Reynolds, Henry: Australia’s perpetual ‘war footing’

Henry Reynolds

Australia’s perpetual “war footing”‘, Pearls and Irritations, 7 May 2018

Riffs off a belligerent interview in 2013 by then Defence Minister, Senator David Johnston.

[Johnston] clearly took it for granted that there was a need for Australian military intervention on the far side of the world and that the country had the legal and moral right to do so whenever and wherever it pleased. Efficient and mobile forces needed wars to maintain morale. Anywhere, it seemed, would do. The army was ready for action and should be given its head while the Minister himself clearly wanted a war of his own.

The lack of contemporary reaction to Johnston’s belligerence was remarkable – Honest History picked it up, but not until late 2014 in this piece – but Johnston’s belligerence was prophetic given our military adventures since (Afghanistan, South China Sea, Syria and so on). Reynolds also notes the bipartisanship that has prevailed.

So clearly Australia punches above its weight. Whether we benefit from that behaviour is another matter altogether. The pitiful level of public debate about foreign and defence policy in the country allows us to avoid searching self-analysis. Government and Opposition advance in lock-step and the camp followers in Canberra’s think-tanks tag along behind.

There are double standards, for example, in relation to maritime interventions in the South China Sea, compared with what would happen if China sailed, say, along the Great Barrier Reef.

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