PhD presentation

Report
Australia’s Strategic
Culture and Defence /
National Security
Policymaking
ALEX BURNS ([email protected])
SPS GRADUATE SYMPOSIUM, 29TH OCTOBER 2013
PHD CANDIDATE, SCHOOL OF POLITICS & SOCIAL INQUIRY
MONASH UNIVERSITY
Strategic Culture: Jack Snyder

Formulated in 1977 by Jack Snyder for a RAND monograph on
Ford and Carter administration détente and the Soviet Union

“Individuals are socialized into a distinctly Soviet mode of
thinking . . . a set of general beliefs, attitudes and behavioral
patterns . . . that places them on the level of “culture” rather
than mere “policy” . . .” [emphasis added] (Snyder 1977: v)

“Culture is perpetuated not only by individuals but also by
organizations.” (Snyder 1977: 9).

“Strategic subculture: . . . a subsection of the broader strategic
community . . . Reasonably distinct beliefs and attitudes.”
(Snyder 1977: 10).
Australia’s Strategic Culture

Settler nation founded from British colonies: anxiety versus engagement

Hawke and Keating governments: “comprehensive engagement” and “regional security”
via APEC, ASEAN, United National Development Programme, and human security

Howard and Abbott governments: Australia-United States Alliance; asylum seekers as
wedge politics (Republican Party strategist Karl Rove)

Alliance structure with Great Britain (World War I and II; atomic weapons testing)

Alliance structure with United States (Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, Afghanistan
counterinsurgency, Iraq War, and signals intelligence bases)

Realist tradition of Australian foreign and security policy (Michael Wesley)
Recent Scholarship on Australia’s
Strategic Culture

Alan Bloomfield, 2011 PhD Dissertation: “Australia's Strategic Culture. An investigation of
the Concept of Strategic Culture and its Application to the Australian Case” (Queens
University, Canada)

Jeffrey Lantis & Andrew S. Charlton, 2011

Alan Bloomfield & Kim Richard Nossal, 2008

Michael Evans, 2005 (‘defender-regionalists’ versus ‘reformer-globalists’)

Key Aspects:

Geography, geographic region, and comparative country analysis

Historical and cultural identity

Alliance structure with Great Britain and the United States

Continuity versus Change
National Security Silos

“My message to the national security community is: if you see a silo,
dig it up.”

- Prime Minister Julia Gillard, launch of Strong and Secure: A Strategy
for Australia’s National Security (23rd January 2013)

What silos potentially exist in Australian defence and national
security policymaking?

What do current priorities reveal about how relevant Australian
policy is developed and framed?

Could a national strategic culture or specific strategic cultures be
what then-Prime Minister Gillard was hinting at?
Possible Explanations for Silos

Initial explanation: Inter-agency coordination in Australian Government
Other possibilities:

Threat escalation and institutional capture dynamics

Budgetary and legislative barriers

Public contestability and understanding of defence and national security
planning documents

Training of next generation analysts and strategic thinkers
Australia’s ‘Keepers’ of Strategic
Culture

Patrick Porter (Military Orientalism, 2009): “Who are the ‘keepers’ of strategic culture?

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (executive power)

Department of Defence (defence and politico-military affairs)

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (diplomatic and consular activities)

Think-tanks: Lowy Institute and Australian Strategic Policy Institute

New strategists: National Security College and Strategic and Defence Studies Centre,
Australian National University

Norm entrepreneurs: Paul Dibb; Alan Dupont; Andrew O’Neil; and Hugh White
Australia’s White Paper Cycle

Defines ‘over the horizon’ threats and joint military force structure

Gillard Government: Defence White Paper 2013 (3rd May 2013)

1986 Dibb Review and 1987 White Paper: ‘Defence of Australia’ paradigm of selfreliance

Reflects the longer-term nature of defence procurement processes

Path dependency in drafting: incremental and evolutionary ideas that build on
previous publications

Actual threat scenarios are treated as classified information

Australia-United States Alliance usually foregrounded in each White Paper

Risk of security contractor lock-in for new defence systems and programs
National Security Strategy

United States Model: Goldwater-Nichols Act (1986) requests regular
National Security Strategy documents from each Administration

Exemplars: Terry Deibel (US War College); Colin S. Gray (Reading
University, UK), Jeffrey Lantis (Wooster College, US)

Howard Government: institutional reforms; Counter-Terrorism White
Paper (2004) reflected Bush Administration conceptualisation

First Rudd Government: National Security Statement (2008);
promised National Security Strategy and National Security Budget

Gillard Government: Australia in the Asian Century (2012) and
National Security Strategy (2013)
National Security Silos, Revisited

Westminster System: balance of executive, legislative and judicial powers

Silos can be analytic, cognitive, cultural, or influenced by long-term culturally
transmitted factors (strategic culture and strategic subcultures)

Defence white papers were in the past treated as de facto national security statements

Limited public contestability: some academic and public consultation

Possible institutional capture by specific governmental departments

Problems in developing national security budgets in a whole-of-government approach

Still an on-going debate about a unified national security system
Questions?

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