Few defence topics have been as prominent or invested with as much optimism in recent years as defence diplomacy. This paper has been created to explore the issue and help guide policymakers.
Few Defence topics have been as prominent or invested with as much optimism in recent years as defence diplomacy (also called military diplomacy or defence engagement). In response to the growing security challenges of Asia, scholars, policymakers and practitioners have looked for ways to build confidence, decrease the risk and impact of accidents and encourage peaceful dispute resolution. Defence diplomacy, namely the practice of military and defence officials engaging their overseas counterparts, is increasingly regarded as a vital way to achieve these aims.
Given the importance of this topic, a special Centre of Gravity paper has been created to explore the issue and help guide policymakers. This edition features six short papers, each with a different take and policy recommendation. The authors were asked the same question ‘Is the game worth the candle?’ and while their answers focus largely on Australia there are lessons and implications from their findings for the entire region.
Brendan Taylor, the head of the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre begins the special edition calling for a stocktake of current efforts, in a bid to understand what has worked and what resources it requires. He is joined by two colleagues, John Blaxland who argues strongly in favour of an expanded defence diplomacy program and Hugh White who urges caution about the strategic influence of the practice.
To complement these views, Nick Bisley, Executive Director La Trobe Asia, highlights the need for realistic ambitions. Lieutenant General (Ret.) Peter Leahy draws on his distinguished career in the ADF to detail how defence diplomacy occurs in practice and why it matters. Finally, See Seng Tan, Deputy Director of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore provides a regional perspective on Australia’s defence diplomacy. The authors of these papers don’t agree with each other, and that was precisely why they were invited to contribute. But some common themes are clear. Such as the need for a clear —and public — strategy along with integrating defence diplomacy into the efforts of other parts of government.
Together these six papers provide insight into the practice and potential of defence diplomacy. This special edition also marks a re-launch of the Centre of Gravity Series. While some of the design may change, the focus remains the same: inviting some of the best analysts from Australia and around the world to provide short, accessible papers on the key questions facing Australian strategic affairs.