Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 10:05 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 10:05 | SYDNEY

Defence White Paper debate: Round 5

23 September 2008 18:06

Guest blogger: Campbell Micallef is participating in our student blog debate on the Defence White Paper. Campbell is completing a Masters of Strategic Affairs at ANU.

It’s often stated but often ignored that any threat is based upon an assessment of both capability and intent. Therefore, I agree with Lachlan, that any decision to further develop our maritime capabilities would likely cause only minimal discontent in our nearer neighbourhood. However, in order to lower regional suspicion, we should probably keep quiet about a looming ‘arms race’, and make it clear that we merely seek to possess the means to adequately defend against the worst-possible scenario. To this end, I hope that the new White Paper reiterates the importance of maritime denial in Australian defence strategy, and downplays any perceived desires to practice sea control.

If defence is ultimately an insurance policy for the security of the nation (as Mark O’Neill has commented), then we should buy the policy that will most sufficiently pay out in a time of crisis. Unlike France (as seen in their new White Paper, we don’t have a nuclear option to deter ‘State originating aggression’, and thus as long as we decide that we should not possess this nuclear option, we need an alternative range of capabilities that gives us credibility to influence another’s behaviour, or raises the costs of war in our immediate neighbourhood. 

To this end, I would welcome any commitment to further develop submarines and high-end aircraft. We can only hope that China, India, the US and Japan decide to ‘give peace a chance’ over the longer term, but I would argue that we have little hope of influencing the outcome.  

Where we do have a chance of influencing outcomes is in the non-traditional basket. Our diplomatic efforts must focus on the lowering of instability in our region, including the fostering of greater trust with our Pacific neighbours. Rather than focussing on how we can best respond to failed states, or deliver constabulary forces for stabilisation operations, Australia should be more proactive and employ preventative medicine. Much more can be gained by ensuring that those around us do not find themselves in a situation where they feel they require our help, or where we feel they could do with boots on the ground.