The Third Way: Towards an Australian Maritime Strategy for the Twenty-first Century
This paper argues that, despite being the world’s largest island, the greatest paradox of Australia’s existence is that the country lacks a maritime consciousness to guide defence policy. National development has been marked by several historical characteristics which have created an ingrained culture of sea-blindness. These include a long tradition of maritime dependence on great powers; the growth of a martial cult centred on Anzac; a schism between continental and expeditionary approaches in strategic behaviour; and the fact that, until the twentieth century, a lack of direct responsibility for security permitted a continental rather than a maritime ethos to shape the country’s essential cultural traditions.
As Australia emerges as a twenty-first century middle power in a globalised world increasingly dominated by Asian economic power, defence thinking must undergo a philosophical change. In particular, a credible maritime strategy needs to be developed as a ‘third way’ to unify the older continental and expeditionary approaches. Australia must seek strategic maturity based on broad maritime principles. Given contemporary challenges stemming from long-held inland cultural affinities and deep-seated political traditions of alliance dependency and low defence spending, future strategic planning should concentrate on a balanced posture that is sufficient rather than self-reliant.
In the years ahead, it will be imperative for national leaders to develop a vision of Australia’s defence that is aligned to political economy and which integrates an older continental identity with a sophisticated appreciation of the value of maritime strategy.
30 September 2019Retired Army Banner laid up at Kapooka 25 September 2019Delivering the next generation of network assurance for the Australian Army 12 September 2019Friendships formed during Australian military skills competition 11 September 2019Dropping in the right direction 2 September 2019Taking the Hill