Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 8. Monday, July 1, 1963
Intelligence Needed For "New Look" Army
Intelligence Needed For "New Look" Army
"Frankly, we see the student element as a key factor in army leadership," Major General L. W. Thornton told a Salient reporter recently. "We need intelligence and intiative, not copybook leadership, and if the universities haven't got this type of man there's something wrong."
The picture of the array painted by Thornton, New Zealand's Chief of General Staff, is a very different one from that described by many critics. "The modern New Zealand Army will have to look to the individual, because modern warfare demands it," he maintained.
This is interesting, for those who see nuclear weapons as the inevitable media of modern war would hold that individuality bears little relation to the impersonal chaos of a nuclear battle. Thornton stressed, however, his belief that limited warfare in localised areas would be the future trend. This has proved the case in Malaya, Vietnam, Laos and on the Indian-Chinese border.
The patrol unit rather than the battalion or division is then to be the cornerstone, and if anything needed genuine teamwork, Thornton emphasised, it was a jungle patrol.
The New Zealand Army is particularly concerned that this kind of informed interaction should be built up, he said. The reporter, himself a national serviceman, argued that there had been little sign of such a policy in the seven-week basic training course he had recently undergone, although "corps training" and later territorial training were reputedly more individually orientated. Here Thornton wryly commented on the inherent individuality of the New Zealander. It was only by a fairly hard initial thrashing that his civilian individuality could have the desired result in army life.
The modern New Zealand Army, then, is not intended to be an impersonal machine, completely removed from normal social mores. "After all," commented the Chief of General Staff, "it is largely the right to be ourselves that we are defending."
Thornton impressed the reporter with his appreciation of those who argue that New Zealand could do far more good by remaining outside military alliances and obligations. It is often maintained that a civilian defence programme and a wholehearted "Peace Corps" campaign would be more profitable and moral avenues for New Zealand.
But Thornton countered, complete reliance on such policies is impossible in practical terms. First, New Zealand's defence must be externally orientated. Once an aggressor had moved into Southeast Asia and Australia, for example, it would be impossible for New Zealand to defend herself. Second, there can be little doubt that were New Zealand attacked alone, she would certainly expect help herself. Third, how moral (disregarding realism) is a policy which would allow an aggressor to force itself upon countries such as those of South and South-east Asia or the Pacific?
Captain K. Miller, of the Australian High Commission office in Wellington, agreed with this view in a subsequent conversation, He told the reporter: "It's no use having a loud voice if there's nothing to back it up."
To the South-east Asian, the need for defence is often far more immediate than that for economic and social aid.
And there may be little chance of helping a country in any way once it has been infiltrated or conquered.
It was suggested, however, that New Zealand tended to align itself too readily economically and politically. But Thornton argued, "New Zealand is a pretty small fish, and there are a lot of bigger fish in the sea. We must have some of them on our side."
The reporter brought to Thornton's notice a statement made by Lawrence Ross, a New Zealander, in a recently released appeal to world leaders:
"All I am really asking is that New Zealand military men put the security of their homeland first, before any other consideration or alliance. As they can in no way affect the outcome of total war, I ask them to hold back and not get themselves and their nations killed off in the initial hostilities." (p. 76, World War III.)
Thornton made three criticisms of this statement.
It is not a question of "New Zealand military men putting the security of their homeland first." As in the United Kingdom, Australia and, increasingly under the Kennedy administration, in the United States, New Zealand military policy is decided by politicians. (The reporter expressed doubt that this happily platonic relationship did, in fact, exist, referring to Eisenhower's warning to the USA nation concerning the influence of the military-industrial complex. Thornton, however, expressed his sincere belief that in the countries named the military political relationship was a sound one.
New Zealand's defence cannot be conducted on the basis of looking no further than our indefensible coastlines.
Thornton did not agree with Mr. Ross's conviction that total war was inevitable. He reaffirmed his belief that limited warfare was the more realistic basis for New Zealand defence policy, and in such war New Zealand could, through collective security arrangements, affect the outcome.
There is a strong (but by no means cut-and-dried) case in support of New Zealand's increasingly outward-looking defence policy, and of the National Service Scheme recently put into operation. The scheme is intended, said Thornton, to bring the territorial force to a constant strength of 10,000 highly-trained men. At first sight this number seemed small, but he again stressed the small-unit, localised type of warfare anticipated. By concentrating on a comparatively small number, the army could develop informed fighting teams equipped with intelligence and initiative as well as modern weapons and methods.
This trend in New Zealand Army policy is reassuring, if things military can ever give grounds for reassurance. Paradoxically, the old authoritarian leviathan seems to have found the modern world too big for it.—S.C.