Discovering the 'Idiot Centre' of Ourselves

An Antipodean electronic jounral of world affairs published by the Department of
Politics at Victoria University of Wellington [4/96]
Discovering the 'Idiot Centre' of
Ourselves: Footnotes to the Academic
and Intellectual Culture of the
Australian Security Policy Discourse
Micheal Mckinley, Australia National University, Australia
Reader's Report
Author's Rejoinder
For dissent', wrote the late E. P. Thompson, 'tone is as important as context. It must
say not only that these things are true, but that they matter'. Nathaniel Hawthorne was
of the same mind when he expressed the view that some types of imagination perforce
encourage 'dissent from the orthodoxies of dissent'. These views are so relevant in the
context of the Australian security discourse, not the least because, for this writer at
least, that discourse is crude, dangerous and undemocratic and, to make matters
worse, significantly determined and uttered by university colleagues with whom I
have deep, unalterable disagreements. In a saner world this would not be the case;
academics would retain a critical distance from the bureaucracy, while the defence
bureaucracy, for its part, would sooner consult with people chosen at random from
city bus interchanges.
But these are not sane times, nor have the times (in this regard) been sane for a long
while. For reasons which will be addressed in the body of this essay, the University
(that is university-as-institution) is a significant actor in the security policy process. I
say 'the University' but I must be more specific: 'the University' is a synonym for the
Australian National University (ANU), and, even then, greater detail is needed. At
issue in this paper is the role of certain specified centres and departments in the
ANU's Research School of Pacific Studies (RSPacS), now called the Research School
of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS). It follows that any critical enterprise, properly
conceived, focused on security policy, necessarily requires a critique to be mounted in
respect of the ANU. And it is 'the ANU' which is the focus every bit as much as the
contributing individuals who comprise the departments in question because they and
it are consciously, and as a matter of university policy, engaged in an integrated
corporate enterprise[1].
A bourgeois sensitivity to form would in all likelihood determine that such a critique,
if it be undertaken at all, be conducted with decorum, with understatement and a
more-in-sorrow-than-anger tone coming through - if for no other reason than that
proffered as advice to a professor by Olympia Dukakis in the film, Moonstruck: 'don't
shit where you eat'. On this occasion, however, that principle is in abeyance, and it is
so for the simple reason that decorum too often is imposed on dissent rather than
orthodoxy - as though the former is impudent whereas the latter is 'normal' or 'natural',
and certainly inoffensive. Thus to accept decorum in dissent can neuter critique and
mask the violence to which one is opposed. But this is not to say that the other
essentials of intellectual argument - evidence, logical argument and reasonable
interpretation and speculation - have been given up; they have not because that would
be to sacrifice the integrity of the dissent.
This essay, then, has two concerns. One is that the works which contain official
Australian views on national security are, in many ways, plainly wrong. The other,
and the more important, is that official error is being encouraged and authorised by a
university system which has abrogated its intellectual responsibilities by giving its
identity to the immediate realms of the policy process. In other words, the university
merely duplicates the policy-advice role already extant in government at the same
time that it foregoes more seriously reflective enterprises which, today, it alone is
capable of discharging. The consequence is one which not so much brings an
appropriate education to public affairs, as infiltrates the academy with the unreflective
imperatives of the state bureaucracy. Progressively, a form of triple jeopardy ensues
as the pluralism necessary for any society which takes its claims to democratic
pluralism seriously is eroded, and its policies and philosophies cease to hold water.
This may be described as a new advent of ignorance.
Discovering Ignorance
When the Cold War died and was buried, and with it, by any logic at all, the
pretensions to understanding the world claimed by mainstream international relations
and strategic studies, recalling Lord Byron's Epitaph on the death of Castlereagh
seemed appropriate:
Posterity will ne'er survey
A nobler grave than this:
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh:
Stop, traveller, and piss.
As things have worked out, however, acting upon Byron's injunction was a poor guide
to action; in fact, it was rapidly usurped by Simone de Beauvoir's insight that, if you
live long enough, you will see every victory turn into defeat. Thus, notwithstanding
the demonstrable failure of realism to understand its defining problematic for the
previous 44 years[2], since the fall of theBerlin wall in 1989, the Australian
Government has produced two strategic reviews[3] and a defence white paper,
Defending Australia[4], while three significant publications have appeared under the
authorship of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Gareth Evans[5], all
redolent with it[6]. Furthermore, one of the latter, Cooperating for Peace, and the
closely related article which appeared in Foreign Policy, was celebrated as the single
focus of an academic conference (and resulting book) at the Australian National
University[7]. It also was awarded the $207,000 1995 Grawnemeyer Prize in
Improving World Order by the University of Louisville, Kentucky[8].
In view of the celebratory, congratulatory, and prescriptive tenor of these works this is
remarkable - particularly so considering that the most recent of them, Defending
Australia , embraces a time horizon - 15 years - which recent experience and caution
might have dictated was beyond a government forecast[9]. It is even more remarkable
in view of the collective inability, or refusal of these documents to acknowledge the
sources of the global dynamic to which Australia will have to accommodate in this
period. By way of encapsulation, their views of Australian security, where relevant,
share a consensus that, though there are issues and regions which, potentially or
actually, are associated with war, Australia is held to be without significant, or for that
matter, identifiable threat, to its security in the foreseeable future. Moreover,
Australia's benign strategic situation as it is presented in these various texts is
complemented by the new economic opportunities provided by a world of increasing
globalisation and interdependence.
Yet, missing in these appreciations is any sense of context, any sense of causes being
more appropriate than effects. For example, if globalisation is increasing, might it not
be instructive to reflect upon the meta-projects of which it is a consequence? And
what of globalisation itself - does it have a grammar or logic which requires further
inquiry? Might the logic of late capitalism be an appropriate entry point for this? And
is globalisation synonymous with interdependence? In other words, in the absence of
such interrogations, the suggestion is that the future is but a linear extrapolation of
whatever version of the present is agreed upon. Thus, the notion that the future should
not be so regarded with such passivity, and that new coefficients are applied to old
solutions only at the risk of ruin, is totally absent. What is missing, therefore, is any
sense that something is missing.
This might be forgivable if the global political past and present were beyond
understanding, or if the meta-projects themselves were dismissible for some reason or
another, but that is not even remotely the case. And this is because the phenomenon in
question is modernity, a 'distinctly Western project' responsible for unleashing the
'two great transformative agencies' of the last three centuries, the nation state and
systematic capitalist production. Modernity[10], moreover, as agent, mandates
inclusion because it is:
... more than a diffusion of Western institutions across the world, in which other
are crushed - which is a process of uneven development that fragments as it
coordinatesintroduces new forms of world interdependence, in which, ... there are no 'others'[11].
It is a process of the simultaneous transformation of subjectivity and global social
organisation, against a troubling backdrop of high-consequence risks[12].
When these ideas are related to the ideas on display in the works on Australian
security the juxtapositions are shallow, venal, and sad (where they are not
contradictory): all that the latter can envision are: 1) equivocal conclusions to the
effect that the consequences of economic growth allow certain regional powers
greater discretion to acquire weapons which would undermine AustraliaÕs current
comparative strategic advantage over them; and/or 2) globalisation is an essential,
universal good which will be challenged by the illogical forces of reaction 'protectionist sentiment ... deep-seated ethnic and regional loyalties and the like'[13 ],
and/or 'the market opportunities' afforded by globalisation as various parts of the
region, and the world more generally, develop demands appropriate to their on--going
'development'. All the works, in their own way are, therefore, ignorant and closed closed, in the first instance, to even the possibilities suggested by Evans and Grant
that, now, 'economics is the continuation of war by other means'[14], and then closed,
or seemingly oblivious to the atomising and egoistic consequences which modernity
entails, as drawn here by Edward Shils:
Being modern is being 'advanced' and being advanced means being rich, free of the
encumbrances of familial authority, religious authority, and deferentiality. It means
rational and being 'rationalized'. ... If such rationalization were achieved, all traditions
except for the traditions of secularity, scientism, and hedonism would be
Given this repression, and where security is the topic, the instinct must be to ask
'security?' - from what, for whom, to protect what, and by what means? Is not the very
concept Orwellian in these terms? Might it be, as Honi Fern Haber asks the question,
a case of terroristic structures masquerading as security?[16] Whatever the case, the
result is an extraordinary abdication of required, national security-relevant inquiry for
a country which claims a 'sphere of primary strategic interest' comprising nearly onequarter of the earthÕs surface[17].
Even the briefest survey of the observable effects of the globalisation of the economy
under late capitalism in terms of that most basic of human necessities - employment will affirm this judgment. In every nation in the OECD, for example, capitalism has
displayed all the characteristics of serious, long-term malfunctions in this regard.
Furthermore it is an inability to provide adequate employment in either capitalism's
normal or transformational modes of growth, and the expectation is that this trend will
continue[18], with serious consequences for intra-state conflict and tensions[19].
Interdependent with these developments is the emergence of an undemocratic global
institutionalism which, unless remedied (and there is no evident disposition towards
this among the leading global economic actors), will displace expressions of national
political will as the basis of government policy[20].
Ignorance as Policy
World population is now 5.5 billion, and is growing by about 90 million every year.
According to the International Labour Organisation, this currently translates to an
increase in job-seekers of some 47 million, of whom 38 million are in Asia, Africa,
and Latin America, the so-called global economic 'South'. Within the next twenty
years, therefore, around 750 million people will be added to a 'Southern' work force
which already contains 700 million people who are unemployed or underemployed.
The corresponding figure for the North is a 'mere' 36 million, a level not seen since
the 1930s.
Moreover, there seems to be general agreement as to what these figures represent: a
growth in labour supply greater than the likely supply of jobs. By extension this also
means that, as workers in the South become available for employment at considerably
less pay and poorer conditions than their industrialised 'Northern' counterparts, a
downward pressure on wages and, ultimately, jobs themselves, will result, even in the
high skill categories. For example, in the past 20 years, 75 per cent of French textile
workers have lost their jobs to Asian competitors, and currently, one German worker
is employed for the same costs that it takes to employ 30 Chinese workers[21]. This
occurs, moreoverat a time of longer life expectancy, lower reproduction rates, and
ageing in Western societies which experienced a 'baby-boom' following the Second
World War. Effectively, this suggests a risk-averse, increasingly conservative
demographic bloc whose growing needs are already prompting the question 'who'll
pay when they're grey?' Which is to say that the likely political climate in the
industrialised countries which have enjoyed high material standards of living,
especially since 1945, is going to reflect an internal cleavage - between the younger
cohorts of society, whose positions are themselves under economic pressure, and who
will resist the taxation necessary to provide for the older cohorts - and the older
cohorts whose access to health and welfare services is problematic because of the
economic structures affecting those in work and their own decreasing ability to
supplement whatever pensions they might have. Where the 'feminisation' of the work
force is a factor this prospect is intensified. Because of the worldwide practice of
discriminating against women in wage rates, particularly in the South, women
entering the labour force will effectively drive general wage rates down[22].
In the United States, even for the majority of those in work the past has been
disillusioning and the future bleak: the percentage change since 1969 in the median
household income is zero per cent; George Bush even refused to sign legislation that
would have made the minimum hourly wage $US4.50 (the poverty level for anyone
with a dependant); and current conservative estimates are that, by 1999, the US will
lose two million manufacturing jobs in addition to the 1.6 million jobs in the same
sector lost over the last four years. To these should be added the projected loss of a
further 1.9 million jobs by 1997 as cuts in the US military budget work their way
through employment patterns. Little wonder, then, that it is now estimated that 18 per
cent of all workers in the US who put in a 40-hour week earn poverty-level wages.
Definitely not a coincidence is the fact that, according to the US Secretary of Labor,
only 12 per cent of the private sector workforce is unionised[23].
Even these figures do not spell out the full extent of the changing structure of
employment in the US. There, approximately 1.4 million workers go about their
business every day in the category of 'assignment employees' - the name now
bestowed upon the temporarily employed - who typically receive low pay, no
benefits, sick days, health care or pension. Indeed, Manpower, a 'temp' agency, has
displaced General Motors as the largest private employer in the United States. And
the Bank of America has announced that it is phasing out full-time employment for 80
per cent of its employees in favour of staff who work less than 20 hours per week[24].
In such circumstances the ideology of 'free trade' agreements provides a consolation
second only to religion. Unfortunately, this is misplaced. The ratification of the North
America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico and the United
States, a sorely-needed Clinton foreign policy victory, was, and remains better
understood by the working classes of the signatory countries as, an instrument of their
impoverishment. Like the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), the other
managed trade agreement which is about capital, goods and services mobility, but not
labour mobility, and yet has been sold in the name of 'free trade', NAFTA is a great
agreement if your objectives are: 1) global stagnation; 2) greater polarisation of haves
and have-nots; 3) loss of democratic control; 4) unconstrained transnational
corporations; 5) unaccountable global institutions; 6) a race to the bottom for wages
and conditions; and 7) global conflict. This probably accounts for the fact that Clinton
had to resort to old-fashioned presidential bribery of at least 42 Congressional
Representatives, estimated so far at up to $US50 billion, just to get ratification[25 ].
Of particular significance are the multinational/transnational corporations, actors in
domestic and global politics whose future development is a matter for speculation, but
whose lust for commerce and profit on their own terms is as undoubted as their ability
to thwart national governments. For a start, some have annual accounts larger than
those of many nation states. Additionally, in most countries, components or affiliates
of non-indigenous multinationals account for a quarter of all economic activity. And,
taking the US as an example, transactions between a firm and its foreign affiliates or
components accounts for 40 per cent of total imports and 35 per cent of total
As the globalisation of capital increases the logical outcome will be multinationals of
such varied hues of ownership and control that even today's tenuous grasp on their
activities will be made more difficult. For example, there are no international
equivalents to national laws that provide for a measure of corporate accountability such as in the fields of antitrust and consumer protection. To this extent, national
control of the economy is that much more chimerical. But this should not imply that
such control is actually wanted by governments. When both the GATT and NAFTA
documents are read closely, one of the enduring impressions is that the interests of
capital are to be protected disproportionately in comparison to the interests of labour.
Examples abound of the ways in which these forces are synergising. The US
insurance company, Metropolitan Life, employs 150 examiners in Ireland to process
its claims from around the world because it costs only 70 per cent of the equivalent
American operation. As well, three computer companies - Texas Instruments, Sun
Microsystems and Cross-Comm - employ computer specialists in India, Russia, and
Poland, respectively, to undertake their software research and design[27]. Some of
this results in their most recent and advanced products, but it is all done at costs which
are but fractions of the going rate in North America.
Finally, the emergence of electronic networks, those systems which can execute
message transfers almost instantaneously, or, just as immediately, transfer funds and
exchange securities, defines the incapacity of modern government to control its
destiny and to speak in real terms of what is in its gift for the benefit of its citizens. In
the knowledge that, every day, some $US2 trillion is transferred electronically across
national borders[28], how credible is the suggestion that a national government can
for much longer stabilise its currency, safeguard its central banking system, or
implement its own monetary and fiscal policies?
It is through these forces that, for example, current Australian pronouncements on full
employment, and the 'clever country' which will energise it, are reduced to a lament
for both. And politicians of all complexions surely know this. The evidence certainly
exists: over the past nearly two decades, 25 per cent of the much sought-after midlevel jobs occupied by men became casualties of the recession. Those in work have to
work longer hours in an economy now exhibiting a consistent trend towards greater
inequalities in incomes[29]. At the same time, the principal area of growth in
Australian jobs was in poorly paid, part-time employment undertaken largely by
women[30]. Policy-makers need to look no further than the Australian Capital
Territory for a leading example. According to Athol Williams, ACT organiser for the
Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, there is one large discount
chain in Canberra which has not employed a full-time worker in more than five
Full employment is particularly mocked for two reasons. First, unless Australia and
other similarly structured countries adopt impoverishing US employment practices,
they are unlikely to 'enjoy' even the deteriorating conditions which pertain there. And
given the scale of global competition, that parlous state is problematic, too. Second, if
it is held that full employment is a necessary catalyst for consumption and, hence,
economic growth, the visible trends are only contra-indicative. Indeed, they disclose
the distinct possibility that the current 20 per cent of the world's population that can
afford to consume the bulk of global production will steadily decrease as the world in
general is inhabited by people lacking the wherewithal to exercise that privilege. And
this leaves to one side the question of how long the environment could stand it if they
This process is of crucial importance for an imagined regime of international peace
and security. It will, where it is not already under way, increasingly pit countries in
the industrialised world against each other, regional partners against each other, and
even allies against each other. How credible, then, is the suggestion that global peace
and security structures and processes will be established and consolidated at the same
time that large sectors of the industrialised world are experiencing a radical revision
of their position? How credible is it that the United States, a country pathologically
incapable of accepting the economic, environmental, political, and ethical need for
higher energy prices, will tolerate a fundamental structural adjustment to its standards
of living and consumption? How credible is it that Australia will recognise that its
standards of living are no longer possible, especially when as anodyne a document as
the most recent Strategic Review expresses the anxiety that the stronger economic
performance which will be achieved by countries in South-East Asia will introduce
(unspecified) difficulties into relations between Australia and the ASEAN group?[32]
To the extent that the process is talked of, the Australian works mentioned earlier
nevertheless share the prevailing wisdom that globalisation of the world economy is a
worthy objective to be actively sought. And, regardless of this, and of the inequalities
upon which it is based, they all embody an acceptance of its consequences by
expressing the idea that the future is one of global economic opportunity. Effectively,
then, they offer nothing but silence to two of the consequences of current policies
which are already being experienced, and which go the heart of Australia's security
concerns - immiseration within the country, and increasing wretchedness and rage
among the world's underclass.
By extension, the phenomenon can be quite simply identified as anti-intellectualism.
It is not that, somehow or other, the issues canvassed in the preceding few pages were
forgotten, or were irrelevant; rather, they were deliberately excluded on the grounds
that they were relevant but were too hard, and too demanding to deal with inside the
simplifying paradigms of what passes for mainstrean security studies. In the
newsletter of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP), nine
of whose 23 members in Australia are academics, and five are from the Australian
National University, Dr Jim Rolfe delivers the plea of nolo contendere when
justifying a working group's refusal to engage the complexities of 'comprehensive
security' on the grounds of 'the potential danger in attempting to be too inclusive in its
examination of the issues .... and in the process failing to draw any sensible
conclusions about its nature or how it may be applied'[33]. Clearly, then, we are being
urged to accept that it is possible to draw analytically and morally sound conclusions
about the state of security enjoyed by the human race by neglecting to consider most
of the determining conditions under which it lives.
Compounding this view are the circumstances of its disclosure. Despite the fact
academics are so well represented within CSCAP, they have obviously conceded to
the notion of limited publication of the views they have contributed to, although it has
to be said that they have done so in a farcical manner. The CSCAP newsletter cited
here was distributed through the ANU internal mail system, yet its first page advises:
'Material in this publication is for private circulation only and is not to be used for
public purposes - Reproduction, transmission or quotation in any form or by any
means is strictly forbidden'. On the other hand, to the extent that parts of the
university are intellectually closed, the advice was both prudent and unlikely to give
Preparing for Ignorance
From the spirit of inclusion we can now pass to one of anticipation. Specifically, six
things may be said of the materials with which this essay engages. First, and
essentially, they are attempts to defer, obfuscate, and conceal the inevitable, which is
to say, death, in its various manifestations - for example, of the government, the party,
the current order (global and regional), the country, and the planet. Second, they are,
nevertheless, obligatory products of the state; in a democracy, it is entirely legitimate
for citizens to expect their government to produce such programs and their
justifications in order that they might better understand, and give a more informed
consent to, the way they are governed, and the way their state relates to other states
and peoples.
Third, they constitute an anxious and ambitious engagement with the future and are
prone, therefore, to gratuitous, scathing criticism which might be less the result of
incompetence than an excess of enthusiasm coupled with an understandable dearth of
abilities to understand what does not yet even seem remotely possible. Fourth,
because they are also exercises in self-justification, they are quite explicit disclosures
of governmental discourse in action. Indeed, the rules which govern the production of
knowledge useful for, and by, the state are perhaps nowhere better evidenced than in
such texts.
Fifth, because of the prevalence of a common discourse, the key elements of any
project are inescapably subordinated, both to it, and each other - which implies that, if
any one of them is discredited, the entire design threatens to undo. And sixth, when all
is balanced and brought to mind, in their own ways they seek what Robert Heilbroner
describes as a 'secular analgesic for ... existential anxiety' by asking four questions will human life go on; will Australia itself go on; what will be the designs of these
existences, and what hope is there for the future?[34]
Because of the first (deferral of death) the advice found in Jules Reynard's Journal is
sage: look for the ridiculous in everything and you will find it. Moreover, because of
the first, quite possibly the third (anxious and ambitious engagement with the future),
and definitely the sixth (the need for a secular analgesic), embarrassment is
simultaneously deferred and referred to the modernist monastery of the postNietzschean church, the University - specifically the bought priesthood of policy
wonks within it who can be guaranteed to lend legitimacy, authority and, ultimately,
secular benediction to whatever findings are to hand.
The Authorisation , Benediction, and Professionalisation of Ignorance
The University, of course, has, in a consummate example of a genuinely welladjusted, but adequate betrayal, allowed itself to be used this way as though it was
practising virtue. But any, even superficial, examination of these practices suggests a
less than proper activity. In some cases, ostensible university departments and/or
centres are significantly funded by the very government departments whose work they
are asked to consult with[35]. As well, some of these same departments are staffed
(manned would be more accurate) by non-academics - specifically contract appointees
from the relevant state bureaucracies whose subventions have just been noted - as
though proximity to an academic community conferred actual academic status upon
them by right (in the same way, perhaps, as drummers are not so much musicians as
people who just happen to hang out with bands).
It is not surprising then that much of the written output of such departments and
centres is not distinguished by independently-minded scholarship of the type with
which the university-as-institution is normally associated. Indeed, since the discursive
norms and requirements of the bureaucratic and academic discourses, respectively, are
so obviously opposed, perhaps to the point of mutual exclusivity, the proposition that
much of the work of such centres and departments is other than an inescapable
repetition of the views of the bureaucracy to which they are beholden is fatuous.
Other considerations not only lend weight to this conclusion, but also capture more
clearly the cynical character of the exchange relationship. In the first instance, the
government approaches the university for reasons that can have nothing to do with
information since, in all but a few cases involving intellectual property, any
information the university might have is also public information, and hence readily
available. Second, it is equally certain that academics know less about the policy
process than the government itself. And third, it is definitely not the case that the
university has a monopoly on people of high intelligence (whatever that might mean
specifically); indeed, if high intelligence is a criterion, the policy of appointing so
many people from the bureaucracy implies that it rather than the academy is the site
of such gifts.
Accordingly, for what the government receives it is necessary to revive certain
popularly-held conceptions of the university. Among these are the notions that it is the
site of rigorous, disinterested research and analysis and that it contains a body of
scholars whose work is both explicitly concerned with what is sometimes termed
'basic theory', and with work which is more explicitly informed by theoretical
concerns than (say) that of the bureaucracy. Research and reflection in areas of theory
at the 'cutting edge' of a particular area are thought to be especially within the
province of the university, implying the belief that university scrutiny will, therefore,
reveal whatever flaws might exist in governmentÕs designs. Coterminous with this,
the university is celebrated as the employer of unconventional intellectuals whose
theoretical concerns are complemented by a willingness to subject all that passes
before them to a radical critique of a type not possible within the bureaucracy.
It has to be said, however, that this is a vista wholly preposterous to anyone with a
working knowledge of either the university, or the economy of anticipation within the
state-university relationship. Leaving to one side the infiltration of the university by
the bureaucrats-in-residence and, thus, the distinct improbability of anything
resembling the benefits alleged in the preceding paragraph being realised, the
university basically does not understand its role in terms of these benefits. Stated
plainly, the defence and foreign policy community and the relevant departments and
centres are at one in their hostility to any rigorous, theoretically critical project being
The question that might be asked at this juncture is: why, then, does the university do
it? Basically the answer is: 'for the worst of reasons'. There is money, power, and
status in it. Money because the consultancies provide salary supplements to an area of
professional life significantly underpaid in comparison with other professions in
general, and on the basis of qualifications-for-salary in particular. In so doing of
course, the university believes it has found a way of retaining academics in the
university system who would otherwise be 'lost' to private enterprise or the
government when, as this essay argues, it has succeeded only in extending these
realms into the academy. Power because it is inseparable from a process in which the
state, with its constitutional monopoly of the institutions and means of violence, coopts the institution which is ostensibly the repose of intellectual authority and
disinterested analysis, for legitimation of its policies. And status is bestowed because
the corporatised university, in a corporatised society can think of no higher accolade
than being patronised by the corporate state.
Nor does this exhaust the benefits which accrue. There is 'relief from teaching' in it
(raising the related question of why, in the modern university, in which academic
appointments are sought with missionary zeal, is the voluntary suspension of
professional academic, in favour of bureaucratic, activities regarded not only as a
'relief', but also a weighty criterion for academic promotion?) And there is a similar
'relief' from writing under the pressure of peer review for journals of reference[36].
Ultimately and generally, those so distracted express the view that, even in an open,
free, democratic polity, intellectual service to state power is preferable to the
traditional roles of teaching and supervising students - who are the nation's
intellectual treasury - and involvement with one's own projects of research and
writing. The rationale might be proffered that oneÕs citizenly duty requires the
former, but it is a queer, compromised duty that reduces academics to what former
Minister for Science, Barry Jones dismissed as 'panel-beating for industry' [37].
In sum, it is only possible to consider the catalogue of compromise outlined here as
'beneficial' if, at the same time, one understands a crucial element concerning the role
of ideas in modern, economically-rationalist societies. Increasingly they reflect the
application and extension of New Right, supply-side, entrepreneurial economics, the
parameters of which, for critical intellectuals, Timothy Luke outlines in his recent
study of America's informational society:
... critical intellectuals and the professional/technical intelligentsia tend to be
unless their work is strictly policy-relevant, corporate connected, profit-oriented, and
funded with its own hard money[38 ].
Equally, they reflect the crisis-of-mission and courage which the university has both
encountered from other realms of power, and constructed voluntarily, when it
accepted the charge that it was 'irrelevant' to society unless it could compete, or join
with, other state agencies as problem-solver for the state's immediate concerns.
At this point, therefore, it is appropriate to consider one of the many results of this
system in action, namely, that government and university declarations on matters of
national security, such as they are and broadly defined, are deeply embarrassing if one
is in any way sensitive to a genuinely open intellectual debate on theoretical issues
and the practical consequences they necessarily entail. In this light and in that of the
present spatial constraints, it is sufficient to reflect on the following events which
'really happened' in recent Australian history:
Richard Woolcott, recently retired Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and
Trade, expresses the view that the 'moral and sentimental' attitudes which favour selfdetermination for, inter alia, the East Timorese and the Bougainvilleans, are a threat to
Australia's, other states', and international security[39] - basically identical, paleorealist views to those which he held as Australian ambassador to Indonesia in 1975
which he successfully urged the government to follow[40].
In 1992, the Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Ray, demonstrated his
of contemporary global politics by insisting that, 'while there had been historic global
changes over the past few years, these events had only a limited effect on [Australia's]
national security'[41].
A similar competence in history came to the fore one year later when, within a few
of the publication, by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC., of statements
senior American World War II commanders such as Supreme Allied Commander in
Europe (and US President) General Dwight D. Eisenhower, wartime Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William Leahy, Allied Commander in the South West
General Douglas MacArthur, and US Army Chief of Staff, General George C.
Marshall, to
the effect that they thought the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 to be strategically
unnecessary and morally dubious, both at the time, and afterwards, the Minister for
Defence, Senator Robert Ray, declared that President Truman's decision to authorise
the attacks was the 'right' thing to do[42].
An equally impoverished respect for, and understanding of, history and logic was in
evidence in the works of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Gareth
Evans, who, in a work published by a university press, and in the space of seven
proclaimed such a privileged perspective for decision-makers that it was possible for
them to be the embodiment of contradiction - ie 'rational ... extremely agile' actors
on the basis of appearance, could simultaneously hold that history's unfolding could
hardly be the result of 'some discoverable law', while appreciating 'the inexorable
of science and technology, and financial markets' as global determinants[43].
Among the responses so determined is the embrace of the 'free trade' regimes which
result from the various agreements under this rubric, despite the historical evidence,
elaborated by Walter Russell Mead, that 'it doesn't work. No country that has
successfully developed has ever followed this path'[44].
The Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, and professor in the Australian
National University, authors a monograph on the future of the Australia-United States
defence relationship without at any stage confronting the critical pathologies affecting
that country, despite the evidence[45] that they will seriously influence the nature and
quality of its global role[46]. At the same time, he claims to have discovered, and then
have taken up residence in, the singularly real world of the policy-makers, a world
unreachable by 'academic commentators'. Two implications follow, of course - that
Professor Dibb neither considered himself an academic, nor had anything but
for those of his colleagues engaged in non-mainstream security discourse; and that
policy-makers were somehow absolved from the developments in the philosophy of
science over the last two centuries which have led inexorably to the conclusion that
reality is local and temporal.
Notwithstanding this, in an article co-authored by the Professor of International
at the ANU, it is uncritically reported that a necessary condition for academic
critiques to
be recognised by the security policy community is that the former accept the core
assumptions of the latter. Moreover, where the language of the critique is one which
'officials simply don't understand', it is also 'likely to be ignored, no matter how
important the message'[47]. Here, again, there is a rough consistency with the
incumbent, J. D. B. Miller, who noted that, in the period 1949 to 1972, 'events of
moment to Australia were often avoided by scholars because of the ignominy which
were likely to attract from either Right or Left if their opinions were
Such a catalogue of 'things that really happened', if gratuitously indicted, might, of
course, be gratuitously challenged. But only in its parts. Some might object to one or
two of the above on the grounds that, reprehensible as they are, they were determined
by 'the exigencies of the time', or that concerns with abstruse theory are irrelevant to a
world which seems to replicate itself from age to age in accordance with an
appropriate understanding of (say) 'human nature'. Of the two suggestions, the
'exigencies' argument requires further examination at this point because it appears in
different guises from time to time. Miller claims it almost as a defensive privilege for
the course of (in)action taken by the Department of International Relations for 23
years. In one of his reflections on the Vietnam War he wrote:
My primary responsibility was to see my department survive. It was the only
of International Relations in Australia, and Vietnam was not the only event happening
the world.
At times it seemed to me that if my department was strident in opposition to the war,
would be snuffed out.
Whether we had any influence on government, either way, I very much doubt. I am
entirely sceptical about academic influence on governments.
Governments use academics in the same way the rest of the community use plumbers.
You have a leak in the system and you have a man in a university who knows about it,
you call him up and say, 'What is happening?' That is, mend the leak.
You don't ask what is wrong with the plumbing system, which is what academics are
concerned about.
For my department, it was a matter of dodging the issue. We had good connections
Foreign Affairs and Defence, and it was clear the government was going to do what it
wanted ... if an academic disagreed with their actions it was almost seen as treason it
was as strong as that.
Outside Canberra there was a lot of academic resistance, ... but my role was a
one. Keep your head down and try to avoid interferences with the Australian National
University[49 ].
If this apologia is understood in plain terms, the inferences to be drawn are that: the
Department of International Relations (or those within it who were against the war)
understood that the Coalition government of the day was so intolerant and repressive
that it would close down their department - which it didn't listen to anyway despite it
being located within the country's 'showcase' university - for expressing legitimate
dissent on a war which was becoming very unpopular within the community at large;
in the process it/they adopted a policy of individual and collective cowardice in
relation to both the war, and their academic colleagues in less favoured institutions
who, presumably, bore the same, and possibly greater, risks of dissent; and it/they
placed the study of contemporary inter-state relations, which had, of course to exclude
a war that was in the process of claiming three million lives, above the demands of
ethics, law, honesty, humanity and decency.
If this is so, then, equally plainly, the precedent it set was staggering - something
Miller does not refer to. If something as singularly important as the Vietnam War
could be internalised as an ANU index prohibitorum, then a habit of obsequiousness
to state power was established with a strong genealogy. And such may have proved to
be the case. Two aspects of the above are relevant here. First, it falls to other, less
well-endowed for research and less well-connected (to government) universities, to
educate government despite its aversions to views expressed in unfamiliar idioms
because, implicitly, the ANU - which has a unique position to undertake this role
itself - values its connections more highly than the intellectual courage it is popularly
thought to possess as a university. And for what reason(s)? Kerr and Mack, both
colleagues for some time in the ANUÕs Peace Research Centre, write of the current
general rule regarding criticism, which is practised in it, and the SDSC, in terms of the
possibility of 'bit[ing] the hand that feeds' but being concerned 'not to bite it off'[50].
Again, translated in to plain language, 20 years after the Vietnam War - indeed, in the
absence of any Australian involvement in war or the rule of a Coalition government and five years after the end of the Cold War, Miller's priority of survival continues to
be asserted both as an operating principle and as a rationale for the absence of radical
Yet it is difficult to account for the continuing vitality of this view for two reasons.
First, the writings of Desmond Ball in relation to the Australia-US Joint Facilities and
certain extremely sensitive Australian intelligence operations with regard to
Indonesia, and some of the work produced by members of the PRC in the late-1980s,
indicate that it is possible for academics, even without tenure in a government-funded
centre, to criticise the integrity of policy at a fundamental level[51]. And second, so
long as more frequent challenges to government (if, indeed, that is what they are) are
not made, the fear that government would shut down a university department on the
grounds of the published views held by its members, remains a form of selfintimidation. To be sure, this does not guarantee that retribution of this sort is
impossible, but, even if it did transpire, what would be lost? Perhaps only the locus of
a privileged but scared collection of otherwise officially-sanctioned stenographers.
In the end, too, the 'exigencies' argument does little to advance the case for academic
complicity in the excesses of government since it fails to account for those who, in the
face of the same 'exigencies of the time', decided to criticise and resist when humanity
was at risk, and intellectual closure was threatened or in effect. The catalogue cited,
therefore, simply demonstrates that an account of the commonality of purpose and
value which exists between the government and the University is amply justified, and
that to subsume it under some alibi such as the reigning 'exigencies' is little more than
special pleading where it is not critical nonsense.
The Institutionalisation of Ignorance
Central to the argument at this point is that both phenomena, special pleading and
critical nonsense, obscure deeper dispositions and relations between the university
and Australia's policy communities. Hence, what appears as special pleading, finesses
the true extent to which the interlocking security policy directorate actively reinforces
its ostensibly independent constituents by way of an exchange relationship in favours
and privileges which, of themselves, indicate the extraordinary contempt it is possible
to bring intellectual life into. Thus, if Richard Woolcott was the unfortunate victim of
a time in which diplomats were essentially honest men who, in Sir Henry Wotton's
celebrated phrase, 'lie for the good of their country', why is it that his view underwent
no such change even when he was free of government employment? More, why was
he appointed to the ANU's Department of International Relations as an Australian
Visiting Fellow on his retirement?
The answer to such questions must include the recognition that his theories and
practices were unremarkable to those who promoted his appointment, and certainly no
impediment to a post-retirement association with the academy. That, at least, would
be consistent with a university which, from its earliest days, maintained such close
relations with government that its Vice-Chancellor could assure the Minister for
External Affairs (who, in turn, assured the Prime Minister, but urged him nevertheless
to pressure the Vice-Chancellor), that the 'right type of man' would be sought - one
who would, importantly, be selected on the basis of 'qualifications other than
professional'[52]. J. D. B. Miller's appointment, and the disposition of timidity which
reigned for so long under his academic leadership, referred to above, would no doubt
have fulfilled this criterion. But so, too, would have the ANU in general: during the
Vietnam War (February 1970), according to one government Minister, the ANU was
the venue for a seminar attended by 'the CIA representative' which discussed the
problems faced by government when 'popular opinion [is] mobilised to interfere with
government policy'[53] - the case in point being the democratic and legal resistance
known as the Vietnam Moratorium protests.
Over time, the 'open door' became, effectively, what is known in the United States as
the 'revolving door' with increasing numbers of bureaucrats migrating seasonally
between fixed-term positions in the ANU and their more permanent abodes in
government service, while more and more academics became attracted to the twilight
world of consultancy (i.e. illuminated less by the intellect than the limits of an
officially-sanctioned imagination) for government departments and agencies. Paul
Dibb, for example, spent approximately the first half of his professional career in
government service, then was appointed to the ANU - but wrote his Review of
Australia's Defence Capabilities on loan from that body. He then returned to the
Defence Department, rose to the rank of Deputy Secretary, and left the bureaucracy
once again for the ANU and a chair in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre
which the university authorities thought him so worthy of that they decided against
the normal formalities of advertising and appointment from competitive application.
In his current position, Dibb has been heavily involved in the preparation of the
Strategic Review 1993, and the government's 1994 defence white paper.
Occasionally, however, the flow is reversed, as when Stuart Harris vacated his chair
in the ANU's Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies in the mid-1980s to
serve as the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade[54]
Modernity, by way of the facsimile transmission capability has recently intervened to
modify, but certainly not to exclude the relationship between academe and the state.
The innovation was the P.R.O.S.T.I.T.U.T.E. (Profitable Replacement Of Scholarship
and Teaching by Information Technologies Utilising Telephonic Exchange). Within
this, chapter drafts for books and articles which subsequently appeared under the
name of, for example, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, were proposed and
revised - receiving, in the fullness of publication, the incense of acknowledgment a
church celebrant pays to an acolyte. In some cases this is an explicit reference in the
congested district of an 'acknowledgments' section[55]. In others it might take the
form of privileged access to government information for the purposes of discoursing
on government policy in the university. An example of this latter practice was a paper
produced in mid-1994 by the Professor of International Relations at the ANU. The
first line and opening sub-heading read The 1994-5 Defence Budget 1 where footnote
1 carried the citation 'The source for the following data is Defence Budget Brief 199495, Department of Defence May 1994. This document is not in the public domain and
should not be cited' (emphasis added)][56].
The university, particularly those parts of the Australian National University which
are covered by Kerr and Mack's description as having 'ready access to the security
bureaucracy and government, which have no undergraduate teaching duties and which
are relatively well funded'[57], it must be understood, rejoice in the activities
catalogued and the official status they confer. Reference to a Research School of
Pacific Studies Annual Report [58] for any one of the last few years will reveal,
within the 'Report of the Director', a ritualised self-justifying section entitled 'Public
Issues and Academic Cooperation', which contains, inter alia, a sub-section headed
'Links with Government and Other Public Institutions'. Although the sub-section
occupies some 50 per cent of the section, it is always claimed to be no more than an
indication of the range of the assistance rendered to government and other public
With regard to security-cognate centres or departments - for example, the Department
of International Relations and the Peace Research Centre (PRC) - some influence
upon the policy process is conceded but described as difficult to establish, according
to Kerr and Mack[59], yet, it is the case that they have records (albeit different) of
involvement. To this end the Research School of Pacific Studies' Annual Report for
1991 records a PRC consultancy for the Australian Army while the 1993 report
contains one half of a page detailing the consultancy activities (including one to the
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade) of its then head, Dr. Kevin Clements.
The Department of International Relations, on the other hand, has more recently
assumed a different role in relation to the policy bureaucracy. Thus, although
Professor Mack and Professor J. L. Richardson are both acknowledged for their
consultancy contributions to the 'Blue Book', the department's orientation appears to
reflect more of a growing, indirect approach towards policy-relevance. In the 1990
report of the Research School of Pacific Studies, therefore, the claim is made that its
work is being underpinned by its involvement in the theoretical debates which
characterise the discipline internationally, but, tellingly, no subsequent claim of this
scope appears, nor is there any other indication that such activity is, in fact, being
carried on. In its stead is a restructuring of the departmentÕs interests to accord with
the governmentÕs national priority of an Asia focus which reflects economic and
security initiatives. But this is a bizarre abdication on at least two counts - the first
being that the department hosts the Hedley Bull Memorial Fellow, an appointment
designed to commemorate a former professor and acclaimed (in the international
relations mainstream anyway) theorist; while the second is that, for some years, the
department was responsible for teaching a graduate diploma which was mandatory for
all diplomatic trainees entering the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
There seems to be no doubt, however, about the significance of the relationship in
question if the focus shifts: where Kerr and Mack note the general influence of ANU
research centres on national security policy, they refer to the 'remarkable influence on
national security policy' exerted by the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC)
in particular. Indeed, SDSC is the example, par excellence , of the acquisition of
money, power, and status by a university centre - of the locus of training in which the
instructors speak with what de Tocqueville discerned were 'the accents of authority':
It has been involved in an advisory capacity on a number of key policy decisions; it
provided serving officers with time to write on policy issues; its staff act as
consultants to
both Defence and Foreign Affairs; Paul Dibb, its current head, was until recently the
no. 2
civilian in the Defence Department and was one of the main architects of Labor's
defence self-reliance policy. SDSC is not unlike [the] US think tanks in that there is a
considerable degree of interchange between its staff and the official security
bureaucracy. SDSC's publications are widely circulated and read in official
On its own account, this centre presents itself as a contradiction. In the RSPacS
Annual Report for 1993 it declares itself to be dedicated to 'rigorous and independent
research into defence and strategic issues' but it reproaches this stand with practices
hardly consistent with the qualities therein. In the 1990 report a corporate mentality is
strongly in evidence in relation to a major consultancy for the Australian Army, the
findings of which appear as beliefs and perceptions attributable to 'the Centre', as
though, in a university, it was possible and appropriate to subsume the views of all
members of a centre in this way without raising the prospect of an exercise in 'group
This uneasiness is compounded by the knowledge that SDSC pursues, and obtains,
external funding for its activities for purposes, and from sources, that are often
notorious for their intellectual illiberalism - the national security bureaucracy, private
industry, and especially, weapons manufacturers. And any sense that SDSC is assured
of its own identity in terms consistent with a 'rigorous and independent research'
university operation is totally undone with the need, obvious and repeated in various
reports, to seek validation in the opinions of its worth found in papers and speeches by
the Governor General! But this is only an acute case of an otherwise chronic
condition: a reading of annual reports in the early 1990s will leave no doubt that it is
thought de rigueur within the RSPacS security community to have a ministerial or
vice-regal presence at all major events so as to convey the approval that the
community is receiving from government and other quarters of the establishment.
Implied in these practices is that which other practices make explicit; namely, that
SDSC cannot be regarded as a university operation under any sensible definition of
that term. In the field of regional security policy, for example, it not only has been at
the 'forefront of new policy issues' but has also been responsible for their
implementation by way of so-called 'second track' diplomacy whereby SDSC is
responsible for conducting discussions with high-level officials of foreign
governments. Indeed, in the light of this, SDSC is more than a US-style think tank
because such organisations make no claim to function as constituents of a university.
Yet this is exactly what SDSC is simultaneously engaged in. It does so, moreover,
within the same ethic which frames its policy advice function. Thus, the graduate
program in strategic studies has been refined to reflect the need to be: policy-relevant;
regionally focused and export oriented (a joint Masters program has been established
with the Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute); and cognisant of the user-pays
principle for higher qualifications (the weapons manufacturers - British Aerospace,
and Rockwell - provide scholarships and 'other support'). Not surprisingly, therefore,
at least in these terms, it also aspires to the exclusively professional standing of a
'discipline', although it is virtually alone among centres of its type in doing so, since
most have traditionally experienced no identity crisis in understanding their project as
being multi-disciplinary where it is not, more accurately conceived, parasitic upon the
established university disciplines.
In the light of such developments, historical and on-going, it should be no surprise
that, in a 1985 survey of the Australian study of International Relations, Martin Indyk
could refer to the approach to knowledge and society as a 'combination of an
entrenched intellectual tradition [and] a social environment which encourages
conservatism, cynicism and pragmatism'[61]. And, clearly the latter of the two is well
to the fore in the instances cited. But to understand more fully the realm of critical
nonsense it is necessary to attend closely upon the former of these - the 'entrenched
intellectual tradition'.
Ignorance as a Tradition
What Indyk identifies with this term, and Jim George demonstrates the genealogy and
philosophical and policy significance of, is a discourse that has been 'dominated, since
its inception in 1962, by a narrow and tightly disciplined positivist realism that has
ignored, effectively marginalised and/or actively discouraged dissenting
approaches'[62]. Moreover, it has, as was also amply evidenced in the preceding
schedule, 'echoed the perspectives of successive Australian governments on a series
of foreign policy givens in the post world war two period'[63]. Accordingly, it is a
community in double jeopardy; by foreclosing on curiosity it has lost its intellectual
legitimacy, and by giving itself in this condition to the purposes of the state, it is the
purveyor of advice and succour which is plainly dangerous.
Consider the implications of the finding by Kerr and Mack that, if the language of a
message is one which 'officials simply don't understand', it will be ignored no matter
how important it might be. It is, for a start, only partially true: policy-makers read
their own papers and these can hardly be described as exemplary documents of
effortless comprehension, a point leading policy-realists themselves have been
prepared to make. In regard to nuclear strategy, for example, Lawrence Freedman
notes its 'often atrocious' literary style, development of 'arcane concepts' which
frequently obfuscate rather than clarify, and a 'forbidding miasma of acronyms and
jargon'[64]. And, according to former Deputy Secretary of Defence, Alan Wrigley,
one chapter in Defending Australia is a prime source of the problem Kerr and Mack
allude to, exhibiting both 'indulgences in military jargon', and 'language ... locked into
the trench warfare of earlier campaigns'[65]. The suggestion, then, is the same as that
made by Walter Laqueur who asserted it was a 'well-established fact that prolonged
government service ... usually has a debilitating effect on a person's ability to
In any case, it is palpable nonsense to suggest that difficulty of comprehension is the
criterion by which policy-makers decide their reading. If it was, why would Evans
and Grant quote from Jurgen Habermas (opportunistically to be sure) when there are
few more difficult contemporary critical social theorists to come to grips with?[67]
And then there's the case of the various foreign policies founded in advanced
scientific and technological knowledge, even in Einsteinian Relativity and quantum
physics, which are developed despite the fact that the overwhelming generality of the
policy community in question has never heard of, let alone understands, the Lorentz
transformation or the Uncertainty Principle. Resistance on the basis of difficulty,
therefore, is more of a subterfuge for ignorance on three grounds: the information is
being advanced by one's critics, and/or it is contrary to practice, and/or it is above the
comprehension of, regrettably, poorly educated bureaucrats and policy-makers.
Essentially, this transforms the difficulty from one which resides in the authorship of
critical texts generated external to the policy process, and is therefore imposed on it to one in which a discretionary prerogative is exercised negatively. In other words, the
resulting ignorance of possibly important ideas is self-willed. But this is an affront to
our system of government because, in a democracy, intellectual responsibility, like
political responsibility is not optional - either for academics or bureaucrats.
Encounters with difficulty in the practice of governance are expected, as is an
engagement with it. Indeed, how does a policy community know what it 'doesnÕt
want to know' without such a familiarity? Are its members unaware that 'the world'
can only ever be the result of questions put to it, from time to time and place to place?
Accepting the core assumptions of policy-makers is, therefore, an approach which
caution and logic alike would advise against. At the one time it is not only inherently
conservative and dangerous, but also ludicrous - akin to being asked to argue the case
for a republic on the basis of the principles in favour of the monarchy held by George
Such, however, are the reigning imbecilities which govern the mainstream security
discourse in Australia, a discourse of collaboration rather than critical dialogue
between the policy community and the university. A discourse, for all that, based on
efficient enough brains but all too limited intelligence and imagination. Translated
another way, the discourse is one of infatuation with detail and the immediate. As
governments have increasingly demanded 'real-time' detail, professions have
increasingly differentiated to the point where their intellectual and temporal vistas are
historically meaningless. The future is imagined but only in a quantum, wishfulfilment mode - which is to say that it is not only seen as being necessarily better
than now (because governments cannot promise dystopia), but also, so different to
now that any knowledge of the present mandates that it can only be reached by nonlinear travel. The possibility that the future might be a counter-factual reproach to that
which is officially promised is not conceded. The explanation for part of this lies in
the willingness to serve, but, beyond this, it could ironically be said to lie in the nature
of (metaphorical) quantum politics itself: trajectory - speed and direction - is a
problem because, as Heisenburg demonstrated, the two properties are impossible to
measure simultaneously. In Australian security discourse it seems there is a willed
unawareness of this, as there is even to recognise the intellectual need for both.
Reflections on Bureaucratic and Academic Ignorance
Historically, there are precedents for the security policy community described in these
pages. For a term to describe deeply entrenched, formally and informally approved,
discretionary and undemocratic ignorance, ancient Athens provided the appellation
idiotes, from which is derived the common English language expression 'idiot'.
Classically, the idiotes were those who refused to take an interest in the full range of
public affairs and the improvement of public behaviour. For a species of idiot
appropriate to the present context, in which mediocrity in thought drives out that
which is superior on the basis of weight of numbers and political power and interests,
though, it is best to move beyond Greece to Western Europe between the fourth and
sixth centuries AD. There and then the Visigoths achieved their dominance.
Basically, they were an energetic lot, horsemanship being what they are most
positively remembered for. Basically, too, they were brutal, crude, and shallow
barbarians, unsubtle in language, destructive of other, more sophisticated cultures, and
inhumane in their politics. Knowledge, for them, was purely instrumental, being
measured in terms of the power over others, if realised. They nevertheless adhered to
the familiar conceit that the world revolved around their doings and that their ways
should be the ways of all mankind. Before they were overturned their wake of
destruction was so extensive that they are seen as responsible for the Dark Ages from
which it took Europe nearly a millennium to recover.
With due allowances being made for time and place, but not for the essential
disposition towards learning, reflecting, and understanding, perhaps we should ask
whether there is any discernible difference between the tribes who sacked Rome in
410 AD and those who now control the discourse of Australian security. Can we,
ought we, to understand them any differently? Their connections and their
consciousness are so impoverished that, had they not the power they so obviously do
have, they would be accorded serious interest only as intellectual and historical relics.
Which is why lines from a stream-of-consciousness poem by Anna Walwicz compels
their presence at this point. As with so many poems it contains an economy of anger
and profundity in such unambiguous stanzas that the argument and rage of this
academic critic is willingly effaced:
You too empty.
You too far everywhere....
You have nothing to offer....
You don't excite me.
You scare me with your hopeless.
Asleep when you talk.
You want everyone to be the same.
You're dumb.
You average average.
You always ask me where I'm from.
You think you're better than me.
You don't have any interest in another country.
Idiot centre of your own self[68].
1 The corporatisation of the university extends, of course, well beyond the area of
security studies.
2 For critical analyses of this failure see: Pierre Allan, 'The End of the Cold War: The
End of International Relations Theory?', in Pierre Allan and Kjell Goldmann (eds),
The End of the Cold War - Evaluating Theories of International Relations, Nijhoff,
Dordrecht, 1992, p. 234; Friedrich Kratochwil, 'The embarrasssment of changes: neorealism as the science of Realpolitik without politics', Review of International Studies,
vol. 19, 1993, p. 66; John Lewis Gaddis, 'International Relations Theory and the End
of the Cold War', International Security, vol. 17, Winter 1992-1993, p. 54; and
Patrick Cockburn, Getting Russia Wrong: The End of Kremlinology, Verso, London,
1989, pp. 25-49.
3 Department of Defence, Australia's Strategic Planning in the 1990s 27 November
1989, DPUBS 113/92, September 1992 and Department of Defence, Strategic Review
1993, Defence Centre, Canberra, December 1993.
4 Department of Defence, Defending Australia: Defence White Paper 1994,
Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1994.
5 Gareth Evans, Cooperating for Peace: The Global Agenda for the 1990s and
Beyond, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1993, known colloquially as the 'Blue Book';
'Cooperative Security and Intrastate Conflict', Foreign Policy, no. 96, Fall 1994, pp.
3-20; and (with Bruce Grant), Australia's Foreign Relations: In the World of the
1990s, second edition, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1995.
6 Here, a comment on focus and sources is required. By locating Defending Australia
as but one of several works relevant to Australian security, all of which have received,
in one form or another, a government imprimatur, the intention is to provide a more
comprehensive analysis than would be the case if bureaucratic boundaries erected
primarily for administrative convenience, rather than intellectual and conceptual
integrity, were observed. Besides, it is the case that, since security is now sensibly
defined in grand strategic terms - i.e. in terms which mandate an inclusion of nonmilitary factors (economic, psychological, moral, political, and technological) - it is
necessary to supplement with more extensive considerations those official documents
which are, effectively, executive summaries of much more complex considerations.
7 See Stephanie Lawson (ed.), The New Agenda for Global Security: Cooperating for
Peace and Beyond, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1995.
8 'Peace prize for Evans', The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 April 1995.
9 Defending Australia, Tabling Statement by Senator The Honourable Robert Ray,
Minister for Defence, 30 November 1994, p. 12.
10 Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity, Stanford University Press,
Stanford, 1990, pp. 174-175.
11 Ibid, p. 175.
12 Ibid, p. 177, emphasis added.
13 Evans and Grant, Australia's Foreign Relations, p. 12.
14 Ibid, p. 120.
15 Edward Shils, Tradition, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1981, pp. 288 and
290, as cited in David Kolb, The Critique of Pure Modernity: Hegel, Heidegger, and
After, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1986, p. 5.
16 Honi Fern Haber, Beyond Postmodern Politics: Lyotard, Rorty, Foucault,
Routledge, New York, 1994, p. 115.
17 'Statement by the Minister for Defence on the Review of Defence Capabilities
Conducted by Mr. Paul Dibb', 3 June 1986, p. 16.
18 Heilbroner, Visions of the Future, pp. 80-102, and John Kenneth Galbraith, 'The
New Dialectic', The American Prospect, no. 18, Summer 1994, pp. 9-11.
19 Galbraith, 'The New Dialectic', pp. 9-11.
20 Ibid, and Jeremy Brecher and Tim Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage:
Economic Reconstruction From the Bottom Up, South End, Boston, 1994, pp. 29-32.
21 For a discussion of this in the South Korean case, see William Shawcross, 'A New
Dark Age?', The Weekend Australian, 20-21 August, 1994.
22 Richard J. Barnet, 'The End of Jobs', Harper's Magazine, September 1993. p. 49.
23 Ibid, pp. 47-52; U.S. Bureau of Census data cited in 'Harper's Index', Harper's
Magazine, February 1992, pp. 11 and 78. As of May 1995, the minimum wage
remains $US4.25.
24 Christopher Cook, 'DISPOSABLE EMPLOYEES: Temps - The Forgotten
Workers', The Nation, 31 January 1994, p. 124; and Michael Lind, 'Spheres of
Affluence', The American Prospect, no. 16, Winter 1994, p. 97.
25 Sarah Anderson and Ken Silverstein, 'Oink Oink', The Nation, 20 December 1993,
pp. 752-753.
26 Vary T. Coates, 'Transition to the New Millennium', paper presented to the Annual
Convention of the International Studies Association, Washington, D.C., 30 March
1994, p. 2.
27 Lind, 'Spheres of Affluence', p. 95.
28 Coates, 'Transition to the New Millennium', p. 2.
29 Graham Cook, 'Enter the Disposable Worker', Canberra Times, ('Saturday Forum'
section), 20 May 1995. This article is citing the work of ANU economist Bob
30 Mike Secombe, 'The Grave New World', Sydney Morning Herald, ('Spectrum'
section), 21 May 1994, p. 6A.
31 Cook, 'Enter the Disposable Worker'.
32 Strategic Review 1993, p. 11.
33 Jim Rolfe, 'Comprehensive and Co-operative Security Working Group Report',
CSCAP Newsletter, no. 3, August 1995, published by the Secretariat, Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia. This view is the same as that of Mack and Kerr (see Chapter 1, p. 42).
34 Robert Heilbroner, Visions of the Future: The Distant Past, Yesterday, Today, and
Tomorrow, The New York Public Library/Oxford University Press, New York and
Oxford, 1995, p. 114.
35 Pauline Kerr and Andrew Mack, 'The Future of Asia-Pacific Security Studies in
Australia', in Paul Evans (ed.), Studying Asia Pacific Security: The Future of
Research, Training, and Dialogue Activities, University of Toronto - York University,
North York, Ontario, 1994, p. 49.
36 For one account of the phenomena described above, see Lawrence Freedman,
'Indignation, influence and strategic studies', International Affairs, vol. 60, 1984, pp.
37 As cited in Julian Cribb, 'Scientists See The Light', The Weekend Australian, 15-16
April 1995, p. 16.
38 Timothy W. Luke, Screens of Power: Ideology, Domination, and Resistance in
Informational Society, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1989, p. 251.
39 Richard Woolcott, 'The Perils of Freedom', The Weekend Australian, 22-23 April
1995, p. 24.
40 See 'The Woolcott Cables', in Brian Toohey and Marian Wilkinson, The Book of
Leaks: Exposes in Defence of the Public's Right to Know, Angus and Robertson,
North Ryde, 1987, pp. 175-190, especially pp. 175-180.
41 As cited in Alan Wrigley, 'Defence strategists locked in the past', The Australian,
28 February 1994.
42 As regards the various US commanders' views, see Barton J. Bernstein, 'Hard truth
for America', The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 February 1995; Ray's statement is
carried in Pilita Clark and Adam Harvey, 'US right to drop bomb on Japan, says Ray',
The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 April 1995.
43 Evans and Grant, Australia's Foreign Relations, pp. 4 and 7.
44 Walter Russell Mead, 'Why the Deficit is a Godsend and Five Other Economic
Heresies', Harper's Magazine, May 1993, pp. 60-61.
45 Although the following list is quite lengthy it still should be regarded as indicative
rather than exhaustive: Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, America: What Went
Wrong? Universal Press Syndicate, Kansas City, 1992; Norman Birnbaum, Radical
Renewal: The Politics of Ideas in Modern America, Pantheon, New York, 1988; John
Chancellor, Peril and Promise: A Commentary on America, Harper/York, St.
Martin's, New York, 1992; Studs Terkel, The Great Divide: Second Thoughts on the
American Dream, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1988; Hunter S. Thompson, Generation
of Swine: Gonzo Papers Vol. 2, Tales of Shame and Degradation in the 80s, Summit,
New York, 1988; and, Songs of the Doomed: Gonzo Papers Vol. 3, More Notes on the
Death of the American Dream , Pan/Picador, London, 1990; Gore Vidal, The Decline
and Fall of the American Empire, Odonian, Berkeley, 1992; George Will, The
Morning After: American Successes and Excesses 1981-1986, Free Press and Collier,
New York and London, 1986; Garry Wills, Reagan's America: Innocents at Home,
Doubleday, New York, 1987; Alan Wolfe (ed.), America at Century's End, Collins,
1991; Alexander Cockburn, Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies and the Reagan Era,
Verso, London, 1987; E. J. Dionne, Jr., Why Americans Hate Politics, Simon and
Schuster, New York, 1991; Umberto Eco Faith in Fakes: Essays, Secker and
Warburg, London, 1986; Alan Ehrenhalt, The United States of Ambition: Politicians,
Power, and the Pursuit of Office, Random, New York, 1991; Paul Fussell, BAD: Or,
The Dumbing Of America, Summit, New York, 1991; John Kenneth Galbraith, The
Culture of Contentment; William Greider, Who Will Tell The People: The Betrayal Of
American Democracy, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1992; David Halberstam, The
Next Century; Michael Harrington, The New American Poverty, Penguin, New York,
1984; Robert Heilbroner, 'Lifting the Silent Depression', The New York Review, 24
October, 1991, pp. 6-8; E. D. Hirsch, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs
to Know, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1987; Russell Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals:
American Culture in the Age of Academe, Basic Books, New York, 1987; Haynes
Johnson, Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years, Norton, New
York, 1991; Michael B. Katz, The Undeserving Poor: From the War on Poverty to
the War on Welfare, Pantheon/Random, New York, 1989; Paul Kennedy, The Rise
and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to
2000, Unwin Hyman, London, 1988; Jonathan Kozol, Illiterate America; Joel
Krieger, Reagan, Thatcher and the Politics of Decline, Polity, Cambridge, 1986; Joel
Kurtzman, The Decline and Crash of the American Economy, Norton, New York,
1988; Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of
Diminishing Expectations, Abacus, London, 1985; Walter Russell Mead, Mortal
Splendor; Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology,
Knopf, New York, 1992; Felix Rohatyn, 'The New Domestic Order?', The New York
Review, November 21, 1991, pp. 6-10; Peter H. Rossi, Down and Out in America: The
Origins of Homelessness, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1989; Arthur M.
Schlesinger, The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society,
Whittle, Knoxville, 1991; and John E. Schwarz and Thomas J. Volgny, The Forgotten
Americans: Thirty Million Working Poor in the Land Of Opportunity, Norton, New
York, 1992.
46 Paul Dibb, The Future of Australia's Defence Relationship with the United States,
Australian Centre for American Studies, Sydney, 1993.
47 Kerr and Mack, 'The Future of Asia-Pacific Security Studies in Australia', p. 49.
48 J. D. B. Miller, 'The Development of International Studies in Australia 1933-83',
Australian Outlook, vol. 37, December 1983, p. 140.
49 As cited in Greg Langley, A Decade of Dissent: Vietnam and the conflict on the
Australian homefront, Allen & Unwin, Melbourne, 1992, pp. 108-109 (emphasis
50 Kerr and Mack, 'The Future of Asia-Pacific Security Studies in Australia', p. 49.
51 Two examples of the latter works are Richard Leaver, 'Australian Uranium Policy
and Non-Proliferation', Working Paper No. 45, Peace Research Centre, Australian
National University, Canberra, 1988 and Graeme Cheeseman and St John Kettle
(eds), The New Australian Militarism: Undermining Our Future Security, Pluto Press,
Sydney, 1990.
52 Letter from the Minister for External Affairs, Richard Casey, to the Prime
Minister, R. G. Menzies, 20 April 1955 (copy held by author and available on
53 Alan Ramsey, 'Canberra's petty Pepys', a review of Peter Howson, The Life of
Politics, (edited by Don Aitkin, Viking Press, 1984), The National Times, 8-14 June
1984, p. 22 (emphasis added). The citations are from the diaries of Howson - a junior
Minister in several Coalition governments of the 1960s and 1970s.
54 On completion of that appointment, Harris returned to the ANU as Head of the
Northeast Asia Program within the Department of International Relations.
55 See, for example, Evans, Cooperating for Peace, pp. xiii-xv.
56 This document is without any reference to authorship, nor title (other than that
cited above), it was, however, sent to me by the author; accordingly, I hold a copy but
I am not aware as to whether or not it was published. A further case in point is The
Gulf Commitment: The Australian Defence ForceÕs First War (Melbourne University
Press, Melbourne, 1992), written by David Horner, a member of the Australian
National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre and former career officer
in the Australian Army with an academic reputation as a reliable military historian. As
the 'Acknowledgments' page makes clear, this is a work which reflects the author's
conclusions alone, but which, nevertheless, was made possible by access to select
Department of Defence documents made available on the basis of a personal
application to the Chief of the Defence Force.
57 Kerr and Mack, 'The Future of Asia-Pacific Security Studies in Australia', p. 46.
58 These public documents, of monograph length (120-160 pp. approx.) are described
as Annual Report 1990 [and 1991, 1992, and 1993]: Research School of Pacific
Studies. They are published by, and are available from the School, care of the ANU's
59 Kerr and Mack, 'The Future of Asia-Pacific Security Studies in Australia', p. 47.
60 Ibid, emphasis added.
61 Martin Indyk, 'The Australian Study of International Relations', in Don Aitkin
(ed.), Surveys of Australian Political Science, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1985, p. 300,
as cited in Jim George, 'Some Thoughts on the "Givenness of Everyday Life"',
Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 27, March 1992, p. 36.
62 Ibid, emphasis added.
63 George, 'Some Thoughts on ...', p. 37.
64 Lawrence Freedman, The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, Macmillan, London,
1981, p. xv.
65 Wrigley, 'Defence strategists locked in the past'.
66 As cited in Christopher Hitchens, Prepared for the Worst, Hogarth, London, 1990,
p. 123.
67 Evans and Grant, Australia's Foreign Relations, p. 6.
68 Anna Walwicz, 'Awful Australia' (c. 1985).
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