Lowy Institute Papers | 29 October 2009

Confronting the hydra: Big problems with small wars

As a democratic middle power that chooses to wage counterinsurgency conflicts, Australia needs improved strategic policy approaches and capabilities to overcome a complex and many-headed threat.

Mark O'Neill

  • Mark O'Neill

As a democratic middle power that chooses to wage counterinsurgency conflicts, Australia needs improved strategic policy approaches and capabilities to overcome a complex and many-headed threat.

Mark O'Neill

  • Mark O'Neill

Executive Summary

Australia’s current role in Afghanistan is the latest experience in a long history of involvement in counterinsurgency conflicts or ‘small wars’. Such commitments may begin as wars of choice, but history suggests they can turn into wars of necessity, and their costs and political impact can be large. In this Lowy Institute Paper, Mark O’Neill charts the enduring nature of Australia’s problems with such wars. He concludes that, as a democratic middle power that chooses to wage counterinsurgency conflicts, Australia needs improved strategic policy approaches and capabilities to overcome a complex and many-headed threat.

The Paper can be downloaded here.

Photo by Flickr user Resolute Support Media.