to the New World Disorder
reason, going to the beach looked too difficult, so I decided to sit
out the summer in the café catching up with reading and old
friends. I was hunkered down at my favourite table with a cider when
Stanley, the old retired colonel, came in. He always had fascinating
gossip on military affairs so I shouted him a drink.
So whats 2006 going to bring, Stan? I asked.
Things will be ugly. An elegant solution to Iraq just isnt
going to happen. He took a swig on his beer and fastidiously
wiped the foam off his moustache before continuing.
John Howard comes on like hes a great friend of George
Bush and an ardent champion of the Iraq war but actually hes
done just about all he can to stay out of the place. If he really
was a true believer hed have about 10,000 troops there, rather
than a few hundred, but I hear that every time Bush rings him hes
full of excuses.
troops? No problemo, George. I gotta tell you, our soldiers are so
highly trained, every one of them is worth twenty of anyone elses
and Ill send you both of them. And he does, but
the next time George rings, hes put on hold for about 15 minutes
and then hes told that Johns in an important meeting about
the ethnic problem with Alan Jones and Piers Ackerman, or even
Miranda Devine and Paul Sheehan and hell get right back
real soon now. And after a while the line goes dead. The last
thing Howard wants, electorally, is even a trickle of bodies coming
home in boxes.
This game has been going on for years now, but I reckon even
a rat-cunning politician like Howard wont be able to put the
Yanks off much longer, and he knows it. Look at Bob Menzies. He was
horrified when the Yanks first tried to get him to commit troops to
Vietnam and he refused, but they wore him down.
So whats this stuff about the big reorganisation of the
On the surface, the changes dont look particularly newsworthy,
Theres a bit of waffle about boosting the Army by 1500 to 28,000
by 2011. Thats so boring it looks its designed to make
the average reader flip over to the sport. But if you look behind
that, whats important is what the changes might be a preparation
Firstly, its an attempt to quickly add a bit of extra
capacity to the Army just enough for Howard to be able to boost
numbers in Iraq to three thousand or so next year if Bush really tells
him hes gotta stop ducking the issue. Theres this bit
about reconfiguringthe army to form battlegroups
of infantry, armour, artillery and aviation. That sounds suspiciously
like the task force structure we had in Vietnam. By converting
the parachute battalion into a mechanised infantry outfit thats
shorthand for men in armoured personnel carriers and adding
it to the Darwin-based 1 Brigade, theyve pretty much got a task
force of three thousand they could despatch to Iraq. And as backup
theyre restructuring the Reserves to produce 2,800 high-readiness
troops grouped in small units. That would give them a bit of leeway
to rotate troops on a regular basis.
But even with all that, a small, balanced, task force of three
thousand is about the maximum they could commit
theyd need conscription.
But why move the parachute battalion out of Holsworthy and down
The spin is that in Adelaide theyve got good access to
a local training area plus, with the new Adelaide to Darwin rail link,
they can easily get to other training grounds in Central and Northern
Australia. But consider this: under the plan, Sydneys Holsworthy
base gets freed up for some other role, and thats just what
youd need if you were going to reintroduce conscription: a big
base and training area close to the countrys biggest city.
Once, there were plenty of bases on the outskirts of Sydney:
Ingleburn, Scheyville, Wallgrove and Holsworthy. There were a few
smaller ones as well. Scheyville and Ingleburn went years ago and
Wallgrove became Australias Wonderland. If they really wanted
to bring back conscription the logical first step would be to free-up
Holsworthy by relocating a regular army unit and thats just
what theyre doing.
And notice that suddenly theres a new emphasis on the
local defence industry. After years of systematically running down
the old defence industry which was largely government-owned
in favour of sourcing equipment internationally, theres
suddenly a lot of blather about the government being committed
to policies that will build an internationally competitive defence
Thats the first rhetoric about national self-sufficiency
weve heard in years and I reckon its pretty significant.
That was the sort of line most governments pursued before the First
and Second World Wars. In a basically stable world, even one divided
into two camps, governments like to have small professional armies,
they like to equip them with the best possible gear as cheaply as
possible and they dont mind where they source it. When the possibility
arises that you might need a big army and you might get cut off from
supplies of basic weapons, all that goes out the window.
Dont get me wrong, I dont think Howard is really
keen on conscription, Actually, the whole idea would scare the hell
out of him
for thirty years, Australian governments have used
the American alliance as a way of avoiding conscription. Trouble is,
the alliance is suddenly dragging us into long, messy, regional wars
and occupations and for those, you need lots of boots on the ground.
THE SEDITION STAMP
READ ALSO >>>
slides further into the Iraq quagmire
tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
By GAVIN GATENBY
24 February 2005
John Howards decision to double Australias
ground troop commitment in Iraq was inevitable. The prime minister
put off the inevitable for as long as he could, but Australias
slavish adherence to the American alliance left him no option but
to dispatch more troops to George Bush's mad neo-colonial adventure.
His justification of the decision as necessary to stop the Coalition
crumbling put a desperate spin on the situation thats at odds
with Washingtons upbeat line on post-election Iraq.