Jottings and Quotes, Otherwise a Tome.

(Dear reader, a serial in a few parts.)


The Enemy Without.

In me last edition of Serf Under–ground, I referred ter the fortunate victory in the time of Elizabeth the First of a makeshift British naval fleet over the powerful Spanish Armada. It was a near thing for Britain. But the English victory was less due ter the ingenuity of its British sea-dogs than the Spaniards’ poor tactics and violent storms that destroyed the Spanish Armada. More from Robert Hutchinson author of ‘The Spanish Armada,’ regarding how the Spanish Armada was really defeated:

‘Because of Elizabeth’s parsimony, driven by an embarrassingly empty exchequer, the English ships were starved of gunpowder and ammunition and so failed to land a killer blow on the ‘Great and Most Fortunate Navy’ during the nine days of skirmishing up the English Channel in July-August 1588.

Only six Spanish ships that sailed against England were destroyed as a direct result of naval combat. A minimum of fifty Armada ships, probably as many as sixty-four, were lost through accident or during the Atlantic storms that scattered the fleet en route to England and as it limped, badly battered, back to northern Spain.’

The outcome of this battle at sea had a larger significance:

“The Spanish Armada campaign of 1588 changed the course of European History. If the Duke of Parma’s 27,000 strong invasion force had safely crossed the narrow seas from Flanders, the survival of Elizabeth I’s government and Protestant England would have looked doubtful indeed. If those battle-hardened Spanish troops had landed as planned, near Margate on the Kent coast, it is likely that they would have been in the poorly defended streets of London within a week and the queen and her ministers killed. England would have reverted to the Catholic faith and there may not have been a British Empire to come.’ (R. H.‘The Spanish Armada.’ 2014.)

War and Peace.

Fer Britain a near miss and there have been quite a few others. Heh, doesn’t do ter be too complacent regarding ‘war and peace,’ even regarding long periods of peace. Read what historian Professor Geoffrey Blainey has to say in his book, ‘The Causes of War.’

If you think it’s only ‘war’ and not ‘peace’ that have ter be explained, think again. War as aberration, hmm, here’s Blainey in Chapter One, ‘The Peace that Passeth Understanding’, with some stats. He cites a study by American Sociologist, Pitirim Sorokin who once busied himself by counting the number of years countries spent at war. His birthplace, Russia, since AD 901 had been at war forty-six out of every hundred years. England, since the time of William the Conqueror was fighting somewhere, fifty-six years in every century and Spain experienced even more years at war.

Blainey surveys all the international wars fought since 1700 up to the book’s publication. He examines and refutes some well known theories of why wars occur and offers his own explanations of factors determining a nation’s decision to fight or not to fight. Knowledge of leaders, gleaned through their private communication, the perceptions and aims that have influenced those who make decisions for war or peace, are vital in explaining the outbreak of both events.

In chapters entitled ‘While Waterbirds Fight’ and ‘Death Watch and Scapegoat Wars,’ Blainey catalogues a long list of hostile acts of opportunism by nations when they see a rival nation otherwise engaged, busy on another front, or under pressure. The death of a king, internal revolution etc can be a herald for war. In 1700 the rulers of Saxony, Denmark and Russia went to war against Sweden, whose boy ruler, Charles X11, had not been long on the throne. In all, eight wars of the eighteenth century were heralded and influenced by the death of a monarch. On the eve of the Crimean War, the Russian Emperor confided to the English Ambassador, that Turkey, ‘the sick man of Europe’ was about to collapse. Blainey argues that opportunism is a major factor in bringing nations to fight:

‘Opportunism, and the veiled or open use of force, pervade every phase of the sequence of war and peace. They pervade the start of a war, the continuation of war and the end of war. They pervade the start of peace, the continuation of peace and the end of peace. War and peace are fluctuating phases of a relationship between nations, and the opportunism pervades the entire relationship.’ (G.B. Ch 11.)

Say, given the above, yer’d likely say that preparedness and alertness to defence of the nation is a must. So how about down under in Oz, the homeland of a serf?

Politics and Defence in Oz … The Saga of the Submarines.

When a former Labor Party Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, declared in a 2009 white paper on defence, that Australia would acquire twelve new submarines with capabilities far beyond the existing fleet, (the Collins Class Submarine, not Oz’ finest achievement,) in best naval tradition Rudd declared there was no time to lose.

Unfortunately, between then and losing office, Labor did almost nothing about the subs. Greg Sheridan, in ‘The Australian’ newspaper, 11/09/2014. reports:

‘Labor savagely cut the defence budget and introduced such instability into defence finance that any rational planning was impossible. Labor’s defence minister, Stephen Smith, constantly promised to deliver a defence capability but never did.’

As Sheridan concludes:

‘The fiasco of the subs replacement program was perhaps the single greatest security failure of Labor’s time in office. It did immense harm literally atrophying the sinews of our national defence capability.’

A problem for the Labor Party was its relationship with workplace unions.

‘Whichever way you look at it,’ observes Greg Sheridan, ‘the Collins Subs have been a disaster for Australia operationally, financially and, in a sense, politically. They have shown that we can’t build orphan-class submarines submarines – which is not surprising, nor can any nation our size – but neither can we abandon the political idea that we can create jobs by building subs.

So we can’t do it, and we won’t do it. The result is paralysis, which is exactly what we had for six years of Labor on the subs.’

But Australia needs submarines :

‘Submarines are an almost unique defence weapon. Their chief role is to kill ships and other subs. They are so dangerous in this role that they impose enormous costs on any adversary attempting to do something seriously against the will of a nation with a capable submarine fleet. They do other things too. Like the joint strike fighter, a modern sub is a mass of sensors. It gathers electronic information of every kind. It can land special forces. It can sneak up next to a key installation and blow it to bits. It is a capability that is powerful and unpredictable.’ (G.S. 11/09/2015.)

So how are we doing now that a Liberal Government has come to power in Oz? Prime Minister Abbot would like to buy Japanese subs, probably between eight and twelve, fitted with US combat systems and modified for our geographic requirements. Trouble is,
politics again. Election campaign promises for starters. In opposition, Abbott’s then defence spokesman, David Johnston, promised a Coalition government would build twelve subs in Adelaide.

In February this year, Sheridan again commenting:

‘To get the best sub at best price, having them constructed completely in a country that is used to building subs, such as Japan or Germany, makes the most sense. They fit into an established production line, in established production line, in established facilities, with the supportive infrastructures and economies of scale.’

Politics ‘n déjà vu all over again, he says, they say…

News, ABC. 20/05/2015. South Australia might not build make the first of the nation’s next submarines but remains optimistic about Australia’s prospects down the track.’

‘The Government wants both oversees and local firms to compete for the submarine work and Mr Macfarlane indicated it could initially be built off shore.’

‘The industry Minister says that at some of Australia’s current defence building efforts had been a ‘shocker…. Three times the cost to build an Air Warfare Destroyer here in Australia as to build it in Spain.’

‘The Federal Government has detailed its plans to build to build $40 billion worth of new surface ships for the navy in South Australia but the Prime Minister would not be drawn on where the service’s next generation of subs will be built. … the Government will build a fleet of frigates at the ASC ship building yard from 2020, and a further fleet of Off shore Combatant Vessels from 2018, with the start dates for both projects brought forward. ’ (ABC News Update, 04/08/2015.)

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherell welcomes the announcement but says that the ASC has a proven record in building submarines .

Opposition leader Bill Shorten accuses the Prime Minister of using the Adelaide ship building contract to save his own job… and so on…

Say, we’re talking about defence of the realm here. Seems some confusion as to which realm.

Pending the publication of the Abbott government white paper on defence, Alan Dupont of tha Lowy Institute for International Policy argues a new approach to national defence strategy:

‘The forthcoming defence white paper provides the first opportunity for the Abbott government to carry out a much-needed reset of Australia’s defence and military strategies. In place of a maritime strategy, Australia needs to adopt a ‘full spectrum’ approach to defence that can provide protection against military threats from outer space and cyber space, as well as the conventional domains of land, sea and air. Full spectrum defence must be underpinned by deeper and broader regional defence partnerships and by a risk assessment process that encourages critical thinking about strategy and the future capabilities of the Australian Defence Force.’ (AD ‘Full Spectrum Defence: Re-thinking the Fundamentals of the Australian Defence Strategy. 13/13/2015.)

Points elaborated by Alan Dupont are:

# While maritime policy remains vital in an island nation heavily reliant on international trade, the distance from conflicts, we once enjoyed is a less protective barrier today.

# Present defence policy fails to reflect the crucial role that space and cyber place now play in military operations. There has been little attempt to draw out defence implications of direction from which attack may come.

# Centuries of armed conflict suggest that armies do not always get to choose where they will fight. The spread of irregular conflicts suggest more urban conflicts likely.

# Protection under the US nuclear deterrent umbrella will not provide us with an effective protection against non-state and cyber attacks on our own territory.

# As deterrence against powerful states, the US Alliance remains central to Australia’s security but given changes to US policy for budge and doctrinal reasons, we need to face higher defence premiums compared to a somewhat free-loading past . We need to broaden our regional defence partnerships within and beyond the ANZUS alliance.

‘Australia needs a smarter, [short term] defence policy that is global as well as regional, and that identifies what the ADF needs to do ‘eliminating the gap between dogma and practice.’ In this process,’ says Alan Dupont, ‘our politicians must play their role too. Greater engagement and leadership on defence issues would be a good start. But they must also resist the temptation to play politics with defence policy by interfering with good process, remembering that the next generation of Australians may have to pay a price for today’s poor decisions.’

Ter be continued …


  1. A well-jotted, well-considered SuG. We do not need Detroit-on-Torrens to make (briefly) floatable Edsels. Adelaide’s bid to become the world’s costliest Men’s Shed with the world’s costliest electricity is not quite what one needs right now. Maybe they could revive Ben Ean Moselle and Coolabah Claret and sell them to China as prestige bevvies..or something.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s