How to Defend Australia by Hugh White | Black Inc.

How to Defend Australia

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About the author

Hugh White

Hugh White is the author of The China Choice and Quarterly Essay 39, Power Shift. He is professor of strategic studies at ANU and was the principal author of Australia’s Defence White Paper 2000.

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Praise for How to Defend Australia

‘This book, by one of Australia’s leading defence policy thinkers, will be a very important contribution to our national discussion in coming years. Hugh White tackles many challenging issues and opens up the new debate that we need to have as Australia plots its course through a changing international environment.’—Robert O’Neill, former Chichele Professor of the history of war, University of Oxford

‘Hugh White is among our most knowledgeable and practised strategists. While I am strongly supportive of the US alliance, How to Defend Australia is a serious work from a serious patriot that requires close reading. It deserves a wide audience.’—Kim Beazley

‘In this essential book, carefully argued and elegantly written, Hugh White lays out the scope and scale of the hard decisions Australia has to make about its defence as the world changes rapidly around it. How to Defend Australia sets the terms for an unavoidable national debate: the Australia choice.’—Alan Gyngell, national president of the Australian Institute of International Affairs and founding director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy


‘Characteristically lucid and provocative, with How to Defend Australia Hugh White initiates a national conversation Australia must now have. His premises are hard to contest: that America is going; that China, India and Indonesia are all coming; that we must base our risk planning on their capability, not presumed intent; and that Australia’s relative strength is waning. His major conclusions will not go unchallenged: that credible maritime denial must be at the heart of our defence policy, and neither present planning nor spending levels will deliver it. Not to mention his willingness to keep open a nuclear weapons option. But this long-awaited summation of a lifetime’s professional thinking is a comprehensive and compelling wake-up call that we ignore at our peril.’ —Gareth Evans, foreign minister, 1988–96

‘A fascinating story about defence planning from our past, present, and possible futures. In White’s expert assessment we find ourselves facing significant new challenges, and the expensive capabilities we have are unsuitable. We are likely to be caught out with too little, too late in circumstances we seemingly cannot imagine. US global power has seriously diminished; China’s grip on our region has tightened up immeasurably; in Indonesia the population will be over 300 million people and the economy will be nearly four times greater than Australia’s. This new world will present serious challenges: to our sense of identity and the kind of country we would like to be. White argues that it is time to take off the blinkers and open our eyes to a future Australia that will demand very different security solutions. Unsurprisingly, this book is provocative – its ideas will be debated. But it is clear that we cannot rely on hope to safeguard our future. White’s polemic raises the key questions for our political leaders, experts and the community concerned with Australian strategy – all of whom must read this book.’ —Admiral Christopher Alexander Barrie, retired senior officer of the Royal Australian Navy and former chief of the Australian defence force, 1998–2002.

‘Hugh White’s prowess as a strategic analyst rests on twin capabilities: a determination to ask the questions that others don’t dare or haven’t thought to ask; and a pristine clarity of logic in answering them. Here, he applies them to his life-long passion: Australian defence policy. Closely argued and erudite, How to Defend Australia raises crucial questions at a critical time in our strategic planning. A must-read for all who care about this country’s future safety, this book will be a major influence in our defence policy discussions into the future’. — Michael Wesley, professor of international affairs at the Australian National University and author of Restless Continent: Wealth, Rivalry and Asia’s New Geopolitics

‘Hugh White strips the politics from defence planning and takes a cool-headed look at who might threaten Australia and what we need to do about it. This is the real-world debate our leaders are reluctant to have. And White doesn’t hold back.’ —Karen Middleton, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper and author of An Unwinnable War: Australia in Afghanistan

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