Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 00:31 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 00:31 | SYDNEY

A secret state: Militaries and openness

8 December 2010 15:37

Prakash Mirchandani is a Visiting Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the ANU. He previously worked as a media and communications consultant to the ADF and other Federal agencies. His paper, 'Where have all the traditional storytellers of war gone'', is available here.

At a recent conference on information warfare, a number of distinguished Australian defence correspondents, including emeritus journalist Chris Masters, detailed their frustration at trying to report on what the ADF was doing in Afghanistan in the teeth of obstruction and delay by Defence.

Associate Professor Kevin Foster detailed a fascinating comparative study he had done on the relative access and frankness provided by three similar armed forces – Canada, The Netherlands and Australia. In his study, Australia scored the lowest marks for providing support and access to Australian defence writers in Afghanistan.

I was also struck by the anodyne statements which emerge from Australian military leaders, faithfully toeing the Government line about our mission in Afghanistan.

What a refreshing change, therefore, to see a military chief (the UK's Gen Sir David Richards) express himself with frankness and clarity in public. In a recent article by The Independent, he is quoted as saying a military victory against al-Qa'ida and the Taliban is not possible. Gen Richards also defended the right of fundamentalist Muslims to adhere to beliefs which underpin their lives. He stressed that one cannot defeat ideas merely through fighting wars. In acknowledging that some progress was being made in Afghanistan, he also said the British Government and military had been 'guilty of not fully understanding what was at stake' in the mission, and acknowledged that many Afghans were 'tiring' of NATO's inability to deliver on its promises.

Are we going to wait a long time before we see our own brass speak out'

Photo by Flickr user Yannic Meyer.