Tuesday, April 25, 2006

ANZAC thoughts

Today is ANZAC day, the day Australia remembers all those who have died while fighting in wars. Australia's military history only goes back a little over one hundred years, and mostly consists of us sending soldiers to help Britain, and later America with it's wars. The Boer War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, and Gulf Wars I and II. It has also done a lot of aid and peacekeeping work in the region, for example East Timor, and more recently, the Solomon Islands. Aside from the fact that it's a public holiday, I don't really feel much for the day. I haven't gone in to watch the parade, or even watched it on TV.

I think Australia's military is not really needed for purely military purposes any more. The only time Australia's mainland has been approached by an enemy was during World War II when the Japanese bombed Darwin and had submarines traveling down the east coast. In modern days, I don't foresee any such actions being taken by any parties. The Gulf Wars have all maintained existing borders, and other recent conflicts have been civil wars. It seems that conflict over land territory has mostly gone away.

New Zealand seems to have already realized this and has decided that the three main aims of it's military is self defense, and to contribute to peacekeeping efforts around the world. It only spends about 1% of it's GDP on the military, and its navy has only 10 ships, of which only two are combat vessels. Australia in comparison spends almost 2% of our GDP on our military, and our navy has a fleet of about 70 ships, of which 32 are combat craft. In comparison, our population is only about 5 times that of New Zealand's, but I will admit our coastline is much larger than New Zealand's. Our army and air force is similarly much larger.

I think if we could convince other countries to take a similar approach, things would be better. For one thing, it would greatly reduce military spending, thus freeing up a lot of money for other uses. Plus when you don't have a big stick to whack others with, there's no temptation to use it. Unfortunately belligerent nations are less likely to do this, so there will still be some need for a military. Since most peacekeeping actions have been joint actions taken under the auspices of the United Nations, so perhaps they should have a standing force of their own that is independent of any member nation.

Anyway, none of this is meant to disparage those that have fought for their country, but more a hope that no more will have to.

End Post
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