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Defence is making a lot of effort to explain itself.  A few weeks ago, there was the White Paper, plus no less than 83 (!) separate press releases.  

Then we had the Budget, which as Mark Thompson points out, didn’t shed much light on anything at all, really. 

In the wake of the White Paper and Budget, a 20-page booklet (pdf) appeared, explaining what the White Paper actually meant—it wasn’t clear the first time around, and the booklet counters a some critiques by analysts. 

And now there’s a 34-page booklet—The Strategic Reform Program (pdf)—explaining Defence’s savings aspirations—needed to pay for the kit in the White Paper. 

It’s a bit like watching a game of Pong. 

A good editor would have helped Defence immensely, potentially saving time and a forest or two of paper.  Say what you will about the 1987 White Paper—and I certainly think it’s wrong—but at least it presented a single, coherent argument.

So why the flurry of material? One almost may think it was deliberate attempt to recreate reality:

“Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.”  George Orwell, 1984

In a less dystopian frame of mind, there’s Brendan Sargeant’s paper on what he refers to as imagination in Defence.

A former head of strategic policy in Defence, Sargeant’s core idea is that in Defence strategy-making and policy formulation often have little to do with strategic realities, but reflect more with a self-reinforcing and mutually shared construct, which in turn references other myths in the wider Australian community. 

What passes for strategic policy reflects a closing of the imagination of the defence community, a collapse of possible futures into one, a means of socialisation that selects conformity and casts out difference.

AGENT SMITH: Have you ever stood and stared at it, Morpheus?  Marveled at its beauty.  Its genius.  Billions of people just living out their lives…oblivious.

Sargeant argues, too, that the resilience of the 1987 DoA doctrine lies at least partially in its reference to national myths—the outback, the sea, and, I would suggest, a fear of abandonment.  The same can be seen in the most recent expression of Australian strategic policy, with its strong DoA elements.

Together the White Paper, the Budget and the yet-to-be-released Defence Capability Program (DCP) will form a self-referential trinity: the White Paper fits budgetary constraints that shape the DCP that is justified by the White Paper.  The Strategic Reform Program represents an eight-fold path, while the booklet provides Defence staff their credo.

But the key problem will remain: WP2009 and its associated material offer an internally focussed solution—in terms of strategy, force structure and organisation—looking for an external reality-grounded problem.


Department of Defence (2009). Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030. Canberra.

Department of Defence (2009). Defence White Paper – Booklet. Canberra.

Department of Defence (2009). The Strategic Reform Program. Canberra.

Sargeant, B. (2006). “Burning Bright: Defence Policy, Strategy and the Imagination.” Australian Army Journal 3(3): 67-86.

Thompson, M. (2009). The Cost of Defence: ASPI Defence Budget Brief 2009-2010, Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Ken MacLeod on surveillance in science fiction:

… we can identify three phases: pressing down, spreading out, and hacking back. In the first phase, pervasive surveillance is a feature of dystopia. In the second, it becomes a default feature of most imagined future industrial societies. In the third, the emphasis is on ways in which citizens can subvert rather than evade surveillance (the perfect example being Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother – I can’t remember whether I put Paul McAuley’s Whole Wide World, perhaps the most thorough recent SF exploration of surveillance, in the second or the third group). 

In the course of the talk I mentioned some relevant bits of my own work, for instance the significance of small cheap video cameras, referred to in The Star Fraction as making torture difficult to keep secret. I hadn’t, however, predicted that the torturers would use the cameras to make their own home movies.

It was only after I’d finished the presentation that I realised that the three phases could be neatly mapped to the increasing cheapness and availability of the technology of surveillance and data processing: from being only available to states, to being available to large companies, to being mass consumer items. 

The Star Fraction is a great book.

The internet is a wonderful thing: there are so many people smarter than you, and you can build on their ideas.

Kevin Kelly—unbeknownst to him—has started filling in some of the gaps on the social side of the transition.  In the latest Wired, Kelly argues that technology is driving digital culture towards what he calls the ‘new socialism’.  This new socialism, possibly ‘the newest American invention’, is the outcome of the evolution from sharing to cooperation to collaboration to collectivism, at least of a sort that seems to work and work well. 

The following, from Kelly’s article, shows the elements of change:

The Old Socialism 

The New Socialism

Authority centralized among elite officials

Power distributed among ad hoc participants

Limited resources dispensed by the state

Unlimited, free cloud computing

Forced labor in government factories

Volunteer group work a la Wikipedia

Property owned in common

Sharing protected by Creative Commons

Government- controlled information

Real-time Twitter and RSS feeds

Harsh penalties for criticizing leaders

Passionate opinions on the Huffington Post

Source: (Kelly 2009)

Personally I prefer Virginia Postrel’s formulation of statists and dynamists.  Certainly, there is a strong libertarian flavour to Kelly’s new socialists. 

And I think a number of these elements or trends will evolve further.  For example, what lies beyond Creative Commons? Cory Doctorow’s DIY digital licensing? 

What does the new socialism means for security?  Here’s a few suggestions:

  • The further fraying of the traditional state, as individuals work, collaborate and play without reference to states and state institutions
  • Online vigilantes and counter vigilantes—the rebirth of the citizen army, but one founded on community of ideas, even (worryingly) romantic ideas of the state, place, tribe or belonging, with all the possibilities allowed by cyber-mobilisation (Kurth Cronin 2006) through to Armies of Davids (Reynolds 2006)
  • Increased transparency, as information is uploaded, mashed and blogged yielding deeper analysis and insight
  • An increasing amount of misinformation, as information is uploaded, mashed and blogged with specific, often hidden, intent
  • Trust and reputation become increasingly important for strategic analysis, with policy-makers, advisers and commentators looking to ‘brands’ for synthesis and insight
  • Emerging bipolarity in strategic analysis and policy: a deep conservatism—stick with what you know—risking sclerotic paralysis; and a nervous tick, reacting to every item in the 24 hour new cycle and risking incoherence
  • Community emergency response, as per Ushahidi, competing with dedicated, formal command and control hierarchies 
  • A nation-state counter-reformation, as nation-states seek to re-exert control over activity, work, information and taxable assets and incomes

And possibilities?  How about online red-teaming of the next Defence White Paper, UK Strategic Defence Review or US Quadrennial Defense Review?


Kelly, K. (2009). The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online. Wired

Kurth Cronin, A. (2006). “Cyber-mobilization: the New Levée en Masse.” Parameters: 76-87.

Postrel, V. (1998). The Future and Its Enemies. New York, Touchstone.

Reynolds, G. H. (2006). An Army of Davids, Nelson Current.

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