Cheeseman, Graeme & St John Kettle, ed.: New Australian militarism

Cheeseman, Graeme & St John Kettle, ed.

The New Australian Militarism: Undermining our Future Security, Pluto Press, Leichhardt, NSW, 1990

Collection of articles driven by a concern that the Hawke Labor Government at the time, driven by then Defence Minister, Kim Beazley, had taken a militaristic path. Among authors are the editors, Richard Bolt, John Langmore, Marcia Langton and Gary Smith. The Minister defends his position vigorously in his contribution. Birmingham here makes extensive use of the book, 14 years later.

Kettle’s conclusion assesses how militaristic Australia had become by 1990. The contributions to the book did not sufficiently address one of these dimensions – the adoption of aggressive values and the glorification of the state – for him to draw any firm conclusions in that area, though he did detect a connection between ‘the ideological appeal of the new militarism and an increased national self-consciousness’ evident in the 1988 Bicentenial and the 1983 celebration of the America’s Cup victory. (p. 197) He also noted the use of nationalist motifs in military recruiting during the 1980s.

Kettle did, however, venture that there was a strong trend towards militarism in another dimension, ‘the pursuit of policies which emphasise the threat or the use of organised violence to attempt to solve internal or external problems’. He referred to growth in armed forces and an apparent willingness at the time of writing to project them regionally. He suggested that ‘the forging of a national identity in war’ from World War I and earlier was an important additional element in Australian militarism. (pp. 191-92) There was also, though to a lesser degree, evidence of growing militarism in a further dimension, ‘the growing or predominant role of the military establishment in national and international affairs’. (p. 193)

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