This edition of the Quarterly Essay is a very welcome contribution from James Brown to any future conversation about the way in which Australia engages in war and war-like activities.
Drawing on both his experience as an officer in the Australian Army and a thorough review of historical precedence in Australia’s practice, Brown pulls together a very compelling argument for changes in the way in which Australia, and Australian Governments, in particular, approach this awesome expression of State power.
I do not necessarily agree with all of Brown’s analysis – though I respect his expertise in the areas he comments on – and I remain to be convinced about some of his suggestions as to improvements for this part of Australian public life. I am, however, gladdened that someone of Brown’s clear calibre has been bold enough to start the conversation in this area.
One can only hope that I’m not the only person in Australia that reads this essay and takes it as the serious contribution to dialogue that it clearly is.
From the back cover:
Going to war may be the gravest decision a nation and its leaders make. At the moment, Australia is at war with the Islamic State. We also live in a region that has become much more volatile, as China asserts itself and America seeks to hold the line.
What is it like to go to war? How do we decide to go to war? Where might we go to war in the future? Will we get that decision right? In this vivid, urgent essay, James Brown looks to history, strategy and his own experience to explore those questions. He examines the legacy of the Iraq War and argues that it has prevented a clear view of Australia’s future conflicts. He looks at how we plug into the US war machine, now that American troops are based in Darwin. He sheds fascinating light on the extraordinary concentration of war powers in the hands of the Prime Minister – and how this might go wrong. This powerful essay argues that we have not yet begun to think through the choices that may confront us in years ahead.