The australian naval institute

An Approach to Australian National Strategy

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An Approach to Australian National Strategy

Having examined the meaning of strategy, it is necessary to determine an appropriate strategy for Australia, highlighting the place of maritime strategy As seen, the aim of strategic doctrine must be to maximize the control a nation can exercise in its international relations However, because Australia's interests are. in varying degrees, global and its resources are finite, our aim in practice must be modified What we desire is a strategy which balances ends and means in a way which provides the best opportunity of in­fluencing those situations which are most impor­tant from the point of view of national interests

Important' situations may be defined in two ways. Either as those likely to threaten our vital interests or as those situations affecting our inter­ests which are most likely to occur Our strategy must be able to react to both sets of circum­stances If a strategy does not protect vital inter­ests, its value may well be questioned. Equally, a strategy is likely to disintegrate and be disgarded if it does not have the flexibility to deal with likely contingencies.

The basis of a sound strategy must be a clear identification of national interests However. I have pointed out that it is more difficult m reality than in theory to convert interests into specific objectives This is particularly true in Australia at present It is frequently argued that Australia does not currently have either stated national objec­tives or a clear national strategy In part this is due to an absence of a credible short term threat to Australia. The way in which a nation defines its interests into objectives is closely related to its perceptions of external threats At times when there is scepticism about the realities of threats, there is equal uncertainty about the nature of objectives This difficulty in deriving clear ob­jectives may also be attributed to the paucity of informed debate on defence and the increasing difficulty of obtaining consensus in Australian society on many issues of national importance.

Notwithstanding the above discussion, much of the current pessimism about the lack of objec­tives is unwarranted because it is based on mis­conceptions concerning the detail in which ob­jectives need to be, or are able to be, stated in Australia's current circumstances The purpose of current defence objectives is two fold: to provide broad options for decision makers and to make assessments on the requirements for certain de­fence capabilities and infrastructure. At times when threats are difficult to identify, objectives are more likely to be generalized and closer to the expression of national interests II is only when threats are clearly identifiable that objectives will be specific In summary, it may be concluded that at present a broad statement and explanation of interests is as close as we can come to the formu­lation of objectives

Journal ot She Australian Naval Institute Page 37

There are strong reasons, therefore, for sug­gesting that at present, objectives are less necessary for determining a national strategy than is sometimes suggested. A more valid approach to deriving a military strategy is to identify national interests concerning security and how these interests might be threatened, to examine the factors likely to affect the form and extent of Australian's reaction and finally estab­lish the appropriate national defence strategy Maritime strategy will be an element of national strategy A Definition of Australian Interests

While Australia has a broad range of peri­pheral interests, only two are so important as to be regarded as vital interests. The foremost of these is the protection of the nation from attack and from the threat of attack, a hostile infringe­ment of national sovereignty including Australian territory, territorial or exclusive economic zones Such an attack may involve varying levels of force At the lowest level it may be the application of limited force against carefully selected objectives to disrupt normal activity or cause physical damage These attacks could be aimed at provoking such a disproportionate response that an Australian government, possibly under the pressure of public opinion, would make concessions in the favour of the aggressor At a higher level, force could be applied by conven­tional armed forces Such attacks could also be coercive in terms of influencing Australian policy or may be directed at the control of a particular Australian resource. The highest level of threat would be the use of massive lorce to the extent that our continued existence as a nation state is endangered Such an eventuality would require the application of massive offensive power in the context of an irreconcilable clash of national in­terests and a widescale breakdown in inter­national relations

A complementary interest Is to protect Aus­tralia from the threat ol some military, political or economic action that would adversely affect national sovereignty, the exercise of fundamental rights or national and international prosperity This form of threat is closely aligned to the actual employment of force. In many cases, force is applied at one level to increase the coercive effect of the threat of greater force. For practical pur­poses, protection from actual use of force and the threat of force should be regarded as a single problem

Australian interests regarding security may be stated from a general consideration of how such threats outlined above may be countered. The first response would be diplomatic Australia should seek to influence international relations in such a way that reduces the possibility of inter­national disputes developing into conflicts. One means of achieving this aim is to support inter-

national and regional bodies such as the United Nations and ASEAN which provide a mechanism for resolving or at least limiting disputes. This support would be in concert with normal bilateral diplomacy.

Alternatively, Australia may seek to control the development of a threat by use of armed force. Within this option there are several possiblities The most attractive is to maintain sufficient armed forces so that no potential aggressor could hope to be successful in an armed attack That is, an attack would be deterred by the clear ability of Australian forces to respond successfully. Finally, there is the option of using force to resist an attack. While this option is the least attractive because of its costs, human and economic, the credibility of an armed response must be the foun­dation of all other alternatives.

Thus Australian security interests may be defined as:

  • To actively support international and regional bodies as effective organs for the resolution of conflicts.

  • To deter armed attack on Australian national territory

  • To react successfully in the event of an armed attack.

The second of Australia's basic interests is the maintenance of the economic well-being of the population. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss domestic economic policies, it is necessary to consider the international context of Australian prosperity The most obvious factor is international trade currently valued at over S23 billion per year While this trade is not critical to our survival in the sense that energy imports are to Japan and some EEC member states, the continuation of this trade in general is necessary for our present standards of living

In addition, continued access to particular products such as heavy oils and key manufac­tured goods is essential for the economy to continue to function at an adequate level of pro­duction. It has also been argued most strongly that Australia's economic future will depend heavily on the nation's ability to increase its inter­national trade. The essential supports of trade are the strength of the domestic economy, the strength of the Australian currency, access to overseas investment, access to markets, and the general economic stablility of the world economy There are a number of ways in which trade could be threatened: by disrupting the internal economy, by denying Australia access to key imports or by disrupting the transportation of Australian goods.

Our national security interests in relation to trade may be expressed as

To protect key areas of industry from disrup­

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