An Army of Influence
Eighty Years of Regional Engagement
By Craig Stockings, Peter Dennis (editors)
Published by Cambridge University Press
RRP $69.95 in hard cover | ISBN 9781316514399
This book has emerged from papers presented at the 2019 Army History Conference – ‘An Army of Influence’, which focused specifically on Australia’s regional engagements – Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, East Timor, Thailand, Vietnam, The Philippines, South Korea and, topical today, the Solomon Islands.
As Chief of Army, LTGEN Richard Burr writes in the foreword, ‘… Australia cannot escape geography, demographics or history. We live with the reality of a more strategically crowded region …’ He recognises too the need to ‘build effective relationships’.
In the light of recent events, the chapter ‘Was the juice worth the squeeze?’ (Rueben Bowd) is particularly relevant, tackling as he does the issue of the amount of assistance already provided to the Solomon Islands (mostly via ADF health deployments) versus the strategic significance of the archipelago, a matter of vital strategic importance during World War II.
Bowd urges the ADF to revisit cooperation through health deployments, delivering soft diplomacy in a genuinely helpful way.
This book offers some thought-provoking analysis at a time when Australia’s interest in regional cooperation should be more important than ever but it has to jump the gulf from military planners to political advisers, who would do well to read it.