ASPI suggests

Lego in space

Today’s first pick is a piece on The Bridge by Australian Army officer Jason Logue on how to effectively counter ISIS’ strategic communications and stem recruitment of Australian fighters. He writes,

Playing the counter-propaganda game in this era of instantaneous global reach is for the most part pointless unless it is nested within a wider and comprehensive anti-propaganda concept designed to partially inoculate our own populations and persuade those who are yet to enter [terrorist organisations].

Logue recommends that counter-narratives employ language that deliberately avoids giving further legitimacy to the Islamic ‘State’. Keep reading here. Read more

And ICYMI here’s President Obama’s statement on ISIL: read the text or watch the video (14mins). Emphasising Logue’s approach above, the President stated: ‘Now let’s make two things clear: ‘ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents. And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state.’

Turning closer to our region, are there ties between the Philippines’ militant groups and ISIS? In a new RSIS commentary, Joseph Franco argues the links are tenuous—they’re normative rather than operational given the ideological dissonance between Mindanao rebels and ISIS.

Here’s a longer piece by Carnegie Endowment’s James L. Schoff on what Myanmar means for the US–Japan alliance. Schoff explores the opportunities in Myanmar’s reform from both American and Japanese perspectives and discusses the potential for policy coordination in trade, intergovernmental assistance, and military engagement. In a rush? Watch the three-minute video of Schoff outlining the strategic opportunities arising from Myanmar’s reform.

Are China and Taiwan about to become BFFs? Justine Doody over at East Asia Forum examines recent developments towards rapprochement but notes that while political and business circles have welcomed closer trade and economic ties, not all of Taiwan’s citizens want to embrace the mainland with open arms.

CNAS’ Patrick Cronin has a new working paper on how to respond to maritime coercion. He argues that cost-imposing strategies are a critical component alongside engagement and binding, and recommends a range of diplomatic, informational, military and economic measures that could raise the cost of assertive actions in the Indo-Pacific.

Over at Arms Control Wonk, Michael Krepon looks at how to establish norms in outer space, pointing in particular to a need for stronger norms in relation to debris, harmful interference and traffic management. Krepon discusses which of three options—an ambitious treaty, a narrow treaty, or an international code of conduct—the US, China, Russia and India each prefer. Russia and China favour the first option but, in his view, ‘The Russian and Chinese draft treaty is not a serious diplomatic initiative; it’s a dodge.’ Keep reading here.

Lastly, and on a lighter note, what happens when think tanks receive foreign money? Robin Davies on DevPolicy looks at what happened when the US-based Center for Global Development got a wad of cash from the Norwegian Government to advocate that wealthier countries should spend to combat global warming. (Full disclosure: ASPI did not receive money from the Norwegian Government to publish this post.)

Update: on the anniversary of 9/11, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted a stream of recollections and images from 11 September 2001:

Video

Bill Scher and Matt Lewis debate the long-term consistency of President Obama’s counterterrorism strategy in a new Bloggingheads.tv video (56mins). They also discuss whether Obama dithered on Syria and if, given his recent speech, he can continue his brand as the ‘ender of wars’.

Events

Canberra: former ASPI director Prof Hugh White is giving a talk on what’s wrong with defence policy and how to fix it, Molonglo Theatre, ANU on Monday 15 September at 5.30pm. Registration essential.

If you haven’t already, sign up for the ANU’s annual Indonesia Update. This year’s iteration casts a spotlight on the Yudhoyono years and feature the world’s top Indonesia scholars at the Coombs Lecture Theatre, ANU Friday 19 and Saturday 20 September. Registration and program details here.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of leg0fenris.

Parliament and the use of force: a bridge too far

Australian House of Representatives - Canberra

There is no more serious decision for Government than to commit Australian forces to conflict. It is not, I believe, one that is ever taken lightly. But should it be ceded to both houses of parliament?

The answer is no.

It’s the longstanding position of the Australian Labor Party that it is the responsibility of the executive to deploy Australian forces. It is a view I share wholeheartedly. The executive carries the moral and political responsibility for this most difficult decision. And it bears the weight of that through its conscience and the ballot box. The parliament does not. Read more

Governments are elected to govern. While it’s true that legislation must be passed by both houses to make laws, it doesn’t follow that both houses have an equal standing in all matters. The Senate cannot introduce or amend a bill that imposes taxation or appropriates money for the ordinary annual services of government. Our system recognises certain essential and fundamental responsibilities that the government of the day must carry out. And engagement in military action is one of those.

Any requirement for parliamentary approval would need legislative amendments or new laws, which would involve a great range of possibilities and spelling out in detail the meaning of key terms, such as ‘warlike’. Some of those possibilities have been addressed in previous legislative proposals (in 1985, 2003, and 2008). Another was presented this year and defeated in the Senate on 4 September.

There are a number of lessons from these proposals, which can be found in the report of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee inquiry into the 2008 proposition.

The report shows that a lot depends on how much the proponents want to include in the requirement for parliamentary approval and how much to exempt. If, for example, the proponents wanted to exempt deployment of troops for the direct defence of Australia, the law would have to allow for the dispatch of military forces to take part in warlike actions outside Australia to interdict an invasion force, thus producing complicated legislation.

And does warlike encompass possible actions taken by peacekeepers? Difficulties also arise with efforts to spell out what constitutes an emergency, when military forces need to be deployed immediately. If the proponents do not wish to exempt any possible commitment, then we could face the absurd situation that the arrival of an invasion force or a missile assault would prompt only a parliamentary debate.

Moreover, is approval from both houses required for the initial commitment of Australian forces only, or would it be required through the course of operations, following the attainment of milestones, and for withdrawal?

Fans of parliamentary involvement typically make much of the approval requirements in other countries. But different countries have different circumstances and different military environments: pointing to one country may provide an example of acceptance of a general principle, but it doesn’t prove that it can be followed by everyone else. And there are other countries that do not have such arrangements. How do we learn from those countries and, most importantly, what should this country do?

Some proponents argue that, in practical terms, including the Senate as an essential part of the process simply means that Australian forces could be committed to war if both major parties agreed (having usually a combined majority in the Senate) and, in most cases (depending on the makeup of the Senate cross bench), could not be committed if the major parties disagreed. Creating an elaborate process of consideration by both houses to achieve such a ‘Grand Coalition’ approach would be inefficient and unnecessarily time-consuming.

Other difficulties have been identified in relation to the treatment of classified material essential to an understanding of the situation in which military action is contemplated, and the implications of military forces being committed under some emergency provision but at the risk of being recalled within a short time.

Parliament should, of course, debate any decision and I welcome the recent opportunity for members to make statements on Iraq. I also welcomed the update reports introduced by the Gillard Government on the Afghanistan mission.

However, the lesson I take is that the effort to craft legislation would always be incomplete as more and more instances arise of unintended consequences or exemptions to be granted.

The evidence from past inquiries strongly supports the view that a workable legislated requirement is unlikely to be achieved, is unsound in principle and irretrievably dogged by practical difficulties. There is much common sense in our current arrangement and no compelling argument to change it.

Gai Brodtmann is the Federal Member for Canberra and the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence. Before entering Parliament, Gai worked in the foreign affairs, national security and defence arenas, both as a public servant and as the owner of a private communication consultancy. Image courtesy of Flickr user Alex Proimos.

Scotland: crazy brave hearts

Coming Soon IIScotland’s referendum on 18 September is a choice between union and significance or independence and irrelevance.  Voters will decide whether to stay in the United Kingdom or to opt for full independence. The result will be unpleasant for Britain regardless of the vote. An opinion poll on 4 September put the pro-Union ‘No’ vote at 39% and the pro-independence ‘Yes’ vote at 38%, with 23% undecided.  Over the last six weeks all the political momentum has been towards the independence camp. The large undecided vote reportedly reflects Scots Labour voters mulling their options while an increasingly panicked ‘No’ campaign makes concessions to hand tax and spending powers to the Scottish Government if they stay in the Union.

The referendum asks for a simple ‘yes/no’ answer to the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ A ‘yes’ vote, no matter how small the margin, puts Scotland irrevocably on track to full independence by March 2016. A narrow ‘no’ vote to stay with the Union is likely to be used by pro-independence campaigners to justify a continued push for full independence, as the Scottish National Party (SNP) has done through prior devolution votes in 1979 and 1997. A large ‘no’ vote, say more than 55%, is not likely given polling trends. So the best pro-Unionists might hope for is grumpy Scots, like the Canadian Québécois, hankering for independence and with expanded powers to block London’s attempts to run a ‘United’ Kingdom. However Scotland votes, a British general election, to be held no later than 7 May 2015 will give the departing or reluctantly-staying Scots one more chance to thumb their nose at Westminster. Read more

Should the Scots vote for independence, Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, would negotiate the terms of separation with the UK. That will include deciding how to apportion ownership of the UK’s national debt and tax revenues. The British armed forces would be split, with the SNP arguing that Scots Regiments in the Army, along with a number of ships and aircraft would become the basis of a Scottish Defence Force. An independent Scotland would be anti-nuclear so the Trident submarines based at Faslane would need to relocate, presumably south. Scotland would establish its own intelligence apparatus, and seek membership of NATO and the European Union.

None of those outcomes will be easy for Salmond to deliver, notwithstanding the slick media campaign the SNP has put into describing the future of an independent Scotland. The UK Ministry of Defence has made it clear that London is unlikely to agree to a simple transfer of regiments, ships and aircraft as set out in the SNP White Paper on Scotland after independence. That document claimed that Scottish defence spending would amount to 2.5 billion pounds to sustain a military of around 15,000 regulars and 5,000 reserves. But that’s well above what London will willingly transfer to an independent Scottish military.

It also seems unlikely that NATO and the EU will welcome yet another bit-player member. The Spanish, for one, don’t want to give comfort to separatist groups that propose to split from existing national structures.  And Scotland’s determination to pursue an anti-nuclear path will give pause to the United States, which won’t be comfortable seeing NATO’s security guarantees extended to more countries unwilling to pull their weight by supporting extended nuclear deterrence. One can also forget the idea that an anti-nuclear Scotland will be inducted into an expanded Five Eyes intelligence community. After Edward Snowden? No chance. At best an independent Scottish military will be like a feisty small peacekeeper: helpful around the edges of European security, wonderful on parade, pointless in most other scenarios.

The key strategic point about an independent Scotland is not about what the Scots will do but how it will weaken the UK. London will sustain something less than a 10 % reduction of its own military capability—but that’s a serious decrement in a force already on the edge of viability. The future of the British nuclear deterrent will come under serious question. At precisely the moment the world needs a coherent Western response to the Islamic State, London will become reticent and introspective.

None of that’s good news for the handful of countries, Australia first among them, who put their soldiers into harm’s way for the good of global order. If the UK fades even further on the international stage, Australia will stand out more prominently as a country prepared to use military force for international good. Australia will rise a few more places on Washington’s check-list of indispensable allies. The Scots’ fantasy of playing dress-up—like extras in Brave Heart (thanks, Mel Gibson)—will translate into more serious international security tasks for Australia. Is it really Scotland’s fate to be a kilted Euro-peacekeeper? Time to get serious, Jocks!

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

HADR—time to lift our game?

RIMPAC 2014At a time the Royal Australian Air Force is busy delivering humanitarian aid and military stores to communities under threat from Islamic State militants, a Chinese Navy medical assistance voyage to help some of our South Pacific neighbours calls for a quick look at how well we’re conducting military humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) close to home as well as further afield.

The People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) launched its first modern hospital ship, the Peace Ark, in 2007, five years before it commissioned its first aircraft carrier, partly because doing so was technically easier, but also because it offers a powerful tool for international engagement. Five times smaller than its US Navy equivalent, the USS Mercy class—which was designed first and foremost to provide global support for major combat operations such as the First Gulf War—the Peace Ark is sometimes referred to as a humanitarian ship, given its primary soft-power mission.

Read more

The vessel is perhaps best-known for spearheading China’s belated contribution to clean-up efforts in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, and for participating in this year’s US-led RIMPAC exercise off Hawaii alongside three other PLA-N warships (and a covert stalker). Yet it’s also clocked-up many sea miles quietly signalling China’s growing influence and clout in any corner of the world where Beijing has significant interests. Over the past month, that corner has been the vast expanse we like to think of as our neighbourhood, including territory close to Australia that sits across our direct approaches. The Peace Ark arrived in Port Moresby today ahead of Independence Day celebrations next week, following a pre-election goodwill visit to Suva, and stops in Tonga and Vanuatu. In each case its crew have provided medical treatment and minor surgery on-board or in local hospitals for many members of the public. PLA-N medical officers hope to treat over a thousand patients from the ship’s berth at the PNGDF naval base before it departs mid next week.

All that isn’t to suggest we need fret about the port visits, order blueprints for our own hospital ship, or preserve ADF resources to pursue interests only in our immediate region. Such HADR offers a rare opportunity for win-win cooperation, whereby locals get free healthcare, China gains kudos, and we can help foster normal and normalising international engagement by the PLA in a weapons-free and non-zero sum environment. (A pair of ADF medical officers are also accompanying the Vanuatu and PNG legs of the cruise at the invitation of the Vice Chair of the Central Military Commission). But if our near seas aren’t necessarily more competitive, the Peace Ark’s first South Pacific cruise reminds us they’re more congested, and should give pause to check that our own HADR settings are up to scratch.

Here, a look at US and Chinese experience suggests we’re missing untapped potential but also that we’ll need to be more innovative to fulfil that promise.

First, Australia should take heed of this legitimate and effective approach to relationship-building and seek to emulate it. Although we aren’t about to reacquire large white warships, we’ll shortly receive into service two large grey amphibious ships (LHDs). They’re set to become some of the most useful platforms for operating around our vast coastline and beyond. When at full operating capability, and working alongside complementary ADF elements, they’ll be versatile platforms for force projection. But short of dire contingencies, there are creative ways they may be employed to bolster regional security and stability though adroit defence diplomacy, and China’s example provides a useful pointer.

A reflection on US Navy and US Marine Corps experience is also instructive: when US Navy LHDs routinely conduct short humanitarian assistance missions in places like East Timor and Indonesia, they earn immense goodwill while materially assisting the needy with reconstruction, and medical, dental and other support to local communities. Those operations test a wide spectrum of military skills considered essential for complex warfighting, but are also valuable for HADR. US hospital ships also fly the flag in their secondary humanitarian role.

As we look to engage more closely with Indonesia and other ASEAN and South Pacific neighbours, the use of the LHDs should be tied closely to Australia’s regional engagement and aid priorities—its flagship defence diplomacy activities. ADF engineers, medical staff and logisticians should be prominently employed in these kinds of tasks, and their regional counterparts should be invited on-board, alongside the Australian teams, to deploy and carry out agreed tasks.

Suggestions the US needs to refresh HADR activities that are getting a bit stale, and achieve more humanitarian and reputational bang for its HADR buck, may apply to our efforts too. Even strong supporters of US Navy humanitarian work warn the benefits of fleeting encounters can be brief and episodic. In fairness, the ADF has updated long-running activities such as disaster-recovery Exercise Longreach beyond just trotting-out the JMAP planning model; takes an integrated regional approach to dealing with unexploded WWII ordnance; contributes to DFAT-Aid support for partner countries’ disaster headquarters, policies and plans; and treats the centrepiece of our regional HADR efforts—participation in US-led Exercise Pacific Partnership—as an important activity for HQJOC. But even Pacific Partnership has been criticised for not leaving a more enduring capacity-building legacy or evolving into a more nimble tool to help respond to actual disasters occurring nearby.

As AUSMIN has just reaffirmed the importance of HADR cooperation for helping shape a positive security environment, increased military construction, medical and other engagement with our neighbours could be a ground-breaking activity.

John Blaxland is a senior fellow at ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre and the author of The Australian Army from Whitlam to Howard. Karl Claxton is an analyst at ASPI. Image courtesy of US Navy.

Getting the submarine we want

PEARL HARBOR (Oct. 15, 2013) The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) submarine JS Unryu (SS 502) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a routine port visit. While in port, the submarine crew will conduct various training evolutions and have the opportunity to enjoy the sights and culture of Hawaii.It’s not hard to make sense of reports that a Japanese submarine is now in the forefront of the government’s mind as it turns its attention to replacing the Collins class. After all, looking around the world, the only two conventional submarines that come close to meeting Australia’s demanding requirements are our own Collins and (possibly) the Japanese Soryu class. And of the two, only one of them is still coming off an established production line.

None of the European submarines on the market have the range, endurance and habitability qualities required. While there are good reasons to think that the European design houses could help us with design work on a larger more capable boat, they’d be starting well behind the Japanese in terms of proven delivery.

And newspaper reports have the Soryu option at $20 billion—seemingly a ‘bargain’ compared to ASPI’s estimate of $36 billion for a local program, although that figure was predicated on a 4,000-ton boat designed to meet high performance specs. Defence’s most recent public statement showed that the project now has more realistic performance goals: a submarine with the range, speed and endurance of Collins, but with better sensors and better stealth. The cost and risk profile would decrease commensurately.

Read more

It’s perhaps not surprising that the government is impatient. The whole future submarine project was badly side-tracked by the 2009 Defence White Paper, which aimed for the moon as far as submarine capability was concerned. Years were lost working on high risk options that are now off the table. If a quick decision is a high priority, and revised performance levels are acceptable, then the Soryu starts to look attractive.

But it’s not clear how urgent the decision actually is. When Mark Thomson and I looked at the timelines for a future submarine developmental program, a capability gap seemed inevitable unless the life of the Collins class could be extended well into the second half of next decade. Publicly at least, Defence has said there’s no reason we can’t do that, although we have no idea of the cost.

Collins’ lifetime willing, there’s still a lot to be said for competition. The German firm TKMS—well established as an exporter of submarines—also pitched a price of $20 billion for a 12 boat build (video) at our conference back in April. Likewise, the French and Swedish submarine builders (the latter now in the hands of Saab) would like a crack at the project and might well be able to match or better that figure. Testing the market is the only way to know the actual price for sure.

In any case, a decision to opt for a Japanese submarine should be contingent on three major factors. First, the submarine must have the characteristics we want. At least based on open-source data, that’s not obviously the case. For a start, it’s not clear that the Japanese Navy operates submarines at long range for extended periods—the sort of operations that have been the mainstay of the Royal Australian Navy submarine fleet for decades. So any deal done with Japan to source submarines will need some careful government-to-government, navy-to-navy and engineer-to-engineer work done behind the scenes to ensure that what we’d get would be fit for our purposes.

Second, despite sometimes being characterised that way, this wouldn’t be an ‘off-the-shelf purchase’. We mightn’t want all of the options that Japan prioritises for their mission set, and there’s a long-standing and strong preference for American combat and weapon systems. Those would need to be integrated into the Japanese design—and submarines certainly aren’t ‘plug and play’ systems. Again, due diligence is required. As Gumley’s Laws remind us, MOTS + MOTS ≠ MOTS, and ‘Australianised MOTS’ is an oxymoron.

Third, it’s not all about the acquisition. While it’s not widely appreciated, the main failings exhibited during the Collins-class experience weren’t design or construction issues with the boats—those weren’t better or worse than other major construction projects, and they’d been largely sorted out by the end of the build. Rather, the main problem was the through-life support arrangements. That’s evidenced by the Coles review, in which essentially all of the key findings related to the management arrangements put in place—and which were manifestly inadequate for the task. Regardless of where we source submarines, we’ll have to support them properly. That means that any arrangement with Japan would have to be robust enough to provide parts and engineering support both in Australia and in Japan for decades to come.

For all of those reasons, a decision mightn’t be as imminent as some of the recent reporting suggests. The government is clearly attracted to what looks to be a good fit to our requirements, and which would help deepen an increasingly important security relationship. But it also knows that it has some homework to do before signing up.

Andrew Davies is senior analyst for defence capability and director of research at ASPI. This article is an expanded version of an opinion piece that appeared in the Australian Financial Review on 10 September 2014. Image courtesy of Flickr user US Pacific Fleet.

NATO’s Wales Summit and the implications for Australia

Prime Minister David Cameron met with several heads of NATO countriesNATO just concluded its most important summit in more than a decade in Wales. Originally, the Alliance had planned to talk mostly about the way ahead in Afghanistan. But Russia’s intervention in Ukraine fundamentally changed the strategic equation. All of a sudden, NATO found itself having to reassure its east European allies about the credibility of its collective defence commitment. As well, the US and the UK added the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the agenda. Finally, there was the question of what to do with NATO’s partnerships, including with Australia.

With all that on the table, and following a period of uncertainty about its post-Afghanistan future and stagnating defence budgets, expectations about a ‘new birth of NATO’ were high. In Australia, commentators expected a ‘historic partnership’ with the Alliance. One even warned about the implications of a full membership in NATO. That’s a ‘strawman’ though: Article 10 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty limits new membership to European countries and no one in NATO is seriously considering inviting Canberra to join. That said, in recent years Australia–NATO relations have improved significantly in the context of joint operations in Afghanistan. So, to what degree did the Wales Summit meet expectations and what are the likely implications for Australia? Read more

As expected, Ukraine and the need to reassure eastern European allies dominated the Summit. Allies agreed on a ‘NATO Readiness Action Plan’ which includes strengthening the existing NATO Response Force (NRF) and standing up a new 4,000 strong Very-High-Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), headquartered in eastern Europe, for deployments ‘particularly at the periphery of NATO’s territory.’ The Summit Declaration also announced a ‘continuous air, land, and maritime presence and meaningful military activity in the eastern part of the Alliance, both on a rotational basis.’ Because this rotational presence will be more or less continuous, it’ll equal a permanent presence in all but name. While it’s not as much as some eastern European allies, notably Poland, had hoped for, it’s still a significant step for the Alliance. The rotational presence creates a ‘trip wire’ against Russian incursions in the eastern member states, particularly the Baltic republics. In that context, the allies also agreed to enhance NATO’s ability to deal with ‘hybrid warfare threats’—to counter, for example, Russian tactics observed in Georgia and Ukraine.

Still, observers were quick to criticise the Wales Summit as ‘at most a semi-success.’ That’s because allies only committed to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP within a decade. Neither did they offer Ukraine a credible path towards membership, nor decide to deploy troops in that country. Lastly, NATO also made it clear that it was largely up to individual member states to consider a military engagement against ISIL in Iraq. For critics, the Summit delivered only limited results.

Yet, it’s easy to overlook the fact that NATO today is an alliance of 28 member states with divergent strategic priorities. As I’ve written here, a key feature of such an enlarged alliance is that it’s more flexible, but also less coherent. Despite that, in Wales all members united behind the core purpose of collective defence. They agreed on concrete measures to strengthen deterrence on its Eastern flank. And the capability initiatives taken will lead to more agile and capable NATO forces. Moreover, calls for a NATO troop deployment in Ukraine or even Ukrainian membership were unrealistic from the start. For NATO, Russia is neither friend nor foe, but somewhere in between. There are no signs that Russia plans to destabilise eastern European NATO allies. That’s why NATO’s approach in Wales has been well-balanced, including leaving the door open for future dialogue with Russia.

Finally, the Summit confirmed the three core tasks set out in NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept. Besides collective defence, the Alliance will seek to strengthen crisis management and cooperative security. In that context, NATO defence ministers met with Australia, Sweden, Finland, Georgia and Jordan to ‘discuss further deepening dialogue and practical cooperation as part of the enhanced opportunities within the Partnership Interoperability Initiative’. Australia now belongs to an upper tier of ‘Enhanced Partners’ which provides it with early access to planning in future joint operations, streamlined participation in exercises, and regular political consultations. The 2011 NATO Political Military Framework for Partner Involvement in NATO-led Operations also gives Australia an ability to ‘shape’ strategy and decisions if it decides to be part of another NATO-led operation.

The Wales Summit has paved the way for ongoing NATO–Australia cooperation beyond Afghanistan. That makes sense from an Australian perspective, especially given the Abbott government’s push to increase the country’s global security role, including in the Middle East and Ukraine. Still, even as an ‘enhanced partner’ Australia will constrain its ambition to cooperate with the Alliance to individual missions—it won’t be an automatic participant in future NATO operations. Indeed, it remains to be seen if both sides will find many more opportunities to work together in the future. That’s because Australia will have to focus on the big strategic trends in its own region whilst the European part of the Alliance will remain preoccupied with the Russian challenge for years to come. But overall, the Wales Summit has been a good outcome for both NATO and Australia.

Benjamin Schreer is a senior analyst at ASPI. Image courtesy of Flickr user NATO Summit Wales 2014.

Cyber wrap

Meeting of NATO Defence Ministers with counterparts from 24 partner countries - NATO Wales SummitThis week in cyber, New Zealand telco Spark suffered a massive internet meltdown over the weekend as its Domain Name System (DNS) infrastructure became overwhelmed in what the company said was a ‘dynamic cyber attack’. Some initial reports indicated customers might have caused the outage as they flocked to access leaked photos of celebrities via malware-infected links. While that may have left more than a few users feeling sheepish, Spark said it had yet to identify any such malware on customers’ computers and that it was possible hackers had exploited poorly-configured self-installed modems, or a combination of vulnerabilities.

Interestingly, the attack doesn’t appear to have been targeted at New Zealanders but rather at organisations in eastern Europe. A Spark spokeswoman stated that “It definitely appears it was ‘from overseas, to overseas’, but bouncing off our customers.”

Still with eastern European cyber concerns, discussions at the recent NATO Summit in Wales have resulted in NATO adding cyber-attacks to the list of offences that would trigger the retaliation of all 28 member states, with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stating, ‘cyber defence is part of NATO’s core task of collective defence.’ While the statement didn’t outline the specifics surrounding the declaration (with the ambiguity adding a deterrent effect), NATO pledged more tangible support earlier in the summit with a ‘C4’ trust fund for Ukraine, which will see it provide capital for investment in ‘command, control, communications and computers’.

Read more

The NATO declaration led Jason Hart, of data protection firm SafeNet, to suggest that NATO should use the opportunity to influence its members to improve cyber defence capabilities and build competency within their private sectors. Hart stated that ‘NATO has the opportunity and obligation to ensure that member states are aware of cyber threats, are building a capability to address them and are supporting businesses to do the same.’

Hacktivist group Anonymous declared this week that they’ll be ramping up their online efforts against ISIS, which had commenced in June. The group claimed to have successfully targeted ISIS social media accounts and other parts of their online presence. Hackers working for ISIS retaliated against the group, with at least one Anonymous Twitter account being taken over by the jihadi outfit.

Sticking with hacking, a Trend Micro report published this week on the Chinese cybercriminal underworld makes for sober reading. The report found that economic and technical barriers to becoming a cybercriminal are much lower today and as a result, the market for tools to get started in cybercrime or improve ongoing operations is booming in Russia, China and Brazil.

The growing capability of commercial hackers was reported by eWeek in an article focused on a ‘watering-hole’ attack that saw hackers compromise a popular industrial engineering website using JavaScript to collect information on visitors and log their keystrokes. Attackers do not just seek to compromise victims, but also to reconnoitre potential targets and further refine methods for future attacks. Watering-hole attacks have become an increasingly common component in the toolbox of nation-states’ cyber-warriors, who are generally considered to be the most sophisticated adversaries in the cyber domain.

In an effort to address the ’cyber gap’, American educational institutions are endeavouring to generate interest in computer-based sciences by encouraging high schoolers to participate in programs focused on coding and cyber defence. Those efforts, focused on such activities as after-school groups and an IT Olympics, are aimed at encouraging more young Americans to consider pursuing a career and further education in the field.

Back closer to home, ACT Chief of Police Rudi Lammers used the retirement of outgoing Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus to encourage Negus’ replacement to steer the national law enforcement agency to tackle increased threats from cybercrime and homegrown terrorists. Chief police officer Lammers identified cybercrime and radicalisation as two of the main threats facing the national police force over the next 10 years.

Image courtesy of NATO.

Countering radicalisation—pulling people back from the brink

Having written about the difficulties in understanding exactly why people become radicalised and involved in terrorist activities, it’s equally important to examine what can be done to reduce the likelihood of people becoming radicalised, and how to ‘de-radicalise’. During the mid to late-2000s, an increasing number of de-radicalisation programs emerged: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Indonesia, Egypt, Malaysia, Singapore and many European states all boasted programs to try and provide terrorists a pathway for disengaging. Such programs were seen as an essential element of a successful counterterrorism strategy.

Those programs can be crudely divided into two groups (although some are used for both purposes): those targeting individuals or groups already involved with terrorist groups, which look to rehabilitate individuals and reintegrate them into society; and those targeting individuals who are on the cusp of becoming involved in terrorist activity.

Essentially the programs contain a range of social, legal, educational, economic, and political measures specifically designed to deter disaffected or already radicalised individuals from crossing the line and becoming terrorists. Perhaps the most well-known amongst these was the Saudi Arabian Prevention, Rehabilitation, and After Care (PRAC) program which was aimed at former members of terrorist groups during their time in prison and after their release. It’s a multilayered approach that starts while they’re in jail participation in a program of structured learning. The program attempts to challenge their religious interpretations, increase their socialisation, and rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society. A range of personnel are involved including social workers, psychologists, and imams as well as the family of the ex-terrorist. However, the results were mixed and reoffending rates were frequently far higher than comparable data for normal criminal offenders. There were also questions raised about the data used to assess success, which was often based on anecdotal evidence of individual cases. To this day, governments struggle with methodologies for measuring the success or otherwise of such programs.

Read more

In the UK, the ‘Prevent’ strand of the Government’s counterterrorism strategy (CONTEST) seeks to counter militant Islamist ideology. One component of the strategy is the Channel process, which aims to provide support to individuals at risk of being drawn into violent extremism. It draws on existing collaboration between local authorities, the police, statutory partners (such as the education sector, social services, children’s and youth’s services and offender management services) and the local community. It has three objectives: to identify individuals at risk of being drawn into violent extremism; to assess the nature and extent of that risk; and to develop the most appropriate support for the individuals concerned. Referrals to the process aren’t based on an individual’s holding particular political opinions or having a commitment to a specific faith. Rather the indicators include ‘expressed support for violence and terrorism; possession of violent extremist literature; attempts to access or contribute to violent extremist websites; possession of material regarding weapons and/or explosives’.

The Channel program is based on the model of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements which are already in place in the UK to manage the risk of sexual and violent offenders in the community. Since 2007, out of around 2,500 people referred, around 500 had been given support up until 2013. As part of a range of counterterrorism measures that David Cameron recently outlined, Channel has been placed on a statutory footing, meaning that anyone who is subject to UK terrorism prevention and investigation measures is required to engage with the program, which demonstrates just how important the UK Government believes Channel to be in combatting terrorism.

Despite the relative success of the program, with the changing nature of terrorism recruitment and Syria and Iraq proving such powerful magnets for its nationals, the UK is looking for new ideas in de-radicalisation efforts. It has now adopted a German scheme called ‘Hyat’, which engages the families of those who become radicalised to try and keep lines of communication in place, in order to bring them back from the brink.

Australia has just announced funding of some $13.4 million towards boosting community engagement programs which emphasise preventing Australians from becoming involved with extremist groups. That’s to be applauded. But before the money’s invested it would be wise to have a strategy of what the Government wants to achieve, and to ensure that it’s being spent in areas that have most impact. As yet, there’s no comprehensive strategy for this new four-year program of work—that should be a priority.

As I explained in my last blog post, more effort should be made in countering the recruitment narratives being used to great effect by IS and other violent extremists online and via social media. The government’s current focus in this area is on placing restrictions on access to those messages, images and videos. While that’s a valid approach, the difficulty lies in the problem simply resurfacing elsewhere online. It’s to effective counter-narrative activity that governments will have to turn their attention, in order to lower the impact of online radicalisation. Everything from strategic communications by government, to targeted campaigns to discredit ideologies and violence are important tools. Governments need to devise strategic communications policies relating to the countering of extremist messages on the Internet and social media, which includes politicians as well as the various arms of government talking with a common message which weakens the impact of the messages being retailed by violent extremists.

Tobias Feakin is a senior analyst at ASPI and director of ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre. Image courtesy of Flickr user Andreas Eldh.

Making sense of the Japanese submarine option

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) submarine Hakuryu (SS-503) visits Guam for a scheduled port visit. Hakuryu will conduct various training evolutions and liberty while in port. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey Jay Price)

There has been a flurry of public commentary following yesterday’s News Limited claims that Australia is about to enter into a commitment to buy our next generation of submarines from Japan. The local submarine community has been concerned about that possibility for some time, and senior members of the Submarine Institute of Australia have been writing to Defence Minister David Johnston—and others—since January of this year warning against such a decision.

Understanding what’s happening is difficult because the speculation appears based on remarks apparently made by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe about such a course of action. The concerns have been reinforced among some observers by Abbott’s interest in strengthening Australia–Japan–US defence ties—something in turn being driven by the rise of China. Yesterday Prime Minister Abbott did nothing to dampen the speculation, stating that future submarines were about capability, not about local jobs. As an aside, those sorts of comments also serve the PM’s aggressive political style, jabbing a finger into the eye of the current South Australian Labor Government. Read more

However, the chances of the Federal Government making a unilateral decision to sole source a Japanese solution seem low—and if the Prime Minister were to insist on that particular course of action there could be a serious Cabinet and back bench revolt. Not only would such a decision constitute another broken promise—the word ‘another’ would presumably be contested by the PM on the basis that no promises have been broken to date—but it’d almost certainly lead to the loss of Federal seats in South Australia (Hindmarsh for sure, perhaps Boothby and Sturt), as well as generate enormous resentment within institutions no less than the Royal Australian Navy, the Department of Defence, trade unions and a stack of industry associations, amongst others.

There has been bipartisan agreement that the Kinnaird–Mortimer two-pass procurement system is a sound, if cumbersome and slow, approach to Defence contracting. A unilateral decision in favour of a Japanese submarine would completely trash that in favour of a whimsical choice based on a variety of external factors. Of the conventional submarine designers in the Western world that Australia would look to for technology, Japan is the least well known—by far. All that can be said is that the Soryu Class appears to be a large, capable submarine—and it’s the latest in a series of large, capable submarines of roughly the size our Navy hopes to acquire.

But after that generalisation, things quickly become extremely complex. Would Australia commit to an off-the-shelf design for a foreign Navy that uses different weapons and sensors to those employed by either Australia or the USN? How would such submarines be supported in Australia and at what cost? How would crew training be managed—not a trivial matter—especially as Japan has never before exported a submarine? Even providing manuals in English for the tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of individual pieces of equipment that make up a submarine would be a hellish job.

Still, the idea certainly has momentum and a large Japanese delegation recently visited ASC (apparently at the direction of the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet) to be given a very thorough tour of the facility. Given the secrecy that surrounds submarine construction, this move was highly unusual and has raised eyebrows in Defence circles. To date, there has been no known reciprocal visit to Japan.

There’s some poetic justice in all of this. The RAN and the Department of Defence have been dragging the chain for so long on SEA1000 that they’ve left themselves vulnerable to these sorts of random outside ideas. Part of the institutional paralysis is the result of the extraordinary continuation of the debate about whether or not Australia is capable of designing a new submarine. The answer is clearly ‘no’, but nevertheless the internal arguing and bickering seems to continue. Another bizarre distraction appears to be OH&S legislation and the potential impact this might have on a future design, which is being studied to death. Why the Department doesn’t simply request an OH&S waiver and just get on with it is beyond me.

If the thought-bubble idea from the Prime Minister of buying Japanese submarines finally jolts the Department and Navy into firming up their plans and actually doing something that will be no bad thing.

Kym Bergmann is the editor of Asia Pacific Defence Reporter and Defence Review Asia. Image courtesy of US Navy.

Security and liberty: a schematic

In recent weeks, three of my colleagues have written about the appropriate balance that we should attempt to strike between national security and civil liberties. Toby Feakin began the series with a post which argued that positioning security and liberty as opposite ends of a single spectrum, and then trying to find an appropriate balance point, was an inadequate way of thinking about the topic. Anthony Bergin replied that striking some sort of balance between security and liberty was a practical necessity. And Andrew Davies argued that having appropriate oversight mechanisms in place is a necessary condition for allowing secret state powers within a liberal democracy.

In this post, I want to explore the relationship between security and liberty. Stating the argument at its bluntest, I don’t find it helpful to think about security and liberty as the end points of a single spectrum. That’s because security and liberty aren’t polar opposites of each other. The opposite of security is insecurity. And the opposite of liberty is control. So if we want to explore the relationship between them, we should have a schematic that looks something like this:

Read more

Positing the relationship that way gives a better picture of what we’re trying to do. Ideally, as a liberal, democratic society, we’re trying to find security measures that land in the top left quadrant—the ‘sweet spot’—where we enhance our security in ways that accommodate our civil liberties. The core of our national discussion should be about that quadrant because it lets us have both liberty and security. We don’t trade them off against each other; we seek ways to achieve both simultaneously. Doing that isn’t easy; it involves debate and hard work—especially since security and transparency aren’t always compatible objectives.

A different problem begins once we reach proposed security measures that don’t fit the sweet spot quadrant, because then those who we might call ‘libertarians’ and ‘securitisers’ head in different directions. The libertarians—those who value liberty higher than security—default into the top right quadrant and tolerate a higher level of risk. The securitisers—those who value security higher than liberty—default into the bottom left quadrant and tolerate a lower level of liberty for the gain of feeling more secure. I’m uncertain who, if anyone, lives in the bottom right quadrant, though some might end up there temporarily and by accident.

The strength of the libertarian default position depends on the level of risk. The higher the risk becomes—say from a serious bird flu epidemic—the harder it is to argue that civil liberties can remain unconstrained. Several countries in West Africa are facing those sorts of challenges today in relation to the Ebola outbreak. Conversely, the strength of the securitiser default position depends on the existence of a clear and present danger—unless such a danger exists, democracies don’t usually tolerate stricter controls.

As a liberal, democratic society, Australia should be reluctant to trade away liberties for gains in security. Having a liberal society doesn’t usually require us to be unsafe: much can be done in the sweet-spot quadrant, especially when threats are clear. The bottom left quadrant is the natural home of authoritarian governments and dictatorships, who are typically unconcerned about civil liberties. It should require extraordinary dangers for us to venture there.

Still, extraordinary dangers do sometimes arise—dangers that force us to devise and impose security measures outside the comfort zone of the sweet spot. When they arise, the usual reaction of governments is to move towards the securitiser default position, and not towards the libertarian default position. Few governments respond to new threats by becoming more libertarian. But for a liberal democratic government, time spent in the securitiser default quadrant becomes a factor in its own right. ‘Emergency measures’ are for emergencies, after all, not for normalcy. The measure of a liberal democracy is how quickly it can shape those new protective measures to allow it to return to the sweet-spot zone.

I suspect all of my colleagues are actually having a discussion about three things: what we can and can’t do in the sweet-spot quadrant; when we should and shouldn’t contemplate alternative measures; and how we might qualify those measures to better protect our civil liberties. Seeing the security–liberty issue as a two-axes problem and not a single-axis one helps us sharpen both questions and answers.

Rod Lyon is a fellow at ASPI and executive editor of The Strategist.

Australia and amphibious power

A Marine Corps a R7-A1 amphibious assault vehicle driver assigned to Combat Assault Company, 3rd Marine Regiment, Marine Corps Base Hawaii - Kane'ohe Bay waits on Pyramid beach for the authorization to close the hatch and head into the ocean July 12, 2012, to meet up with the USS Essex (LHD-2) off shore.

This post is part of a joint series hosted by The Strategist and The Bridge.

Strategy is meaningless without an opposing force. Since Australia currently has only hypothetical opponents, a strategic endstate for Australia can only be vague. A ‘good enough’ working endstate for any country at peace is continued peace and prosperity, the maintenance or increase of regional influence, and avoidance of dynamic competition with another strategic actor. Other major strategic actors in the Pacific include the US and Japan, but the long-standing friendship between Australia and the US, and by extension Japan, precludes anything more than friendly competition. Terrorism is a problem, but terrorist groups aren’t an existential threat to Australia. That leaves China. War between China and other strategic actors is by no means inevitable, but China’s recent moves to establish greater regional power raise its likelihood.

The purpose of these ruminations is to examine how Australia should posture itself as a regional military power to ensure its ability to continue being peaceful and prosperous and apply it to a long-running debate in Australian strategic circles: the amphibious-warfare debate.

If one could hover above Australia and look out over its regional area of influence, two major characteristics would become apparent: ocean and islands. Geography still matters, and the Australian military must be equipped to operate within its surroundings. Read more

In my post at The Bridge, I discussed general schools of thought about the nature of naval force projection in regards to amphibious operations. Alfred Thayer Mahan viewed the Navy as decisive. Julian Corbett viewed the Navy as more of a supporting act to landpower. Pete Ellis viewed a symbiosis between seapower and landpower as both necessary and decisive. They all agreed, however, that a great power needs both and the ability to transfer power from one to the other. Amphibious capabilities are enablers that operate at the confluence of land and sea.

Our view from above Australia reveals that it’s simply surrounded by that fusion of land and sea. The archipelagic nature of its surroundings means that nearly every acre of land outside Australia itself can be affected from the sea, and most of the important fathoms of sea can be affected from the land. In the event of a major Pacific war, Australia’s geographic surroundings compel amphibious capabilities.

If China’s rise does lead to war, it’ll be a Pacific war, not an invasion of China itself. The existence of China, of course, wouldn’t be the problem. Rather, increasing Chinese control of the Pacific region would be the political situation that could lead to war. Its opponents would need to contest, secure, and expand their own control of the Pacific region, limiting Chinese imports from a number of important sources. If Australia wants to control its portion of the Pacific—and it should—it must master the fusion of land and sea that confronts it on almost every side.

It’s entirely understandable, however, for Australians to shy away from amphibious operations. Gallipoli was a disaster. Certainly not for lack of valour on the part of the troops but rather because of the lack of understanding of amphibious operations on the part of the British chain of command. The Gallipoli campaign convinced most observers that advanced weapons of war made amphibious assaults impossible. But Operation Morris Dance in 1987 demonstrated that Australia still needed expeditionary capabilities in the modern world—as well as the poor state of those capabilities at that time. More recently, the Australian military has proven itself adept at expeditionary operations in places like East Timor.

The Australian Army (along with its Pacific partner, the Japanese Self Defence Force) has a great advantage as it begins to build amphibious power. It will be able to form units task-organised to amphibious operations and allow those units to operate that way for administration, training, force generation, and combat. The USMC, for example, fights as a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) but remains beholden to legacy organisations when not deployed for traditional and legal reasons. That duplicates force structure and staffs and means units don’t train as they fight except for a period just before a deployment. Australian and Japanese forces can be more streamlined and efficient.

Indeed, Plan Beersheba could be a windfall for the Australian Army in that respect. It’s an opportunity to position Australia as one of the most modern and flexible forces in the Pacific, and its focus on amphibious capabilities is a necessary component of that modernisation. David Kilcullen’s recent book Out of the Mountains: the coming age of the urban guerrilla details geopolitical trends that are leading to increased littoralisation and urbanisation. Those trends suggest amphibious capabilities will be more and more in demand, especially as the amount of resources the US Navy can devote to amphibious shipping dwindles. Peter Dean raised some of the questions the ADF will have to wrestle with as it integrates amphibious operations in a recent post for The Diplomat. It’ll be interesting to see how those questions are addressed.

Amphibious force projection isn’t just a necessary capability for the Australian Army, but a natural one. While the Gallipoli operation failed, the traits proven there and continually displayed by the Australian soldier today lend themselves to an expeditionary ethos. The flexibility inherent in amphibious ships—from high-end combat to command and control to humanitarian aid—is virtually unmatched by any other type of capability. The combination of the two makes for one of the smartest military combinations the Department of Defence could have made.

Captain B. A. Friedman is a field artillery officer in the United States Marine Corps. He is currently stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He is the editor of the upcoming book 21st Century Ellis, due to be published in March, 2015. Image courtesy of Flickr user USMC.

The House resolves to give death-with-sense

PM Tony Abbott with Chief of Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin announcing Australia will join international partners to help the anti-ISIL forces in Iraq.In the Australian system going to war is extremely simple. The Prime Minister and Cabinet agree, the order is given and the shooting starts. Then there’s the hard stuff—not just the fighting, but handling the politics and policy and the people.

As Vietnam and Iraq showed, a government that goes to war must be able to give its people death-with-sense and maintain that sense for the long haul; there must be purpose and principle, a reason for the sacrifice and justification for the funerals. Not least important is the belief by the military that their country understands and supports the mission.

If the death-with-sense argument falters and can’t be maintained, people turn against the war—and against the government. Here we come to the hard political argument and policy requirement to strengthen existing parliamentary precedents on the use of the Australian Defence Force. Beyond using its majority in the House, any Australian government should use the Parliament to offer death-with-sense, to sustain the will to fight and define the mission. Read more

The Australian Constitution, indeed, gives all power to the executive on war. But that’s the start, not the finish. The way Australia heads off into conflict matters for how the war-with-sense debate evolves. The start, the foundation—the framing, in minder-speak—sets in place much that matters for what follows. The political and policy logic is that any Prime Minister should use the Parliament to build the broadest and strongest foundation. It’s about taking the country with you.

True, no government—Labor or Coalition—is going to give the Senate a vote on war or overseas deployment. Australian governments don’t usually have a majority in the upper house; end of argument.

For a discussion of those issues, see the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee giving the thumbs down to a proposed law allowing Australian Defence Force personnel to go overseas only if the House and the Senate both approved the deployment.

So, no law. Instead, consider existing precedents and habits that can build towards conventions to be used in the House of Representatives. Consider how those conventions feed existing powers of review held by the Senate, and the way in which the Senate can grill Defence leadership in regular Estimates hearings.

In the House of Representatives, build on the ANZUS precedent, the Afghanistan convention and Abbott’s recent criteria to frame a resolution on war, to be considered even if the government has already declared war.

The ANZUS precedent is the eight-point motion that then Prime Minister John Howard moved in the House on 17 September 2001, invoking the ANZUS treaty following the 9/11 attacks on the US. The motion didn’t go to the military actions that followed, but set out fundamental arguments for why Australia would act. That’s the place to start for all future motions on military action. Before Australia commits forces overseas, the House should approve a similar motion that offers answers to the Abbott questions, as posed by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives last week on 1 September.

Prime Minister Abbott said if a request for Australian military action in Iraq came from the Obama administration and the Iraq government, it’d be considered against these criteria:

Is there a clear and achievable overall objective? Is there a clear and proportionate role for Australian forces? Have all the risks been properly assessed? And is there an overall humanitarian objective in accordance with Australia’s national interests?

The PM offers good questions for a humanitarian intervention. For a war, add in bigger questions about what victory would look like and the proper end point. What should be the scope of the commitment and what are the aims? What should be the exit strategy? What forces are needed? Hugh White gives the flavour with his questions: What precisely are we trying to achieve by fighting? Is there is a reasonable chance of success? Would success be worth what it might cost?

The resolution that goes to the House of Representatives, even if the government has already ordered war, should address those fundamental issues—of aims, means and ends. The resolution then becomes the measure of what follows in the war-with-sense struggle. If the nature of the humanitarian crisis or military deployment or war changes, a further resolution should go to the House. The executive has the power to give the order, but it isn’t asking too much that it give parliament and the people a clear account of what’s to be done.

Add to that the Afghanistan convention, instituted by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, that the government gives regular, formal reports to Parliament on the course of the conflict. That’s an important innovation that should become an established convention.

If those precedents become conventions we would see a House of Representative resolution on committing Australian forces overseas, setting out in clear terms the objectives and conditions of the deployment. That resolution should declare:

  1. The mission;
  2. The aims: Abbott’s clear and achievable objectives;
  3. The forces that could be used; and
  4. The end point and anticipated exit strategy.

We’d also see regular, detailed reports to parliament setting out the progress of the mission, measured against the terms of the original resolution.

Moreover, there should be a standing reference to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence whenever Australian forces are deployed. At the least, the committee should hold hearings once a year in which it calls the Secretary of Defence and Chief of the Defence Force to give evidence on the deployment/conflict and to testify how the terms of the mission resolution are being met.

With such a framework in place, the regular Senate Estimates hearings could become the venue to review progress against the stated aims. Parliament would be doing some of the heavy lifting to help the government deliver war-with-sense.​

Note: ‘Death-with-sense’ is drawn from David Morrison’s 1992 book, ‘Television and the Gulf War’ and his observation about the Vietnam war: ‘All governments must have their citizens accept the cost of death and injury that inevitably follows from war as a legitimate price for a correct political policy. And that is precisely what the American television networks could not deliver to their audience with Vietnam – death with sense.’ For Morrison, the death-with-sense problem in Vietnam was not the eventual collapse of national will ‘but the failure to build it up adequately in the first place.’

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Image courtesy of Twitter user @TonyAbbottMHR.