Soundings Papers: Military Power is not enough

Soundings No. 34
Soundings No. 34

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Isaac Barnett

This paper illuminates the inadequacies of the term “military power”. The paper gestures to the shortcomings of defence planning and military strategy that call for little more than the counting of sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen and their equipment. Thus, the paper is at odds with the so-called “materiel school”, which sees security in terms of firepower, numerical superiority and budgets.

Widely used, the term “military power” epitomises a fetish for mass, the mistake that defence capability might be measured in tanks, or guns or in numbers of soldiers or aircraft. This essay offers a larger perspective to the concept of “military power” and interrogates that idea in the Australian context, where the language of “military power” gives an essentially maritime strategy short shrift.

This paper is in two sections. First, important aspects of Australian defence policy that are ignored by the term “military power” will be acknowledged. These are national power and sea power. In the term “sea power” we recognise both naval power and the larger Australian dependence on the ocean. Second, this paper explains the idea of doctrine and the effect of narrow-minded doctrine upon defence.