The myth of Australia's 'strategic policy'

Sheryn Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Does Australia have a ‘strategic policy’? Australia’s debate has seen an inflation of the use of the term ‘strategic policy’, often used synonymously with ‘defence policy’ and ‘strategic guidance’ to indicate a major policy or to simply describe Australia’s strategic environment. However, far from pure semantics, the term ‘strategic policy’ has become dissociated from the specific understanding of the policy objectives attached to the use and the threat of the use of military force. Instead, contemporary usage of ‘strategic policy’ has come to reflect what Everett Carl Dolman called a ‘favourable continuation of events’, reducing strategy to a mere functional adjective. Moreover, a focus on ‘policy’ as meeting the objectives of a state, as opposed to ‘politik’, which encompasses policy, politics and the polity, has led to the restriction on choices and objectives for Canberra. In an increasingly contested Asia, the Australian debate should avoid the obfuscation that comes with a term such as ‘strategic policy’ as this can have negative implications for Australian force structure and planning. More broadly, the application of the term ‘strategic policy’ reflects the challenge of Australia as a medium-sized power developing an independent strategy in the context of its history, geography, politics and society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-243
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian Journal of International Affairs
Issue number3
Early online date27 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2020


  • Australia
  • defence policy
  • strategic policy
  • strategy


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