2007-06-25

Misusing the Army

The Army is now being used to help the indigenous communities that are ravaged by abuse and alcoholism.

I'm sorry, but when did the army suddenly become a part of Australia's law enforcement agencies? When did they suddenly become social workers?

I'm all for restoring order in these remote communities (as part of a broad, long-term solution to the issues of course) but the use of the armed forces is, at worst, overkill and, at best, just plain silly.

To have Australian troops with their camo gear, assault rifles, night vision goggles and armoured personnel carriers travelling down the streets of outback Australia, trying to restore order is just plain wrong.

Our troops are trained for war. They are trained to fight and to use deadly force against the enemy. They are not trained as police officers or social workers.

If New Zealand should suddenly attack and take over Montague Island and claim it as their own, I would not expect the Australian government to send teachers and social workers to live and work in New Zealand in order to change the societal norms so that Montague Island could be returned to Australia after decades of New Zealand occupation. No. I would expect a few Frigates to surround the island and for the troops to parachute in and, if necessary, use deadly force to eject the Kiwi invaders.

In the same way, I don't expect Australian troops to perform the jobs of teachers, police officers and social workers.

And sometimes people in the past long for the return of conscription, arguing that what young people need these days is discipline and that time in the army should help straighten out these lazy, rude teenagers. But when has the army suddenly become a school or a prison or just another way of forcing societal change?

The army is there to defend the nation. Nothing more, nothing less. Let's respect their expertise and not expect them to magically make up for what the rest of society should be providing.

2 comments:

Theteak said...

Um, the Army is not just trained for war. They are also trained for exactly this type of thing. In fact our troops are even praised by your beloved UN for being so skilled at disarming and detaining, building and repairing and establishing general order. Clearly you know nothing about the military. Were you upset when our boys went to the Solomons? Are you angry that our Army and Navy engineers are still helping rebuild from the Tsunami? Was it a military occupation when they went to East Timor so they could vote without fear of having their entire village destroyed by pro-Indo militia? Our boys still police some of the worst areas in the outskirts of Dili, places like Goretti where my family sponsors a child who is the same age as my eldest daughter. We know for a fact that our sponsor family appreciates having Diggers there - because they've actually told us. Please don't slander our Army mate. The Australian Army do a great job under enormous stress and I'm proud of them. If they sent in social workers then it would be a disaster, because they'd spend most of their time complaining about their work conditions and pay.
Oh yeah, and the Army will send in docs, administrators and engineers, not grunts and APCs, but you liked the dramatic effect of saying they'll have their assault rifles and APCs didn't you?

One Salient Oversight said...

As I understand it, East Timor and the Solomons were areas where civil war type situations were in danger of breaking out.

I've got no problem with peacekeeping. I've got no problem with Australian soldiers keeping that sponsor child of your safe.

As far as rebuilding from the Tsunami... why get the armed forces involved in that? We have plenty of civilians who have the necessary expertise.

What I'm pointing out is that by adding all sorts of expectations to our armed forces we are actually making their job harder to do. Police officers are trained in conflict resolution and are expected to know and enforce the law. Soldiers should not have this expectation.

I'm not slandering the army. I just don't think we should expect them to be what they're not.