Archive for the ‘military’ Category

Defending #Australia from #Climate Change?

March 30, 2013

Or, as one of the commenters points out, a question of defending what (i.e. property and privilege). That’s how armed forces work. Sure, states can be different (pace Jessop), but not without a bit of a push. And I don’t see any Big Push happening…


One Day of the Year

June 27, 2011

Did this play in school, aged about 15. A major influence on my thinking…

But more than 40 years after its first, controversial staging in Adelaide – it was banned by the Adelaide Festival in 1960, but put on by a defiant amateur theatre group – the play evokes uncertainty and even anxiety in the 75-year-old playwright.

Throw more money at the problem…

June 23, 2011

Defence funding failing public
John Kerin (page 6) AFR 26 May (or possibly 27)
A leading defence think tank has warned the Gillard government’s $275 billion defence white paper new equipment wish-list is headed for a fiscal “train-wreck” unless it is urgently overhauled.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute budget analyst Mark Thomson said, just two years in, the plan for starting new submarines, ships and other weaponry projects was falling so far behind schedule it could not be realised.

YUP. See the Hugh White stuff too…

Defence? It’s a gas…

June 23, 2011

Defence focus shifts to oil, gas
John Kerin and Peter Kerr
Australian Financial Review 23 June 2011
More of Australia’s soldiers, fighter aircraft and warships will probably be moved to Western Australia and the Northern Territory to refocus the country’s defence on Asia and to protect oil and gas fields driving the resource boom….

[Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett] downplayed suggestions that the United States would piggyback on the move to develop a greater military presence in the area – possibly basing warships at Perth’s Garden Island.

We were(n’t) soldiers…

June 21, 2011

Australian 22 December 2010
The former public face of Australian prisoners of war will spend Christmas behind bars after admitting his claim of war service, which allowed him to reap $689,000 in welfare payments, was a lie.
Arthur “Rex” Crane, 84, posed as a World War II veteran for 22 years and achieved a national profile as Australian president of the Ex-Prisoners of War Association until he was outed by a military historian who believed his story did not add up.
Props to Lynette Silver (the historian)

Foreign and Defence Policy – useful readings

March 16, 2011

Have read some stuff of late about Australian Foreign and Defence Policy that should have been blogged. Hugh White (ANU prof of Strategic Studies) wrote a Quarterly Essay on “Power Shift: Australia’s Future between Beijing and Washington” which I’ve made notes from but don’t have to hand – shall do so. It’s a good outline of the various options open (all of them, of course, messy).

It was brought back to mind because he has a very good piece in the March issue of “the Monthly”
(subscription required) on two biographies of between-the-wars prime ministers, Stanley Melbourne Bruce and Joseph Lyons.

He begins

Most of us think that for much of Australia’s history we have not really had a foreign policy. We assume our approach to the world has always been determined for us by our great and powerful friends – that Australia’s leaders have passively accepted policies set in London and Washington, and loyally sent troops to fight in the resulting wars. Certainly this seems true today: John Howard wrote in his memoirs that our alliance with the United States meant that there was never any question of joining Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and – perhaps more surprisingly – Paul Kelly recently has suggested that the closeness of the relationship means there is no scope for Australia to do anything but support American policy on China.
But has it always been that way? Both sides of politics share the assumption that it has. Conservatives are proud of it they thin loyalty to the leaders of the Anglosphere is a natural and proper expression of shared values and identity. Those on the Left see it as a regrettable failure to realise our true destiny as an independent country. Both sides find their prejudices confirmed and neither side asks, nor perhaps cares, if their view of history is correct…

There’s lots of interesting stuff in between, and White closes with the following observation

More than six months into her premiership, Julia Gillard has said nothing substantial about how Australia should respond to the remarkable transformation of Asia that is taking place on her watch, as power shifts to China. She says she isn’t interested in foreign affairs. She seems not to realise that Asia’s power shift poses challenges to Australia comparable to any we have faced in our history. She has no choice but to be interested.

Finally, in the latest Arena there is an excellent piece on “the militarisation of defence” by Jon Langmore, based on work he did with Calum Logan and Stewart Firth. Langmore opens

“The Defence White Paper assumes an aggressive posture and receives unprecedented funding.
One of the most shocking features of contemporary Australian defence policy is that military expenditure has a longer and larger guarantee than any other type of Australian public spending has ever been given before. The 2009 Defence White Paper concluded with a final chapter entitled “The Government’s Financial Plan for Defence”, which was an astoundingly brief page and a half long. This guaranteed the Defence Department increased funding of 5.5 per cent every year until 2017-18 and 4.7 per cent each year from then until 2030. No other type of Australian public expenditure has ever been promised such largess(sic) for such a long period.

Later he adds

Australia has fewer overseas diplomatic missions than any other member of the G20.

Unlike an earlier generation of Labor ministers in the Hawke and Keating governments, the Rudd government did not resist demands from the Defence Department, the weapons manufacturers, and th other members of military-industrial complex. In place of a focus on ‘defensive defence’, low-level threats and regional peackeeping, they opted for ‘offensive defence’. The 2009 White Paper intensified key elements of Howard government defence policy, that is, forward projection of forces, strike capability, and high technology weapons systems, and, like the Coalition, promised increased real spending on defence every year.

It’s full of useful ideas and information, but then, isn’t pretty much everything in Arena.

An impartial Martian would conclude that Australia was a tooled-up 51st State with delusions of reciprocity with Uncle Sam… This may not end well….

History repeats itself – Vietnam to Wikileaks

December 18, 2010

This useful historical perspective comes via Adelaide Friends of Wikileaks…

“In 1981 Michael Sexton (historian) wrote a book called ‘War for the Asking: Australia’s Vietnam Secrets’ (re-released in 2002 under the name ‘War for the Asking: How Australia Invited Itself to Vietnam’) which revealed the true reasons for Australian involvement in Vietnam ie. that we went to be seen as solid allies of the US under ANZUS ie. so they would stay and protect us from the mainly SE Asian threat – mainly Malaya at the time. Everyone feared another ‘Darwin 1942′ (actually they still do, I spoke to a soldier a while ago who told me he joined to prevent another Darwin 1942, I tried to explain to him what the deal is/was, but I guess military training had done its work in his case ie. he couldn’t even consider the alternatives – ps I study soldiers’ attitudes and behaviour in the Boer and Vietnam Wars but I’m a pacifist).
ANYWAY, Sexton somehow got his hands on classified (under the 30 yr rule) documents about why Menzies REALLY decided to go to Vietnam and it caused a TINY ruckus (ie. was very quickly quietened by the govt). Incidentally, the reasons he documented in the book have since been proven (as of the early 90s when documents started becoming un-classified). Malcolm Fraser (PM at the time) wanted to ‘get him’ but couldn’t, for both legal and public opinion-related reasons.
The reason I mentioned this was because of its obvious parallels with what’s going on now, although Sexton’s activity was very much brushed under the carpet (which was attempted for past Wikileaks revelations).


September 12, 2010

Probably need to watch the film again. And see that dire mini-series “Anzacs”. And watch a production of “One Day in the Year.”

Meanwhile, here’s a cracking quote…

Gallipoli in April has become part of the itinerary of the global stream of young backpackers: not so much the sombre commemoration of the bloody birth of a nation, as a celebration of personal mobility and the assertion of an autonomous individuality not bound by inherited honour codes or encumbered by a sense of debt to the long dead. From the perspective of the Howard Government, this is populist nationalism that has gone ferally off-message….
At Gallipoli, the image has been unhitched from the government’s ends. The coherent national myth is running adrift, like the idea of national belonging itself, unmoored from the nation by the dislocating pressure of neo-liberal globalism. Instead of locating the backpackers as Australians and setting up a feeling of national belonging, the experience of collectivity called out by Gallipoli is channeled into carnival, spectacle and bodily pleasure, more consistent with the market system of world tourism than with the socially conservative version of pilgrimage.
Matthew Ryan “Politics by Other Means”
Page 2 of Arena 88 April-May 2007

And this, from an Arena I didn’t know I had (issue 86, 1989), a review article called “The Heroic Theme in Australian War Writing” by John Murphy

“Drawing his inspiration from Paul Fussell’s brilliant study of British war literature, The Great War and Modern Memory, Gerster asks why, when the dominant response of British writers to the mechanical carnage was to see it as a closure, an exhaustion of an epoch and of a civilization, not to mention the exhaustion of realist/heroic literary forms, in Australia the same carnage was read as affirmation, as celebration of heroic deeds, and as a major fillip for hte heroic literary genre developed in the 1880s. His answer is understandably inconclusive: the experience was rendered as nationalism, as confirmation of racist stereotypes and of ‘the culture’s essential insularity.’