Aussies - Start Fighting for Real

Are Aussies too soft?

  • Yes - about as hard as wet paper bag mate!

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No - they are "nails", just not at the moment.

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#1
Sent from a mate in the Aussie army. It seems they are frustrated with getting the "soft" roles in contemporary theatres.

Start fighting for real

Paul Kelly, Editor-at-large | July 23, 2008

THE most highly placed Australian to serve in Iraq has offered a lethal critique of the Australian way of war in its diplomatic, strategic and military dimensions, challenging the orthodoxy of the Howard and Rudd governments.

Major General Jim Molan's perspective is unique. In 2004 he served as chief of operations to the US commander of the multinational force in Iraq, General George Casey, seeing virtually nothing of Australian forces but at the headquarters' epicentre.

In his new book Running the War in Iraq, Molan has much to say about the war but the sting is his critique of Australia, its war culture and its diplomatic and alliance strategy.

Molan is a champion of the Australian Defence Forces and deeply aware of its recent successes. But at the end of his book he makes a frontal assault on Australia's strategic orthodoxy. He is appalled at our complacency and reluctance to accept political and military responsibility. His views are relevant given a new defence White Paper commissioned by the Rudd Government.

Putting it bluntly, Molan, who retired a fortnight ago, says Australia is not prepared "to fight a war involving sustained combat". As a professional, he is embarrassed. The conclusion from his book is that Australia has been too successful in winning political dividends from extremely limited military commitments. Sooner or later, he believes, our luck will expire.

Molan argues that Australia's political and military mindset has a view of the ADF "skewed too far towards humanitarian operations, peacekeeping and peacemaking, and away from war-fighting". For Molan, this is the central lesson for Australia from the Iraq war, a radical take within the contemporary debate.

He is too polite to state the obvious. But this softer view of the ADF suits the political class, the Coalition and the Labor Party, much of the ADF itself and is championed by many of our strategic thinkers. It is a means by which Australia is a faithful alliance partner, a niche military player and minimises casualties.

In Iraq, the British asked the Howard government to accept responsibility for a province. Australia refused. It shrank at the idea of such responsibility. In Afghanistan, the Rudd Government has launched an international campaign saying the West has no winning strategy. But Australia won't make any unilateral extra troop commitment.

When Molan left his post at HQ in Iraq, what did the Australian Government do? It refused to replace him. It didn't want an Australian officer with such responsibility.

Molan's vision from Iraqi headquarters was that US military leaders divided nations into "swimmers and non-swimmers": those nations whose troops fight and die, and those who attend to show the flag.

His implication is clear: Australia went to Iraq but, outside the special forces, it didn't fight. It was essentially showing the flag.

Showing the flag is an important political exercise, but nations should be self-aware of the consequences of such limited commitment.

In his book, Molan says: "Iraq confirmed my long-held belief that even a small country such as Australia needs to be up to world standard in the fighting part of operations. Every soldier's bone in my body tells me that modern counterinsurgency operations in what may be a long war will require the ADF, not just our special forces, to fight jointly as well as do all the other clever things that are necessary in a three-block war.

"(Former general) Peter Cosgrove ran a masterful campaign in East Timor - I was there and I watched him on the ground in Dili with admiration - but the level of troop opposition fell below what one would call 'war-fighting'. Our troops were involved in several clashes in East Timor and were ready for much more, but it was not the kind of close combat that is under way every day in modern urban counterinsurgencies.

"In the Solomons, the ADF's commitment was small and, thanks to competent civilian and military leadership, no combat occurred."

In Iraq and Afghanistan, Australia's special forces were effective in combat. Air and maritime operations were highly effective. The troops in southern Iraq were "a very light force" that was not tested in combat.

In Iraq, offensive operations and fighting were left to Britain and the US. Not Australia. Molan says most nations that committed to Iraq restricted their troops to "non-offensive or non-combat roles, many for the simple reason that they were not capable of fighting a modern insurgent force in a city". Include Australia in such ranks.

Both Iraq and Afghanistan reveal the Australian way of war: pledge early, make the minimum commitment and plan to evacuate as soon as possible. In both cases we had to recommit because the wars were going badly. But our allies are not mugs; they know the Australian game. American and British politicians accepted casualties for a cause in which they believed. Australian politicians are reluctant to enter this zone.

Molan says Australia does not have generals who control troops on the battlefield. It has not been involved in "serious, joint, sustained combat since Vietnam". Instead, it luxuriates in limited deployments of choice within wars of choice.

His critics will say that Australia has been smart. After all, there are no prizes for war dead. But Molan thinks such cleverness will rebound against Australia because this strategy cannot work forever.

He argues, first, that urban insurgency is only going to intensify. He predicts this trend in Afghanistan and says it will be a strong theme of future wars. The enemy knows Western technological advantage is weakened in urban warfare. Second, Afghanistan will be lost unless a stronger military commitment is made, another test of political will and responsibility.

Third, it is Australia's enemies that will have a major say in dictating our future military engagements, not Canberra's strategic experts. We delude ourselves to think Australia can just decide how and when to fight.

Any Australian decision that it doesn't need the arms, protection, training and combat ethos for modern intensive warfare but prefers instead to limit the ADF to lighter East Timor-type operations and peacekeeping will have huge strategic consequences.

It will severely limit Australia's future defence and foreign policy options. It will also limit the capacity of the ADF for joint operations with allies and for leadership of regional coalitions.
 
#3
Not sure if the Australian Armed Forces are as tough as the old 'digger' of days gone bye but the populace do have a mentality of 'can do' and I have in the past fought along side them, trusted them, thought them proffessional in an Antipodean way and have no real reason to think things have changed that much.
edited to add.... don't blame the soldiers for the politicains failures.
 
#4
A bit negative to say the least. The same criticism could have been levelled at British Forces pre GW1 as they had not seen large scale warfighting since the Korean War and dodged the Vietnam War. Didn't seem to have that much effect on the fighting capability of the current British Forces.
 
#5
Fair article there have already been stories about Aussies ashamed to wear their uniform because of the risk averse rules of engagement and they they didn't sign up to guard cement mixers in Uruzgan where they are again being looked after by the Dutch.

Perhaps their non-deployable Division needs to made deployable and get them to actually take command and control of a province instead of becoming gloried war tourists in the Busmaster Kombi vans with a note from matron when things get tasty.

The Canadians can step up, why not the Diggers?
 
#6
Those Diggers who really want to fight can easily join our army. Stop being whinging Aussies and come on over and take the Queen's shilling. :twisted:

(Tongue firmly in cheek as I'm half Aussie meeself and grew up there. It's our family skeleton in closet and we don't talk about it in front of the children :wink: )

D_B
 
#7
I'm sure Major General Jim Molan, has made a valid point in terms of the Austalian Army and it's soldiers' not being involved enough in day to day combat/operations in Afgan and Iraq. I also read that many Aussie soldiers' currently serving in those theatres, are very frustrated and pissed at the lack of action. I can understand how they feel.

It's not the soldiers', but the politicians' and Generals that make these policys/decisions. It has nothing to do with how hard or soft soldiers' are!!

Lats
 
#8
dogs_bollox said:
Those Diggers who really want to fight can easily join our army. Stop being whinging Aussies and come on over and take the Queen's shilling. :twisted:

(Tongue firmly in cheek as I'm half Aussie meeself and grew up there. It's our family skeleton in closet and we don't talk about it in front of the children :wink: )

D_B
So what are you saying about Brits who transfer to the Australian Army?
 
#9
My experience of the Aussies (hosted several Long Lookers, served with the HQ elms in Baghdad and saw the odd few in Basra) is that the soldiers want to do more, the politicians do not want them to.

The fact that the Aussie govt feel that they can limit involvement could be seen to be a bold move.

As to the UK "dodging" Vietnam, I wasn't aware we were ever asked to contribute to that particular pooh trap and we have been continuously deployed every year since WW2, regardless of the scale of the respective theatres/conflicts. the fact they were "small wars", counter-insurgency and empire evacuations hardly makes the Brits pussies from Korea to GW1. Plus the expected terror or the cold-war drew most of our effort.

You could even argue that the Aussies are even more guilty of war-shyness due to the ghosts of Vietnam than the US ever have been accused of being.
 
#10
I've got a mucker in the Aussie who transferred from UK a few years ago ang they're absolutely f*cking livid that they're not getting stuck in. It seams that it's not so much the military or the population, more their Government petrified of seeing body bags come home.

The Aussies are definitely not soft - i'd say they're nails.
 
#11
western said:
dogs_bollox said:
Those Diggers who really want to fight can easily join our army. Stop being whinging Aussies and come on over and take the Queen's shilling. :twisted:

(Tongue firmly in cheek as I'm half Aussie meeself and grew up there. It's our family skeleton in closet and we don't talk about it in front of the children :wink: )

D_B
So what are you saying about Brits who transfer to the Australian Army?
That they are 55 year old, institutionalised and want a cushy posting in the sun for five years whilst wearing a silly hat.
 
#13
western said:
A bit negative to say the least. The same criticism could have been levelled at British Forces pre GW1 as they had not seen large scale warfighting since the Korean War and dodged the Vietnam War. Didn't seem to have that much effect on the fighting capability of the current British Forces.
We were involved in lots of little wars in that time. Some COIN and one little shindig "darn sarf" if I remember correctly. That sort of thing not only keeps the edge sharp but biuld in new leasons and experiance.
Plus we had 30 years of counter-insurgancy in NI. Belfast is a different place to Basrah but it gave us a good foundation to biuld on and some of the most advanced technowledgy and persnal for dealing with IED's.

Austrailers current policitical climate means they are not moving foward with military tatics or docturine. Thats fine in peace time, but if a large scale war kicks off they will be using Vietnam era tactics, or stuff they have seen the UK and US use. It could lead to a major issures later on.
 
#14
The US didn't want a masisve commitment from Britain anyway, understanding we had other things on our plate....though they would have liked a token contribution, indeed LBJ himself said "A platoon of bagpipers would be sufficient; it was the British flag that was needed"
 
#16
blonde_guy said:
The US didn't want a masisve commitment from Britain anyway, understanding we had other things on our plate....though they would have liked a token contribution, indeed LBJ himself said "A platoon of bagpipers would be sufficient; it was the British flag that was needed"
To be fair that's all the US really needed in the last few outings too.
 
#17
Does everone take a sensitive pill before the post on this site? My point is that apart from Korea and possibly Suez we were not involved in major war fighting from 1945 until GW1. This is one of the points leveled in criticism at the Aussies in the article. I am suggesting that it does not make them any less effective than us.

By the way Django, Harold Wilson made sure that it was Government policy that we did not commit to Vietnam along with our South East Asian Allies. Pretty much the same as those NATO Allies who have not committed to Afghanistan. See here for a very intersting article http://www.americansc.org.uk/online/Wilsonjohnson.htm

Ed, fair enough
 
#18
Bloody politians stopping everyone from getting stuck in and having some fun...

Again Aussies are as tough as the rest of the western world's armys,i mean there the scum and criminal elements of our own dear blighty stuck on an island with tropics and deserts they should be...better then UK forces...nah.

Bloody coward generals and politians to scared to do any good in this world for the sake of someone throwing there toy out the pram cos a few soldiers got slotted doing what they were trained to do,just so they can stay in power for another few years,makes me wretch.

*******

Anyway i'm now ranting total crap.
 
#20
I think you will find some are taking a more active role, my bro (brit did his 22 and joined Oz Army) completed his second stint out in Stan and they were definately stuck in as it were......
 

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