ASPI’s call for a militia – a step to military madness

Aug 14, 2023
Army camouflage uniform with flag on it, Australia.

The Australian economy is increasingly becoming a war economy. The PM talks of the economic benefits of weapons manufacture, and of how the military and a growing military-industrial-complex is almost a job creation scheme. The media works diligently to build and sustain a sense of fear. But even so, the warmongers of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and their stablemate, Strategic Analysis Australia (SAA) are not satisfied.

Anthony Bergin, a key figure in both organisations, has added fuel to the fire with a call to create a ‘national citizens’ militia.’ Bergin aired his views in a recent opinion piece in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. He uses the Defence Strategic Review’s flawed logic that ‘warning time’ before a direct attack is now ‘essentially zero’ to whip up an even greater sense of insecurity. Fear-mongering is the stock-in-trade for those who would have us engage in a war with an ‘enemy’ whose interests are patently not advanced by war.

The militia, we are told, would provide military training for those willing to defend our shores. It would occupy a space between conscription and the part-time army reserve. The ASPI author thinks that such an operation would be easy to ‘sell’ to the Australian public.

For many, the concept of manufacturing threat perceptions as an easy ‘sell’ might seem a little grotesque. What is being sold is the idea that a war is inevitable and acceptable. It is selling the idea that engaging in a national militia would be ‘interesting, real and rewarding.’ What is really being sold is a short-cut to the military, that would provide more fodder for war, but without the laborious need to provide a lucrative career-path, for young men and women.

He uses Ukraine as an example, although it might have better served his cause to have left that out of the equation. The most prominent of Ukraine’s militias is the Azov battalion. If he means these to be a model, then he has something to explain. The Azov militia is home to some of the more extreme right-wing and fascist elements in Ukraine. However, propaganda is propaganda and he believes no-one will notice such a minor issue.

Problems immediately spring to mind with the militia idea. We are expected to believe that this quasi-military force would have a role in defending Australia from an invading Chinese army. This invasion force must travel 7,500 kms to get here. This is something of a logistical difficulty, made worse by the fact that there are a number of countries that would have to be crossed first, or if coming by sea, manage to sneak past the assembled might of the world’s greatest naval fleet. If the invading hordes did manage this improbable and pointless task, they would arrive in the far north of Australia, where there could be all but no militia forces. Anthony Bergin and his fellow-thinkers will, no doubt get around these minor difficulties.

The call for militias has another aspect. This goes beyond the immediate and obvious one of training people to bear arms to repel a hypothetical invasion force. Bergin sees additional roles. He considers a place for an ‘air’ militia. Pilots would be co-opted to act as border surveillance guards. This sounds reasonable except for the fact that the armed forces already have rather sophisticated means at their disposal to detect any invasion fleet. The same might be said for his projected maritime militia.

The real motivation behind this plan is to engender a sense of fear and imminent threat. Threat, and promotion of threat perceptions is why ASPI exists. After all, 30 per cent of its budget comes from the government and the rest from the arms industries of the ‘free’ world. It hardly serves ASPI’s best interests not to build a threat scenario.

If a war is to be fought, and it appears imminent, if not inevitable, then it will not be fought on continental Australia. The horrible truth is that such a war would be devastating but especially devastating for the Chinese people. China is already ringed with US missile installations. These nuclear capable missiles, rather than troops or militias are the priority for Bergin, ASPI, the Australian government and its US ally.

As for China, its position has not changed since John Pilger interviewed a Chinese strategist in 2015. His words to Pilger remain clear. ‘We are not your enemy, but if you (in the West) decide we are, we must prepare without delay.’ China has been preparing. Its defence budget is growing but is still small in comparison with the United States. Its ‘preparations’ were and remain to ensure its security from an aggressive USA. Such a defensive position hardly requires war-mongers in Australia to talk of a further militarisation of society. A militia is not required. It is, after all ‘a military force that is raised from the civil population.’ This, necessarily implies a growing acceptance of a society marked at all stages by militarisation, economically, civilly; a highly propagandised society built on fear.

ASPI and SAA spokespeople are regularly featured in major media outlets in this country. They are tireless in their push to demonise an enemy that has no sinister designs on us. The work of people such as Bergin is to engender fear. From fear comes an acceptance of threat. This gives legitimacy to governments that actively promote a drive to war. Australia is facing real problems. Climate catastrophe, housing, health, cost of living, all require urgent attention. Do we need another military force?

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