Any proposal for a national defence strategy must take into account those permanent and long term factors which have national policies As seen. Australian's fundamental interests are largely fixed. Equally, there are a number of factors which limit the freedom of manoeuvre of Australian governments in formulating policies to further these interests For convenience these factors may be grouped under the broad headings of internal and external factors
A primary and obvious determinant is geography Briefly, the dominating considerations from geography are that this country is an island continent, wealthy in natural resources and isolated from her natural friends and allies but close to a region of present and potential instability The areas of important resources in the north and north west are separated by a broad inhospitable hinterland from the major concentrations of population and industry The most superficial glance at Ihis geography leads to the observations that the nodh and west of the country are the most vulnerable areas to attack and that in these regions the distance from support areas, lack of local infrastructure and poor communications would severely inhibit an Australian response Moreover, geography indicates that not only would a military force be required to use the sea for its initial lodgement but also that the continued use of the sea would be essential for the maintenance of a force of any size on Australian territory Further, control of the sea would be important for subsequent operations which would be required to leapfrog along, or at least hug, the coast
It is also clear that geography requires that Australian be able to use the sea If Australia is to maintain its access to important raw materials, to sources of military material and come to assistance of friendly powers, then it must use the sea Even Australia's internal trade is heavily dependent upon shipping. It is because Australian governments have in varying degrees always recognized that Australian defence must be essentially a problem of controlling the sea that alliance with a major naval power has always been a key feature of national policy
Since strategy concerns the application of national power, the nature and extent of a nation's power must influence its strategy If a country has much greater power than any possible rival, it has the freedom to act aggressively or react extremely passively according to its perception of its interests Where, however, the power of a country is limited it must choose its policies carefully to gain
maximum benefit from limited resources It is evident that in Australia's case, we do not have the economic or human resources to be a ma|or power Nevertheless, this does not mean we are defenceless. Rather, we have sufficient national wealth and industrial capacity to maintain an effective defence force for most foreseeable eventualities provided our resources are carefully allocated
The aim is to find a strategy that is suited to fulfil our inherently limited objectives in the most economic way At first glance, it might seem that a purely defensive strategy is the most economic method; but this implies strategic defence which historical experience has shown to be a dangerously brittle method on which to rely Economy of force and deterrence are best achieved by retaining the mobility and force for quick offensive action.
A more intangible determinant of defence strategy is the attitude of Australians to defence From its beginning. Australian society has had a preoccupation with the threat of external aggression Since the early nineteenth century the role of the chief menace has been given at various times to France, Czanst Russia, China. Japan. Indonesia and the Soviety Union However, except for a two short periods, immediately before and after the First World War, this preoccupation has not led to the formulation of a credible defence strategy Instead the Australian response has been to seek the protection of a major ally and rely upon a general call to arms when danger threatens There are a number of factors which challenge the credibility of both expectations. Nevertheless views are widely held and the effects are real. The effect of excessive reliance on a major power has been to distort our view of the world into seeing international relations purely in terms of great power nvaltry and as a result inhibited Australian governments from devising flexible policies capable of responding to the rapid economic and political changes occurring in the Asian-Pacific region But in contradiction, the effect of our vague confidence to react as necessary has made the public at large complacent on defence The danger is likely to be that long term defence planning may be dislocated by alternate periods of government interest or neglect accordingly to current international events and that popular indifference may limit a major military response being initiated to the last possible moment
In addition to the above internal factors, there are a number of important external influences in determining a strategy The most important of these are: a nations attitude to the central balance of power, its attitudes to other powers, its trading patterns, its membership of collective groupings and its conception of the geography of its strategic situation If any one of these elements