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Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 20:34 | SYDNEY
Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 20:34 | SYDNEY

Leahy's legacy

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7 July 2008 10:48

So Chief of Army Peter Leahy has retired, having presided over a substantial boost in Australian Army size and capability. Leahy is very much of the new school that sees counter-insurgency as the way of future war:

"What we are seeing and will see increasingly in the future is that deployments will be land-centric. The army is naturally the force best suited to working among populations. Post-Iraq it's not a momentum that's going to subside." Leahy argues that the post-Cold War era has led to a "democratisation of lethality" as insurgents use more powerful weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs. The enemy has vacated an ordered battlefield and gone to the cities, he says.

Certainly our enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan have done this. But Leahy's assumption seems to be the same one US Defense Secretary Gates has made, and which Hugh White cogently criticised on this blog. The nub of the problem is that although state-on-state warfare has gone into decline, our region is in flux, and the realignment of power may create friction. We should not assume future warfare will resemble the last 20 years rather than the last 200.

Besides, the Iraq war in particular was a war of choice, and improving our military capability for such operations will only tempt politicians to conduct more of them.

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