Land-based strike capability: a force multiplier for the ADF?

The Australian Army Landing Craft Medium is another capability that links land and sea.

Jan Gleiman and Harry White’s latest post argues that regional militaries should consider land-based anti-ship missiles within their modernisation programs. That discussion’s both timely and relevant. And, indeed, the Australian Army has recently been looking at the role that land-based capabilities could have in contributing to a discussion of Joint Archipelagic Manoeuvre (PDF), thereby helping to ensure free and unfettered access to the maritime global commons. But Gleiman and White gloss over both the complexity of adopting such missile systems and the strategic implications that such a purchase could have within the region.

The authors did a good job of stating the case for the operational utility of land-based anti-shipping missiles. What they didn’t do was articulate a wider strategy which made best use of that weapon system. A basic case isn’t too hard to make. Because the geography north of Australia is archipelagic, the ADF needs a coherent vision for how it might operate in that environment. While it has been the custom to talk in terms of an ‘air-sea gap’ to the north, we really should think of the land elements as well—the ‘gap’ is actually filled with an extensive array of land masses of various sizes.

That’s where the strength of Gleiman and White’s argument lies—it links the land with the maritime environment. Being able to deny the sea from the land is a powerful capability, which in turn would help enable maritime operations, especially in the littoral. In this view, it’s not just the Air Force and Navy that operate in the ‘gap’, it’s the whole of the ADF that operates jointly in an ‘air-sea-land environment’. That’s why the Army has been thinking about the role it could play in such an approach. Read more

But it’s not just a matter of blending weapons systems. True, capabilities such as land-based anti-ship missiles have the potential to enhance Australia’s ability to undertake both sea denial and sea control. But they require an evolution in thinking with regard to our strategic culture (PDF). And we must consider what regional strategic effects would follow from the wider deployment of such missiles by others. Any change in a nation’s capability portfolio is inevitably going to alter its coercive leverage points. Our purchase of land-based anti-ship missiles could accelerate a change in the political and military landscape, especially if the systems purchased region-wide have the ability to target not just shipping but potentially to reach numerous cities within the Indo-Pacific region.

There’s no doubt the development and acquisition of capabilities such as land-based maritime strike and long-range fires provide land forces with the ability to generate greater combat weight, free up scarce air and maritime forces for other tasking, and—as Gleiman and White state—generate strategic flexibility. It’s those ideas that influenced the Joint Archipelagic Manoeuvre concept—and are also informing our allies’ and our adversaries’ thinking. If we do head down that path in a more determined fashion, a challenge will be ensuring that the Army is adequately resourced for such a mission (something that requires not just missiles and launchers but training, education, doctrine, facilities and time) while at the same time remaining structured and resourced to carry out its principal task of winning the land battle (PDF) against our adversaries.

So there are pluses and minuses here. Incorporation of the capability advocated by Gleiman and White extends beyond simply adding a weapon system to the Australian Defence Force’s arsenal. Yes, land-based anti-ship missiles could enable truly joint operations to control strategic economic maritime links (PDF, p57) and they have the potential to enhance significantly the military’s coercive deterrent effect. But we can’t overlook second- and third-order effects—including the possibility that they may also trigger more rapid or additional investment regionally by both state and non-state actors or alter existing political and military relationships. Those are all considerations worthy of further discussion.

Mark Ascough is an Australian Army officer. The views expressed in this paper are his own and do not reflect those of the Australian Army or Department of Defence. Image courtesy of Department of Defence.

Being a top 20 defence player

Time for Australia to flex its muscles!

The Australian Institute of International Affairs ran a high-quality conference in Canberra yesterday around the theme of ‘Foreign Policy for a Top 20 Nation’. It’s an intriguing theme, obviously informed by the G20 leaders’ meeting commencing soon in Brisbane. I participated in a panel on strengthening Australia’s security. My starting point was to suggest that there’s a surprising gap between the reality of our top 20 status and how we think of Australia’s security role in the world.

In terms of defence spending Australia is well up the top 20 ladder. The Economist rated Australia as the world’s 12th biggest defence spending in US dollars in 2012. At US$25.1 bn we ranked ahead of Iran on US$23.9 bn and behind a more immediately threatened South Korea on US$29 bn. In per-capita terms, Australia is 8th on The Economist’s list on US$1,140, ahead of the UK on $1,016.

The dollars show that Australia is indeed a global player on defence and security, but psychologically we tend to undersell the capability and shaping capacity of the Australian Defence Force and other contributing elements of national security. Read more

Since the time of the 1999 East Timor operation, Australia has played a consequential role in regional and global security. In some respects we’re the victims of our operational success. A slightly uncomfortable realisation is dawning, which is that other countries expect us to play a larger security role. We’re expected to lead in maintaining stability in our nearer region. We’re expected to make a significantly better than symbolic contribution to Coalition operations in the Middle East. We’re expected to have views that matter in the United Nations Security Council, North Asia, the Indian Ocean Region, and as a NATO ‘enhanced partner’.

Several times this year foreign colleagues I’ve spoken to observe that Australia needs to stand up and acknowledge that reality. We may be a top 20 nation, but quite a few of us don’t think we are—or don’t want us to be that—and consequences flow for how we act on the international stage.

If we accept that our top 20 status reflects how Australia should behave internationally, then we’ll need every cent of the 2%of Gross National Product to be spent on Defence by the early 2020s. There’s currently bipartisan support for that level of spending. Being a consequential power means we’ll need forces able to project military power; we’ll need to develop deeper defence relations with key friends; we’ll need to step up our involvement in peacekeeping; and we’ll need to accept the risks of deploying combat forces in Coalition operations.

If we choose not to live the reality of being a top 20 power, there are consequences too— including that we’ll lose credibility as an ally of the US and as a partner of strategic choice for defence cooperation by others in the region. We’ll lose the capacity to underpin our diplomatic position with effective military capability. We’ll become much less effective in promoting our strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific, where strategic competition is heating up and risk levels are rising.

There are a few areas where—as a credible top 20 nation—we’d need to invest more thinking, attention and resources if we hope to strengthen Australia’s security.

First, we need to take new, big steps to build a real strategic relationship with Indonesia. That means going beyond the comfortable and confined defence relationship we currently have to look at much deeper engagement that strengthens Indonesian defence capabilities. We need to think more in joint terms about what our defence forces should and could do together.

Second, we need to get serious about the extent of our interests beyond our immediate region. Defence-of-Australia thinking has effectively expanded in its scope. Think of it now as ‘Defence of Australia Plus’, the plus reflecting a need to engage in the broader security concerns of the Indo-Pacific.

Third, we’ll have to address Australia’s capacity to protect our strategic interests in a much more competitive and risky region. In a military sense, that goes to the requirement to sustain force-projection capabilities that deliver meaningful military capacity. More often than not, that’ll be in an alliance or coalition context.

Finally we need to make sure we’re investing in the level of intelligence gathering and analytical capabilities needed to help us understand our region. We can’t afford to take a part-time interest in places like Africa and the Middle East, devoting effort there only when operations require us to do so.

In other words, in defence as in foreign policy, a top 20 nation needs to think of Australian interests as they really are—shaped by global events and not just regional ones. That will require some significant adjustments of attitude and thinking in coming years.

Peter Jennings is executive director of ASPI. Image courtesy of Flickr user istolethetv.

Northern Australia: how much defence is enough?

KowariI was pleased to be asked to speak a few weeks ago at the ADM Northern Australia Defence Summit in Darwin. I hadn’t been there since 2006, and it was interesting to see just how much the city had changed in that time. Clearly the resources boom has had an impact in our northernmost capital.

I was asked to talk about the opportunities that might flow the way of northern Australia from future defence policy changes. It was an interesting topic that got me pondering on which of the historic and current elements of the defence presence in the north were likely to endure. Here’s the answer I came up with, and I’d be interested to hear from readers who agree (and even more interested to hear from those who don’t).

Let’s start with some factors that don’t apply any more. There was a time when a military presence was required to assert sovereignty over a very sparsely populated area. That’s clearly untrue now—while the population still isn’t large, there’s no serious dispute over who owns it. Read more

Less obvious, but I think equally untrue, is the rationale that led to the ‘Defence of Australia’ (DOA) Policy and thence to the Army Presence in the North (APIN), which saw one of Army’s brigades moved to Darwin and the construction of three ‘bare bases’ that could be used by Air Force to mount operations in the ‘airsea gap’. My thesis is that the DOA construct was a product of entirely unrepresentative times, and has no relevance looking ahead.

The origin of those notions can be traced back to the Guam Doctrine annunciation by US President Nixon in 1969, which told American allies like Australia that we should be prepared to look after our own defence interests in our neighbourhood. Described by my colleague Mark Thomson as a ‘get out of jail free card’, it meant that the ADF could be scaled back to a more locally-focused force—and defence spending could be pruned significantly.

But it meant that a fiction had to be invented to provide a coherent supporting narrative. Thus we set off down the road that led to APIN and bare bases that, to this day, nobody seems to have a clear idea of how to provision and actually use. And it led to silliness such as a series of Kangaroo exercises which saw significant army forces patrolling the barren north looking for small groups of fictitious Kamarian infiltrators—though it was never satisfactorily explained what those infiltrators were doing, other than presumably looking for shade.

It’s expensive keeping forces well away from the major population centres, and thus the economies of scale that come with large cities. So it’s not surprising that there’s been some winding back of APIN, with the relocation of 7RAR from Darwin to Adelaide. That said, the $650 million price tag for the move means that it’ll be decades before the move breaks even. As Mark Thomson and I noted a couple of years ago, moving the ADF is an expensive proposition, and there has to be a compelling reason based on operational effectiveness to do it.

But that doesn’t mean that the ADF presence in the north will remain at present levels in perpetuity. There’s a school of thought that an increased ADF presence is needed to secure the substantial resources industry located on or just offshore from northern Australian territory. I’m not convinced of that, but money speaks loudly and the resources sector certainly produces lots of that, so some increased ADF activity up there is a plausible outcome.

A much more compelling reason is a strategic fundamental that was obvious in the 1940s, but has been overlooked in the ensuing decades. When there’s a major Asian power capable of contesting western naval power in North Asia, Australia’s geography becomes a very powerful thing. Graeme Dobell’s recent piece on MacArthur and 1942 gets it right. Sitting at the confluence of two major oceans and the vital trade routes of Southeast Asia, American power projection into that contested space benefits enormously from being able to stage from Australia. In the 1940s, it was an expansionist Japan. Now it’s China and its anti-access capabilities providing the contest further north.

That’s why we’re seeing the United States establishing a presence in Australia through it’s rotational Marine Corps presence in Darwin, with increased air and probably naval assets to follow. And if Australia decides to pursue a closer cooperative approach with American forces, there’ll be plenty of reason for the ADF to build its northern presence over time as well.

So forget the DOA and Kamarians. After six decades of an unnatural order, we’re back to an Asia where the United States needs us (and we might well decide that we need them even more). I think there’s a healthy future for defence investment in the north of Australia. And, incidentally, Mahan saw this coming.

Andrew Davies is senior analyst for defence capability and director of research at ASPI. Image courtesy of Department of Defence.

Will China regress to the mean?

Shanghai Fans of English Premier League soccer may be aware of the phenomenon known as the ‘Manager of the Month’ effect. According to that, a team’s performance tends to drop the month after its coach has been given the ‘Manager of the Month’ award. Some say it’s because the winner grows overconfident and slips up. However, as the London Times sports columnist Danny Finkelstein points out, it’s actually just a reflection of a statistical phenomenon known as ‘regression to the mean’. A month is a short period in soccer and so it’s likely that a manager who did well in such a time frame is simply lucky and all that happened is that the following month his (it’s always ‘his’ in the EPL) luck ran out.

Now what does this have to do with China? Well, former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and fellow Harvard economist Lant Pritchett have just written a paper—described by Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen as ‘one of the best and most important economics papers I’ve seen all year’—suggesting that regression to the mean is exactly what’s most likely to happen to the Chinese economy. Analysing decades of statistical evidence on economic growth, they note that the best predictor of how much a country will grow in future isn’t its current growth rate, rather the global average growth rate. Expansions as rapid and as sustained as China’s are historically rare. Most countries which are highly developed today got there by posting solid and moderate but sustained economic growth over a long time frame (the US, Britain, Denmark). Many lower income countries by contrast have hosted spectacular booms over a couple of decades, followed by busts which undo many of the gains (Brazil being one example). Read more

Economic predictions, don’t have a great track record (though I argue they’re getting better and Summers himself is better than most). Moreover, even the best predictions are probabilistic rather than deterministic. Maybe there’s something about China that our growth models aren’t capturing which will allow it to keep on expanding at a rapid clip. Summers and Pritchett limit themselves to concluding that the ‘burden of proof’ should lie with those who believe it’ll continue to post the current spectacular growth rates and not those who forecast a more modest trajectory.

But as far as I’m aware, the main ‘China-specific’ factors are also pointing in a bearish direction. The ageing population is one well known factor, as is the possibility of radical political change (more of which below). What could be even more important though is the lack of strong property rights (a point also made by MIT’s economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson). Property rights are increasingly being seen as the key to long-term economic growth in the developing world because they give entrepreneurs the assurance that their hard work, innovation and risk taking will be appropriately rewarded. Unfortunately, China currently falls down rather badly on that score.

Summers and Pritchett’s argument is convincing. If China’s growth does revert to the mean, what might the consequences be for Asia-Pacific security? Pessimists such as my dissertation chair Peter Feaver argue that ‘a weak China could be just as vexing as a strong China’. The CCP could, for instance, engage in overseas adventurism to bolster its flagging popularity. However, the empirical evidence that such ‘diversionary wars’ happen isn’t strong. More likely, a China which reverted to the mean global growth rate, while bad for the global economy, could be good for global security. It would give its neighbours fewer incentives to engage in arms build-ups. Moreover, if China also transitions towards democracy (which Summers and Pritchett suggest as a likely reason why its growth could slow), then it would be still more reassuring to outsiders.

A future which includes a slower growing, democratic mainland China may be less prosperous and more banal, but also less insecure. Perhaps we’re not cursed to live in interesting times after all.

Charles Miller is a lecturer at ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. Image courtesy of Flickr user 蜡笔 MR.

Julia on attack and defence

Then Prime Minister of Australia, the Honourable Julia Gillard MP launching the Defence White Paper at No. 34 Squadron, Fairbairn.Julia Gillard writes that she inherited ‘unrealistic’ defence settings from Kevin Rudd and hints faintly that she bequeathed the same to the Abbott government. Just as Gillard needed a new defence policy because of Kevin Rudd, she needed a new Asia policy because of The Kevin. Gillard had to replace Rudd’s unaffordable and faltering Defence White Paper, while her Asia Century White Paper gave her a chunk of foreign policy without Rudd’s finger-prints all over it.

What was more important—the policy interests or the shadow of Kevin? Pointless question. Both sides of the equation were vital.

Remember Rule 1 of understanding Canberra: ‘It’s always personal‘. The personal shapes power and shifts policy; see Gillard’s grand swipe at Rudd and Bob Carr: ‘After the 2010 election, I never had a Foreign Minister I could rely on’.

Gillard’s book is useful on defence policy, if not as vivid in its verbal voltage as it is about Rudd’s ‘destabilisation’, ‘leaking’ and ‘treachery’. In such a spirit, turn to Julia’s demolition of the 2009 Defence White Paper. She makes familiar criticisms. But this is the Deputy Prime Minister who was present at the creation (of the mess). On the Rudd White Paper, Gillard writes: ‘The overblown nature of the prose had drawn an adverse reaction from the Chinese and the budget rule laid out in the White Paper for defence expenditure was unrealistic and almost immediately breached’. Read more

Gillard writes herself into a key moment of that overblown and unrealistic effort. The deputy PM filled in for Rudd as chair of the National Security Committee for a ‘pivotal’ meeting on reallocation of funds within Defence and new White Paper spending priorities: ‘When the meeting had to break into a series of side conversations in the corners of the Cabinet room, it was obvious that the process was unravelling and the final product would suffer as a result’. Memo to Tony Abbott: watch those side conversations in the Cabinet corners at crunch moments for next year’s White Paper.

Gillard disposes of her 2013 Defence White Paper in two paragraphs. She thinks it ‘set more modest and realistic ambitions’ and the document was ‘methodical and careful’. The muted pass mark rests on the admission: ‘Our government did not find the complete solutions’. Savour that negative nod as a moment when a politician hints that things possibly, perhaps, perchance, went less than perfectly.

Gillard gets all the headaches into one true, terse sentence: ‘Defence has historically faced massive cost, time and capability problems when undertaking major procurements’. Yep. Thus, next year, Australia will get its third Defence White Paper in six years. This is quite something for a country that had been getting by with one White Paper a decade. Are the problems bigger or the deciders smaller?

On the conflict she presided over, Gillard concludes that Australia was right to commit to its longest war but hard news looms: ‘In Afghanistan, I fear that we are to be disappointed again as democratic progress is stalled, even partially eroded, by poverty, governance incapacity, corruption, tribal politics and the predominance of the Taliban being reasserted in some areas’.

Gillard’s big shift on the alliance was the announcement during President Obama’s Canberra visit that the US Marines would train in northern Australia. Considering the policy in Cabinet, the big worries were ‘another nation’s soldiers training on our soil’ and ‘the concerns of the foreign policy establishment about the regional reaction’.

Offering a fine rendering of the mix of personality, power, politics and policy in any such choice, Gillard describes how she rejected a cautious, small-steps approach to the Marines to go all-the-way-with-Obama:

I came to this view not because it was going to be easy, indeed managing regional reaction, particularly China’s, had a high degree of difficulty. Rather I thought it was the right decision strategically for the future. It would meet an American need. It would facilitate joint training and exercises at a time beyond both our deployments to Afghanistan. It would show our preparedness to modernise the alliance between our nations. It would also send a self-confident message to our region that Australia was not succumbing to a dogma of false choices between valuing our alliance and our relationships in the region in which we live. I was also absolutely confident that the days of progressive Left protests against an American presence on Australian soil were behind us, and contemporary politics, including an America led by a Democrat, meant this initiative would be well received.

Julia was confident about handling the Oz Left and the Right of the Chinese Communist Party.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Image courtesy of Department of Defence.

ASPI suggests

Robot wars!Could future wars be fought between robots? CNAS’ Paul Scharre has a new report that examines how swarms of ‘cooperative, autonomous, robotic systems have the potential to bring greater mass, intelligence, coordination, and speed to the battlefield.’ Part II of his Robotics on the Battlefield report sees Scharre delve into each of those attributes as well as swarm C2 models and countermeasures. For more on unmanned systems, Scharre and Daniel Burg look at how they can save costs over at War On The Rocks.

We haven’t heard much in world news about Myanmar lately … CSIS has compiled the observations of a delegation that travelled to Myanmar to assess health and development, political reform and governance, and conflict resolution with the country’s minority groups. The resultant report concludes that active US engagement is critical to supporting further transition. Meanwhile, New Mandala features a two-part series by Josh Wood on Myanmar’s Special Economic Zones.

Also from New Mandala, a round-up of their blog posts on Indonesia’s newly inaugurated President Joko Widodo as well as the performance of Yudhoyono’s administration, the state of Indonesia’s democracy, economic challenges and political reform. Read more

For those interested in landpower, RAND has a new report out on improving strategic competence, drawing on the lessons from the US Army’s 13 years in war. Based on a workshop that collected the views of policymakers and academics involved in national-level strategy making, the report finds that land warfare has increasing relied on special operations forces and that Army often struggles to incorporate broader strategic lessons. For a useful overview of the findings, lessons and recommendations, see this summary. Download the eBook for free here (PDF).

The US and Russia aren’t always at loggerheads with one another. They’ve teamed up against a Swiss plan to increase the resilience of nuclear reactors against natural disasters. Both countries oppose plans that would force greater investment in safety, but China and India have lent their support to the initiative.

As China’s economic and military clout increases, so too does its role in regional affairs, including in Central Asia. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Daniel Trombly and Nathaniel Barr look at China’s post-2014 role in Afghanistan (PDF). Interestingly, the paper examines China–Pakistan–Afghanistan relations, observing that Pakistan’s support of Islamist proxies in Afghanistan is having a destabilising effect on the country, and is increasingly at odds with China’s interests. That’s prompted China to seek cooperation with India on stabilising the central Asian country. For more on those dynamics, keep reading here.

Add to that Lowy Institute’s Dirk van der Kley who also has a new report out on China’s foreign policy in Afghanistan which notes that ‘China’s main interest is ensuring instability doesn’t spread to Xinjiang.’

Imagine working at an all-male university where students spied on each other and were guarded only by female soldiers. American journalist Suki Kim worked as an English teacher at the elite, all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. She has compiled six months’ worth of secret notes into a book, Without You, There is No Us. Read/listen to Kim’s interview with NPR, which includes this insight:

And once I began talking about [democracy], I got very nervous because the students were all watching each other and reporting on each other. After we discussed democracy at the table, later, another student, who’s a roommate of that student, told me that he’s with me. Meaning, he thinks like me. And that really scared me because I thought, then, some of them are questioning the system.


Covert Contact is a new podcast series brought to you from the Blogs of War creator John Little. The latest episode is on what the attack in Ottawa teaches us about terrorists—and ourselves (7mins).

The Lowy Institute’s Aaron Connelly has some useful insights into Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s future administration (7mins).


For more on that CSIS report on Myanmar, here’s the video of the report’s launch featuring reflections by delegation members and a panel discussion on political and health developments (audio here).

Military drum battle time! For a bit of frivolity today, check out the US III Marine Expeditionary Force band go head to head with the Republic of Korea Army band. Bangnam style!


Canberra: This year’s Vietnam Update will be held Monday 1 – Tuesday 2 December at the ANU, featuring presentations by 16 scholars on political, economic, development and social issues. Register for this free event here.

Don’t forget to register for the Kokoda Foundation’s Future Strategic Leaders’ Congress, ANU’s coast campus at Kioloa, 7 – 9 November. This iteration’s theme is Australia’s role in addressing global nuclear security challenges and Professor Gareth Evans will deliver the keynote speech. Applications for Kokoda Next to be held on 28 November are due Friday 31 October, register here.

Sydney: One of Japan’s leading experts, Dr Ken Jimbo, will discuss maritime security challenges in Asia and their implications for Japan and Australia followed by a panel discussion with Rory Medcalf and Murray McLean. Hosted by the Lowy Institute, it’s on Thursday 30 October at 12.30pm.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Edited image courtesy of Flickr user Evert Haasdijk.

What future for the Australian defence industry?

Recent events, rumours and reports have cast a light on the future of Australia’s defence industry. High-profile considerations have centred on shipbuilding and submarines with the ongoing Senate Economics References Committee Inquiry, ministerial and prime-ministerial positioning for a ‘Japanese solution’ to Australia’s future submarine, and the ongoing debate about costs and economic benefits.

But it’s also important to step back and consider the future of the broader industry. What’s the current status of the local defence industry? How does it compare with that in other jurisdictions? Is defence-related industry intrinsically different to other sections of the economy? Where are we headed, and is that a good place?

If we take those questions in reverse order it’s clear we don’t know where we’re headed. We’re on a mystery tour and no-one seems to care where it might end. Will it be possible to come back? Decisions on military acquisitions and support seem to be made on the basis of the balance sheet rather than any deeper consideration of strategic importance. Repeatedly, statements are made that the ADF needs to get the best capability for the available money, and that defence isn’t a job-creation programme. At face value both of those statements are sound, but they don’t take into account the longer-term ramifications of in-country industrial activity able to support the defence force. Read more

Some suggest there’ll be more jobs in Australia because there’ll be more submarines, for example. What jobs? How does such an outcome equate with the smart manufacturing and high-technology economy that successive governments have preached but not practised? Is digging twice as many ditches satisfactory when someone else is making all the ditch-digging equipment?

Working back up the line of questioning there are fundamental differences between defence industry and other aspects of the economy—just as there are between those in uniform and those in civilian life. Defence industry is there to support the people in the services who may have to put their lives on the line for the protection of the nation. Few in society are called upon to do that.

Defence industry’s there to ensure that if (or when) that happens those people have the right equipment, and that it’s fit for purpose, properly maintained, and can be repaired and upgraded as and when needed. Defence capability and industry isn’t just an entry on a balance sheet. The question needs to be asked—repeatedly—whether Australian industry should do that, and also whether it can, or can’t. The question also needs to be asked whether the decisions being made harm the ability of the local industry to support the military in the field. Let’s face it—no-one else is going to care about Australia’s military as much as Australians.

How do we compare with other countries? Quite simply, abysmally. Most countries that fancy themselves as middle powers support their defence industry (see here, here, here, here and here). They see value in doing defence-related activities, particularly the support and upgrade of military capability, in country. They put a premium on the development and retention of local skills. They see a link between indigenous defence-industry capability and the mitigation of strategic and sovereign risk. It appears we don’t. What makes Australia so different that we’re happy off-shoring our industrial defence capabilities? Why do we naively believe that it doesn’t matter, that it isn’t worth the investment, and that someone else will pick up the pieces for us? That’s not sensible. You wouldn’t blithely expect someone else to protect your house when you can’t be bothered to do it yourself—or you want to save a few bucks.

And now for the reality check. What’s the status of local defence industry? Put simply it’s not good—and getting worse. The percentage of contracts being placed into Australia is declining—even to the onshore offshoots of overseas companies. Analysis of the Government’s own data from Austender for contracts placed by the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) over the past seven years shows that to be the case. When the data for Australian-owned companies is separated from the other contracts the results are pitiful. The following graphs (click to enlarge) show that to be the case (and remember this is the Government’s own data). True, it’s contract data—not cash-flow data—but it’s difficult to have cash flow without a contract.

Percentage of DMO contracts awarded to AUS-operating companies

Annual DMO contracts to Australian-owned companies

Why are we happily ‘off-shoring’ our defence industrial capability with no consideration of what that might mean in the long term just because it looks good on a balance sheet?

Why are we heading blindly along a path when nobody can articulate where we’re going, or what is might look like when we get there?

Why should we blindly accept the inherent contradiction between the current industrial position and the DWP 2013 statement that ‘The highest priority ADF task is to deter and defeat armed attacks on Australia without having to rely on the combat or combat support forces of another country’?  The fact that we’ll need to rely on the industrial support of another country (or countries) either escapes attention, or isn’t considered relevant.

We need to get our heads out of the sand, to consider the bigger picture beyond the accountants’ numbers, and to build towards the defence-industry capability that we need. We need to mitigate our own strategic risks, and address our own sovereignty—then we might finally be a middle power and not just a pretender.

Graeme Dunk is manager of Australian Business Defence Industry, a national defence industry association.

Give (unconventional) war a chance

Afghanistan Kunar October 1987: Jamiat-e Islami group shelter and "Dashaka" .50 cal. machine gun position in Shultan ValleyUnconventional warfare isn’t popular among Western strategists these days. Whether it’s supporting insurgent groups (the strict definition) or supporting militias allied with government forces, proxy warfare has a bad reputation. The complex situation in Syria and Iraq isn’t helping matters: the US is struggling to find a reliable proxy in Syria and confidence in Iraq’s security forces and associated militias is low. In a recent editorial in the Canberra Times, Hugh White said, ‘For half a century America and its allies have been trying to win messy civil wars without fighting themselves and by training and equipping one side or the other. It never works’.

Professor White’s not alone in his dismal assessment. The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti reports that a recent CIA study came to a similarly dim conclusion—that US efforts at unconventional warfare had little effect on the long-term outcome of conflicts. Despite those conclusions, it’s unwise for strategists prematurely to dismiss the idea of supporting insurgent groups and working with non-state armed groups in both current and future conflicts.

For those who find proxy warfare detestable, its poor record mightn’t seem worrisome. Unfortunately, global trends suggest future conflicts will be characterised by insurgents, militias, and non-state armed groups who’ll be important in determining outcomes. Reports, including the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030, show that increasingly those groups emerge to fill the security vacuums of failing states. They have easier access to external sources of support. Russia and Iran clearly see proxy warfare as part of their strategic culture. Even most conventional future scenarios—what Douglas MacGregor calls ‘wars of decision’—will have insurgents seeking to influence outcomes before, during, and after decisive actions. So it’s critical that strategists understand unconventional warfare and how to counter it. No matter how detestable we might find proxy warfare, it does work and our enemies would be happy to use it against us. Read more

The data on supporting insurgent groups helps to illustrate my point. Studies of insurgencies and civil wars consistently demonstrate that external support is the most common enabler of insurgent success and that failure to isolate insurgents from external support is one cause of unsuccessful counterinsurgency campaigns. If external support matters so much in determining the outcome of civil wars, but US and allied efforts have a bad record, what’s the obvious conclusion? The problem isn’t that unconventional warfare doesn’t work; the problem is that we’re not good at it! The US and its allies are either doing something wrong or failing to do something important.

Actually, it’s both. Generally speaking, when supporting insurgent groups in the past, the US and its allies have either committed too little and/or expected too much. It’s important to recognise this failing now and to make a concerted effort to better understand how to incorporate unconventional warfare in future strategy. To be fair, the US and its allies have had some success when they chose to support a side in both insurgent and full blown civil wars. Successful examples include Afghanistan in the 80s, at the beginning phases of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, and in Yugoslavia during World War II to name just a few. (There are more.) However, according to Mazzetti, the report claims that CIA efforts were less effective when insurgent militias fought ‘without any direct American support on the ground’. That’s a point I’ve emphasized before. Proxy forces will be more effective (and more malleable) when advisors are on the ground and providing them with capability, trust, advice, and support. Proxy forces live in the dangerous reality of civil war and social anarchy, and therefore have different immediate and long term interests than their sponsors. It’s a principal-agent problem that has to be addressed. If we don’t commit blood and treasure to their cause, we can’t expect to influence their behaviour—or the outcome.

Even if the commitment to proxies is strong, there’s also the danger of expecting too much from unconventional warfare strategies. In those cases where the US has been successful in supporting proxies, the desired outcome was broad. In Afghanistan in the 80s the US sought to punish and expel the Soviet Union from Afghanistan and cared little about what came next. Unconventional warfare with the commitment of only material support was good enough for the US, because Pakistani ISI provided the on the ground advice. In Operation Enduring Freedom, material support, in addition to on the ground advice and capability (air power) to the Northern Alliance was enough to defeat the Taliban—albeit not enough to secure the peace. In Yugoslavia during World War II, the objective was simply to keep Hitler’s divisions occupied. In each case, the objectives of unconventional warfare efforts were simple, broad end-states. The more control one expects over the outcome, the greater the need for a comprehensive strategy within which support for insurgents is merely one strand.

The lessons for anyone interested in military strategy are pretty clear. Future conflicts will be filled with sub-state and non-state armed groups. The capability to assess, influence, support, and integrate those entities into operations and strategy is something every credible military force needs to possess. Strategists need to understand those groups in both the context of the conflict at hand and in theory. The ability to influence such groups requires commitment. And, of course, the ability to influence outcomes requires that unconventional warfare efforts be part of a bigger strategy.

Lieutenant Colonel Jan K. Gleiman is an active duty US Army officer and a visiting fellow at ASPI from United States Pacific Command. The views expressed in this post are his own. Image courtesy of Flickr user Erwin Franzen.

Women of jihad


Last month the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) estimated that as many as 15% of ISIS’ foreign recruits could be female, with up to 200 women from at least 14 different countries known to have made the journey to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS. Other estimates suggest that up to 10% of those leaving Europe, the US and Australia to link up with various jihadi groups are women and girls, some as young as 14 or 15.

The involvement of females in jihadist conflicts isn’t new. Nor is participation by Western women. The ‘White Widow’, for example, the British wife of one the perpetrators of the 2005 London bombings, is currently regarded by authorities as the most wanted female terror suspect in the world. ‘Lady Al-Qaeda’, a US-educated Pakistani woman linked to al-Qaeda, was convicted in 2010 of attempting to kill US personnel in Afghanistan. Read more

But it’s the sheer number of Western women and girls who are travelling to the Middle East to be an active part of violent jihadist movements, seemingly of their own volition, that’s striking.

The largest number of female jihadi recruits in Syria and Iraq hail from France, with around 63 French women known to have joined jihadi groups in those countries. The UK follows with around 50, then Germany with at least 40, and Austria with around 14. Although there are no concrete numbers at present regarding the number of females travelling from other Western nations, with foreigners from 74 countries involved in the conflict, it can be assumed that other countries are losing female citizens to the jihadi call.

It’s unknown how many of the 150–200 Australians thought to be currently involved with jihadi groups in Iraq and Syria are female. There has been at least one, with reports in January of the death of 22-year-old Queenslander Amira Karroum, who was killed alongside her dual-US–Australian-citizen husband soon after the couple arrived in Syria to join the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra. There’s no reason to think that Australian women are any less involved in jihadi movements in the Middle East than their European contemporaries. At the least, there’s strong reason to suspect that Australian women, like other women across the globe, are the target of sophisticated and directed recruitment campaigns.

Mia Bloom, professor of security studies at the University of Massachusetts and author of Bombshell: Women and Terrorism, writes that groups like ISIS are wooing women and girls via social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Bloom explains that women such as British national Aqsa Mahmood, a 20-year-old Glasgow resident who travelled to Syria in November last year, have also become spokeswomen for the ISIS movement, using social media to entice vulnerable Muslim women with tales of a utopian existence and spiritual reward. According to Bloom, Mahmood—also known as Umm Layth—regularly posts about ‘the rewards young women will receive in exchange for their ‘hijrah’ (emigration)’ and tells her readers that in the Islamic State, ‘girls will be taken care of, and they won’t be mocked for their faith’.

So what exactly are those women doing once they arrive in Syria and Iraq? Reports suggest that the majority marry jihadi fighters shortly after their arrival and take up domestic roles—cooking, cleaning, raising children. In an article for Foreign Policy Today, Amy Stoller reports that groups such as ISIS see women as a crucial part of the ‘state-building’ exercise. That’s particularly relevant when it comes to child raising, with women being viewed as responsible for raising the next generation of Islamic fighters and committed Islamic followers.

But not all women travelling to the Middle East take up purely domestic roles. In an unusual step for the fundamentalist ISIS, an all-female armed brigade has been established in the stronghold city of Raqqa. The ‘al-Khanssaa’ brigade is made up of single women aged between 18 and 25 and is thought to include a high number of Western women in its ranks. The brigade’s role is to enforce sharia law dress codes and perform searches on women at ISIS checkpoints. The brigade also conducts patrols on the streets of Raqqa, looking out for inappropriate mixing of men and women or any engagement with Western culture.

The number of women travelling to the Middle East to join groups like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra may not be as high as the number of men (the gender gap in Syria and Iraq is around 10:1). But thanks to sophisticated social media recruitment efforts, women are travelling in numbers significant enough to warrant the concern and awareness of authorities. Even in Australia.

As part of the Australian Government’s $630 million counterterrorism package announced in August, $64 million has been directed to support and establish measures to counter violent extremism and radicalisation in Australia. Funding is being directed towards initiatives that include the strengthening of community-engagement programs aimed at preventing young Australians from becoming involved with extremist groups ($13.4 million), and the establishment of an Australian Federal Police Community Diversion and Monitoring Team ($6.2 million).

It’s vital that those and future initiatives recognise that women are the target of jihadist recruitment campaigns, and more needs to be done to understand what attracts women, not only men, to the ideology of groups such as ISIS.

Simone Roworth is the Business Development and Budget Manager at ASPI. Image courtesy of Flickr user tentwo.teneight.

The Long War—on the ground

RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet aircrew departing for morning sortie. ‘Big History’ is all the go at the moment. This is a relatively new way of attempting to explain what’s occurring today by searching for deeper trends that are shaping events. Its popularity’s understandable—particularly when we’re confronted by a world that we can’t explain using the old ways.

The rise of ISIL, for example, seems to be a classic instance of an almost elemental force. A century ago, we might have attempted to explain its rise using the ‘great man’ theory. However unlikely a candidate, we might have tried to suggest that al-Baghdadi, ISIL’s leader, possessed unique abilities and charisma. That’s the way some explained the rise of Hitler, although in that case the thesis was challenged—some say demolished—by others as different as the polymath Herbert Spencer and the novelist Leo Tolstoy. Spencer approached the idea from a biological perspective; Tolstoy by harnessing elemental ideas about the nature of people and ‘Mother Russia’. They would have pointed to the economic chaos of the Weimar republic, giving it a central role in interpreting how Hitler came to power. They effectively destroyed the idea that leaders are anything other than the products of their societies. Read more

Nevertheless as individuals we love a story and, as every journalist knows, wrapping events around people allows a narrative structure to take over. It makes for a better story. It’s also the way most of us, unconsciously, perceive the world. Take John Howard, for instance. It’s so easy to attribute the coalition’s longevity in office to his remarkable political skills. After all, he became the second-longest prime minister and undoubtedly does have outstanding abilities. Nevertheless hagiography’s inevitable, and so we brush aside other realities—such as that Howard was lucky to form a government in 1998, even though he lost the popular vote; that six months before the 2001 election he was trailing badly in the polls; and that in 2004 he was fortunate his opponent was Mark Latham. It’s easy to imagine how minor changes might have re-written events. And how much was the 2007 result to do with Kevin Rudd’s genius, and how much simply because of the ‘it’s time’ factor?

Big History, on the other hand, focuses on broader themes, searching for patterns. That’s what makes Peter Leahy’s new ASPI study Another century, another long war so interesting. He erects a framework that allows us to isolate the real issues driving events and place them into perspective. This establishes a context that’ll be critical because it’s the way we understand the world. Importantly, he categorically states that any solution to the current situation ‘must come from within the Muslim world’. Even more importantly, Leahy emphasises that we need to re-conceive ‘victory’. ‘It might only be partial; we might only limit, but not eliminate, terror and radical Islamism and its damage to secular societies. The focus should be on…the commitment of resources over an extended period.’

That isn’t, of course, the sort of thing a journalist wants to hear. Once a problem has been identified we want it solved—at once. So do most people. Anything else seems lazy. When Tony Abbott declared we were getting involved in the struggle to degrade ISIL, news organisations immediately demanded action, preferably things that could be reported with TV cameras. The politicians gave every indication they’d accede to our expectations. Troops were dispatched from Australia and journalists hopped on planes eager to cover the clash. That’s why I’m in the Middle East now.

Except that we’ve been disappointed. That’s because we didn’t understand the nature of this campaign. We got two things wrong. Firstly, we in the media built ISIL up into a terrifying monolith. But that was because journalists didn’t really understand what sort of organisation it is. After all, it had kidnapped and killed any reporter who was captured and the organisation had emerged, seemingly unstoppable, from nowhere. It now turns out that ISIL may be far more fragile than first thought.

It seems, for example, that just a single, carefully-targeted US bomb was enough to effectively blunt the insurgency in the north. Although only a small number of insurgents in Kobane were killed in that specific attack, they included the most fanatical of the fighters, together with a number of their leaders. They had been meeting in a particular building that was targeted with the assistance of US special forces. This one attack seems to have changed the dynamic of the fight. ISIL brought up replacements, but those weren’t nearly as effective and, as a result, the insurgents have been forced to fall back.

Their big tactical advantage, vehicles equipped with heavy machine-guns can no longer move in the open. If they do, they’ll be destroyed from above. ISIL lacks the mobile firepower necessary to dominate the battlefield. In another area west of Bagdad about 500 Iraqi soldiers have been clinging to defensive positions for weeks. Their situation is dire, but the key point is they haven’t collapsed and now they’ve got support from the air.

The military’s actually meeting the demands of the battlefield well. The only thing it’s not doing is pandering to the media and political demands to put Aussie boots on the ground.

No matter how you frame the answer to the bigger problem of the Middle East, you need to begin with a tactical solution. The West is doing this—just not as quickly and decisively as some of us might like.

Nicholas Stuart is embedded with the Australian Forces in the Middle East Area of Operations. Image courtesy of Department of Defence.

Revising the guidelines for US–Japan defence cooperation: a ‘global’ alliance?

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Takanami sails alongside the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell during a training event between the two ships in March 2014.Recently, the US and Japan released the Interim Report on the Revision of the Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation (PDF). The revision’s the first since 1997 and occurs in the context of Asia-Pacific power shifts. So countries in the region are watching closely just how much the USJapan alliance is changing, both practically and conceptually. That includes the Australian government, which has long been supportive of a more ‘active’ Japanese security and defence policy at both the regional and global level. It’s a line Japan’s current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also been pushing.

Indeed, the five-page interim report points to the prospect of a USJapan alliance moving beyond a narrow focus on the territorial defence of Japan against major aggression (from China or North Korea, for example). Instead, it’s based on a ‘strategic vision for a more expansive partnership’ and the need to build the alliance as a ‘platform for international cooperation that would continue to make positive contributions to the region and beyond’. It stresses that among other things future bilateral defence cooperation would focus on: Read more

  • ‘seamless, robust, flexible, and effective bilateral responses;
  • the global nature of the U.S.-Japan Alliance; and
  • cooperation with other regional partners’.

Moreover, the report’s interesting for what it doesn’t say: in recognition of the expanding scope of geographical cooperation, the report doesn’t mention ‘situations in areas surrounding Japan’, a phrase that underpinned the 1997 guidelines.

While the five-page document isn’t specific on details, the report provides some ideas on what these three aforementioned headings might entail. When it comes to ‘seamlessly’ ensuring Japan’s peace and security, it observes that there could be ‘cases where swift and robust responses are required to secure the peace and security of Japan even when an armed attack against Japan is not involved [italics mine]’. In other words, in theory at least, Japan could be asked to provide protection for US forces in hostile environments beyond its immediate neighbourhood; for instance in the area of ship-based ballistic-missile defence.

Concerning increased ‘cooperation for regional and global peace and security’, the document notes that ‘areas of cooperation to be described may include, but are not limited to’: peacekeeping operations; international Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief; maritime security; capacity building; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; logistics support; and non-combatant evacuation operations. While the US continues to try to reassure Japan about its security commitments (for instance, the US Navy just announced plans to forward deploy three more ballistic-missile-defence-capable destroyers to Japan over the next three years), Washington also sees the revised guidelines as a chance to move the alliance beyond Tokyo’s preoccupation with the ‘China threat’.

How likely is the emergence of a more ‘global’ USJapan alliance? The good news is that Japanese officials involved in drafting the interim report agreed to the report’s language, probably in anticipation of the Abe government’s expectations. Moreover, Japan has been stepping up its Asia-Pacific defence engagement. For example, it agreed to provide both the Philippines and Vietnam with modern Coast Guard vessels. As well, Japan and India are in talks about the possible sale of Japanese amphibious aircraft. Lastly, there’s still the prospect of a submarine deal with Australia.

But serious obstacles stand in the way of a truly global—or even regionally more active—USJapan alliance. For a start, Japan’s new ‘three conditions for the “use of force” as measures for self-defense’ still impose significant restrictions on the Self-Defense Forces in the exercise of Japan’s right of collective self-defence. If Japan decides to support the US in a regional or global contingency, it’ll probably remain strictly limited to tasks such as logistical support or minesweeping outside the area of actual combat. Moreover, despite much talk about Japan’s ‘remilitarisation’, in reality there’s no such thing. As Brad Glosserman and David Kang have observed:

Japan’s defense policies are evolving to keep pace with a changing regional environment, but the idea that Tokyo will be able to threaten its neighbors is just not credible. There is no will, nor the capability to do so.

As I’ve argued (here and here), Japan’s defence policy remains fundamentally defensive in nature. As Alessio Patalano has shown (paywalled), Japan’s naval modernisation reflects a ‘targeted enhancement’ of capabilities required for the protection of its sea lanes, particularly in the area of anti-submarine warfare and basic expeditionary capabilities to safeguard its many islands. Moreover, security reform in Japan remains a cumbersome process (PDF)—and there are already signs that attempts to flesh out at the legislative level what exactly the JSDF could or couldn’t do in support of the US in a conflict mightn’t come to fruition any time soon. Lastly, the Japanese side’s apparently frustrated that the interim report emphasises the alliance’s global role but makes no mention of China.

We’ll have to see what the final guidelines bring. But in any case, it’s prudent to expect evolutionary, not revolutionary, changes in the USJapan alliance—and in Japan’s defence policy in particular.

Benjamin Schreer is a senior analyst at ASPI. Image courtesy of Flickr user U.S. Pacific Command.

Gough’s remaking of foreign policy

Gough Whitlam 1973Gough Whitlam helped Australia think about finding its security in Asia, not to seek security from Asia.

Not least of Whitlam’s achievements was to make Australia colour-blind, in both word and deed. Harold Holt’s government, in 1966, started a quiet—almost covert—dismantling of the White Australia policy with camouflage language about ‘flexibility’. Whitlam’s government used trumpets and drums to kill the White Australia policy as loudly as possible. To the enduring chagrin of Liberals, Labor has claimed the policy honours, based on Whitlam’s characteristically emphatic and emotionally-charged embrace of non-discriminatory immigration.

As the Vietnam War edged to its bloody end, Whitlam’s thinking didn’t retreat from the region along with Australia’s troops. He wrote in his memoirs that ‘forward defence’ was based on the ‘xenophobic belief that Australia was best defended from Asia’. That ‘defended from Asia’ line reflected several layers of Oz nightmare. Read more

Whitlam’s dismantling of immigration xenophobia was mirrored in his language on defence:

We do not see Southeast Asia as a frontier where we might fight nameless Asian enemies as far to the north of our own shores as possible—in other people’s backyards.

In his policy speech for the 1972 election, Whitlam committed to diplomatic recognition of China, an end to military conscription and the maintenance of the alliance with the US as one of Australia’s ‘two great associations’ (the other was the Commonwealth). Whitlam made four foreign policy commitments ‘commensurate to our power and resources’:

  1. National security—the defence-of-Australia doctrine discussed in the previous post
  2. A secure, united and friendly Papua New Guinea—PNG became independent in 1975
  3. Closer relations with our nearest and largest neighbour, Indonesia
  4. Promoting peace and prosperity in our neighbourhood: ‘We should be the natural leaders of the South Pacific’.

Whitlam set a pattern for Australian commitment to the region and Australian support for regionalism that has been sustained by every subsequent government. No less an authority than John Howard nominates Whitlam as the foundational leader for the Great Asia Project that has united every leader since 1972.

Whitlam’s regionalist wins were minor (Australia as ASEAN’s first dialogue partner) compared to later achievements, especially the Hawke government’s creation of APEC and the Howard government’s seat at the East Asia Summit.

But the language and the orientation Hawke used and Howard utilised drew directly from Whitlam’s effort in his first days in office to create an Asia Pacific forum. That forum idea was quickly killed off by Indonesia, in an early demonstration of the veto ASEAN could wield over regional initiatives from Canberra.

Outlining his Asia forum idea in January, 1973, Whitlam said he didn’t want to change and enlarge ASEAN, but to create a broader regional association for Asia and the Pacific, to develop ‘a truly representative regional community’. That grouping should include all of ASEAN and, in line with ASEAN language, Whitlam said it would ‘insulate the region against ideological interference from the great powers’.

The following month, Whitlam flew to Jakarta ‘to demonstrate the political and economic interest that Australia would now take in the region’. Whitlam later remarked that Suharto was ‘frank’; indeed he was. Indonesia’s President said there weren’t enough common interests within Asia for Whitlam’s forum to be practicable. The Australian record quoted Suharto as doubting the ‘usefulness of a formal conference or organisation. This would only aggravate conflicting interests. ASEAN also needed to be consolidated beforehand’. Suharto said he wouldn’t want India as a member of an Asia Pacific grouping and there’d be questions about Chinese participation. We’ve all come a long way since then, and the journey has reflected Whitlam’s vision, not Suharto’s fears.

Whitlam’s final-and-forever embedding of a non-discriminatory immigration policy stands as a supreme achievement, domestically and internationally. It was as foundational in its meaning for Australian foreign policy as the opening to China, so well described by Ross Terrill.

Whitlam’s embrace of Indonesia was equally fundamental; Tony Abbott’s presence at the inauguration of Indonesia’s President testifies to the continuing strength of this policy strand. Ironically, Whitlam’s successful embrace of Suharto became his foreign policy nemesis—East Timor.

Whitlam put two points to Suharto in September, 1974. First, East Timor should become part of Indonesia. Second, incorporation ‘should happen in accordance with the properly expressed wishes of the people of Portuguese Timor’. As the head of Foreign Affairs, Alan Renouf, later wrote, Whitlam changed Australia’s position to a two-pronged policy when the two points were irreconcilable. Suharto embraced Whitlam’s first point and ignored the second. It took 25 years to undo the damage to Australia-Indonesia relations and the deadly costs for East Timor.

Whitlam’s East Timor blunder stemmed from his ambitions for Australia in Asia. The Timor stain touches the edge of the Whitlam toga, but it doesn’t gainsay that he was a big man who dreamed big dreams of Australia’s role in its own region. Gough Whitlam did much to launch Australia’s Great Asia Project and much that he dreamed has come to pass.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Image courtesy of Flickr user Carl Guderian.