Preparation the Key, Says Major General

Friday 2 March, 2012

Australia’s fighting forces should never be sent off to war without adequate preparation and funding, said retired Major-General Jim Molan AO DSC during an address at Warrane College  on Wednesday 29 February 2012.

Speaking to residents and staff members in the College’s main common room after formal dinner, the author of the best seller Running the War in Iraq, argued that the worst enemy of the military were often politicians from their own country who refused to adequately fund the wars they enlisted them to fight.

Major-General Molan had long and distinguished military career, but is best known for the year he spent as Chief of Operations, Headquarters Multinational force in Iraq (MNF-I), between 2004 and 2005. In that role he was effectively in charge of the day-to-day operations of the war, directing not only the defence forces of Australia, but those of the other coaltion countries, including the United States. He said that Australia had a long history of sending its troops off to battle without adequate preparation or support stretching back to the Anzac troops at Gallipoli.

“We in Australia are totally dislocated from our military,” he said, “but we are always dashing off to war."

“Half the time the problems are not created by the enemy, but by ourselves. They are caused by our own unpreparedness and we don’t learn from our mistakes - we do the same thing every time.”

Major-General Molan said the big problem with the war in Iraq was that the countries involved had not supplied enough troops to carry out the task properly. While the military leaders had asked for 500,000 military personnel, they had to make do with around 175,000 members of the coalition forces, working with 125,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces.

A similar problem existed with the war in Afghanistan. Politicians like President Obama, he said, had failed to provide enough military personnel for the task.
Major-General Molan took issue with claims that the war in Afghanistan was unwinnable because other forces, including the army of the Soviet Union, had failed.
“The Russians were appalling in Afghanistan,” he said. “Apart from the fact that they too didn’t put enough troops in, they were incompetent, there were conscripts, they used Islamic soldiers - thousands deserted to the Afghan side and all they did was drop bombs on people and killed hundreds of thousands of people. Plus they suffered 15,000 casualties and the Americans have had 2,000.”

Major-General Molan said people in the military used terms such as “honour and mateship and courage and determination and winning”, but such terms should be “part of our society’s life”.

He said that society “sends us to war and should be aware of what we are doing”, but that few academics and commentators, and few politicians, really understand these things.

(Photos from the Inaugural Dinner are available here.)

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