Jul 052007

I’ve just had a read through the Defence Update 2007. I have some questions.

Firstly, I should clarify two things. I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool pacifist, and I’m not a rabid militarist. Lords know there’s enough of those type in the blogosphere already.

Issues for me which arise from my reading of this update are as follows:

  1. Precisely what is Australia’s primary region of strategic interest?
  2. If, as the update states, this country is not under direct threat, has not been under direct threat since 2001 at least, and is highly unlikely to come under direct threat any time soon, why is the ADF deployed so widely in the world as an expeditionary force?
  3. The update mentions the word ’war’ and the concept of ’terrorism’ in the same context, yet war is an activity which is defines as: a conflict carried on by force of arms, as between nations or between parties within a nation; Iraq is at war, Australia is not. Which nation or nations, or party within a nation are we at ’war’ with?
  4. Mention is made of ’discretionary contributions could include deploying medical teams or planning officers to UN missions.’, yet Australia remains in Iraq which, while sanctioned now as a valid incursion, was never sanctioned by the UN initially. Isn’t this a rather opportunistic proposal for exercise of Australia’s defence forces?
  5. The update does make important references to the regionally important, strategic focuses for the ADF with references to involvement is Timor Leste, The Pacific nation-states of Solomon Islands, Papua-New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji. Important liaisons with Indonesia, China and Japan, and even Afghanistan. Why is the Middle East and Central Africa deemed important to Australia’s strategic regional interests?

There are many more questions which this update poses to someone like me who doubts the validity of exercising a defence force as an expeditionary offence force, but I’ll leave those other queries alone for now. Let’s look at the summary of section two of this document, Defence Policy, for a moment:

Defence’s enduring task is to keep Australia and its people safe from attack and from military coercion. Defence policy will always have a home bias – we need certainty close to home, and expect to lead in shaping the security in our immediate region. But we also recognise our interests often must be secured in places distant from Australia. In those circumstances, we expect to work with allies and friends. Our contributions will reflect the importance of our interests and a ’best fit’ with the task at hand and the nature of the overall operation.

The parts of this policy summary which ring true to me are the words ’Defence’ ’home’ and ’immediate region’. The ADF is abbreviated to such because of it’s full title. Australian Defence Force. Not AOF or Australian Offence Force, or AEF, Australian Expeditionary Force. Neither is the ADF a sub-operative of the US military, or indeed any other nation’s military forces. If Australia’s principal strategic interests lie within the Asia-Pacific sphere, why then are our forces deployed in the Middle East in anything other than a UN sponsored peace-keeping role? Oh dear, that’s another question, isn’t it.

From my perspective, strategic national interests lie at home and in the immediate Asia-Pacific region. I believe the ADF has an obligation to continue on with the re-construction of Afghanistan, even though that re-construction might never see an end. Australia entered that conflict in 2001 with valid rationale and sound intent. I believe we owe something to the Afghani people to see through that intent. I do not, and have never believed that Australia has any place in Iraq, regardless of the political rhetoric, which was today proven to be as ethereal as the so-called terrorist collective the world is supposedly at war with.

This 2007 defence update is nothing more than a political document, issued for purely political purposes in order to support a continuing presence in parts of the world which cause political angst for the present government. In short, it’s a sham.