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Home  >  About  >  CV  >  2015 Defence White Paper Submission

Submission to the 2015 Defence White Paper


Executive summary

Viewing human activity systems under the perspective of cognitive dynamics allows for a realistic analysis of such systems' behaviour at varying scales, from the individual to groups, demographics up to society and culture.

The following is presented under these auspices. Society and its parts are seen as interdependent systems. The military therefore constitutes a subsystem being affected by its host as well as influencing wider society.

The status of individuals, here the personnel in the military, is examined in the context of the individual's perspective towards the outside as well as the views held by the civilian public in relation to the military.

Since a society with its culture is influenced by contemporary views the more fundamental the aspects which are touched by such views the more wide-ranging the result.

One of the most fundamental changes taking place over the past few decades have come through feminism and examples are provided to demonstrate its effect on society at large as well as the defence force. The ultimate benefits in terms of the military culture is being questioned against the background of an increasing general dysfunctionality amongst the population from which the military is not immune.

In line with the larger scale of societal dynamics Australia's involvement with its neighbours and the wider international arena is discussed. Traditional alliances are becoming less significant while the political and economic powers of the 21st century are in the process of altering the global landscape. A relatively minor power such as Australia will need to adjust its priorities according to the emerging contingencies.

 

Defence Culture and personnel

Treating society and its members as interdependent systems enables the observer to recognise and understand the mutual relationships against the background of perspectives which inform the views, values and hence priorities given to a society's manifestations.

Within the context of the current theme, of particular importance are the events surrounding Islamic extremism and the West's and therefore Australia's response. Overall there are well over 300 major events which confirm the validity of this approach [1]. In relation to the Middle East they are grouped under "Iraq war - and now Afghanistan" [2] and "Terrorism" [3].

A nation's military is part of society and whatever the type of governance the framework of its defence affects society, and the status of the society affects its defence. What politicians, researchers and commentators deduce using their society's knowledge pool determines how its defence is articulated and prioritised.

Perceptions cultivated in wider society provide the prism through which its defence force is seen, just as members of the defence force see their society against the background of their own experience.

When the ABC 7:30 Report presented a video made by the Special Forces in southern Afghanistan the accompanying comment referred to the arduous conditions there and the need for troops to balance the stress [4]. Not only would that environment be alien to most civilians, a majority would not be able to understand how to adjust to it mentally and physically. Hence such explanatory comments.

Members of the armed forces who enter civilian life experience the challenge of adjusting to a different culture with its own set of values and priorities. A report into mental health issues in the ADF identified a negligible difference in trauma between personnel deployed to war zones and personnel who were not [5]. The authors suggest that the mental health support system provided by the ADF would be a reason, but also that disorders may not emerge until personnel leave the Services. In other words, being in a supportive community would alleviate the effects of stress, but living amongst people who do not relate to one's experiences heightens the possibility of mental disorders.

The overall culture of a society influences its sections, and the more pervasive a particular aspect becomes, the more significant the result for all. Over the past few decades the ideological side of feminism has grown in status and with it the female mindset has moved from the home into society at large. The essential role of the female as carer and nurturer of children has become a template for the wider ambience. By now the adulation of the Child has produced a sense of dependence on the 'system' where parents expect schools to provide even the basics of speech and toilet training according to Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek [6].

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports an 8.46% increase in emergency presentations of children aged five to 14 in 2012-13 compared to 2010-11 because children are increasingly unable to perform what used to be common physical activity [7]. And Helen McGrath, Deakin University adjunct professor and counselling psychologist, is quoted as saying the self-esteem movement regarding children has failed [8].

These representative examples demonstrate the results from an over-bearing protectionism as they relate to children, but equally point to the cultural grooming which has taken place over the years producing parents who engage in such practices in the first place. For millions of years evolution has moved forward; within a few decades one species has managed to reverse the direction.

The military is not immune. In the United States David Petraeus, a former four-star general, Chief of U.S. Central Command and most recently CIA Director, was forced to resign when two women caused enough public furore with their relational frustrations that removing himself from office seemed the only solution [9]. Issues regarding national security, a war in Afghanistan and indeed global aspects are being directed from the hothouse of gossip columnists.

By July 2014 the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART) in Australia had already assessed over 2,400 complaints [10] in response to its advertisements promising up to $50,000 in compensation [11].

While this submission cannot go into the details of each individual case and also recognising there is a range of severity in any human affairs, it is worth noting that within the general publicity prominence is given to female cadets, that is future military leaders meant to protect the nation in battle who are nevertheless unable to handle their own sex life.

Training in the military is as much about the preparation for deployment as it is about managing one's life in a relatively confined, task-oriented environment where results take precedence over personal dispositions. Hence one option to mitigate the destructive influence of dysfunctional parents would be the introduction of a comprehensive national service for young men and women, although to ramp up the innate capabilities of recruits who grew up with safety helmets and knee pads since the time they played with their toys would be a challenge for any instructor. Having served in the ADF would also familiarise the general population with the military culture which in turn mitigates the alienation suffered by soldiers leaving the Services.

In addition national service would be a training ground for developing one's inter-relational skills which in a climate of over-protective 'helicopter parents' have given way to a mindset that makes young people assume the world revolves around them.

Since much of the abuse allegations have come from the Navy, I can vouch for the necessary qualities needed under extreme conditions - not in a theatre of war but at sea generally.

In October 1979 my crew and I encountered the outskirts of typhoon Tip, described as the largest and most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded [12], while on a voyage from Keelung in Taiwan to Hong Kong skippering the yacht SS Mayaroma [13]. Although Tip's central path was well clear of Taiwan, its extent of nearly half the size of the continental United States made itself felt across a considerable swathe of ocean. I was fortunate to have a crew - male and female - who performed well, and not surprisingly represented a somewhat different profile from what recent articles about complaints to DART suggest. Over the years these criteria used in the selection of crew unfailingly contributed to a safe passage under many adverse conditions.

On the other hand, I had not been answerable to bureaucrats who pamper their own careers through devising other-worldly frameworks according to which work in the field must be conducted. Scenarios featuring this type of autocracy have been described in an investigation into the response by US intelligence services in relation to the nuclear weapons program instigated by Pakistan [14]. Vital clues had been missed because priorities had been set by decision makers sitting at their desks. There is no reason to believe the US is unique in this regard.

Furthermore, in an age of globalised media the perception engendered by articles downgrading a defence force should not be underestimated. Although Australia's presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has been substantially lessened, any enemy the ADF faces is bound to absorb the general tone of such articles. The confidence of the Taliban for example would certainly not suffer when learning that Australian soldiers can be under the effective jurisdiction of female cadets.

 

Australia's strategic interests

Australia has never been an island. Despite its geography the political, economic and military ties had been in place from the very beginning. It fought its wars against the background of its original affiliation with the United Kingdom and later with the United States. It is worth noting that one did not exclude the other nor did the wars undermine those relationships.

Such were the political, economic and hence military linkages of the 20th century.

Yet times are changing. Over the past few decades the industrialised world has expanded to include the 'Asian tigers', India and China. Since the 1990s many countries in the European Union have come to rely on Russia for their source of energy. By 2007 the European Union derived 32.6% of its total oil import from Russia, and for gas the figure is 38.7% [15]. In Germany 36% of its domestic gas consumption comes from Russia; at the same time the country hosts one of the largest foreign deployments of the US military [16]. In 2011 the EU approached China for assistance in the wake of the economic fallout surrounding the GFC [17]. The US, on the other hand, is in the process of becoming independent from Middle Eastern oil [18].

Since international relations are formed through several strands, a history of economic ties and/or entanglements changes the basis from which perceptions of the military kind are formed should the need arise.

Given the changing circumstances driven by the emerging necessities of the 21st century, the more traditional power blocs offer no guarantee their existence will continue to affect Australia's status in the future in line with yesteryear's expectations.

China for example is extending its interests over the South China Sea, thereby confronting Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam [19]. Recently it has acknowledged the existence of a new intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads with a range of 12,000 km [20]. Yet Japan's and Australia's military cooperation is on the increase, the most recent example being a joint exercise dealing with an earthquake disaster scenario [21].

How economic ties can translate into diplomatic and political issues within days could be witnessed after the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine when Europe's energy dependence on Russia played a role when deciding on sanctions against the latter [22]. And in this year of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I the disastrous consequences of a political domino effect are well known.

Although Australia is not directly enmeshed in many other nation's relationships, the possibility of one or the other link becoming prominent in a short space of time becomes increasingly possible.

Our current immigration policy allows people from the Middle East to settle here, and even a more rigorous selection process would fail to identify potential extremists because they were born in Australia after their parents' arrival. The latest upheaval in Syria attracts young Muslims who were sufficiently radicalised either through their familial networks or were recruited as newcomers under student visas [23].

The need for an overhaul of the current recruitment process employed by the ADF becomes more acute as the presence of Islam in Australian society increases. Insider attacks are not automatically restricted to distant Iraq and Afghanistan (nor is the problem posed by newcomers in an army who follow their own agenda anything new: it had been one of the factors contributing to the fall of the Roman Empire [24]).

Australia's position as a relatively minor player in international power games can be seen as an advantage. Just as proactive initiatives require a commensurate degree of strength, so can less proactive, in other words, less outwardly projected initiatives be conducted precisely because a smaller status means less a priori visibility, that is to say, a smaller political footprint.

A medium-term strategy could therefore mean a downgrading of however ostensible affiliations with other nations while at the same time strengthening one's internal resilience. It is the strategy of nations which endeavour to balance the need to participate in the economic dynamics of the world yet want to remain secure within their borders. Notable examples are Sweden and Switzerland, especially before the current expansion of the EU.

Obviously, to follow such a path requires considerable diplomatic nous. It also requires a local skill base which needs political foresight.

 

Conclusion

Viewing human activity systems at any scale in terms of such systems' status regarding viability, resourcefulness and their affiliation with the surrounds offers a pragmatic but especially a realistic perspective on how the system performs under particular conditions.

Interweaving a society's dynamics with cognitive streams derived from millions of years of evolution produces certain results regardless of what momentary opinions may hold. As the composition of society reflects the general dynamic of globalisation any destructive events outside a nation do not necessarily stop at its borders. Australia's internal policies will need to address the steady shift of power away from the traditional European and/or Western centres.

The multicultural mix of modern-day Australia has enabled the emergence of ethnic enclaves, and in a democratic society the overall attitudes towards one's nation and its military are as much informed by the views of its members as does the suitability or otherwise of the latter influence the status of its defence force.

The defence force of a nation represents a sum-total of its host's overall capabilities, its strengths and weaknesses. It is one segment of society where those qualities can be pushed to extremes.

When that occasion occurs the benefits of hindsight come too late.


Brisbane, 19 August 2014

 

References

1. M. Wurzinger, Parallels, otoom.net, http://www.otoom.net/parallels.htm.

2. M. Wurzinger, Iraq war - and now Afghanistan, otoom.net, http://www.otoom.net/parallels1a.htm#Iraq.

3. M. Wurzinger, Terrorism, otoom.net, http://www.otoom.net/parallels1a.htm#Terrorism.

4. 7:30 Report, ABC TV, 5 August 2014.

5. A. C. McFarlane, S. E. Hodson, M. Van Hooff & C. Davies, Mental health in the Australian Defence Force: 2010 ADF Mental Health and Wellbeing Study: Full report, Department of Defence, Canberra, 2011 (p. xxiv).

6. T. Chilcott, Parents expect Prep to 'do it all', Courier Mail, Brisbane, 17 July 2014.

7. J. Sinnerton, Break a leg, kid, Courier Mail, 26 February 2014.

8. Toughen up, parents, your kids need some bad news, Courier Mail, 23 May 2014.

9. F. Britney, Jill Kelley: How Did She Expose Paula Broadwell-David Petraeus Affair?, The Hollywood Gossip, 21 November 2012, accessed on internet 22 November 2012, http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/2012/11/jill-kelley-how-did-she-expose-paula-broadwell-david-petraeus-af/.

10. M. Brissenden, A. McDonald, Defence sex abuse: Rape and assault claims implicate serving ADF officers, ABC TV, Four Corners, 24 July 2014.

11. Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, Australian Government advertisement, Courier Mail, 25 May 2013.

12. Typhoon Tip, Wikipedia, accessed on internet 6 August 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoon_Tip.

13. SS Mayaroma in Singapore, otoom forum, http://www.otoom.net/osmf/index.php?topic=3.0.

14. A. Levy, C. Scott-Clark, Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy, Atlantic Books, London, 2007.

15. Russia in the European energy sector, Wikipedia, accessed on internet 7 August 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia_in_the_European_energy_sector.

16. United States Army Europe, Wikipedia, accessed on internet 7 August 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Army_Europe.

17. EU Bailout Fund Chief Klaus Regling Travels to China to Ask for Help, The Telegraph, 27 October 2011, accessed on internet 25 September 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8854442/EU-bailout-fund-chief-Klaus-Regling-travels-to-China-to-ask-for-help.html.

18. L. Lorenzetti , U.S. inching closer to energy independence as oil imports shrink, Fortune, 6 August 2014, accessed on internet 7 August 2014, http://fortune.com/2014/08/06/u-s-inching-closer-to-energy-independence-as-oil-imports-shrink/.

19. S. Hawley, Analysis: South China Sea dispute pits power-hungry China against weaker regional neighbours, ABC News, 21 June 2014, accessed on internet 7 August 2014, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-19/samantha-hawley-analysis-south-china-sea-dispute/5534252.

20. China's Super Nuke Missile, The Courier Mail, Brisbane, 2 August 2014.

21. Diggers in Japan role, The Courier Mail, Brisbane, 5 August 2014.

22. L. Lee, Europe will be loath to put the economic screws on Russia, The Australian - National Affairs, 22 July 2014, accessed on internet 16 August 2014, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/europe-will-be-loath-to-put-the-economic-screws-on-russia/story-e6frgd0x-1226996579448?nk=c2691a6707aff6df2312666e2e735b00.

23. S. Benson, Aussie unis recruiting grounds for terrorists, The Courier Mail, Brisbane, 7 August 2014.

24. E. Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Everyman's Library, New York, 1910.


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