Commentary : The elevation of deterrence: examining the language of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update
Published online: 1 July 2021
The article has been peer reviewed.
The recent and significant shift in the language surrounding Australian defence strategy has inspired surprisingly little sustained debate despite its implications for the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The release of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update (the Update) in July 2020 directed a move from traditionally broad strategic guidance towards a more targeted and competitive model summarised by the tagline of shape, deter, respond. Given the importance of this shift to Australia's defence posture, and especially to its potential capability acquisition options, it is surprising that there has been a distinct paucity of discussion regarding the utility and meaning of these three concepts for the ADF. Indeed, the words might be considered odd choices. Shaping is a largely non-military exercise, and Australia's defence establishment presently lacks a clear practical or doctrinal understanding of deterrence. 1 Historically, Australia has possessed small forces without a clear existential threat and has therefore supported limited discussion of what it means to deter. Only respond naturally accords with our present military capabilities and experience of conflict. Together they outline a commitment to engaging throughout the spectrum of competition, from cooperation through to conflict. This commentary reviews some of the implications of this new strategic language for the ADF, and examines how allied concepts of deterrence might inform an Australian approach. It is intended to prompt discussion on how this new strategic direction should influence our intellectual approach to conflict and force design.
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AGSM Documentary-note: D Cave, 'The elevation of deterrence: examining the language of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update', Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies, 1 July 2021, 3(1):88-99, https://doi.org/10.51174/AJDSS.0301/OCKO2224
AGSM Author-date: Cave D (1 July 2021) 'The elevation of deterrence: examining the language of the
2020 Defence Strategic Update', Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies, 3(1):89-99, https:// doi.org/10.51174/AJDSS.0301/OCKO2224.
1Defence's concept of deterrence remains effectively limited to a two sentence definition in a single publication (Australian Defence Doctrine Publication (ADDP) 3.0 Campaigns and Operations), and some passing references in other doctrine and documents (not publicly available).That there is no publicly available definition or discussion of what Defence means by deterrence speaks volumes. Where discussed by external public organisations it has generally been in the context of Extended Deterrence (nuclear deterrence by the United States).