SIR: Much is brilliant, and much is debatable, in Michael Cook’s “Why Australia Fights Other People’s Wars” (September 2013). I was particularly delighted by his analytic portrait of one of my Australian heroes, General Sir John Monash.
On the other hand, Mr Cook’s speculations about a world in which Germany might have won the First World War, and how that might have been a disaster for the rest of the world, seem to me flawed in two crucial ways. As a modern multicultural Australian, with connections to the German, British and Austro-Hungarian empires, it seems to me that if the Wilhelmine empire had gained the victory, it would by 1918 have been scarcely less depleted and bled out than its foes, and might have recovered hardly faster or more strongly than they. I doubt it would have been, for example, up to forcing reparations out of Great Britain or Russia. Far more to the benefit of the human race, though, a Germany not crazed by defeat would not likely have thrown up a Hitler.
SIR: Michael Cook may well have explained the motivation and benefits of Australian participation in five wars of the twentieth century but he lacks the same insight when it comes to a proper understanding of security and defence. Wars are sometimes total affairs unconstrained by national borders. Indeed the outcome of many wars has been the redrawing of such boundaries to better align with cultural and ethnic divisions.
As the world comes to recognise the significant resources in maritime areas, the boundaries and borders are much less obvious, and sometimes disputed—witness the South China Sea.
The concept of security is not even mainly confined within the “whole range of a country’s national interests, including maintenance of political independence, or freedom from foreign constraints on independent national decisions”. Of far greater importance to national security is the freedom to trade and the flow of commerce, travel and information in the global framework, which in Australia’s case is a maritime framework.
Christopher J. Skinner
Eugenics and Abortion
SIR: Initially I found Philip Burcham’s article on genetic counselling (September 2013) moving and persuasive. His identification of the multi-generational loss of human potential that would have occurred if his grandmother had succumbed to genetic counselling was compelling. He seems to be correct in identifying such genetic counselling as potential neo-eugenics.
Rather than suggesting some corrective to this sorry development in medical counselling, Burcham unfortunately proceeded to broaden the scope of his article so that it argued against all abortions, based in large part on Judeo-Christian values. Burcham was guilty of using a number of unfortunate expressions when arguing against abortion. The use of such expressions as “termination of defective infants”, “aborting Jesse’s three frail babies” and “doctor as killer of unwanted or defective children” was appallingly inaccurate. A professor who is a “medical researcher and academic” is surely aware of the difference between the words embryo, foetus, child, baby and infant. Such differences should not be ignored or airbrushed away.
Neutral Bay, NSW