This comprehensive paper by Professor Michael Evans, published as part of the Land Warfare Studies Centre Study Papers, examines Australia’s strategic culture and way of war over the course of a century. It seeks to analyse the relationship between ideas and practice and between geography and history in the evolution of Australian strategic behaviour. The study argues that, since Federation in 1901, there has been, and continues to be, a ‘tyranny of dissonance’ between Australian strategic theory and its warfighting practice. While peacetime Australian strategic theory has frequently upheld the defence of geography as a foundation of defence policy, strategic activity in wartime and security crisis has usually been undertaken to uphold Australia’s liberal democratic values and vital political interests. The monograph goes on to explore this paradox through examining the linkages between Australia’s political culture, strategic culture and approach to warfighting.
The study argues that, while Australia’s political culture and warfighting practice are distinguished by pragmatism, the country’s strategic culture has often been overly theoretical and, as a result, has seldom provided a sound guide to military practice in times of war and crisis. Important influences on Australia’s strategic culture and approach to war such as the country’s liminal geopolitical status, its continental rather than maritime identity, links between foreign policy and defence, and the impact of the ANZAC tradition are analysed in an attempt to illuminate the problem of dissonance.
The study concludes with an examination of how the new globalised security environment of the early 21st century has contributed to the disconnection between doctrine and practice in Australian strategy. The paper argues that, in security conditions characterised by networks, rapid information dissemination and global interdependence, Australia can no longer afford to tolerate a dissonance between its strategic planning and operational commitments. The monograph recommends that declaratory strategy be aligned to real-world military commitments and that, in order to ensure such a situation, defence and diplomacy be closely linked in a ‘strategy of security’ or ‘whole of government’ approach to security. In an interdependent 21st-century strategic environment, only a ‘whole of government’ system is capable of integrating Australia’s increasingly diverse, yet interconnected, security requirements.
The paper is well worth the investment in time taken to read it, however it is certainly a ‘long read’ – so make sure you set aside a large portion of time before you dive into this one, or tackle it in sections.