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Brown, James: Anzac’s Long Shadow

Brown, James

Anzac’s Long Shadow: The Cost of Our National Obsession, Black Inc, Melbourne, 2014; also available electronically

“A century ago we got it wrong. We sent thousands of young Australians on a military operation that was barely more than a disaster. It’s right that a hundred years later we should feel strongly about that. But have we got our remembrance right? What lessons haven’t we learned about war, and what might be the cost of our Anzac obsession?”

Defence analyst and former army officer James Brown believes that Australia is expending too much time, money and emotion on the Anzac legend, and that today’s soldiers are suffering for it. Vividly evoking the war in Afghanistan, Brown reveals the experience of the modern soldier. He looks closely at the companies and clubs that trade on the Anzac story. He shows that Australians spend a lot more time looking after dead warriors than those who are alive. We focus on a cult of remembrance, instead of understanding a new world of soldiering and strategy. And we make it impossible to criticise the Australian Defence Force, even when it makes the same mistakes over and over. None of this is good for our soldiers or our ability to deal with a changing world. With respect and passion, Brown shines a new light on Anzac’s long shadow and calls for change. (blurb)

Honest History’s President, Peter Stanley, has reviewed the book as have Jeffrey Grey and Derek Parker. Other media coverage and reviews of the book has been extensive: Tony Wright in The Age; ABC PM; ABC Radio National Breakfast; News Limited; Wheeler Centre lunchtime, forthcoming 27 March; the author in The Monthly; ABC 7.30; Nine MSN; Marcus Fielding in United Service; Jo Hawkins and thoughtful comments from readers in The Conversation; Russell Eldridge in Inside History; the author in The Age; the author in conversation on ABC with Richard Fidler; Paul Daley; Lisa Hill’s Anzlitlovers blog; John Hirst. (Research by volunteer researcher, Gerry Schulz.)

Government spokespeople discuss Brown’s claims. Brown speaks. A review on a Trotskyist website. The author and Mark Dapin discuss at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival in September 2014 (audio only). Elizabeth Samet makes similar points. James Fallows makes similar points about American attitudes to their military.

Update 18 August 2016: Tom Hyland in Inside Story reviews a book of articles, On Ops: Lessons and Challenges for the Australian Army since East Timor, edited by Tom Frame and Albert Palazzo, which looks at some of the issues which concern Brown about the army’s future

The whole book deserves a close reading and re-reading but particularly notable are:

The book contains notes and a comprehensive bibliography.