The australian naval institute


An Appropriate Military Strategy for Australia



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An Appropriate Military Strategy for Australia

To a considerable extent. Australia's national interests can be supported by a combination ot diplomatic and political means International trade and diplomacy can contribute to national security in a sense that they reduce potential causes of friction. In the final analysis, however, a nation must fall back on its military force to preserve its interests But. it must always be remembered that the object of war is a better peace. The use of force must be directed at giving a nation the ability to control a situation so as to give a favourable outcome In doing so there must be a sound cal­culation and coordination of ends and means Diplomacy and defence are not alternatives Military power should be unable' in opening initi­atives in policy

The nature of Australia's nterests and the determinants of her foreign anc defence policies require that Australia's strategy be essentially defensive In most instances we will be required to wait until threats materialize before taking pre­cautionary action The problem is how to develop a military strategy which allows Australia to retain the initiative in these circumstances The solution is that Australia requires two forms of national power Firstly it requires deterrent power, the ability to influence the behaviour of a potential enemy through the threat of retaliation Secondly, defensive power, the ability to counter possible enemy action, is required Clearly there are many common elements between these two forms of power, but they are not the same The essential difference is that while defensive power depends essentially on military force, deterrent power is a psychological lorced.

Deterrence power is difficult to measure be­cause it involves an assessment of risks con­cerning many factors, some of which are ex­tremely subjective Also deterrence proves itself negatively, that is in the fact that things do not happen. Success can rarely be measured as it is difficult to show why something has not

occurred. Nevertheless deterrence power is valuable because it allows a direct influence to be exerted on the will of an opponent without the risks and costs of war. The first requirement of an effective deterrent posture is that the adversary be made aware of what range of actions is likely to be regarded as unacceptable and what the reaction will be The clearer, more salient the line a potential aggressor must not cross and the less ambiguous the reaction, the more successful is deterrence likely to be Establishing this line is a question of a government reaching clear decisions on its vital interests Communicating a position to a potential aggressor is a function of foreign policy The second requirement of de­terrence is the capability to convince a potential enemy that the costs likely to be incurred from his initiative will outweigh the possible gams There­fore, deterrence is not a fixed level of force but a measure of a potential enemy s perceptions of costs, gams and values Australia's deterrent power will depend on both an assessment of the capability of present forces and an assessment of Australian's ability to create larger forces in time to counter more serious threats.

Because Australia is unlikely to maintain large forces in peace, the deterrent power of the Defence Force must rely largely on equipment and technical competence Equally, planning for expansion must be carefully designed to necessi­tate a disproportionate response on the part of the aggressor Finally, the third element in deter­rence is credibility Not only must a potential aggressor be aware of the capability to inflict unacceptable losses, but also of the certainty that this capability would be used

However, non-nuclear deterrence is fragile since there is considerable room for miscalcu­lation and mistakes Deterrence must therefore be backed up by defensive power One require­ment of defensive power is that it has depth. That is depth in both planning and capabilities Aus­tralia's strategy must ensure that the force in being is sufficient to undertake likely short term tasks and has the relevant skills and equipment to be capable of timely expansion to meet a devel­oping situation In addition, our Defence Force must contain the capability to conduct operations in depth It must possess the ability to engage an enemy in or near his base areas, on the approaches to Australia and ultimately in sus­tained operations on the Australian continent It should not be thought that these operations must be purely defensive in nature The aim of Aus­tralian strategy must be to conduct operations aggressively so as to regain the initiative and control over events The number of missions required means that each Service will require a variety of capabilities often in the same equip­ment

Page 40 Journal ot the Australian Naval Institute

Defence in depth also includes operations not directly related to the defence of Australian territory. A vital additional requirement is the need to protect Australia's lines of communiations Ex­pansion in a time of crisis will depend on the ability to ensure the passage of merchant vessels carrying military equipment and strategic raw materials. In addition, Australian strategy should include precautionary operations within the area of Australia's primary concern. The aims of pre­cautionary operations would be to provide military aid and assistance to the governments of neigh­bouring states. Such assistance could be relative­ly limited and provided on a bilatera' basis. However, the possibility of a larger contribution to an allied force in the region should not be dis­counted entirely Nevertheless it should be clearly stated that the structure and development of the Australian Defence Force should be primarily directed to providing those capabilities required for the defence of Australian territory.

In summary Australian strategy should be based upon deterrent and defensive power obtained from:

  • a clear statement and communication of Aus­tralian vital interests;

  • a force in being capable of defeating likely short term threats;

  • a core force capable of timely expansion to provide the necessary capabilities to counter longer term threats;

  • a strategic strike capability capable of provi­ding a credible deterrence to a regional power;

  • the ability to protect essential supply lines;

  • the capacity to provide defence assistance to neighbouring states when requested;

  • the ability to participate in allied forces within our own area o( interest




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