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Army October 13, 2011
on the past
By Graham McBean
LOOKING to the past for inspiration was
one of the primary goals of the annual CA
History Conference held in Canberra from
The 2011 conference, 1911 Preliminary
Moves, investigated the lead up to World War I
and why the alliance systems of Europe failed
to prevent war after 40 years of peace.
A distinguished line-up of Australian and
international speakers employed the lessons
from planning for WWI to discuss the pitfalls
and limitations of preparing for future con-
The Army's Head of Modernisation and
Strategic Planning, Maj-Gen John Caligari,
said as the "chief architect of the Army after
next", he needed all possible tools available in
In his opening address he said military his-
tory had a utility for the Army and it was nec-
essary to develop the skills in writing history
and applying it in the modern context.
"It is for this reason I brought the Army
History Unit into the Modernisation Division
and why I expect the historians to be actively
involved in the development of future mod-
ernisation concepts," Maj-Gen Caligari said.
"I am convinced the clever exploitation of
the historians' product will materially improve
the quality of future planning. Conferences,
such as this provide the basic building blocks
for this essential product."
Maj-Gen Caligari looked to the past as
evidence of how planners could go horribly
wrong but highlighted the role objective his-
torical analysis could provide to assist in the
"Army should bring logic, quantified analy-
sis of capability and human reaction into the
calculation. And where is this data going to
come from? From the knowledge base of expe-
rience which is our military history," he said.
Keynote speaker and international authority
of the origins of WWI, William Mulligan from
University College, Dublin, said there was
much now in the international community that
He said similar national and international
tensions were present with the break up of the
Euro and the possible severity of the conse-
"In Germany, for example, one argument
is that the country should pony up for the
money to keep the European bailout funding in
order because it will ultimately help German
exports," Dr Mulligan said.
"The problem with that argument is that
German voters are saying 'we don't want
to pay the money now because we can't see
the negative consequences further down the
He said it was difficult to articulate the
long-term interests in a way that communi-
cated them effectively to citizens.
"I think the same issues -- albeit in a differ-
ent context -- the same principles were at work
"People could foresee some of the longer-
term problems but they were reluctant to act
on them because they felt constrained by a
more particular interest."
Talkfest: Dr John Connor, ADFA, left, and Professor Keith Jeffery, Queen's University Belfast,
field questions at the Chief of Army History Conference.
Photo by Graham McBean
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