Commentary on Conflict: then and now

This page will offer a base of details from numerous sources that will help address the ‘how, what and why’ of conflict, in order for it to be more fully understood.  The information produced on this page is related to war in general, war history, conflict, terrorism and other related issues–including current crises such as the increasingly burgeoning Asia-Pacific.  The information will cross centuries as well as encompass the present, and will provide insights into the historical and contemporary complexities therein; and some comment will be offered by the author as suggestion or factually-based analysis (including citation).  All information is in no particular order, however it has within it a series of insights that the reader can extrapolate upon with the intent of gaining a deeper and more nuanced understanding of conflict and its portents.

This page will have regular updates and will (hopefully), be informative to all audiences — from those with a passing interest in International Relations to those with a more pronounced focus (such as war) and is directed toward all, whether they be high school students; interested parties; or professionals.

Starting at the beginning: a very succinct explanation of war …

What ‘is’ war ?

[W]ar is a contention over something and that while war differs from other contentions in that it employs a special means, namely force, we should not lose sight of the fact that war is a form of contention … From this perspective, war may be considered a violent way of getting objects of value.

See: John Vasquez.  The War Puzzle.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 30.  Emphasis in original.

Why and how was the Roman Empire so successful conquering all those in its     path ? 

[R]oman soldiers were trained to manoeuvre as units, receiving their orders by bugle call and maintaining their cohesion even in the chaos of battle.  As a result, any Roman commander worth his salt could deliver maximum force when opportunity presented itself, and retreat in good order if necessary.  Disciplined, coherent forces had advantage over even very large numbers of ferocious opponents acting as individuals … just 300 legionaries who had been cut off [at Gaul] were able to defend themselves for hours against 6,000 opponents at the cost of only a few wounded.

See:  Peter Heather.  The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, 7.

How and why did fighting for European/Europa (Christianitas), gain so much credence and credibility ?

The rise in the knights’ [as a professional soldier]  standing followed changes in military technique—the development of castles, for instance, and the growth of fighting on horseback—which enhanced the standing and prestige of those who fought … In the eleventh century, we also saw the blessing [by the clergy] of swords and weapons. There emerged a religious ceremony of knightly investiture … As kings were crowned so knights were invested.  Knighthood now was, or could be, a vocation.  The Church was in touch with the profession of arms, without the king as an intermediary.  The warfare of knights was securing a new sanction and prestige … .

See:   H.E. J. Cowdrey.  ‘The Genesis of the Crusades: The Springs of Western Ideas of Holy War.’  The Holy War.  Edited by Patrick Murphy.  Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1976, 14 – 17.

Through articulate war ‘management’ Great Britain won wars and (eventually) ruled the World 

The British practice of warfare from the sixteenth century to World War 1 was to employ…[a] way of war [which] de-emphasized direct confrontation, concentration, mass, and battle and emphasized surprise, mobility, manoeuvre, peripheral attacks on the enemy weaknesses, dispersion, conversion of resources, and negotiated settlements.  War was to be conducted in a “businesslike” manner and was to be profitable.  The British used sea power primarily to achieve their limited strategic objectives.  They traditionally fought low-expenditure, high-gain wars that took advantage of Britain’s geographic circumstances that exploited those of its enemy.  The British way of war was to destroy when possible the enemy’s fleet; attack enemy trade; block the enemy’s coast and conduct raids on the enemy’s ports, coastal towns and colonies; seize, when possible, the enemy’s colonies; subsidize allies on the Continent; wait for the attacks on the enemy’s economy and peripheral areas to erode its capacity to resist; exploit opportunities through the use of surprise made possible by the superior mobility of the fleet; deploy limited expeditionary forces on the Continent to fight alongside the larger forces of the allies; and finally, to manoeuvre the enemy into an untenable position in which it had no other option but to conclude a peace agreement on terms set by the British and their allies.

See:  Adrian Lewis.  Omaha Beach:  A Flawed Victory. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001, 34 – 35..

Commentary: Taiwan – China

Yet another visit by a #USA envoy to #Taiwan and #China reacts–as it usually does. What will come of this visit, one might ask? Will it be the same as all that have gone before? No firm stance by the US on whether it will come to Taiwan’s aid militarily (aside from selling Taiwan as much materiel as Taiwan can buy), it will surely be the same old, same old. The people of Taiwan must surely understand another meeting with President Tsai, is not a reliable ally gained. #AsiaPacific #Asia #War #China #Asiapacificsecurity #Asiapolitics
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-54200913

Commentary: Australia and resources

Getting to the point about fuel and fuel reserves. Producing 75% more food than Australia can eat is a simple approach to food security–if you don’t have the fuel to get it to distribution centres then it stays where it is: on the farm. One has to wonder about Australia getting involved in far-away conflicts, Iraq, Afghanistan, Philippines when Australia’s security is hinged on fuel; and its codicils. How was Japan brought to its knees in WWII (pre- the dropping of the atomic bombs), was because it–as an island–had no capacity to import, distribute or access domestic fuel. This is a salutary lesson for Australia–an island nation-state–as we currently have ‘enough’ fuel for 19 days, and would rely on the US to import fuel should Asia-Pacific security plummet–and moreover, referring to the Asia-Pacific/Oceania/Micronesia as ‘our patch’ is a government-driven fantasy, which does not take into account the direness that Australia will face as the decade moves toward 2030.  Keep in mind China is geo-strategically static at the moment, and this will take some years to change although when it does Australia will need all the fuel it can get. Driving a bushmaster from Bendigo to Darwin will take some doing. Although Australia is going to build a fuel depot in Darwin Harbour to get some fuel supply leverage. Let me guess, all the tanks will be above ground as digging them in will no doubt be too expensive? Might as well paint targets on them.

Commentary:  Australia – China

The latest ban on Australian goods–lobsters–by #China is not to be unexpected and moreover, comes on the back of beef, barley etc for Australia. This is a classic Sun Tzu maxim of before you go to war, you must ‘know your enemy.’ How does this translate in terms of #EconomicSecurity for China. This is how it works. Since time-in-memoriam nation-states have been involved in extending their authority and in part, this has always been through waging an economic war before an actual ‘shooting war’ takes place. With regard to the ‘lobster thing’ is China attempting to assess how many #AsiaPacific nation-states (or others such as the #USA#Canada, and the #UnitedKingdom etc), will come to the economic rescue of #Australia; or at the very least, demand China cease and desist. The answer is in the deafening silence of these nation-states, and it does not bode well for Australia. This shows Australia’s understanding of its allies is stuck in the 1950s. 

 
 

Commentary: Will China attack Australia?

In response to several questions regarding my previous FB post and whether #China will/would attack #Australia I thought I would add some clarity; and cite a reference. This post therefore, will be a bit long. The first is the term ‘attack’ is subjective and usually means a deliberate ‘kinetic exchange — in the vernacular a ‘shooting war’ taking place. This is unlikely until circa-2030 as whilst China is making determined moves into the #AsiaPacific it is (and will be for some time), unable to sustain a conflict per se; and it has too many issues to ‘settle’ in order to focus an attack. Two of these are the Uyghur ‘problem’ in the northwest province which Indonesia is very concerned about; and energy/military issues with #Russia. There are many more problems. All need some form of balance. Attacking Australia and #war in order to gain specific aims will exponentially increase on the part of China in the next decade; and China will be able to engage and sustain engagements (this is the key element) by circa-2030. The bigger picture can be observed in the history of war and it will return and moreover, Australia will be incapable of reacting in a military way to the processes China will put in place; and this in turn, will force Australia to negotiate on China’s term. The below quote is from Lewis’ book Omaha Beach: A Flawed Strategy, which delved into the sheer stupidity of the WWII D-Day landings; and the military misgivings/disagreements of said landings. To a certain extent, it was luck that allowed the beaching to be a success etc. That aside Lewis analysed a ‘type’ of war that will serve China well and one that Australia will be unable to actually repel and moreover, China will become more powerful as it isolates Australia. The method is as follows:

The British practice of warfare from the sixteenth century to World War 1 was to employ…[a] way of war [which] de-emphasized direct confrontation, concentration, mass, and battle and emphasized surprise, mobility, manoeuvre, peripheral attacks on the enemy weaknesses, dispersion, conversion of resources, and negotiated settlements. War was to be conducted in a “businesslike” manner and was to be profitable. The British used sea power primarily to achieve their limited strategic objectives. They traditionally fought low-expenditure, high-gain wars that took advantage of Britain’s geographic circumstances that exploited those of its enemy. The British way of war was to destroy when possible the enemy’s fleet; attack enemy trade; block the enemy’s coast and conduct raids on the enemy’s ports, coastal towns and colonies; seize, when possible, the enemy’s colonies; subsidize allies on the Continent; wait for the attacks on the enemy’s economy and peripheral areas to erode its capacity to resist; exploit opportunities through the use of surprise made possible by the superior mobility of the fleet; deploy limited expeditionary forces on the Continent to fight alongside the larger forces of the allies; and finally, to manoeuvre the enemy into an untenable position in which it had no other option but to conclude a peace agreement on terms set by the British and their allies. 

Commentary: A response to the above post

In response to several questions regarding my previous FB post and whether #China will/would attack #Australia I thought I would add some clarity; and cite a reference. This post therefore, will be a bit long. The first is the term ‘attack’ is subjective and usually means a deliberate ‘kinetic exchange — in the vernacular a ‘shooting war’ taking place. This is unlikely until circa-2030 as whilst China is making determined moves into the #AsiaPacific it is (and will be for some time), unable to sustain a conflict per se; and it has too many issues to ‘settle’ in order to focus an attack. Two of these are the Uyghur ‘problem’ in the northwest province which Indonesia is very concerned about; and energy/military issues with #Russia. There are many more problems. All need some form of balance. Attacking Australia and #war in order to gain specific aims will exponentially increase on the part of China in the next decade; and China will be able to engage and sustain engagements (this is the key element) by circa-2030. The bigger picture can be observed in the history of war and it will return and moreover, Australia will be incapable of reacting in a military way to the processes China will put in place; and this in turn, will force Australia to negotiate on China’s term. The below quote is from Lewis’ book ‘Omaha Beach: A Flawed Strategy’ which delved into the sheer stupidity of the WWII D-Day landings; and the military misgivings/disagreements of said landings. To a certain extent, it was luck that allowed the beaching to be a success etc. That aside he analysed a ‘type’ of war that will serve China well and Australia will be unable to actually repel and moreover, China will become more powerful as it isolates Australia. The method is as follows:

The British practice of warfare from the sixteenth century to World War 1 was to employ…[a] way of war [which] de-emphasized direct confrontation, concentration, mass, and battle and emphasized surprise, mobility, manoeuvre, peripheral attacks on the enemy weaknesses, dispersion, conversion of resources, and negotiated settlements. War was to be conducted in a “businesslike” manner and was to be profitable. The British used sea power primarily to achieve their limited strategic objectives. They traditionally fought low-expenditure, high-gain wars that took advantage of Britain’s geographic circumstances that exploited those of its enemy. The British way of war was to destroy when possible the enemy’s fleet; attack enemy trade; block the enemy’s coast and conduct raids on the enemy’s ports, coastal towns and colonies; seize, when possible, the enemy’s colonies; subsidize allies on the Continent; wait for the attacks on the enemy’s economy and peripheral areas to erode its capacity to resist; exploit opportunities through the use of surprise made possible by the superior mobility of the fleet; deploy limited expeditionary forces on the Continent to fight alongside the larger forces of the allies; and finally, to manoeuvre the enemy into an untenable position in which it had no other option but to conclude a peace agreement on terms set by the British and their allies.

 Commentary:  A further analysis, to ‘Will China attack Australia?’

In response to several questions regarding my previous FB post and whether #China will/would attack #Australia I thought I would add some clarity; and cite a reference. This post therefore, will be a bit long. The first is the term ‘attack’ is subjective and usually means a deliberate ‘kinetic exchange — in the vernacular a ‘shooting war’ taking place. This is unlikely until circa-2030 as whilst China is making determined moves into the #AsiaPacific it is (and will be for some time), unable to sustain a conflict per se; and it has too many issues to ‘settle’ in order to focus an attack. Two of these are the Uyghur ‘problem’ in the northwest province which Indonesia is very concerned about; and energy/military issues with #Russia. There are many more problems. All need some form of balance. Attacking Australia and #war in order to gain specific aims will exponentially increase on the part of China in the next decade; and China will be able to engage and sustain engagements (this is the key element) by circa-2030. The bigger picture can be observed in the history of war and it will return and moreover, Australia will be incapable of reacting in a military way to the processes China will put in place; and this in turn, will force Australia to negotiate on China’s term. The below quote is from Lewis’ book ‘Omaha Beach: A Flawed Strategy’ which delved into the sheer stupidity of the WWII D-Day landings; and the military misgivings/disagreements of said landings. To a certain extent, it was luck that allowed the beaching to be a success etc. That aside he analysed a ‘type’ of war that will serve China well and Australia will be unable to actually repel and moreover, China will become more powerful as it isolates Australia. The method is as follows:

The British practice of warfare from the sixteenth century to World War 1 was to employ…[a] way of war [which] de-emphasized direct confrontation, concentration, mass, and battle and emphasized surprise, mobility, manoeuvre, peripheral attacks on the enemy weaknesses, dispersion, conversion of resources, and negotiated settlements. War was to be conducted in a “businesslike” manner and was to be profitable. The British used sea power primarily to achieve their limited strategic objectives. They traditionally fought low-expenditure, high-gain wars that took advantage of Britain’s geographic circumstances that exploited those of its enemy. The British way of war was to destroy when possible the enemy’s fleet; attack enemy trade; block the enemy’s coast and conduct raids on the enemy’s ports, coastal towns and colonies; seize, when possible, the enemy’s colonies; subsidize allies on the Continent; wait for the attacks on the enemy’s economy and peripheral areas to erode its capacity to resist; exploit opportunities through the use of surprise made possible by the superior mobility of the fleet; deploy limited expeditionary forces on the Continent to fight alongside the larger forces of the allies; and finally, to manoeuvre the enemy into an untenable position in which it had no other option but to conclude a peace agreement on terms set by the British and their allies.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Commentary: The signing of the RPEC (Nov, 2020)

The Australian government recently signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which brings together 10 members of #ASEAN, #Australia, #China, #NewZealand and #SouthKorea. This is an enormous #economic achievement for Australia and opens numerous markets. Now just imagine a geo-strategist in the #USA. The achievement has tied the #AsiaPacific together in a substantially powerful way; and has separated the US from the region. India hasn’t signed, I wonder why?

Whilst sovereign nation-states are allowed to do as they please, the signal of togetherness excludes the US; and thoroughly establishes Australia’s intent to get closer to the region All this, whilst Australia has been saying the US is our closest and most reliable ally. The military signal too, is mixed. Any geo-strategist in the US worth his/her salt would think, ‘wait a minute, how close are we to Australia? They went ahead and made an economic deal to the exclusion of us, their closest ally; and one that favours China.’ The Morrison government is can be assumed thinks it can do what it wants in the region without repercussions. The US will not take kindly to this; as it did not with the lease of the Port of Darwin and it will interpret the RCEP as a slap-in-the-face. This is yet another dangerous path the Morrison government has gone down by saying one thing and doing another and thus, when China really begins to put politico- and military-pressures on Australia. The ‘with us or against us’ mantra.

The RCEP may be the reason the a war-weary US needs to step-back from an overt defence of Australia–the one that Australians’ have believed will happen from the 1950s. But that’s okay, because Australia can defend itself, we’re ‘tough’ and able to ‘come together’ and defend in a time of crisis. This factor is, in and of itself an interesting issue, as when the majority of the male and some of the female population is busy defending Australia, who will farm, who will attend to the sick, who will raise the children, who will drive the trucks to get supplies to the defenders? And bearing in mind the trucks that are being driven to the defenders may come under fire, who will drive them knowing this?

Australia–especially the Morrison government– really needs to come to terms with its decisions; understand its actions and reactions more thoroughly; positively engage with the region as a diplomatic actor; stop tempting backlashes; and solidly understand the severe limitations of its military capabilities.

To be sure and to give the abovementioned a perspective and to clarify my commentary, is to observe the American Civil War. A significant part of why the Confederates lost the war was because there were too many men fighting and not enough ‘doing.’ This includes but is not limited to food distribution, logistics, harvesting and supply chain maintenance (see: Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall off the Great Powers, pp178 – 182).

Commentary: Australia – Japan relations (Nov, 2020)

The positioning of Australia in the #Asiapacific gets worse and worse. Prime Minister (PM) Morrison — the ( #LNP ) government — has visited #Japan in order to further pull together some sort of cohesive #AsiaPacific defence plan and one can only wonder why when Japan was rebuffed as a submarine-provider. It is somewhat disturbing that the visit was made knowing and understanding historical animosity China shares with Japan. To wit, the last thing in these current turbulent times is to actually create further divisions–nonetheless the PM made the visit. Thus, it can be interpreted by the visit and the political manoeuvring therein, that somehow, someway the Chinese government has plateaued in its ambitions and that developing an ally will stymie said ambitions. This of course is not, and will not be the case. China will in its quest to become a regional (if not global) superpower, continue to retain its military-, economic- and politico-influences.

Certainly, a balance can be brought to current times by arguing that China has plateaued and this is due to the pandemic; an unsteady relationship with India; and the deterioration of US-China relations. This happened with Portugal and Spain in the South Americas; and France in Tsarist Russia. What takes place when this happens is powerful actors reassess the setbacks and put new strategies in place, in order to maintain their status. Understanding that China–like powers and superpowers before it– will plateau at times in its trajectory of claims as it realigns its capabilities. Therefore, understanding that China will plateau in its power-status at times, is necessary, however it should not be construed that the overall power-trajectory has become redundant.

China is an emerging superpower and it should be treated as such; not confronted as this will involve and evolve a zero-sum-game mentality, from which any force-on-force collision should it takes place, will be used by China to firmly (re)establish the regional power-stakes. Nonetheless, Australia’s positioning of troops in Japan will be construed by China as a forward defence strategy and it will demand a focussed response and further will encourage China to apply more time, energy and money focussed on economic-, military- (etc.) resources. This is normal behaviour for a turning an imagined power-trajectory into an actual one.

Notwithstanding these factors and the ongoing dysfunctional Australia-China relationship aside what does overtly befriending Japan actually achieve; and is there any additional defence-related objectives that can be gained? Considering Japan has a debilitating defence recruitment problem (see: Japan’s soldiers are greying. Time to draft robots?), and the Japanese populace does not want to commit additional resources to its defence; and moreover, the Japanese Defense Force has been described as woefully inadequate, due to its branches of the military being compared to ‘warring fiefdoms’ (see: The Problem with Japan isn’t warmongering: It’s a toothless military), what did PM Morrison hope to achieve?

Based on the evidence, this was an ill-thought through venture by Australia’s PM; and one that yet again, emphasises Australia–through the inherent bias that comes from being an isolated middle power–simply does not have an informed understanding of the way in which (imminent) superpowers act; and react. This lack of comprehension adds to Australia’s already perilous position in the Asia-Pacific and brings a war closer.