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Thread: Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam and the Defence of Australia

  1. #1
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    Default Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam and the Defence of Australia

    From the Australian Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Jun 07, this paper essentially recommends bunkering down at home in the strategic defensive:

    Dien Bien Phu, and the Defence of Australia
    ...as Dien Bien Phu revealed, one man’s expedition is another man’s invasion. Thus, we should not be surprised that Western armies have proven entirely incapable of fighting amongst the people in Indochina, Iraq, the Middle East and Central Asia. For example, Australia’s scorecard from the recent decades of the expeditionary strategy reads as follows: one disaster, one fiasco, one disaster-in-waiting, and a few blunders. It is impossible to believe that this outcome has served the national interest. Those campaigns have starkly exposed the innate limits of land power.

    Almost by definition, an army of occupation is incapable of conducting war amongst the people; while the unavoidable limits on personnel imposed by recruiting standards and resignation rates make the notion of the three-block war not merely unrealistic but unachievable. The fact is that expeditionary campaigns are predicated on capabilities that armies do not have and cannot acquire.

    Australia is in the fortunate position of being able to adopt a primarily defensive military strategy which both avoids the flawed logic of expeditionary campaigns and offers a credible method for controlling the immediate environment and defending the fundamentals of our national wellbeing. Affordable, rational, militarily credible, non-threatening and achievable, the defence of Australia remains the nation’s best strategic option.

  2. #2
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Air centric view and

    in my opinion, a little overly concerned with citing the problems and unwilling to explore alternatives in the use of land power to achieve a result.

    Dien Bien Phu was dumb, so were Khe Sanh and the attacks in the A Shau. So was Camp Bondsteel and so are Camp Victory and the Green Zone (moving into any old Iraqi Army bases or Saddam's palaces was really, really dumb; bad juju).

    Oil slicks, checkerboards and precision strikes (by other than the Air Power folks ) work, conventional war precepts and techniques don't. SEA was and is a bad place to fight a land war in Europe. The French tried it and so did we; lick on us...

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    The author of that article seems never to have read Neville Shute's book "On the Beach," which is especially bad coming from an Australian. The bad news will eventually reach into your bunker, no matter how deep you dig it.

    Dien Bien Phu was a failure of French generalship, caused by their underestimation of the enemy. Methinks the author of this piece makes a similar underestimation of the reach and capabilities of today's "forces of evil" out beyond the Great Barrier Reef. In fact I think that to sit back in "Festung" Australia is to make the same mistake the French made by digging in at the bottom of Giap's "rice bowl" and giving over the initiative to the Viet Minh.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default True.

    10 characters..

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    The SDSC is associated with a discredited defence philospophy of "continental defence". This is essentially a 'flat earth' view of our defence needs that sees our national security interests largely in terms of protecting the integrity of the our sovereign soil, and essentially denying that the Nation has 'global' security interests beyond the continental shelf. They see airpower and strong maritime forces being the defence panacea for our island continent.

    They are taken with the idea that the airforce can 'save' Australia in the same way that the RAF did Britain duing the Battle of Britain in World War II. They are severely 'down' on the Army. Of course, this idea overlooks the fact that if the BEF had been able to fight well enough in 1940 and avoided Dunkirk, then the Battle of Britain might never need have happened..


    This theory was at its strongest in the 1980s. The author's biases undoubtedly come from his service in the RAAF. For a while there airpower advocates were the golden children, to some extent the '91 Gulf War only made them worse.

    The problems for these folks are many:

    1. They have missed the 'big idea' of globalisation and the associated security implications.
    2. They spend a lot of effort describing how the 'sea-air' gap to our north can be used in our defence, they fail to realsie that it is in reality a 'sea-air' bridge with land at both ends.
    3. Their defence theory defends against a non-existent and increasingly unlikely to develop threat.
    4. Their ideal force structure posture provides little or no capabilities to deal with the threats we currently face , and are increasingly likely to face. How useful are attack submarines against the Abu Sayaf Group? What chance that a JSF can win hearts and minds in Tarin Kowt?
    5. They cannot reconcile themselves to acknowldge the truth of Sir Lawrence Freedman's truism about airpower from his last Adephi Paper (The Transformation of Strategic Affairs. p. 63) -

    'The basic problem remained that very few political objectives could be directly met by air attack alone. Its use can influence the victim's calculations, but it cannot achieve the physical control of enemy decision making that is always at least a theoretical possibility following a land offensive'.

    I found most the analysis in Stephen's paper to be banal. He clearly overreaches in trying to associate Emerging Australian Doctrine with the French Defeat in Indochina.

    He is to my mind, either being duplicitous, or is a few tinnies short of a six pack in his understanding of Australia's Future Joint Operating Concept and the Australian Army's Adaptive Campaigning doctrine.
    Last edited by Mark O'Neill; 08-14-2007 at 11:02 AM. Reason: spelling

  6. #6
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark O'Neill View Post
    The SDSC is associated with a discredited defence philospophy of "continental defence". This is essentially a 'flat earth' view of our defence needs that sees our national security interests largely in terms of protecting the integrity of the our sovereign soil, and essentially denying that the Nation has 'global' security interests beyond the continental shelf. They see airpower and strong maritime forces being the defence panacea for our island continent.

    They are taken with the idea that the airforce can 'save' Australia in the same way that the RAF did Britain duing the Battle of Britain in World War II. They are severely 'down' on the Army. Of course, this idea overlooks the fact that if the BEF had been able to fight well enough in 1940 and avoided Dunkirk, then the Battle of Britain might never need have happened..


    This theory was at its strongest in the 1980s. The author's biases undoubtedly come from his service in the RAAF. For a while there airpower advocates were the golden children, to some extent the '91 Gulf War only made them worse.

    The problems for these folks are many:

    1. They have missed the 'big idea' of globalisation and the associated security implications.
    2. They spend a lot of effort describing how the 'sea-air' gap to our north can be used in our defence, they fail to realsie that it is in reality a 'sea-air' bridge with land at both ends.
    3. Their defence theory defends against a non-existent and increasingly unlikely to develop threat.
    4. Their ideal force structure posture provides little or no capabilities to deal with the threats we currently face , and are increasingly likely to face. How useful are attack submarines against the Abu Sayaf Group? What chance that a JSF can win hearts and minds in Tarin Kowt?
    5. They cannot reconcile themselves to acknowldge the truth of Sir Lawrence Freedman's truism about airpower from his last Adephi Paper (The Transformation of Strategic Affairs. p. 63) -

    'The basic problem remained that very few political objectives could be directly met by air attack alone. Its use can influence the victim's calculations, but it cannot achieve the physical control of enemy decision making that is always at least a theoretical possibility following a land offensive'.

    I found most the analysis in Stephen's paper to be banal. He clearly overreaches in trying to associate Emerging Australian Doctrine with the French Defeat in Indochina.

    He is to my mind, either being duplicitous, or is a few tinnies short of a six pack in his understanding of Australia's Future Joint Operating Concept and the Australian Army's Adaptive Campaigning doctrine.
    Sounds to me like these SDSC guys may have had something to do with planning the pre-World War II defenses of Singapore.

  7. #7
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    Sounds to me like these SDSC guys may have had something to do with planning the pre-World War II defenses of Singapore.

    But everyone who mattered agreed the jungle was impenetrable!

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    But everyone who mattered agreed the jungle was impenetrable!
    And those Orientals inscrutable

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