somehow being “natural super-soldiers”, detrimentally affects how we really need to think about Australia’s actual and enduring geo-strategic situation.

Especially as — just as it did in 1914 — we still inhabit an island-continent where our whole-way-of-life and sovereign freedom of action is totally dependent on uninhibited seaborne trade via a rules-based international system that works globally.

And where inter-generational equity also means we should not continue risking the strategic security of future Australians, and dumping additional costs on them, by not providing our share now of the sustained investment in defence capabilities needed as essential (not discretionary) national infrastructure.

We need to think carefully about our strategic security every day. Not just in only historical terms and only on the famed “one day of the year”.

Particularly where that focus is actually often ahistoric. Especially about the true, and largely enduring, strategic context of our past wars.



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