Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 21:26 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 21:26 | SYDNEY

Defence White Paper, Lebanon-style


Rodger Shanahan


20 February 2009 08:50

I have thoroughly enjoyed Jim Molan's and Hugh White's posts about the White paper and defence capability planning. There are numerous challenges in trying to craft a document that can provide strategic guidance in an environment where the nature of conflicts the ADF is called upon to take part in are rarely, if ever, correctly foretold. Uniformed personnel have some input but bureaucrats have prime carriage of the document, leading to claims that practitioners end up living with the mistakes of the theorists.

But whatever your view of the White Paper process it is, if nothing else, orderly. Spare a thought, then, for the Lebanese, who are in the midst of attempts to craft a national defence strategy.

In the last decade, Lebanese political leaders have had to deal with the lingering impact of a 15-year civil war, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the south after 20 years' occupation, the recent withdrawal of a neighbouring country's occupying forces after a presence of 30 years, 12 self-governing Palestinian refugee camps and a political party represented in parliament (and part of the national defense strategy dialogue) whose militia is stronger than the national army, who precipitated a deadly month-long war with Israel in 2006 and who effectively took over half of the capital by force last year. 

In true Lebanese style, though, everyone gets a say in what the strategy should look like. But unlike Australia, recent Lebanese history has meant that while there are a dearth of security theorists there is no shortage of practitioners, many of whom are outside the army.

The former Lebanese Armed Forces commander Michel Aoun, who called for an ‘War of Liberation’ against the Syrians before going into exile in France, presented his proposal in November. The former Lebanese Forces militia leader Samir Geagea also submitted his ten-page plan in December. Even non-military leaders such as MP Butros Harb felt moved to add to the strategy debate, which didn’t go down well with Hizbullah.

While an expert military committee has been formed to examine the proposals, the real issue to be resolved — the future of Hizbullah’s arms — is unlikely to feature as part of the strategy any time soon. Rather, the group is likely to focus on something a bit easier first – the issue of weapons held by Palestinian groups outside the camps. It makes considerations over how many JSF to buy or the number of air warfare destroyers to build appear positively straightforward.