Analysis

The Thucydides Trap . . . or a trap for young players

By Allan Behm*

Sadly, hermeneutic s— or exegesis as it was formerly known — is not much in vogue these days. Maybe that reflects the fact that most of us rely on translation for our glimpses into the texts written in ancient (and dead) languages. And the word ‘hermeneutics’ itself needs a bit of exegesis: most understand it as ‘interpretation’, though Aristotle’s Peri Hermēneias actually deals with ‘explanation’. But if one is to coin a term like ‘Thucydides Trap’, declaring that war between Athens and Sparta was ‘inevitable’, and blame Thucydides for the invention, one should surely check the original text to confirm that ‘inevitability’ is what Thucydides wrote and meant. This is a task that Professor Graham Allison should have undertaken before he pronounced on the contest between Athens and Sparta, and applied it to the more contemporary relationship between China and the United States.

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The tantalising totem of 2% of GDP on defence

By Graeme Dobell*

Come back with me to a wonderful time when the Cold War had been won and Australia was cashing in the peace dividend. Spend money on the military? Naaah! Squeeze ’em. The release by the National Archives of the 1994 and 1995 cabinet records of the Keating Labor government is our annual compare and contrast moment. This is defence, so, as always, start with the money. The archives show that the ‘peace dividend’ moment in the mid-1990s was when Canberra really started to argue about what’s since become a totemic issue: whether Defence should get 2% of GDP.

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Liddell Hart on strategy: The synaptic lapse twixt conception and execution

Liddell Hart on strategy: The synaptic lapse twixt conception and execution

[caption id="attachment_2162" align="alignleft" width="118"] Clausewitz[/caption]By Mike Fogarty:Errors at the tactical and operational level may be redeemable, but those at the strategic level are usually catastrophic. This observation has been sourced from readings below. Consider Liddell Hart. ‘As regards the relation of strategy to tactics, while in execution the borderline is often shadowy, and it is difficult to decide exactly where a strategical movement ends and a tactical movement begins, yet in conception the two are distinct. Tactics lies in and fills the province of fighting. Strategy not only stops on the frontier, but has for its purpose the reduction of fighting to the slenderest possible proportions.’ This over-states ‘indirect strategy.’

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World naval developments Dec 2017

World naval developments Dec 2017

By Norman Friedman*
In mid-December the Administration issued its first National Security Strategy, titled America First but widely described as principled realism. Such annual documents are required under the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act. Typically they list goals without much effort to prioritize, and they are often disdained as poor reflections of actual policy. The title and the description place the new policy in the long history of U.S. security strategy, which reflects the struggle to reconcile national interest and ideology – the promotion of human rights and democracy as a primary factor in policy. With the defeat of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the United States is the only truly ideological power in the world.

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