Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus was the Roman general who wisely noted around 385 AD that, Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum. That is, ‘If you want peace, prepare for war.’ Vegetius was mulling over the fact that armies (or nations) frequently bring about their own demise by rotting from within; becoming lazy during peacetime; not bothering to maintain their weapons; and thus becoming sitting ducks for a surprise attack.
The corollary would have to be, ‘If you want war, prepare for peace’, which would appear to have been the motto of the failed Turnbull/Pyne years, when Australia embarked upon a squillion-dollar submarine purchase built on the bizarre premise that we’d be living in peace and harmony with our neighbours for the next 50 years or so. A fool’s notion if ever there was one.
Some 800 years before Vegetius, the Chinese general Sun Tzu made his own pithy observations in the Art of War. ‘Victory is reserved for those who are willing to pay its price’ was one such.
Hopefully, Australia’s new Defence Minister Peter Dutton had both ancient pieces of advice in mind the other day when, as Rebecca Weisser writes this week, he chose Anzac Day to announce that future military conflict between Australia and an increasingly aggressive China could ‘not be discounted’. Immediately accused of unnecessary fear-mongering, it is more likely that Mr Dutton was simply alerting the Australian public, and the Chinese military, that in his new role he intends to guarantee Australia’s security by building up not only our military strength but also our mental resilience by declaring our willingness to fight to those who may have been lulled into thinking we have no stomach for it.
Indeed, his comments came as an unwelcome shock to the Chinese communist party, but this is hardly surprising. After all, it was Sun Tzu who also advised that ‘The opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself’’ and that ‘In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.’ Both those tips have clearly resonated with China’s current belligerent overlord Xi Jinping in recent years. It has been obvious for at least the past decade to all and sundry (although not to Messrs Turnbull and Pyne, apparently) that the Chinese were hell-bent on allowing ‘the enemy to defeat itself by taking advantage of every single aspect of Australia’s naivety, timidity and stupidity stretching from the Port of Darwin to the dairy farms of Tasmania via the corridors of every single major institution and centre of learning. It has been equally obvious over the past twelve months that regardless of whether the coronavirus escaped from a bio tech weapons lab or a bowl of bat soup that the ensuing ‘chaos’ has provided ample ‘opportunities’ to an increasingly expansionist Chinese government.
Want peace? Prepare for war.
The hysteria over the horrendous scenes in India is entirely understandable. What, hopefully, makes us human is that the angels of our better nature are triggered, to use that ghastly modern term, by visual imagery and stimulation more so than we are moved by cold data and numbers. If a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s worth ten thousand graphs and bar charts. Thus the dystopian images of outdoor funeral pyres brought on by medical shortages courtesy of Covid is enough to terrify even the most cynical observer of the global pandemic.
Yet the true story does actually lie in the data. Notwithstanding that every lost live is a disaster, it is to the numbers we should always turn for a less emotional and more realistic appraisal of any situation. Currently, despite the unfolding nightmare in New Delhi and elsewhere, the number of deaths per million from Covid in India is relatively modest by world standards, sitting well below that of the UK and Europe both cumulatively and at their peaks, and indeed appears to sit below the cumulative rates of deaths per million for a bad flu. That is not to say the situation isn’t tragic and that it doesn’t call for rapid remedies and help from other nations, including Australia. It is also not to say that it couldn’t rapidly deteriorate and spiral out of control.
Let’s do all we can to help. And let’s pray that the worst of the crisis will soon pass.
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