Strategic and Defence Studies Centre celebrates 50 years

20 July 2016

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Associate Professor, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs

Academics, military personnel and policymakers will gather at ANU this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre (SDSC).

Professor Veronica Taylor, Dean of the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific says the 50 year anniversary will provide a unique opportunity to explore major trends and future developments of the discipline.

“The ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre is unique in Australia and is one of the most influential centres of its kind in the world. We are proud of the unparalleled quality of this group’s research and teaching over 5 decades. The enduring partnerships that SDSC has forged with government, defence and intelligence communities in Australia and internationally exemplify the commitment ANU has to being a resource for the nation” said Professor Taylor.

Dr Brendan Taylor, Head of SDSC hopes the anniversary will provide a forum to reflect on the historical and future importance of strategic studies in pre-empting international conflicts.

“Today the need for strategic thinking is back on the agenda as the international strategic environment once again becomes more complex, challenging and potentially unstable” said Dr Taylor.

“As we look around the world today at events in Europe, the Middle East, and especially in Asia, the need for strategic thinking is becoming increasingly apparent because the use of military force is no longer inconceivable in these contexts”.

As warfare has changed and evolved, inevitability the discipline has too.

“Strategic Studies has ebbed and flowed as a field of study over the past 50 years. Because it has such a practical focus, the field is heavily influenced by shifts in the international strategic environment. During the 1950s and 1960s as the Cold War intensified and as the threat of nuclear annihilation hung over the world, Strategic Studies enjoyed something of a ‘golden age” said Dr Taylor.

While there have been many nuanced changes over the five decades, the discipline’s ability to influence policy remains consistent.

“A recent example of strategic studies influencing policy is the work of Professor Hugh White. Professor White’s work looks at the question of how Australia should position itself between its leading trading partner - China and its longstanding strategic ally - America in the more contested Asian strategic environment.

“Professor White’s work has had a profound impact on Australian public debate and has gained international recognition. Australian policymakers will frequently disagree with his assessments and conclusions, but his work has unquestionably framed the dominant Australian foreign and strategic policy debate for the better part of a decade” Dr Taylor said.

More recently, Hugh White and other leading SDSC academics have been at the forefront of analysis and debate around the ruling of the nine dash line in the South China Sea.

In addition, SDSC scholars have undertaken ground-breaking and thought-provoking research on the use of armed force, the place and utility of intelligence in a liberal democracy and Australia’s place in an increasingly contested Asia. The dynamism of the environment is matched by the breadth and scope of the research undertaken by its impressive range of scholars on issues of direct relevance to contemporary issues.

The SDSC anniversary celebration will take place at ANU University House on Friday 22 July from 6pm onwards. Join us as we discuss the issue of ‘Asia in 2020: War or Peace?’

Register now.

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