One of Australia’s most powerful national security figures says free nations “again hear the beating drums” of war, as military tensions in the Indo-Pacific rise.
In an Anzac Day message to staff, Home Affairs Department Secretary Mike Pezzullo said Australia must strive to reduce the likelihood of war “but not at the cost of our precious liberty”.
Mr Pezzullo also invoked the memory of two United States war generals and warned this nation must be prepared “to send off, yet again, our warriors to fight”.
Amid growing military tensions between China and the US over Taiwan, the powerful bureaucrat also highlighted the “protection afforded to Australia” by its 70-year-old ANZUS military alliance with the US and New Zealand.
“Today, as free nations again hear the beating drums and watch worryingly the militarisation of issues that we had, until recent years, thought unlikely to be catalysts for war, let us continue to search unceasingly for the chance for peace while bracing again, yet again, for the curse of war,” Mr Pezzullo said on Monday.
“War might well be folly, but the greater folly is to wish away the curse by refusing to give it thought and attention, as if in so doing, war might leave us be, forgetting us perhaps.”
He drew on an address given by US Army General Douglas MacArthur at the West Point Military academy in 1962, where he reminded cadets “their mission was to train to fight and, when called upon, to win their nation’s wars – all else is entrusted to others”.
Similarly, Mr Pezzullo also invoked former Army General and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower who, he said, in 1953 “rallied his fellow Americans and its allies to the danger posed by the amassing of Soviet military power, and the new risk of militaristic aggression”.
“Throughout his presidency, Eisenhower instilled in the free nations the conviction that as long as there persists tyranny’s threat to freedom they must remain armed, strong and ready for war, even as they lament the curse of war,” he said.
“Today, free nations continue still to face this sorrowful challenge.
“In a world of perpetual tension and dread, the drums of war beat – sometimes faintly and distantly, and at other times more loudly and ever closer.”
Last weekend, Defence Minister Peter Dutton warned a war with China over Taiwan should not be discounted.
Inside military and government circles there is growing speculation that Mr Pezzullo could soon take over as Defence Department Secretary, again working under Mr Dutton.
Earlier this month, Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie reminded Australian military personnel their “core business” will always be the “application of lethal violence” and warned “mission clarity” was vital to their work.