The ADF White Paper – some random musings

unpeacekeepers-east-timorWhat a bizarre situation – a Labor PM proposing ‘the biggest increase in military spending since WWII’ and a Liberal Opposition Leader criticising the very notion on principle! And there isn’t anything radically new in the plans anyway from what I hear – just a tweaked continuation of previous plans.

I recently read the Federal government’s commendable ADF Community Consultation White Paper. What kind of ADF does Australia need now and in the future? I can only offer the reflections of a layperson who has never served in uniform and who would love for someone in authority to seriously explore alternatives to traditional ‘defence’ thinking.

I agree with those in the consultation who expressed the sentiment that there be no net increase in defence spending; that our land forces do not need armour or artillery; that air strike capability is not a priority;  that more heavy-lift aircraft are necessary; that political, diplomatic and trade inititatives should take even greater precedence over military action than in the past; that the ADF is rightly credited with an excellent reputation in humanitarian aid, disaster relief and peace-keeping and that these roles will continue in the future; that national coastal needs would be better met by a Coast Guard (patrol boats, air surveillance, etc) than by a ‘blue water’ Navy; and that ADF personnel are very professional and highly skilled – not taking themselves nearly as seriously as many pundits, yet rising magnifiently to the occasion when faced by any actual challenge or threat.

If there is a perceived need to keep future sea lanes open, I suppose I can see the reasoning behind a fleet of next generation submarines, although I don’t personally think we need them; I can see the advantage of  HLDs (Helicopter Landing Docks); and I believe Australia could proudly offer the region the services of an ADF hospital ship.

I think good relations with the US are important, but not at any price. For instance, I think it is folly to participate, via Pine Gap, in the ludicrous US missile defence shield programme.

So what is our ADF for these days? It isn’t 1942 anymore. If it wasn’t for our brilliant contributions to international peace-keeping, I’d be arguing that we don’t need (and 20 million people cannot properly afford) an expeditionary force at all, just a highly professional National Guard and Coast Guard.

What is a ‘credible deterrent’ capability anyway? Credible to whom? Terrorists? Our own citizens? Seems like a dangerously subjective notion to me. Like Sir Humphrey used to say about government funding for the theatre and the arts – “Of course nobody goes to them Prime Minister; but people feel better knowing they are there!”

And how much can we afford? Even massively expesnive US military power does not provide a sufficient deterrent to terrorism. Terrorism requires primarily a law enforcement and intelligence response, in my view, as well as a commitment to co-operate internationally in addressing the social and political circumstances that breed terrorism.

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~ by Garry on May 4, 2009.

One Response to “The ADF White Paper – some random musings”

  1. […] The ADF White Paper – some random musings May 2009 […]

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