Paul Kelly talks to General Jim Moylan about his recently released book detailing his time as chief of operations to the US commander of the multinational force in Iraq, George Casey, which included planning the second battle for Fallujah in November 2004 and the successful general election the following January.
THE most highly placed Australian to serve in Iraq has offered a lethal critique of the Australian way of war in its diplomatic, strategic and military dimensions, challenging the orthodoxy of the Howard and Rudd governments.
Putting it bluntly, (General) Molan, who retired a fortnight ago, says Australia is not prepared “to fight a war involving sustained combat”. As a professional, he is embarrassed. The conclusion from his book is that Australia has been too successful in winning political dividends from extremely limited military commitments. Sooner or later, he believes, our luck will expire.
As an ex professional, I am also embarrassed, as are many of my Army mates, but it takes a General to state the case to have people listen.
The benefits we gain from being a part of the coalition against terrorism is tangible – we gain access to intelligence that helps us secure our citizens; we gain security from the very fact that the terrorist are being confronted in their homelands and thus have difficulty attacking ours and yet this is largely achieved by the efforts and casualties of the Yanks, Canadians and Brits.
Thanks to Howard and his military rebuild we have the capability to deploy a larger force – maybe a Battle Group, and pick up the responsibility of a province in Afghanistan but I don’t absolve Howard from this criticism. I am on record as saying he achieved a lot of recognition for little commitment and whereas it’s true our special forces guys from the West and 4RAR have done us proud, special forces don’t win wars by themselves.
Cue the Royal Australian Regiment, battalions of highly trained, well equipped and motivated young Aussies whose role is clear and unambiguous…to seek out and close with the enemy, to kill or capture him, to seize and hold ground and to repel attack, by day or night, regardless of season, weather or terrain.
It is the battalions of Infantry and Marines from the US, Britain and Canada that are doing the hard yards, who are taking the casualties and who will eventually decide the outcome of war and if we intend to take a seat at the final conference when we have beaten the bastards then we need to recommit.
Patrick Walters also quotes the General in an article headed “A nation at war, but kept clear of combat”
“We in Australia luxuriate in what I describe as wars of choice within wars; we choose the wars we will fight in, we choose the timing of our participation, we choose the geographical areas of our participation (and so control the level of likely combat), we choose the kind of operations we will conduct and we choose when we come home,” he says. As Molan tells Inquirer, Americans do not have that luxury in Iraq or Afghanistan. Australia may not have that luxury in the years ahead.
Chances of that happening under Rudd, Smith and Fitzgibbon – nil, zip, nada, no chance and Buckleys but one lives in hope that we might just do something other than seek seats on committees, demand NATO commit more troops and pontificate about how high we value our defence relationship with the Yanks and yet still refuse to commit sufficient ground troops to make a difference.