Australian Commentary (21) – Australia’s Defence in a New Era (III)

Americans over-estimate the importance of technical gadgets of war, look upon other governments as inferior, look upon other peoples as inferior, do not understand foreign systems, separate the world into good guys (Americans) and bad guys (whoever doesn’t agree with Americans), refuse to face realities, think that wars can be run like production lines, focus on body counts, kills and statistics, view systems that are different as threats, and on and on. [1]

If the US has nearly out-lived its sustainability date, in terms of its ability to dominate international affairs, and the Chinese do see themselves as an emergent Asian nation, determined to throw off the shackles of US control, Australia potentially could really have a serious defence problem on its hands. This requires that we seriously re-think Australia’s defence philosophy, with a view to being able to function vigorously, independent of the US.

For fifty years, western defence planners have been enamoured with weapons that are expensive, shiny, and go “Whoosh!” But these are not the weapons that are winning wars today. The US, with control of the air and the sea, and the most modern weapons and technology in the world, has lost 3 wars lately (in Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan) to the low-intensity techniques and weapons of guerrilla warfare: the sniper-rifle, the sub-machine gun, the road-side bomb, and patience.[2] As the Afghans have reportedly said to the US, “You’ve got the watches; we’ve got the time.”

The exponent of guerrilla warfare knows he has time on his side. He doesn’t have to win by tomorrow or even by next year, whereas invaders of nations are generally in a great hurry to finish their task quickly. The guerrilla defender knows he can choose his opportunities for harassing action when appropriate, generally avoiding large-scale confrontations and casualties. This strategy has the examples of history on its side.

The textbooks will tell us that the American Revolution was won by George Washington. But how would Washington ever have won, were it not for the independent, behind-the-scenes work of the American militia, constantly harassing the British when they were stupid enough to venture out into the countryside? Guerrilla defence structures are decentralised and partially independent, taking their opportunities when they find them, not focussed on the quick-fix. They can make the price of invasion very high indeed.

Australian defence planning has the opportunity to head in this direction, and with this added feature. Rather than continuing to major on a professional military force, Australia could take a page from the Swiss handbook, utilising a citizen militia, of 1-2 million men, prepared to fight beforehand, called up in a time of invasion. That would not be too difficult to draw from a nation of 22 million.

Yes, this would require changes to gun-laws, permitting 1-2 million men to possess a machine-gun at home, and it would take years to prepare for. Interestingly, the Swiss were not invaded in WWI, or in WWII, even though the Germans shared a border with the Swiss. Even Hitler (though happy to invade Soviet Russia which possessed over 300 divisions), was shrewd enough to avoid the Swiss porcupine on his southern border. Furthermore, the Swiss today have one of the lowest rates of gun-related violence in Europe.

You think an invader could easily deal with an Australian militia force of one million? That invader would have his work cut out, because he is not just fighting a professional army; he is facing the core of the community, utterly opposed to every move he makes. That invader has few friends, but hundreds of angry, armed enemies wherever he goes, who would be giving him every possible encouragement to choose: either go home, or get shot. Most people prefer the first option.

I’d be the first to admit: this isn’t going to happen anytime soon, because there isn’t the political will to see it happen. Too many voters are still afraid of firearms spread around the community that could theoretically be used to harm innocent people. And while the US looks as though it could assist in any defence crisis we face, the Australian community will still slumber.

But when it becomes obvious that the US can’t cut the mustard anymore, we’ll have to re-think our defences. Let us hope and pray we have time to prepare, unlike in 1941-42. Then, having expected help from Britain in time of war, we found ourselves seriously unprepared for crisis: enemy midget submarines were in Sydney harbour, and Japanese bombs were falling on Australian soil.

As Enoch Powell said in 1968,

The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils.      


[1] Mike Rozeff, (US economist),  “US Military Defeated in Viet Nam,” (, 24/5/2012

[2] The expert on these issues, is the American, William Lind. (See his work on 4th Generation warfare.)