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Subject: Anzac spirit but not battle ready
Volkodav    8/14/2008 7:53:17 AM
Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor | August 14, 2008 The Australian BIZARRE in every way though the Georgian request for Australian military support against the Russians was, it speaks well of our military reputation. Yet it may be that we are sustaining that reputation somewhat fraudulently. I certainly do not mean any disrespect to our magnificent men and women in uniform. But consider this: in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the US-led coalition would have liked us to take overall responsibility for a province, the sort of thing we did in Vietnam. In both cases we declined because our forces are no longer capable of that kind of operation. This is a disturbing situation. Recently retired major general Jim Molan has written one of the most important books published about Australia's defence, called Running the War in Iraq. It details his experience in 2004 as chief of operations in the US-led coalition in Iraq. It is extremely rare for an Australian general to write a memoir concerning operational matters in depth. However, the Iraq part is not the most important in Molan's book. Instead, it is the critique he mounts of defence policy during the past 40years. My colleague Paul Kelly has written about Molan's book in these pages. But Molan's book is very rich and should be required reading for the defence planners writing the white paper. Molan has extended his critique in a series of recent speeches. Let's start with some troubling facts. During the Iraq war of 2003, our F-18s had to be upgraded to go to Iraq at all, but at no stage could they be deployed in the most dangerous area around Baghdad because they did not have the electronic warfare self-protection kit. The F-111s were not able to be deployed to Iraq at all in the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 or in 2003. Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said yesterday, in response to the delays experienced in evacuating wounded Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, that Australia could not deploy its Black Hawk helicopters into Afghanistan because they too lacked the ability to deal with modern threats. And remember, this is not all-out conventional war but a stabilisation operation against non-state irregulars. Recently I was told, not by Molan, that key technical positions in our submarines are manned by Americans because we cannot produce the people and the Americans want to keep our capability alive. We debate whether to buy 100 Joint Strike Fighters, but we've never been able to produce more than 60 combat pilots at any one time. There is a disturbing hollowness to much of our force. This reflects badly on all governments since the Vietnam War, but particularly the Hawke and Keating governments, which left our defence forces bedraggled and grossly under-equipped, underfunded and undermanned, while proclaiming, wholly fatuously, that they had produced the defence of Australia. Only with the wake-up call of East Timor in 1999, a small, non-combat deployment for which we were profoundly unprepared, did we begin the long journey of repair. Molan points out that the Dutch, British and Canadians use their ordinary infantry battalions in Afghanistan to do the same jobs for which we use only our special forces. In recent years this column has been hugely supportive of the Australian Defence Force for their courage and their quality. Australians have done outstanding work in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the only Australians who have experienced sustained combat in those theatres have been our special forces (Special Air Service and commandos), which are, in absolute terms, highly effective but tiny. They are one part of our defence force that works. So do the patrol boats. But so many other of our notional capabilities do not work, are insufficiently used in training or are just way below international standards. In a speech a week ago, Molan enlarged on these themes: "If we think that what characterises the Australian defence experience over the last 100 years is the spirit of the Anzacs, we are wrong. What characterises Australia's defence experience is national unpreparedness overcome by the spirit of the Anzacs. "Our military competence was far worse than even we thought before East Timor, and people may not realise that the military performance bar has been raised by the nature of current conflict, as illustrated in Iraq and Afghanistan. "There is a dangerous tendency to overstate our current capability and our current deployments, and to hide our deficiencies. "Anyone who thinks that the policy embodied in previous white papers produced an ability to defend ourselves with our own resources should remember a few things. Years after that great self-reliant policy, we could not offer to government forces that could fight in 1991 in the Gulf War. We could probably have guarded the prisoners with army units, but not much else. We needed outside help for an operation that deployed one-tenth of our manpower to
 
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Yimmy       8/14/2008 8:57:22 AM


Molan points out that the Dutch, British and Canadians use their ordinary infantry battalions in Afghanistan to do the same jobs for which we use only our special forces.

It is common for Australians to scoff at the soft European military forces. But Molan makes the point that regular Dutch infantry units have equipment that only our special forces have, things like 50-calibre machineguns, 40mm automatic grenade launchers, bunker-buster weapons, towed and self-propelled 155mm artillery, joint direct attack munitions, which are precisely targeted air-support weapons.


So purchase some cheap H&K GMG's and FN HMG's for your line infantry, and send them out.  Such weapons are cheap in the great scheme of military expenditure.  I don't think any European nations or Americans think Australian infantry is soft - so use them.
 
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Aussiegunneragain       8/16/2008 10:18:41 AM
I'm not responding to Sheridan's interpretations of what Molan is saying, but I will respond to Molan's direct quotes.

"Anyone who thinks that the policy embodied in previous white papers produced an ability to defend ourselves with our own resources should remember a few things. Years after that great self-reliant policy, we could not offer to government forces that could fight in 1991 in the Gulf War. We could probably have guarded the prisoners with army units, but not much else. We needed outside help for an operation that deployed one-tenth of our manpower to East Timor in 1999. In 2003 we were still incapable of producing fighters that could enter the Missile Exclusion Zone around Baghdad, and bombers that could even participate in conventional war as bombers or reconnaissance aircraft. We needed to quickly rebuild our armoured vehicles before we sent them to the south of Iraq in 2005, into the safest province in all of Iraq.

"We certainly have a policy for defence of Australia but at no stage of my military career has the policy ever produced a force that could defend Australia and its approaches from any credible threat, as the policy required."

Frankly most of that is alarmist. There is no credible conventional credible threat to Australia and its approaches that we can't defeat and there hasn't been for a very long time. Its a simple function of our geography, you don't need a massive defence force to defend the northern air/sea gap because there are no nations in our region who can project a credible conventional force over it. The comment on not being able to take a greater role in the 1991 land war is irrelevant to the Defence of Australia. We don't need to be able to fight major armoured land campaigns of that nature to defend this continent. The comment about needing support for the deployment into East Timor is the only one that I find credible. I never agreed with the DOA doctrine and think that we should raise defence spending to enhance our ability to undertake independent ops in our region. I just don't think Molan does his cause much good by coming up with bullsh1t like telling us that Australia is ever likely to find it hard to defend against any conventional threat to this continent.  

"Meanwhile, a real threat to the long-term existence of our nation, our culture, our economy, our beliefs and every civilised achievement since the Enlightenment has appeared and we still do not have a defence force that can offer to government options to make a meaningful or effective contribution at reasonable cost, except for a few hundred members of our special forces."

More alarmism. Fundamentalist Islam puts Aussie and allied lives at risk and should be countered, but it does not pose the sort of threat to our civilisation that Molan is suggesting. This guy needs to look at what a tw@t Air Force collegue Criss made of himself, before pushing these sorts of exagerations.
 
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Barracuda    AG2 change the record!!   8/17/2008 11:50:15 PM
Yes AG2 we know you think that because we do not face a credible threat we don't need an ADF that can fight. Yes we know you only think we should get invovled in peacekeeping operations.  Yes we know you think that we should not get involved in other people's wars.
 
Except we are not ...  Molan's case is accurate and has value.  I agree totally with him.  One day we will need that corporate knowledge and currently the ADF is losing it.  I think it would be better to get in a theatre that does not really matter to Australia's existence.  It is better to learn the lesson their as opposed on the Australian mainland.  If not in the next ten years but in the next 20 - 30.
 
Send rant.
 
Over.
 
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McFriday       8/18/2008 1:05:54 AM
The majority of Australia's politicians [of all persuasions] have a very long history of either ignoring advice on the state of the armed forces to deal with current and emerging threats or putting the problem of modernisation in the too hard basket.
This while blandly reassuring the public that all is 'modern' and 'superior' to any threats that may arise.
This disposition especially applies to frank advice from [especially but not exclusively] Army officers who don't seem to fill the role of syncophants to Government innaction as readily as some have done over the decades. Perhaps the good General felt strong rhetoric is needed to jolt a few minds?
There was no threat within a 1000klms of Australia in November 1941 either, yet Army officers had been predicting not only who would be the threat but under what circumstances since 1929 and more stridently in the late 1930's. Their reward, in the main, was to see their careers end and Australia's defences wither away, while people more amenable to justifying Government policy were promoted.
That they were proved to be more correct than their larger, 'better informed' major allies and our own politicians, must have been cold comfort to them. Even  while many of the remaining people, who couldn't even see the war coming, or did not prepare at all were left to run it, frantically begging for modern guns and planes.
The General is undoubtedly correct in his statement that success has come despite unpreparedness, just because no-one in X-klms has a particular capacity to-day is no justification for key staffing levels being so low, or our equipments being so out of date. Even less when this deficit is in such areas as contemporary defence measures for our Air and Navy elements available 'off the shelf' so to speak.
Molan makes enough good, valid and relevant military points for me not to focus on a small part of his rhetoric but direct my attention to those practical problems that currently beset the ADF, the vast majority of which fall at the politicians or their advisers' feet. 
Many of his points appear to have been or are being addressed by the ADF, which to me gives even more credence to his views, it remains to be seen if the Government will continue to ensure the ADF will be able to deploy a fully supported [with CAS] battalion for example, without going cap in hand for a taxi to the scene.
In other words, provide the ADF with all the resources, including staff,  needed  to fulfill the policy the Govt. promises the Nation. Many seem doubtful, with just [historical] cause and Maj. Gen. Molan's views may not be heard by those in power, as there are many self centred closed minds in the audience.
I for one hope his views are read by the public, as the ADF and the  pollies know the truth, they just don't use it, even in Parliament.
Cheers,
Mac

 
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Aussiegunneragain    Barracuda   8/18/2008 5:52:07 AM

Yes AG2 we know you think that because we do not face a credible threat we don't need an ADF that can fight. Yes we know you only think we should get invovled in peacekeeping operations.  Yes we know you think that we should not get involved in other people's wars. 

You find where I said any of that and then come back and apologize when you can't. For the record I think defence spending should be at around 2.5% of GDP, like allies such as the UK and France, with a strong emphasis on being able to conduct independent regional ops. I just don't think that Molan helps cause of getting governments to improve defence spending any good by bullsh1tting the Australian public about the boogie man to our north.
 
As for corporate knowledge, I have yet to have anybody answer me on how the US managed to wipe the floor with the Iraqis in '91, despite the fact that they hadn't been in a major armoured conflict since Korea and the Iraqis were probably the most recently experienced armoured operators in the world at the time. Undoubtedly battlefield experience helps improve a forces capability, but equally undoubtedly there are other means of maintaining a major edge. That being the case I think it is horrendous that a senior officer would want to unnecessarily play with his mens lives, so that he can live his boy's own adventure.
 
And I'll change the record when people stop giving this bloke airtime thanks.
 
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Aussiegunneragain    McFriday   8/18/2008 6:19:38 AM

Same one as for Barracuda, except noting that it is nice to see that somebody here can disagree agreeably.

 
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Volkodav       8/18/2008 7:32:24 AM
Sorry AG but as I see it Generals, Air Marshals and Admirals are the experts and as they are unable to comment while in uniform they must retire or resign before they can comment publicly.
 
Politicians on the other hand are amateurs where defence and in actual fact most portfolios are concerned is concerned.  Most pollies seem to be ex lawyers, teachers and journalists who rely on the advice of the public service which unfortunately at the upper levels seems to consist of politically savy bureaucrats who are highly skilled at telling their ministers what they believe they want to hear not what they need to know.
 
 
 
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McFriday    GW1   8/18/2008 12:53:38 PM



"As for corporate knowledge, I have yet to have anybody answer me on how the US managed to wipe the floor with the Iraqis in '91, despite the fact that they hadn't been in a major armoured conflict since Korea and the Iraqis were probably the most recently experienced armoured operators in the world at the time."

 
This is a little off topic, so I'll have a go but make it short:-
Overwhelming technological advantage, allowing air supremacy in a contested battlespace, which in turn provided great freedom of operation for ground forces with intensive close air support. Devastating close air support
The Coalition knew where they were, they didn't know where the coalition was.
The Combined Arms Research Library, Fort Leavenworth, Gen. Robt. H Scales, "Certain Victory" is a comprehensive account of GW1. It's book length though in PDF format.
 The following link is to one of many, many  monographs, theses and assesments of GW1 available  at the CARL.
Cheers,
Mac

 
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Barracuda    Apologise?   8/18/2008 8:27:38 PM
Apologise...hmmm I thought i summed up your last argument quite succintly the last time you went on about charging diggers who would rather leave the ADF if they could not fight.. I thought you continued it on quite nicely in this one.  Although your argument did change towards the end and was quite circular.  It was difficult to follow.
 
As for opinion really.  You vs a General with 20 years plus experience.  Sorry I tend to back the General,  that is the only apology you will get from me. So AG I so very sorry I do not agree with you.
 
However what concerns me is our political masters would much follow you ideas because they suit their economic spending and rationale of a nice ordered society.  Therefore minimise effective spending on the ADF.  The lunatics we will have to fight are exactly what Molan says they are, becasue only those sort of people would start a conflict with us.
 
Our millitary needs the capability that Molan outlines, becuase even I do agree with you regarding the threats to Australia, we must so capable in decsively defeating an en that attacking us is inconcieveable.
 
Anyway you never really listen to what anyone else believes. Keep maintaining the rage, it makes this page fun.
 
 
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Yimmy       8/18/2008 8:59:11 PM


As for opinion really.  You vs a General with 20 years plus experience.  Sorry I tend to back the General,  that is the only apology you will get from me. So AG I so very sorry I do not agree with you.

 

 
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