Defence considerations for Australia Part 1.
Defence considerations for Australia.
More traditional and less considered options.
Part One – Basic Over view.
The Abstract and general considerations.
Whether one is a Libertarian, Statist or even Anarchist one has to address the issue of communal defence when it comes to the security of a group from aggression. Whether this group is a mere tribe of families or a great Nation State the danger faced from external enemies is always ever present. Adam Smith, a champion to both Free Marketers and many Statists said that ‘The first duty of the State is of protecting the society from violence and invasion of other independent societies, can be only performed by means of military force.’ How exactly one goes about this defence is the problem. It has been assumed that the present mass military force structure as is being exercised by most Nations across the world is the best and only real means of war fighting. And yet the futility and inefficiency in human life and resources has been ever present in more recent and historically distant examples. What are some of the alternatives to the conventional means of defence that a nation like Australia could adopt? Whether this is an issue for an imagined Libertarian government or a better alternative for a generic centrist political party which would most likely be in leadership.
In prize fighting it is said that the best defence is in not being there, meaning that if you can duck or slip a punch then this is preferable to actually blocking or absorbing a blow (being hit be one). In matters of International policy, the ‘not being there’ can refer to foreign deployment. The external expression of national military might on foreign soil in varying deployments has been a continual policy of State importance even for small countries like Australia. Whether expeditionary adventurism is part of a coalition in blatant military imperialism or even if it is in a nobler stated humanitarian relief mission. The reality is that consequence shall befall the community and defence members involved, both directly and indirectly over time. Exercising a foreign deployment should be a matter with considerable reluctance weighing in on the decision makers and not one made for contemporary political expediency. Instead it is an assumed matter taken for granted at every level of society that Australia will and should deploy forces overseas for a varied many reasons. It is no longer a consideration from within Australia’s military or civil ranks that we should refrain and register ourselves as a non-beligerent in the many potential conflicts in distant places abroad. The reasons for Australian military deployment can seem justifiable while others may be confusing, the ultimate reality is that continued foreign deployment is not only a drain on resources but it also is an increased danger to Australian security and credibility. It helps to ferment animosity abroad, forsakes local defence considerations for forward deployment and sacrifices the time and safety of those defence members who enlisted to protect Australia and not to serve in a game of Foreign Policy stratagem which always ends up with ill-considered out comes.
Many will argue with a certain degree of arm chair arrogance that the best defence is actually a good offence. Now while this is true in most actual war time settings, offensive operations during the ‘peace’ is futile. It creates enemies, builds up war fatigue among the defence personnel and civil populace and in keeping the nation on an uneven war footing we can only ever expect to slide into a paranoid and delusional ‘fascist’ culture over time where jingoism is mixed with cultural pride. Now while this dystopia is a dream for some it would be a nightmare for the majority who should have to live it. Some would argue that this is in fact the present reality. Furthermore in being overtly aggressive under the many benevolent guises of political language, Australia risks not only burning bridges while pursuing this path but also ignores very real and at present dormant threats that could arise while these deployments are being pursued.
While our mission may be in building bridges and infrastructure for a remote community, this construction by our talented engineers most often turns out being used by other National Government to repress those very remote communities which the mission was allegedly geared towards helping. Whether this was in the Philippines during the 1980s, Indonesia in most of the later century or in aid efforts on the African continent. The roads and bridges built or aid supplied by our forces has been used directly by forces to oppress and attack other groups often most notably the civil populace or repressed minorities. And on the other side of the dark coin, our aid and efforts have helped directly those affected by conflict and crisis. The unintentional or intentional picking of a side in a conflict can only help to direct resentment and potential terrorism against Australia. As an apparent liberal democracy which boasts virtuous illusions for Justice and Liberty, how is that Australia can continue to however subtle support regimes which go on to defy such principles? However, the language of the political class words these aid efforts, the practical realities however not only befall so many victims of the now but also will reveal very ugly and violent unborn realities tomorrow.
Direct combat missions often flown by our Air Force can lead to the unintentional deaths of civilians or while in support to ‘friendly forces’ who in turn exercise their own murderous pursuit of a civil populace, thus making our military a proxy criminal. The reliance on US military intelligence is often a danger in so much that a legitimate target is decided under the most inconsistent of circumstances. Further more any nation which can so easily condone mass carpet bombing of civilian cities or the extra judicial murder of untried ‘criminals’ is not a valued ally when it comes to ones trust in target selections of a civilian dense populace. Those targets that are accurately chosen are often assumed ‘terrorists’ or ‘militants’ this does not make them necessary actual enemies of whatever cause our Nation has aligned itself to. The family and friends of those wrongfully executed can and do often seek vengeance against the killers. This is the blow back which Australia does not need to bring upon itself. This point can not be emphasised enough when it comes to Australia’s security considerations. If we are to have a valid ‘Anti-Terror’ policy then perhaps an address of near all root causes should be honestly considered.
And in supporting such offensive operations against non-state militias or organisations Australia can find itself in a perilous quagmire of contradictions. As a nation which claims to celebrate the rule of law and the benefits of a common law system how is that we can so lend ourselves to extra judiciary executions to individuals or groups solely on the basis of suspicion, apparent association or because they have in fact committed a crime (terror is a criminal act). In by passing the notion of right to trial may be a naive concept when it comes to fighting the ‘terrorist monster’ it does however relegate all of Australia to in fact disregarding its own principles and legal concepts so as to continue to fight an abstract war with no real end game but endless enemies so long as allow ourselves to aid in the permutation of such violent futility.
Australia has a proud military tradition as a young nation we have forged an identity of rugged and professional war fighters capable of punching well above their weights no matter the situation. In both victory and defeat the Australian military operator has retained great respect and admiration from their allies and foes. For the most part this is true. There are however many on this Earth who both past and present resent our uniformed operators for their sacrifices and efforts in the pursuit of our National Governments political goals. This is a position of controversy and self-denial for many within the Australian populace but one should not overlook the very real consequences while addressing the flip side of our ‘great’ moments.
Despite this well-earned tradition of being talented and adaptive combatants modern Australia culture has begun to transform and change us from the golden era of the ‘Digger’. Prohibitions on fire arms and an anti-gun culture has in many ways inhibited the populace from having an individual instinct and familiarity with long arms. An instinct that most of the Diggers who slogged North along the Kokoda trail had. As convinced that technology and digitalization will overcome many traditional hard ships in varying fields, war fighting on land is still the domain of the infantry. It is the individual armed with small arms who take ground and hold it no matter how inhospitable man or nature may have rendered it. And despite the gadgetry and super ordinance conceived, the gritty nature of war fare shall essentially remain the same. Humans savagely kill other human beings with what ever technology is at hand. And for the most part the individual armed with a long arm is still one of the most effective instruments of battle. And yet the prohibitive state continues to remove this culture from its populace, greatly harming us should we ever in dire times require individuals to be familiar and handy with fire arms to actually defend this land because no doubt those very political masters would have lead us into the terrible situation of political and strategic over reach which should lead to invasion from abroad in the first place.
In a nation like Australia which lacks logistical depths and a very finite supply of human resources should a total war befall us, a thinly stretched convulded defence network will fail in a very short time when confronted by a determined much larger force. Which we can assume is the nature of any enemy that has the intention of invading us. It is then that local militia groups, police and reservists will be most essential in the defence in depth of the nation, this allied with great swathes of arid and ‘dead’ ground will be crucial for land fighting. While we can assume that the Police and military will provide an initial defence it is with the civil populace with local knowledge that will prove the most essential. As is always the case when invading a nation, local partisans and insurgents fight on longer than National armies and often provide a better defence of the nation in the form of non-conventional resistance and insurgent operations. We have seen this in recent times even at the detriment to our own National Forces as they occupy and operate on foreign soil, it has not been against National Armies by which they face their initial operation but the civil populace, foreign volunteers and insurgents determined to remove foreigners from their land end up causing the invader to leave or bog them down into a occupational forces nightmare.
No matter how well-meaning a National defence force may be. Or how apparent its goals are in defending the populace in recent history it has been the conventional professional militaries of nations which have led to the outright defeat of entire regions through leader ship incompetence, political idiocy or ill-conceived doctrines. It has been with an apparent disregard to human capital whether uniformed or civil that national armies have conducted themselves, with either rigid adherence to certain doctrines or because of political meanderings that has hampered the military in its conduct. Decentralised and individual groups working in familiar and communal networks with surprisingly little logistical support have done more with less but with capable intention than these very professional war fighters, which in the end are always run like any Government department. With waste and inefficiency being their main consistent theme. And as is often the case here in Australia, supply and procurement considerations being based on political self-importance over actual efficiency and considerations for defence personnel, whose very lives rely on such.
In Australia’s case we have become a nation robbed of any warrior culture, one that frowns upon water pistols let alone genuine fire arms, because of this the populace is extremely ill prepared and lacking the fortitude to conduct such operations of defence in actual conflict. Australia is a nation where most of the populace lives in the city or suburbs and yet most romances over the farmer and digger in illusory depictions. Despite this those urbanite elites rob the reality of that life style with laws and indignation should anyone defy their urbanised delusions about firearms and rural culture. Removing genuine independence and stereotypical ruggedness, leading to greater dependence on State entities. This dependence on State institutions is self-defeating as well as naive. It is usually within the policy makers that conflict is invited onto the populace and then with cruel disregard the citizenry are shown to be expendable or simply poorly directed. It is precisely why large and impressive national militaries continue to struggle against smaller and decentralised insurgencies. It is also why that in most conflicts national militaries suffer horrendous losses due not necessarily to the nature of war itself but because those political masters and professional experts of strategy have a disregard or an arrogant misunderstanding which leads to casualties, capitulation or bogged down operations of unwinnable situations. As the saying goes, ‘if one only has a hammer, then every problem is a nail’.
This disregard to a nations real defence can be best expressed in the illusion of the Brisbane line. Whereby the rest of Australia should be forsaken so long as the ‘important’ East coast line could be defended. A stupid policy of defence allowing a powerful enemy such territory and a foothold based on the idiotic political promise that such a narrow though long strip could even be defended. All the while our professional war fighters were being wasted in military operations in North Africa and the Mediterranean defending the best interests of our Allies and those who did manage to make it back in a homeward direction were cruelly sacrificed by the professional elites when they so abandoned them in ‘fortress’ Singapore. Yet despite the heroism of our warriors in uniform the political foolery risked the nation so much and with no shame went on to do so with policies of further desperation and vomitus arrogance. The Brisbane Line is being both a propaganda depiction for the populations consumption while also showing the leaderships helplessness in such a gesture and while it was something that occurred decades ago, just as the defence of Tobruk and struggles in New Guinea. One can use such valiant triumphs and follies to illustrate ‘the Australian character’ under dire and desperate circumstances. One does not exist without the other and it is important that we do not over rely on the heroic examples of our history in order to lift up our National defence while ignoring the many less desirable incidents which will no doubt rear their ugly heads at the most crucial of moments. The worse being political incompetence, strategic shallowness and obedience as either a colonial (past roles) to a coalition stalwart (present status).
In considering all of the above mentioned I shall hope to offer some State directed alternatives to a better defence for Australia. These are the academic meanderings of an interested party sitting comfortably from one’s arm chair. And because of this they are from the outset Utopic and lack any assumed pragmatism in the face of political and cultural realities. These suggested alternatives are merely that and one should always consider alternatives however non-conventional that they may seem, because it is sometimes found therein solutions for terrible realities which materialise as unconventional threats arise. This is not a desired attempt to duplicate a Liddell or Hart in prior times on the frontiers of strategic and technological uncertainties but merely an exercise in speculation and consideration to Australia’s situation.
The unknown spectre that haunts Australias future lies in our capacity at being a stubborn and loyal ally to the United States. Because of this it is assumed that the US will always be there for Australia should a regional conflict arise. This trust and assumption, while it may have been well founded is losing much of its prior luster. In recent conflicts the Coalitions inability to defeat and accomplish many of its missions across the globe has Illustrated failings on a great many levels. It has factionalised regions, given strength to traditional foes and helped to inspire new ones all the while it has shown an overall incompetence in political and military structures and ideologies. While force multipliers, technology, and emerging real world experience inspired weaponry has blossomed and shown to be effective in most cases, these apparent advantages have yet to net any victory or reprieve to volatile situations. Poor logistics, a lack of maintenance, poor humint, insensitive regard to local populations, a lack of regard for recent and distant history, interservice rivalry and breakdowns, shortfalls in helicopters, small arms and so on all depict concerns and dangers to over stretched national militaries performing as international imperialists. In short, Australia a relative small nation expresses itself militarily with both an aggressive political and military policy.
Australia needs to take an objective step back, ignoring ‘promises’ that go both ways, forgetting hindering commitments made by political internationalists and consider for once what is in the true best interest for Australia and its defence. With the recent defence paper leaks and wider promises for greater military expenditure one has to ask the unanswerable question, who does Australia’s military best serve? The one known is that it is truly not the Australian population, despite its love and ritualistic regard for its personnel and combined martial histories. The billions of dollars promised on Australian military expenditure on the surface sounds promising to those in uniform, it however is merely a monetary expression of wider issues. Those being a politically inspired procurement program based upon satisfying promises to notably the United States and its military industry. The other political consideration is in regards to Australian domestic concerns as far as Unions, Education institutes and defence related industries go. All reliant on State funding in order to thrive and survive. The sing song about Australian jobs and industries is a tune known well by most and is quite catchy but in reality it lacks the practical chime needed for those who may someday have to utilise and who can not rely on such political pop.
Factors concerning Australian weaponry are both overly complicated and cynically simple. At times it appears often the case that a need or doctrine is built around the weapon itself. Whereas others are expected to fit a varied set of specialists tasks, as some form of sophisticated Swiss Army knife and yet in reality despite the many promises and costs associated it seldom will go on to guarantee such. Scandal is not new to Australian defence spending and the ability for us to purchase a system has often made or break entire programs, the TSR.2 and Northrop F20 being two capable defence systems that may have been saved had Australia purchased them. Whereas complex and expense systems such as Grumman’s TFX were mutated and ‘refined’ to produce the F-111, in the end a somewhat fine interdictor-bomber but one that was both expensive and long coming. The F88 assault rifle has had its own issues when being used by forward combat elements, its dilemas not as terrible as the British SA80 however but the point remains that older and proven service weapons have and are being sought despite this replacement. If entire air bases require overhauls in order to accommodate aircraft or personnel require overly complicated training in order to operate and maintain such systems one must consider the wider dangerous of such complexity should real gritty war arise, when the Defence force is actually truly required.
Three obvious examples of Australian military white elephants are the Seasprite maritime helicopter, the Collins class submarine and the F-35 joint strike fighter. All very expensive items which come with an extensive cost to run, unfulfilled promises and the considerations for others over the actual defence force members relying on these systems. Other and less obvious items of kit are in some ways more worrisome, from field kit, body armour, communication systems, electronic warfare suites and a lack of logistical apparatus and depth to sustain long term deployment or the recent attritional low intensity operations being experienced by our Defence Force. These plus some alternatives shall be considered in the subsequent pieces. These shall be broken down as follows, Part Two – Naval and Maritime Considerations, Part Three – Air Force and Airborne assets, Part Four- Army and Land Warfare and Part Five – Unconventional elements.
End of Part One.
Kym Robinson, March 2016
Half Caged but never without a fight