Posted by: graemebird | December 19, 2008

Defense Reviews Are Insufficiently Holistic.

Always preparations, if backdated in time far enough, were possible that would have prevented the war or maintained the peace, and discussions of such preparations are  the most important discussions by far. Only so many words will fill the newspapers, the live verbal deliberations, the internet chitchat, the private meetings by officials, and the discussions amongst family and friends. Speaking up aggressively from a point of ignorance and non-understanding on this topic is therefore more usually anti-social and rude then the modern habit people have of speaking aggressively and ignorantly more generally.

No exertions, as measured in budgetary terms, ought be considered expensive in the relative sense if they succeed in maintaining the peace or winning the war quickly. Since while war preparations are expensive, they are a bargain in comparison to having to fight.  And while winning quickly is very expensive, its never so expensive as taking a long time to win. While taking a long time to win will have dire costs in both blood and gold, yet losing is more costly still.

It is thought that Cassandra was not listened to. But if that was true she would not have been part of the story at all.  And in more worldly meetings it is the case that the talking of the others would crowd her out.

Matters of war and peace bring forth ideas that are paradoxical to many minds and any of such a disposition to find defense truths paradoxical ought practice their own appropriate righteousness, by only asking questions that they truly wanted an answer to, and otherwise attempting not to talk too much. 

Cassandras of all types ought to be listened to, but the mean-spirited and the stupid ought to try and talk a lot less. War is ended, after years of  wasted lives and resources, when the strategy is finally applied, that might have been expected to win the war up-front. Always Cassandras of all shapes and sizes were there with the right strategy, when others didn’t want to know.


The problem I have with all defense reviews is that they are insufficiently holistic. They lack breadth, depth and width. They appear to take non-defense parasitism as a given, if not the very thing that defense resources are found for. That is to say that it is implicit in defense thinking that the war-making is to preserve rampant unnecessary taxeating, as opposed to the liberty and the sovereignty of the taxpayers. You don’t believe me?

Well how about this from the Australian:

“While we should be able to maintain a defence force like we have today or even somewhat larger out to 2050, our relative economic weight is set to decline in the decades ahead along with, more than likely, our strategic weight,”  SO SAYETH DR MARK THOMSON.

But in saying this he flies in the face of economic science. Since with a lead-time of 41 years we can have an economy pretty much the size of our choosing and what is getting in the way is non-defense parasitism and a lack of will.

So any defense review must recognize and make clear  that a key performance metric to enhancing our sovereignty from the depredations of outsiders is how effectively we can slash non-defense spending. Mass-sackings and the closure of most government departments has to be part of any sensible review. And while we are at it we ought to mention that the defense forces are an agent of the taxpayer and the retiree and pretty much no-one else.

So we know the WHO in the equation of what it is that the armed forces must defend. They are there to defend the taxpayer. And it is not irrelevant to the success of any efforts to enhance our war-making capacity that we figure out how to get more of these taxpayers. The easiest way to get extra taxpayers and less taxeaters is of course to cut off the funds from the taxeaters in the hope that they will see the advantage in getting a real job.

Now we are defending the tax-eaters property, safety and sovereignty. But sovereignty does not always get lost by armed invasion and troops on the ground. The electoral process can give it away and the politicians can sell it out for post-politics careers, out of leftism and generalized post-modern stupidity,  or to big-note themselves like Rudd with Kyoto. Well this all has got to be part of the discussion too. How do we get out of just about all of our international commitments? Such entanglements are a direct attack on the sovereignty of the taxpayer but they also limit our flexibility when it comes to defending our national sovereignty when push comes to shove. So our international agreements. and how to get out of them, ought to be part of a more comprehensive defense review.

Now there is also the electoral process and the way that foreign countries can project influence into our own. If foreigners can manipulate the electoral process then they do not need to invade to take away our sovereignty. Furthermore our belief in democracy as the thing itself, rather than an essential component of the just society is irrational. We already know that full-blown democracies are a slow-motion suicide. So constitutional reform ought to be part of the defense review as well.

Fair elections are an essential COMPONENT of the good society. But a thing is not what it is made of. And we ought to stop calling ourselves a democracy. We ought to stop being that sort of democracy, since we don’t want to be misleading the kids, nor pointing them in the direction of their own doom and servitude.

Next we come to the problem of what it takes to secure the peace of our choosing and to avoid war. That is to say what capabilities it takes. We see that our sovereignty is threatened by 3 main foreign sources:

1. A foreign regimes abilities to influence the electorate, or the behaviour of politicians in a focused way.

2. A foreign regimes ability to do or threaten damage. As most clearly emphasized by the Chinese ability to bring in a submarine close to land and fire a nuclear missile at Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra.

3. A foreign countries ability to land troops, capture ground, and force their will on individuals at the point of a bayonet. 

4. A foreign countries ability to kill, hurt or intimidate Australian nationals and yet manage to have other Australians mock the victims of such abuse and mock outright any notion that such abuse may be coming from abroad. Overcoming the suicidal social faux pass which says that foreign regimes never practice stealth ought to be part of any defense review.

Hopefully in some future thread I’ll get around to looking at all four of these matters that must be defended against and the capabilities needed for this defense. But they involve a great many topics that defense reviews do not usually cover.  So for example while I’ve covered the topic of city-layout as it relates to nuclear intimidation, no defense review has ever brought this topic up. No defense review has talked about setting up the capital further inland.



  1. “So our international agreements. and how to get out of them, ought to be part of a more comprehensive defense review.”

    Precisely – it’d be completely self-defeating to engage in a “defence” build-up when the practical use for the extra military capital would be putting down any resistance to international government. This extra military spending could just as easily be used AGAINST the people (indeed as I am almost certain it will be, eventually) rather than to protect them.

    Another missing part of the defence review should focus on the relatively inexpensive means such as private militias, and liberalising firearms. If most Australians owned guns and knew how to use them, this would surely rank as a major consideration for foreign military planners. It would add to our deterrence capabilities.

  2. Right. Subs with mini-nukes can prevent a foreign country from massing naval resources for fear of having significant amounts of their material destroyed. So if we have that then the foreign country can only land in dribs and drabs where they can be cleaned up by civilians if necessary.

    Now thats not my defense policy. But its one line of thought where it is important to figure out what the best domestic firearms policy ought to be.

    I actually think we ought to make those investments suggested. But any and all of it can go to waste if foreigners have defacto control over Canberra.

  3. Nukes are pretty necessary for a large continent with such a small population.

    “But any and all of it can go to waste if foreigners have defacto control over Canberra.”

    There was actually a report from some “defence” think-tank the other day saying that Australia’s “military gap”, which we allegedly enjoy, was “provocative” to our neighbours, implying a defence cut would be in order. Clearly, the people who made that execrable argument have to be on the take.

    • This is the great problem. With post-modernists and taxeaters you can never tell whose on the take and whose merely stupid.

      All you can really do is sack sack sack sack sack which will help build morale with those who are left behind, having culled out all the unnecessary stuff such that there is no cause for the public servants to either become corrupt or face an existential crisis as to their own uselessness. Its a pretty nasty thing to do to someone to get them involved in useless undertakings. Since from there they face the choice of fooling themselves as to their usefulness and that means constructing a whole new view of the universe which makes that possible. More likely they grow happy with their parasitism and proud at the fact that they are on the top end of the food chain.

      One of the best threads ever at catallaxy was the thread that Helen rigged up with the young MP from South Africa. It was about whether we ought to be trying to buy the Raptor. The whole history of that has been retrospectively changed. And if that thread wasn’t still there I’d be inclined to believe the revisionism. It is now said that we never once had the chance to get the stealth. So now Helen, me, that MP, and the rest of us are expected to pretend that this thread never existed. Yet you can hunt it down on the google. Virtually everyone I’ve heard from now, and even those that know that the Raptor was the thing, now have gone along with this false history. But its nonsensical from the start. Because the American system works more on PROCESS.

      This all happened at a time when John Howard had enourmous prestige in America and was in well with the the American President. But If we had of woken up George Bush at 3.00am in the morning and asked him if we could buy the Raptor he would not be able to tell us. Because the whole thing would have to be debated in all likelihood. Hence the idea that we could never get it is a lie. A blatant lie. A bit of soothsaying. Also at the same time there was at least one story on sixty minutes about the decision not to get the Raptor. It was a definite decision. Our civilians in defense were demonically against us getting the Raptor. They fought the idea of us getting the Raptor every step of the way and the rejection was definitely made by the then Defense Minister, Brendan Nelson. Who at one point said that the reason he was doing this was a secret. So the idea that we never has a chance is a lie even though guys on my side of the argument have rolled over entirely with this lie and now believe also that we never had a chance to get the Raptor.

      My point is this. The people who made the decision. They cannot justify it. They have to be sacked. We simply cannot know if they were on the take, subject to intimidation, or just post-modernist morons. So any serious government would find out who was on the wrong side of that argument and sack every one of them.

  4. Steve, I don’t support Australia’s precious new Howardian gun phobia but I’m not aware of any example from history of an enemy calling off an invasion because the locals were all armed with 4-10s and 22s. I think that’s a tired old argument, usually made by fetishists of Switzerland and American survivalists.

    That Australian Strategic Policy Institute study did not recommend a GDP/defence cut to placate our neighbours. It merely noted that a higher range GDP figure for defence (approx 2.7 per cent) – and the hardware that came with it – might become diplomatically problematic.

    I tend to agree with Bird that although the Raptor was ‘technically’ unavailable for foreign sale, Howard had the best chance to request an exception be made in Australia’s case. How that stubborn man got painted into the JSF corner is a mystery. I do believe, however, that the JSF project appealed to the nationalist and anti-American sentiment of the old Anglo-Blimp wing of the military establishment. It was sold as an endeavour in which we’d be a partner in the overall process.

    We should have tried MUCH harder to get Raptor.

  5. But was it technically unavailable CL? Is that not received retrospective history?

    Because the debate ran on about us buying it with the usual priesthood mindlessness and then when it was too late they just said we could never have bought it in the first place.

  6. Well, I think we ought to know the whole story. This is something that’s occurring more and more in the Anglophone world – made worse by bailout-mania. Politicians spend – or commit to spend – billions with next to no accountability. A few weeks ago, Rudd dropped a cool BILLION into Indonesia’s plate while he was over there. Remember that being debated in the Parliament? Of course not. Our leaders are out of control when it comes to taxpayer’s money. In the case of the JSF/Raptor, we have a clear case of intra-ADF politics and bullshittery driving a massive investment of the public’s money in a dud new plane and a re-vamped old one (the Super Hornet).

    Where we stand now: Fitzgibbon says he’ll pursue the Americans on purchasing the Raptor and Robert Gates said months ago that he supports Australia’s case. Gates is staying on under Obama so the hope is that he can persuade the White House and the Democrat Congress to change the law on banning sales of the Raptor to foreigners. This is the first big test of Labor’s willingness to pressure Obama and Obama’s attitude to Australia. (A country I suspect he couldn’t care less about).

    • Well good news about the Raptor. But thats so upsetting about Rudd. How does he think he’s got the right to steal a billion off us and give it to the Indonesians? I mean this is more flippant than the normal level of stealing. What was the justification? And who specifically did he give the billion too? Its making me feel sick. Surely these people must know that they cannot get away with doing this sort of thing forever. There was not even some sort of national disaster here. There wasn’t an ally at war. Nothing. He really ought to be jailed for this. What possible justification could he have?

  7. The Indonesians played the bailout card and Rudd flew over to Bali for six hours to slip them a billion. The ‘too big to fail’ voodoo is making politicians everywhere cast themselves as saviours of the world. The combination of massive deficits and anti-growth AGW sabotage is creating an heirloom of social disaster for the next two generations.

  8. “I’m not aware of any example from history of an enemy calling off an invasion because the locals were all armed with 4-10s and 22s.”

    I didn’t have 22s in mind – I was hinting at something far more potent. It’s the Mogadishu example I had in mind.

  9. No, it wasn’t the ASPI who made that dreadful argument – it was the Lowy Institute. Same news cycle, but different organisations. The idea of Australia as some budding Asian Pacific Prussia is laughable. We’re talking barely 2% of GDP and the Left goes hysterical.

  10. Here’s a perfect example of the Lowy Institute’s treason:

    In an opinion piece in The Canberra Times, Sam Roggeveen, editor of the Lowy Institute’s blog, The Interpreter, argues that Australia does not need to react to what the Prime Minister wrongly called an ‘explosion’ in regional defence spending. In fact, a modest cut to our defence budget would help our regional diplomacy.

    OK, so Chinese military spending explodes by 18% per year and it’s “not an arms race”. But Australia maintaining defence spending in line with GDP growth is “provocative”.

  11. That’s the problem here – we have a scores of people who are calling themselves “national security analysts” unchallenged, when the truth is that they oppose the continuing existence of Australia, or any part of Australia. They should just refer to themselves as “globalists” or, more accurately, traitors.

  12. ASPI wasn’t making the case for Prussionism. They were simply floating different possible strategic models for what the ADF should be, for what it should do. There’s the model of air-strength, policing and peace-keeping – plus special forces combat readiness – ( a la now); or the more expensive model of regional air superiority (with carrier capability for the projection of that superiority), plus a more fighting-capable army and a boosted submarine capability. The latter would cost about 2.67 percent of GDP. I agree this would be politically impossible but there has to be a trade-off between the models I think because – amongst other reasons – we can’t go on sending the SAS to every shit fight in the world while our conventional armed forces deteriorate to a khaki-wearing SES.

  13. OK, so Chinese military spending explodes by 18% per year and it’s “not an arms race”. But Australia maintaining defence spending in line with GDP growth is “provocative”.


  14. No, I’m not saying they were (for the record, I have no problem with increasing our defence spending to be more self-reliant). My point is that the Lowy Institute are insinuating that we’d be some kind of aggressive pariah if we had military spending over 2% of GDP. Meanwhile our competitors are allowed to spend as much as they like without attracting the Lowy Institute’s ire.

  15. Yeah its pretty scary what we are up against. Like you have people that challenge the entire meaning of defense right in the middle of a debate about various weapons systems. Like you’ll be talking about the Raptor, or a battleship or something, and you’ll be noting that our defense guys made a perverse decision…. then right in the middle of that conversation the role of defense will be thrown into a world of doubt by your average post-modern dope.

    Like the fact is that we have this warmaking ability. And the job of civilian defense is to enhance this warmaking ability for any given level of spending. But your average taxeating dummy appears to be able to forget that goal right in the middle of a discussion on weapons investment.

    I suspect that there are these same dummies in the defense department, and perhaps some core of corrupt types and traitors. The whole thing is just impossible to determine, and its not like its possible to have some movement to get better people in the department. All such efforts will be wasted. Only sackings will do the job. And we have to start looking at becoming a different type of democracy.

    If having people over 35 vote only gives us better results that ought to be considered. If having the Senate votes counted on the basis of dollar votes would give better results, that would have to be considered. If only taxpayers and retirees allowed to vote for one type of election would give better outcomes, thats got to be considered. And if Statehood for any given town, city or territory that wants it would give us better results we ought to be considering that also.

  16. “ASPI wasn’t making the case for Prussionism. They were simply floating different possible strategic models for what the ADF should be, for what it should do. There’s the model of air-strength, policing and peace-keeping”

    We’ve got to be very clear what is defense and what isn’t. Policing and peace-keeping aren’t a defense issue. Thats foreign aid. Since no regime that can destroy us or intimidate our politicians is a place where we would expect to conduct such activities.

    Peace-keepers cannot stop a nuclear submarine from popping up just off the coast. Nor can they be part of an operation to kill Chinese leadership.

    Defining what national security ISN’T seems to be more important than defining what it is.

  17. Raising the voting age to 25 would be an excellent start.

  18. Thats foreign aid. Since no regime that can destroy us or intimidate our politicians is a place where we would expect to conduct such an aid program… Defining what national security ISN’T seems to be more important than defining what it is.

    Yes and that consideration may well be what ultimately drove the ASPI comparison of models. There needs to be a properly military model of the military. Otherwise, as I said, you get a situation (like now) where most of the army are essentially SES dudes with Steyr rifles. You might as well have them fitted for orange overalls.

  19. Yeah I think so. But I suspect it would be better to shoot for 35. Things are pretty desperate. And we would want the opposition to water things down rather than like-minded people start off compromising up front.

    I don’t know whether that would be better for every type of election down the line. You would want a balanced system.

    Its just so strange to think that perhaps 15 years ago we would not be even contemplating that our ability to make our own decisions could be unravelled so quickly. We would be more worried that your average voter doesn’t appreciate how counterproductive all this spending is. But now its like the issue of sovereignty is the only thing that matters. Since if we lose that then thats the endgame and it is a situation that cannot be helped after that.

  20. 35 is probably fine too. But there may need to be an upper age limit of say 65. Otherwise you’ll just have pensioners voting themselves rich and destroying the country.

    • Yeah I don’t know that that could fly. They are after all a very vulnerable part of society. If one lot of votes were taxpayer only and one lot of votes were 35+ as well as the defense force personnel, there may be some balance there.

  21. The other possibility is to allow people aged 65+ to vote for the Senate only.

    • Right. For me it might be a situation where taxeaters of all sorts only voted for the Senate. Or something like that.

    • I think we have to go for the strongest model on offer. Because you think about how relaxed and comfortable we would have to be for our politicians to be happy with pulling out of the WTO, the world bank, the UN, any nuclear limitations treaty, to throw out all Chinese spies, alter our immigration to exclude certain high-risk populations, and announce that we were going nuclear. Now people would be worried about this. They would do the Humprheys/Soon deal where they are scared shitless and they project it onto the other guy. Unless we are really pretty powerful people will rail against all those measures we would want to enhance our sovereignty.

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