This Project argues that in the 21st Century the World can’t afford a conflict between major power blocs: USA, China, EU and/or Russia. There is too much commercial inter-dependence. So military forces and hardware will only be used against Second and Third World countries – as has happened over the last fifty years. The cost of traditional defence strategies is horrendous, the outcomes have been and continue to be disastrous for the populations involved and Australia is less secure as a result. In recent years Australia has not sought the make friends with neighbouring countries – we have cut the Aid budget and increased the military budget.

While the Christian teaching clearly given by Jesus is “to love your enemies, to do good to those who hurt you”, this has never been followed by Australian Prime Ministers, most of whom in recent years have claimed to be Christian.
As killing our perceived enemies is very expensive yet has not improved our security, it is time to do a major re-think about the means to ensure international security.

In the 21st Century it is obvious that military forces are becoming increasingly irrelevant except for disaster relief, border security and international policing assignments.

Over the last fifty years, at the USA’s insistence, Australia has been involved in three expensive major invasions: Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. It has been estimated that the cost to USA for its Afghanistan invasion will total US$3 trillion. Then there is the human cost.

Australia participated in the invasion of Vietnam on the basis that it was a major threat to Australia. Many Australians now visit Vietnam, a developing Communist country, and wonder how USA and Australian politicians ever saw Vietnam as a threat.

The Iraq invasion has been a total disaster.

The Afghanistan conflict continues to be a disaster.

Money will always be a critical factor with defence. Australia’s 2015 budget allocated an additional $550 million for the war against ISIL/DAESH. While the Defence Force does not give a “kill count” of bodies it is unlikely this would be more than 100 – so the cost-per-kill is $5,500,000 for each body.

Australia Inc, has always spent more than it earned internationally. In the 2015 calendar year the loss was $75 billion. These losses are reported as Australia’s Current Account Deficit. Each year’s deficit is added to previous years and reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in Cat 5302.0. At 31 December 2015 Australia’s net debt to the rest-of-the-world was $1,006 billion ($1 trillion). USA also runs at a significant deficit. China runs at a large surplus and is the world’s largest creditor nation. When a country has to rely on other countries’ savings to pay its bills it is inevitably vulnerable to financial blackmail.

Australia’s main exports are commodities with little value-adding and these are not unique. China, presently perceived as a military threat, buys one third of our exports. In contrast Australia, while a useful market for Chinese goods, is not essential to China. If China were to boycott imports from Australia, or just subtly divert its buying elsewhere, Australia would be in real financial trouble.

Military might will not defend Australia against economic, cyber or trade agreement attacks.

Of course it is essential that Australia has good defence – but defence appropriate for the 21st Century. So it is appropriate to look at the type and cost effectiveness of the defence we need.

Australia has 3 lines of defence:

AID – as well as meeting the moral obligation, Aid should be the first line of defence on the basis that it is important to make friends with neighbours, important countries and communities. After World War II Australia developed the Colombo Plan which provided scholarships for students from Asian countries. These students returned home and often became leaders and in those capacities bore much goodwill to Australia.

The USA used to have a Peace Corp which established much goodwill in developing countries but that initiative was abandoned. USA is now more identified with military aid, often for military dictatorships (Egypt) or dysfunctional countries (Pakistan).

In contrast to USA, China has been very active with aid in many regions. In Australia’s region China has had highly visible aid projects in the South Pacific. Related to its aid is China’s aggressive investment strategy, usually in raw material/mining ventures which in turn has encouraged Chinese immigration. In the Solomon Islands, for example, ethnic Chinese are now the dominant commercial community.

DIPLOMACY – when tensions arise between Australia and other countries or communities it is diplomacy that has to be used to resolve differences – so the need for a highly professional diplomatic people is essential.

Related to diplomacy is our support for the United Nations, which urgently needs reform, but is still a most powerful force for peace. Now key parts of the UN are the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. Both these judicial bodies have been actively supported by Australian Governments. At present the ICC has no authority over major countries such as USA, Russia, China and Israel – so there is need for the ICC to be fully international, not just a tool of the powerful against the weak. But its role in the future will expand and (with luck and support) become a major deterrent to aggression and human rights abuse.

A key diplomatic tool has been the UN imposing sanctions many years ago on South Africa to bring an end to apartheid and more recently against Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment programme. Israel is very worried that a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in protest against its oppression of the Palestinians will get international support.

MILITARY – Australia’s defence forces have done excellent jobs in East Timor, as part of RAMSI in the Solomon Islands and in various disaster relief operations in Australia and the South Pacific.

The cost of Australia’s involvement in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan has been enormous in both money and the toll on young defence personnel’s lives.

In the 21st Century it is difficult to see where a military threat of major significance would come from. The implied threat is usually China as it flexes it might against USA. The world today has all major countries inter-dependent: Australia on China to buy our raw materials, China on USA as a major customer for its manufactured products, USA on China (and other creditor nations) for borrowings to fund its deficits.

In World War II Australia interned for the duration of the war those citizens who had migrated from Germany. If Australia went into conflict with China and wanted to intern migrant citizens from China then whole parts of Sydney and other cities would grind to a halt – as would hospitals, universities and many businesses. So a major conflict with China is unthinkable!

Australia should continue to be ready with military resources for international police operations and disaster relief at home and abroad.

Australia should be ready to defend its economy and social structure against cyber attacks from nations, criminals or pressure groups.

But for those roles it is impossible to see why, for example, Australia needs submarines. Certainly there is need for transport planes, coastal patrol vessels and related equipment – but for supersonic fighter planes when existing fighter planes have never been in a hot war?

Please send any comments, corrections and contributions to:

Harry Wallace
Major Issues and Theology Foundation Ltd