Serious security challenges now confront Australia and its allies. They require careful discussion and analysis. Primary concerns include:
- The trajectories of the major powers in the Indo-Pacific and the strategy options for the Western allies.
- Deep tensions between the major powers over contested territory in the South China Sea, the East China Sea and Ukraine.
- The strategies and strategic cultures of the major authoritarian states and options for allied counters.
- The proliferation of long-range missilery and other strategic weapons in countries like North Korea, Iran and Pakistan.
- The growth of radical Islamist terrorism and its attempts to reach Australia and the homelands of our close allies and friends.
- Aggressive cyber operations by many countries, terrorist organisations and criminal syndicates.
- Increasingly sophisticated criminal organisations trafficking in people, drugs, weaponry and other sensitive cargoes.
- The potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to transform allied defence capability development and acquisition.
Many of the challenges now confronting Australia’s national security decision-makers are significantly different to those of only a decade ago.
New thinking is required.
Strategic Forum has been established to help.
In Which Way the Dragon?, CSBA Nonresident Fellow Ross Babbage and colleagues argue for a new, scenario-based approach to defense and security planning in the Indo-Pacific. Drawing upon expert analysis of current conditions, three to four overarching scenarios for China should be considered as potential guideposts over the next 15 years. Each outcome would include a series of lead indicators, allowing analysts to determine which future scenario China is headed towards, prepare for potential alternatives in advance, and make adjustments to strategies, operational concepts, and military and security systems when necessary. The end result should markedly reduce the uncertainties about the strategic environment in the 2035 timeframe and provide greatly improved foundations for confident decisions on security policy and capability development. In short, this approach offers a superior way of addressing the security challenges faced by the Western allies and their security partners in the Indo-Pacific.
Are the Indo-Pacific allies certain that their defence planning for the coming two decades is built on sound foundations? Many Western security analysts assume that a modernised version of their highly networked, combined arms operations will be able to prevail in any major conflict in the Indo-Pacific. 1 But is this right?
If there is to be a major war in the Indo-Pacific, it is likely to involve a struggle between China and a small number of supporters on the one hand and the United States and its allies and partners on the other. The precise sequence of events in such a catastrophe is difficult to predict but it is certain that Beijing will have as much, or even more, say over the shape of the conflict as Washington. This is a serious problem for the West because the core agencies of the Chinese government bring strategic cultures, strategies, operational concepts and priorities to the Indo-Pacific that are markedly different from our own. When viewed in this context, even an advanced version of conventional Western strategies and operations could prove seriously inadequate.
The Western allies need to ensure they plan to deter and, if necessary, to fight and win a future war, not just a part of a war, or even the wrong war.