Occasional Papers Series
Marking the 50th anniversary of the RAN involvement in the Vietnam War, the Naval Studies Group of the Australian Centre for Armed Conflict and Society held two seminars. The first was The DDGs in Vietnam & Lessons for the RAN at the UNSW/Australian Defence Force Academy on 17 August 2017. The second seminar, on the RAN Helicopter Flight in Vietnam, was held in October 2017 at the Australian Naval Aviation Museum at HMAS Albatross.
Just two years after the first of three Charles F. Adams class guided missile destroyers (DDGs) entered service in the RAN, HMAS Hobart sailed for the Vietnam War. This Occasional Paper examines the impact of the DDGs on the RAN, their role in the Vietnam War, logistics and technical issues as well as the human dimension. Each chapter is written by veterans of that war and include five admirals, each with a deep understanding of the destroyers’ service in the Vietnam War.
The story of ‘Marine A’ is a complex one. Blackman’s case is a microcosm of the human and societal impact of fifteen years of persistent war - a tragic theatre of lessons that reaches in ‘breadth, width and depth’ from the hidden ethical risks of Counter Insurgency (COIN) tactics, through the psychological influence of constant combat, and as far as strategy and the relationship between a society and its military.
In 2011, Alexander Blackman was a 37 year-old elite Royal Marine commando with thirteen years’ experience. He was combat hardened, having served in Iraq three times, and Afghanistan. The Supreme Court would later describe his service prior to the incident as ‘exemplary’. With over a decade under his belt, Blackman landed in Helmand Province facing a challenging tour in a highly contested and kinetic area. Five and a half months later, Blackman was filmed deliberately killing a wounded Afghan insurgent by firing his pistol into the man’s chest; he and others were subsequently charged with murder.
In November 2013 Blackman (known at the trial as ‘Marine A’) was convicted of murder; the others were acquitted. A psychiatric defence was not pursued by Blackman’s legal team, but basic psychiatric analysis was submitted as part of mitigation for sentencing; successfully influencing the leniency of the Court. Blackman was sentenced to life with a minimum term of ten years, and dishonourable discharge from the Royal Marines. A 2014 appeal to the Supreme Court, based on the extreme stress that Blackman was under at the time of the killing, reduced this minimum term to eight years.
This paper shows that low intensity guerrilla wars are not confined to land operations, but can have a full-blown maritime dimension. The British Commonwealth experienced this as an aspect of its struggle with Indonesian subversion and sabotage of the new state of Malaysia in Confrontation 1963 to 1966. The study draws on a number of computerised databases to chart the ebb and flow of the maritime campaign through the quantitative analysis of Operations Research.
There are a number of challenges associated with trying to measure the value of intelligence analysis. One current solution that has gained popularity is to focus on predictive intelligence, and to use statistical techniques to test predictions against the actual course of events. I will to demonstrate that this approach is not only fundamentally flawed in terms of method it is also dangerous because it gives priority to idle speculation about unknowable futures. I want to show that intelligence analysis is best measured by its ability to give decision-makers the broadest set of options and that its value resides in the outcomes of the actual choices that are made. My arguments and conclusions are based on two case studies: the Battle of Kursk during 1943 and the 2012 Malian coup. This approach will assist senior managers and strategic direction setters across intelligence agencies whose output includes predictive intelligence. It will be especially helpful to officials grappling with the problem of how to measure the quality and value of their intelligence analysis.
On Easter Day 1916, the radical Irish Republican Brotherhood launched a rebellion against British rule with support from the Irish Volunteers. In the hope of inspiring a mass movement across they country, the rebels occupied a number of key buildings across Dublin including the General Post Office. The ‘Rising’ was largely confined to the Irish capital and quickly defeated by British military forces. The leading rebels including Thomas Clarke, Sean MacDermott and Patrick Pearse were summarily executed. This occasional paper examines Australian political perceptions of the Easter Rising. While the British Government considered the Rising to be a serious wartime threat to the British Empire, Irish-Australians were less than convinced. While many non-Irish Australians saw the Rising as sedition, their attitudes changed in the wake of the executions and the continuing brutal suppression of republican spirit in Ireland.
The loss of HMAS Voyager after a collision with HMAS Melbourne off Jervis Bay on 10 February 1964 left 82 men dead and created a serious operational problem for the RAN. On completing her work-up, Voyager was due to return to South East Asia with HMAS Vampire for service in the Strategic Reserve. With the loss of HMAS Voyager, it seemed the best solution was to order Vendetta to accompany Vampire to the Strategic Reserve in May. HMAS Quiberon, which was to pay off, would remain in commission. She would be refitted in early June at Williamstown Naval Dockyard and relieve Vendetta at the end of the year. This action was subsequently agreed by the Naval Board. Yet, the RAN was still one destroyer short of what it needed to fulfill extant strategic demands and long-standing operational commitments. A crisis was looming.
The Western world is weary of conflict. Fifteen years of war since 2001 have drained the resources of many First World nations and have left an indelible stamp on their armed forces. Many militaries are now struggling to change and adapt in the aftermath. They are facing an identity crisis that must be resolved if they are to be prepared for future challenges. Cultural issues and the need for a better defined virtue-ethic from the tactical to the strategic sits at the heart of the struggle. Guiding this change is a major opportunity for the military ethicist who can contribute to the thinking of individuals, groups and strategists. This article outlines three ethical priorities – the resurgence of operational mentoring as a core role for ground forces; the ethics of operating in modern, massive multinational operations; and, the future ethics of robotics and the automation of war – which require the recasting of virtue ethics and their nuanced application by individuals, groups and strategists.