Retired Air Marshal speaks frankly about Iraq

Update: 2 September 2014: decision having been made to provide arms to Kurds, James Brown from the Lowy Institute, ex Australian Army, author of Anzac’s Long Shadow, lists some fallacies relating to this new involvement. It puts a different perspective to that beneath.

Another view from Hugh White.


Chris Uhlmann last evening on 7. 30 interviewed Air Marshal Geoff Shepherd (Ret’d) former Chief of Air Force (2005-08) on the eve of the possible deployment of RAAF jets to Iraq as part of a US-led coalition. The video and transcript of the interview is on the ABC site.

AM Shepherd gave an interesting insight into his thinking, which may be taken as representative of at least some of his cohort (senior current or recently retired ADF officers). In other words, the people on whom governments which generally lack military experience – as the prime minister reiterated on Anzac Day this year – rely for strategic advice.

Among other things, AM Shepherd noted:

  • the need for Australia to defend ‘Western values’ in co-operation with the United States, while helping people in Iraq and possibly Syria;
  • the threat posed by fundamentalist Islam to ‘all civilised peoples, not just us of white Anglo-Saxon backgrounds’ (Australia);
  • the ability of RAAF Superhornets to launch from ground airfields in friendly countries (since they do not launch from aircraft carriers);
  • a threat from the air will inhibit territorial gains and murder by insurgent forces;
  • in an Australia faced with a threat of terror, ‘the pendulum should be weighted towards collective security and collective outcomes rather than individual rights’;
  • deployment to Iraq-Syria could be ‘good experience for our young Air Force men and women’; and
  • the need not to ‘waste’ the ‘investment’ Australian forces had put into Iraq in the past. ‘We’ve put our young people at risk to achieve some of the outcomes that hopefully we’ll achieve in the future. It comes down to what we want to do as a nation.’

Remarks by AM Shepherd when serving (interview 2007) show his concern that the RAAF have the best technology and the best people.

28 August 2014

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