History as Policy

History as Policy

Framing the debate on the future of Australia’s defence policy

Edited by: Ron Huisken, Meredith Thatcher

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The fortieth anniversary of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre’s founding provided the opportunity to assemble many of Australia’s leading analysts and commentators to review some of the more significant issues that should define Australian defence policy.

In the first 20 years after its establishment, SDSC scholars played a prominent role in shaping the ideas and aspirations that eventually found official expression in the 1987 Defence of Australia White Paper. This policy sustained a coherent balance between strategy, force structure and budgets for well over a decade. In recent years, however, the cumulative effects of the end of the Cold War and watershed events like the East Timor experience; the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., in September 2001; the Bali bombings in October 2002; and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 have fractured the former consensus on defence policy. These developments have eroded acceptance of the core judgements underpinning defence policy. This has led to a more tenuous connection between some recent major equipment acquisitions and declared policy.

The unravelling of the consensus on the ‘defence of Australia’ policy means that we must again undertake a balanced, long-term assessment of the nature of Australia’s strategic interests. Only by doing so can we determine the kinds of armed forces that would contribute most effectively to protecting those interests. The papers collected in this volume are not informed by a common view of where Australia should focus its defence policy, but all address themes that should figure prominently in this difficult but essential task.


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
Publication date:
Dec 2007
Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 167
ANU Press
Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC)
Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC)
Arts & Humanities: History; Social Sciences: Military & Defence Studies, Politics & International Studies
Australia; East Asia: China; North America; Southeast Asia: Indonesia

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History as Policy »

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Self-Reliant Defence: The First Cut

  1. The Self-Reliant Defence of Australia: The History of an Idea (PDF, 174KB)Paul Dibb doi

Global Issues

  1. Global Change and Strategic Priorities (PDF, 191KB)Coral Bell doi
  2. Restoring Utility to Armed Force in the 21st Century (PDF, 148KB)Robert O’Neill doi
  3. The Rise of China: History as Policy (PDF, 119KB)Wang Gungwu doi
  4. Whither the United States and Unipolarity? (PDF, 171KB)Ron Huisken doi

Regional Issues

  1. The ‘Arc of Instability’: The History of an Idea (PDF, 191KB)Graeme Dobell doi
  2. Jihadism and ‘The Battle of Ideas’ in Indonesia: Critiquing Australian Counterterrorism (PDF, 150KB)Greg Fealy doi
  3. Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region (PDF, 156KB)Brendan Taylor doi

Australian Strategic and Defence Issues

  1. The Challenge of Coherence: Strategic Guidance, Capability, and Budgets (PDF, 145KB)Mark Thomson doi
  2. The Higher Command Structure for Joint ADF Operations (PDF, 188KB)David Horner doi
  3. Four Decades of the Defence of Australia: Reflections on Australian Defence Policy over the Past 40 Years (PDF, 224KB)Hugh White doi

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