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Australia And War

Australia And War Should Australia involve itself in wars which do not directly affect its security? Australia has involved itself in four wars where it has suffered substantial life loss and casualty. Those wars included World War 1, World War 2, the Korean War and Vietnam. Did Australia have to involve itself in these wars? Did the lives of these young Australians have to be taken? There is a high degree of complexity in this question. Should Australia, as a mature nation, be taking part in moral issues around the world even though they are not happening on our doorstep? Do we ignore the deaths in Bosnia, the starving millions in Biafra and Ethiopia, the worldwide environmental issues raised by Greenpeace? What is the purpose of developing alliances, both economic and military, with other countries? At stake, in all of these issues, is our desire for a better world to live in. In World War 1 (WW1), 1914-1918, Australian troops became involved in order to give support to the Mother Country.

Great Britain only became involved after Germany did not respect the neutrality of Belgium. In the first world war, Australian soldiers participated in some of the bloodiest and most enduring battles known to man, and soon developed a courageous name for themselves. Of the 330 000 Aussie soldiers who took part in WW1, there were 211 500 casualties and over 60 000 deaths, a casualty rate much higher than that of several other participants. The Australian participation in WW2 was similar to that of WW1 in many ways. After the British declared war on Germany on September 3rd 1939, an Australian declaration of war was automatic. Aussie troops were soon sent to different parts of the world to help the British and other allied countries. It was not until late 1941 that they were recalled in order to defend the homefront. Darwin had been suddenly attacked by Japanese planes and small enemy submarines had snuck into Sydney Harbour.

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Darwin was repeatedly bombed by Japanese planes until July 1941, when along with American troops, the Aussies managed to drive them out of the Solomon Islands and northeastern New Guinea and eliminate a strong Japanese base at Rabaul. Without General MacArthur’s troops, the enemy may very well have invaded Australia. This illustrates the importance of alliances. Over 926 000 Australians fought in WW2, three times as many as in WW1. Of those 33 000 died, only half as many as in WW1.

Considering that we were directly attacked in WW2 , those statistics are quite reasonable, but it certainly does emphasise the tragedy of the first world war and the excessive numbers of soldiers sent. The Korean War was the first war against communism in which Australians were involved. We entered the war as a staunch ally again, but this time to the USA. It was a short war only lasting three years, in which Australia lost 278 lives. However, our relationship with the US was strengthened by our assistance.

The Vietnam War was our other anti-communism war. It is arguably one of the most gruesome and filthy wars in our history. Some say this is because of both guerilla and jungle warfare, of which there was not as much of in the world wars. Vietnam was a tragedy for Australia partially because of the anti-war protests which broke out in 1966. (In one protest in 1970, held at Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens, over 70 000 people turned out.) There were not any protests in the World wars because, at that point, the civilians at home saw war as almost glamorous. They heard stories of the brave Aussie troops running across the beaches of Gallipoli, putting their lives on the line.

During Vietnam there was a lot of footage on TV and people began to see what war was like. Another reason is perhaps too many soldiers were sent. (For example, in the Persian Gulf War, only two ships of Aussie soldiers were sent, therefore reducing the risk of high casualties but at the same time playing the part of a faithful ally.) The third tragedy was the number of lives lost both during and after the war. Five hundred and one Australian soldiers died in Vietnam and 2400 were wounded. Since their return, where soldiers were labelled as baby killers by their own countrymen, 288 believed that suicide would be painless.

An Australia wide study revealed that Vietnam veterans have 20% more chance of dying from cancer and 10% more chance of suffering from heart disease. Was it worth destroying the lives of thousands of Australians who still today sit in special hospital units suffering from post traumatic stress disorder? Was it worth destroying the lives of their families just so we could play the willing accomplice to the United States, or previously, to Britain? However, under whose control would Australia be now if we had not fought? Would we be a communist country? Would we be ruled by the Emperor of Japan? Would we be free? Were those thousands of lost lives wasted? That is the crux of the question. What is the price of freedom? The topic question Should Australia involve its self wars which do not directly affect its security has raised many other questions. Perhaps this shows what a morally difficult issue this is. With out knowing what would have happened to Australia had they not participated in these wars only makes it harder.

However, in order to maintain and strengthen alliances (economic and military), it is necessary to come to the aid of our allies when requested or these alliances will deteriorate. Australia believes in freedom and democracy and these basic principles determine its foreign involvement. Therefore Australia must involve itself in wars which do not directly affect its security in order to preserve its freedom and future. History.


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