Fear of Abandonment – Australia in the World since 1942
Published by La Trobe University Press/Black Inc
RRP $34.99 in paperback, 352pp • ISBN 9781863959186
This book attracted widespread attention on its recent release, almost certainly because of the credentials of its author.
Allan Gyngell was Director-General of the Office of National Assessments from 2009 to 2013. Prior to that, he was the founding executive director of the Lowy Institute. He was also foreign policy adviser to Paul Keating and worked as a diplomat, policy officer and analyst, all of which make him eminently qualified to write the story of Australia’s foreign policy.
In Fear of Abandonment, Gyngell tells the story of how Australia has shaped the world and been shaped by it since it established an independent foreign policy during the critical days of 1942.
Gyngell argues that the fear of being abandoned – originally by Britain, and later by our most powerful ally, the United States – has been an important driver of how Australia acts in the world.
But as Gyngell concedes in his very last paragraph, “this book has been prologue, not prediction. The question is: what comes next? Everything Australia wants to accomplish as a nation depends on its capacity to understand the world outside its borders and respond effectively to it.”
This book deserves an extensive readership, particularly among those tasked with setting Australia’s foreign policy agenda.
Australia’s Defence Strategy
Evaluating alternatives for a contested Asia
By Adam Lockyer
Published by Melbourne University Publishing
RRP $59.99 in paperback * ISBN 9780522869316
How would we know a good defence strategy if we saw one? This is one of the first questions Adam Lockyer poses in his book, having first acknowledged that there is no shortage of defence strategy suggestions across the range of Australian defence scholarship.
As he writes, the central aim of his book is to take our knowledge of strategy that final mile and construct a framework that can ‘test’ proposed defence strategies and identify their respective strengths and weakness.
By doing so, this book breaks new theoretical ground and makes an important contribution to our understanding of strategy in general and defence strategy in particular. Lockyer then applies this analytical tool to the leading arguments in Australia’s defence debate and finds that there is still substantial work to be done.
He writes compellingly of his understanding of ‘measures short of war’ that nations use to expand their spheres of influence, stopping short of anything that would prompt a military response.
Lockyer concludes by proposing a new Australian defence strategy for a contested Asia that would pass the test for a ‘good’ defence strategy.
The result is essential reading for anyone interested in strategy or the future of Australian defence policy.
Lessons and challenges for the Australian Army since East Timor
Edited by Tom Frame & Albert Palazzo
Published by UNSW Press
RRP $39.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781742235097
On Ops is an insightful collection of essays exploring the lessons and challenges that have arisen for the Australian Army since 1999 when its peacekeeping task force was deployed to East Timor.
As Tom Frame writes in his introductory chapter, “when the Cold War ended in 1990, no one could (or did) predict that over the next 25 years, Australian Army personnel would be deployed to Rwanda, Cambodia, Somalia, Bougainville, East Timor, Afghanistan. Iraq or the Solomon Islands”.
The book is divided into six sections which address the issues from a range of perspectives:
- The bigger picture;
- Views from the other side of the hill;
- Operational and ready?;
- Views from the media;
- On ethics and morality; and
- Final assessments.
A diverse array of contributors has been assembled, who examine how the Australian Army performed in various situations.
According to Craig Stockings, the deployment to East Timor was dogged by a “creaky logistics system” and this theme was echoed by David Beaumont who asserts that the Army’s logistics success over the last 15 years has been “more a factor of good luck than good planning”.
This is in large part due to the Army “consistently deferring investment in logistics, giving preference to other areas”.
Australia’s American Alliance
Edited By Peter Dean, Stephan Frühling & Brendan Taylor
Published by Melbourne University Publishing
RRP $59.99 in paperback
This book is specifically designed as a companion volume to Australia’s Defence: Towards a New Era?
The Australia-United States Alliance has been critical to Australian foreign and defence policy since the ANZUS Treaty was signed in 1951.
For 63 years it has been an enduring feature of Australian defence planning, yet the contemporary alliance is, arguably, in one of the more important phases of reinterpretation in its long history.
While the Alliance by its very nature is a bi-lateral relationship, this book focuses on Australian perspectives and policy choices, while providing context on the role of the United States in the Asia-Pacific and its position as a global power.
The list of expert contributors to this book is substantial with familiar names such as Kim Beazley among them.
Donald Trump rates little attention beyond his campaign promise to substantially revise the terms of US alliances if allies do not contribute more to their own defence. In the light of his subsequent election as US president, this book may require revision in the near future as analysts come to understand the full implications for the US/Australia Alliance under a Trump presidency.
Edited by Peter Dean, Brendan Taylor, Stephan Frühling
Published by Melbourne University Press www.mup.com.au
RRP $49.99 in paperback ISBN: 9780522866070
I thought that Gareth Evan’s assessment of this book was a big call for a small tome – “This timely and comprehensive volume leaves future Australian policy-makers with few excuses for getting things wrong” – but in fact this small but dense book does pack in a lot of excellent, well-researched yet succinct papers. Beyond the three editors, the contributors are a veritable who’s who of the roll call of defence and strategic analysts in Australia – names such as Richard Brabin-Smith, Paul Dibb and Mark Thomson will resonate with many.
The book follows in the footsteps of the ANU’s T B Millar who, fifty years ago, penned a seminal book on Australian defence policy in the lead up to the Vietnam War. This new book brings together leading experts to examine the domestic and international context of Australia’s defence policy, Australian strategy and the size and state of our armed forces.
It’s concise, easy to read and it pulls no punches: Mark Thomson, for example, writes about the relationship between the Department of Defence and the Minister (of which there has been many – 10 in 19 years since the election of the Howard Government). He describes the rocky tenure of Stephen Smith (Defence Minister from 14 Sept 2010 to 18 Sept 2013), saying that with growing distrust comes a tendency to refer ever more minor matters upwards for ministerial approval.
If I was a Minister new to the portfolio or ministerial staff new to the portfolio, I’d slip this in my pocket and read it at every available opportunity. It would be beside my bed or downloaded as an ebook on my iPad. It’s the best crib available.