For military organisations, the aftermath of a war represents an opportunity to rest and refit, to think about the lessons so painfully learned and to preserve those of enduring value in education, training and doctrine.
Arguably of even more importance, it is a time to reflect on and ask basic questions about the character of war: what has changed, what has remained the same, and what opportunities and challenges are suggested for the future evolution of the wars that are yet to come.
This work is a primer with a single objective: to help those tasked with thinking about the past and present to shape an Australian Army that is more capable for the future. The paper does not provide answers to Australia’s security challenges — that is not its intent. It does not dwell on threat scenarios that the Army should plan to mitigate. Nor does it identify any adversaries who might threaten the nation. It leaves those tasks to those who find pleasure in such speculation. Instead, the paper’s objective is educative. Its goal is to provide to those responsible for forging Australia’s military power the structure they need to guide their deliberations on the force’s future. In essence, it offers a template for how to think about Australia’s security, one that will lead to a more effective and capable force.
The paper identifies seven enduring truths that must guide all force development. Succinctly stated, they are:
There will always be war;
All wars are about human will;
Understanding a war’s context is essential;
Compartmentalised thinking must be recognised, challenged and discarded;
Flexibility is the best means to counter unpredictability;
Military leaders and civilian decision-makers must master strategy and understand history; and
Investment in leadership intellect is the most important capability improvement.
These truths cannot provide total certainty, because the future is never certain, but they do provide guidance in examining the past so that the present can be understood and the future illuminated.