The old crack
about military intelligence being an oxymoron has been proved literally true in
the case of the call this week by former Chief of Defence, Admiral Chris
Barrie, for the resumption of conscription.

Like the US military,
the Australian Defence Force (ADF) can’t hire men and women fast enough to
fulfil current military requirements. With Australian
troops now engaged in two theatres of war, this is a serious problem. Being
able to meet foreign and domestic security needs is fundamental to the
maintenance of civil society – it’s too important just to leave to the hawks to
worry about.

told the Sea Power 2006 conference that Australia’s aging population will
intensify the problem and that, since in his view financial incentives don’t
seem to be working, conscription is the answer.

This is the
level of policy insight one might expect more from Peter Pan author JM
Barrie than his martial antipodean namesake. After all, Chris Barrie served at
the top of the military tree as Chief of Defence from 1998 to 2002. One might
reasonably expect more than simplistic analysis and politically unrealisable
policy prescriptions from a person who made it as far in the system as Chris

Even from a
military perspective Barrie’s
proposal won’t fly. The military would rather have the willing, eager and able
at their disposal than a bunch of sullen, reluctant conscriptees dragging their
heels through forced tours of duty. This goes double for war in the modern era
where technology dictates the need for savvy recruits rather than dumb cannon

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