In the release of the new Australian defensce strategy on July 1, 2020, Prime Minister Morrison highlighted the important role which Senator Jim Molan plays in his thinking about defence.. Recently, Senator Molan has launched a podcast series looking at the way ahead and how Australia might address the challenges which its faces.
He starts each podcast with this introduction:
“Sun Tzu, the Chinese strategist tells us that strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.
“But tactics without strategy is just noise before defeat.
“My name is Jim Molan and welcome to our Noise Before Defeat podcast.”
This is the fifth podcast in his series.
A regional superpower – economically, militarily, diplomatically
An alliance is not a substitute for Australia being strong itself and being self-reliant. By being self-reliant within an alliance, we can bring strength to that alliance when we stand some hope of deterring conflict. So let’s not hang one by one. We always need to go back to recognize that the threats to our sovereignty are very, very real. We’re not just making this up.
The threat is coming to us initially by way of tensions due to the assertive or aggressive behavior of China. And the threat may then develop, as we discussed, intentionally or accidentally into actual war. The whole basis of this podcast is that Australia must guard its sovereignty by becoming self-reliant across the necessary parts of the nation so that we are for the first time in our history, prepared for what might happen.
And we can do it by ourselves given the right national security strategy and a bit of time. At the moment, we have no national security strategy that covers all aspects of the nation, and we don’t know how much time we have. And it’s not a good start for the most demanding period in our history since 1945….
Before COVID, we had the 12th largest GDP in the world. Here we are a country of 25 million people, the 12th largest GDP in the world, but even more astonishing, Russia had the 13th largest. Russia’s GDP is smaller than Australia’s.
We were prior to COVID, first, second or third in personal wealth in the world, depending on how you measure it. We had made a national decision that prosperity, we made this decision for the last 75 years, we had made a national decision that prosperity is more important than security, and that was a logical decision over that period of time because the U.S. looked after our security, but unfortunately, it’s not a logical decision now.
And as I said, Russia, with a smaller GDP than ours, really impoverishes its people to provide an exorbitant, a really disproportionate size of military and a nuclear capability.
But on the other side, I’d say that Israel is almost a perfect example of a small nation which is self-reliant. It’s democratic, it’s prosperous, and increasingly, it’s becoming much more secure. It’s not just because it has a big military, which it does, but because it has spread security across its entire nation….
My exposure to Israel is extensive working as a consultant to the Israeli government through various organizations.
And I really came to the conclusion that Israel is an example that if you have the will over time, a small nation can defend itself against massive odds. Israel’s got a small population of six to 8 million people. We have 25 million. They have borders with most of the once enemies, and we have a full continent. They are a very high technology country, and so are we. They have the strength of a democratic society, and so are we. We have far better alliances, probably more friends and vast strategic depth. Their country is only at its narrowest, a few kilometers wide….
The strengths that we have to work with are many, but I’ll try to group them as much as I can. And I guess the first is geography. And geography in relation to security is still very, very important, regardless of the advances in technology. We have our own continent, as I said before, and our close border region between us and our neighbors is relatively secure. And by that, I mean, we don’t share land borders with an assertive neighbors. And that’s a real advantage.
At the moment, we tend to dig them up and export them, receive money and buy the things that we need to contribute to our security. If we are to be self-reliant, we need to plan to use more of them ourselves if we are cut off from overseas sources of manufacturing goods.
And of course, we should do that anyhow because that creates prosperity and it creates jobs, and it’s certainly the Morrison government’s policy on coming out of COVID. To use those is a vastly more complex operation than just digging them up and putting them in shifts. And of course, our government, as I said, is moving very impressively to start doing this, and we should peak in that in some way at the start of next year.
Our people are our resource, not just because they might fulfill certain functions, but because a government in a crisis needs the support of its people. So our people are a key strength. Our population is well and truly large enough to defend this nation if we had to. It’s well-educated as a population and we have an education and training system, the envy of the world, so we can adapt if we need to adapt.
We might read about tensions in our newspapers and on our TV every single day, but the degree of social cohesion amongst our people is relatively high. Sometimes we might think otherwise, but I think it is high.
And I guess this is due to the tradition of the rule of law, where our rights as individuals are strongly protected, we have a settlement history which is different from other countries, and of course, we’re a liberal democracy where an individual has great importance.
And our people really know, I reckon, that they have a defined constitution, and their rights are protected by that, although in crisis, we normally surrender some of our rights for the security that we want. And we also have this extraordinary tradition of individuality in Australia. And again, that is something which is very, very valuable in a crisis….
I reckon that our federal system is a strength. People may not think that as we go through tensions between states and federal government related to COVID, but we are used to our constitution and people are becoming more knowledgeable about it.
We’re used to also to the limited places on the federal government, but what we do know is that the kind of powers a federal government might want to use to prepare the nation in a national security sense are either there as formal powers, or we can achieve the aims that we as a federal government want by paying for it as we write most of the taxes.
Our financial ability to pay and to even borrow is very, very high. In a well-governed federal system, that’s a real bonus. And this is really assisted by a highly capable public service. Everyone stands around and knocks the public service, but they are a highly capable public service in most cases. And we have a highly capable diplomatic capability.
And given, as I say, that diplomacy through alliances is our first line of defense, that’s very, very important. And although we don’t see much of it, we also have a very, very capable intelligence community. And I guess that Australians have a deep understanding of alliances. And this is something which many other countries don’t have. We have never fought in a war outside of an alliance. So we know what alliances do, the difficulty of alliances, and how to use alliances to our own benefit….
And I talk about our industrial base, and sometimes it can be a vulnerability, but it’s still relatively broad in its expanse across the skills needed, but it’s just very, very small. And we need scale. We have so much to build on in this country. We’ve got some fabulously advanced elements in our industry.
We’re advanced in setting up a ship building industry, both military and civilian, a commercial ship building industry. We serve as an aviation sector that is very large and we have solid government policies that are moving us forward on manufacturing, and in fact, moving us into outer space as well in a very high technology approach…
pulling it all together is the big challenge. And that’s why I talk about the need for an overall strategy. And we’re seeing from the Morrison government almost every day of the week, new policies, innovative policies, innovative ways of achieving them.
And I must admit that I have never seen anyone better than the prime minister in implementing policies, turning policies into real effects. You’re right, though, we are very competently solving problem after individual problem, not just related to COVID, but looking a long way into the future.
And that’s to our credit as a government. Australia has a Western approach to security and to planning. And that is very, very good. We just need to decide to do it, to focus on it as national security, and then the resource it….
By my assessment, we are a regional superpower now in many aspects of our economy, certainly. And we’re very effective diplomatically while our military is a fine base for expansion. We just need to pull it all together to prepare this nation for the future. And it’s my obligation, I guess, in the final episode of the six-part series, to offer you my solution. I’ll try and do that in the next part, which is titled, interestingly and strangely enough, it’s titled We Stress Test Banks, Why Not National Security?
We have just published our latest book which is entitled, Joint By Design: The Evolution of Australian Defence Strategy.
As one senior RAAF officer put it: “The Prime Minister of Australia, the Honorable Scott Morrison, has launched the Defense Strategic Update, which moved Australia’s defense policy away from a globally-balanced approach under our Defense White Paper of 2016, towards a more regionally focused posture, founded in the principles of shape, deter, and respond. The new policy approach places great emphasis on the need for our forces to be well integrated, both internally to Australia, and across our strategic partners. ”
Joint by Design is focused on Australian policy, but it is about preparing liberal democracies around the world for the challenges of the future.
The strategic shift from land wars to full spectrum crisis management requires liberal democracies to have forces lethal enough, survivable enough, and agile enough to support full spectrum crisis management.
The book provides an overview of the evolution of Australian defence modernization over the past seven years, and the strategic shift underway to do precisely that.
Although this is a book about Australia, it is about the significant shift facing the liberal democracies in meeting the challenge of dealing with the 21st century authoritarian powers.
In this sense, the volume is very complimentary to our book the return of direct defense in Europe, a book that concludes with a chapter that highlights the Australian contribution to the rethinking going on in Europe about direct defense.
The book is based on the bi-annual Williams Foundation seminars held since 2014, and include insights and presentations by Australians and several key allies of Australia.
In that sense, the book provides an Australian-led allied rethink with regard to how to meet 21st century defense challenges.
The two books read together provide a good overview of where key allies are with regard to rethinking defense certa 2020.
As Anne Borzycki, Director of the Institute of Integrated Economic Research – Australia, has highlighted:
“Dr Robbin Laird brings a unique perspective to his analysis of the journey the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been on over the last six years. As an American, and also a European resident, he understands the military and strategic realities of Europe and the United States and is therefore able to place Australia, as a modern middle-power, into the spectrum of Western Liberal Democracies. And importantly, this book highlights the lessons that Europe and the United States could learn from Australia as the first quarter of the 21st century draws to a close.
“This book is a modern history that begins in 2014. The year 2014 might seem recent – however given the upheavals wrought upon the world by changing global power dynamics, national domestic political challenges, military transformations and finally, the pandemic – it could just as well be 60, not 6, years ago.”
And in Australia on amazon Australia:
Or you can buy it directly through our website for 10% off if you use the code: Joint2020