Retired Major General Jim Molan has outlined a set of major security challenges, highlighting emerging pressure points within an unpredictable global power realignment.
Speaking to Defence Connect’s Phillip Tarrant, Molan, whose track record includes a stint in 2004 as Chief of Operations in Iraq, noted several basic differences in the security environment as it currently presents itself compared with five to 10 years ago.
"There are big nations with big power who don't share our view of the world [and] who are not status quo nations," he flagged. "The fundamental differences between now and then really are the rise of other nations in the world [along with] the diminution of real American power and … leadership."
In terms of the ascendancy of alternative major powers jostling for primacy on a global scale, Molan highlighted that the last US defense secretary Ash Carter specified that the threat faced by the US and the Western world consisted of four nations and an ideology.
"The four nations pretty obviously are Russia, Iran, China and North Korea, and the ideology very obviously is Islamic extremism," he said.
Secondly, Molan elaborated on the relative decline of US power.
"In the past, post-Vietnam, we could have the dumbest Defence policy that anyone could ever have and we'd get away with it," he said, adding that as the Americans until recently had been able to project such a powerful stance, "that they would hide any idiocy that happened to be in our Defence policies".
"We paid our premiums by providing forces for various wars around the place, and we got away with it for many, many years," Molan continued. "We could even afford, in 1986, to come out with the Defence of Australia Report, where we just defined any threat down … till it matched what the Labor government was prepared to pay for it."
Finally, Molan emphasised that the decline of American power – which he said had truly come to the fore under the Obama administration – had been driven by sheer confusion.
"It was confused about the support that it should give to its armed forces," he explained. "It was deeply confused and conflicted about how to conduct the military operations that it was responsible [for], and how to manage the Syrian situation [as well as] the red line; the withdrawal from Iraq."
Typically – and helpfully – not mincing his words, Molan described the errors made in those theatres as appalling.
"They're ideological errors, they are appalling and we are paying for it at this very moment against the IS," he said.