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No Front Line: Australia’s special forces at war in Afghanistan by Chris Masters

January–February 2018, no. 398

No Front Line: Australia’s special forces at war in Afghanistan by Chris Masters

Allen & Unwin, $32.99 pb, 609 pp, 9781760111144

No Front Line: Australia’s special forces at war in Afghanistan by Chris Masters

January–February 2018, no. 398

Few organisations defend their reputation more vigorously than the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Long since clasped to the national bosom, the ADF has no intention of being shoehorned out of its prized position at the heart of Australian identity and culture. The first duty of its public affairs personnel is to protect the brand – a brand, it believes, is fragile and under constant assault. In reality, the ADF’s reputation is virtually unbreakable. At one point during 2011 there were six separate investigations running simultaneously into various aspects of ADF culture, including inquiries into personal conduct within the ADF, the use of alcohol, the treatment of women at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) and in the ADF more broadly. Sparked by the ADFA Skype Sex Scandal, the investigations laid bare a toxic culture of misogyny, bullying, and abuse. What damage did this scarifying experience inflict on the ADF’s standing in the eyes of the public? In February 2012, while new allegations of abuse were still surfacing, Essential Research asked its polling sample ‘How much trust do you have in the following national institutions?’ The ADF came in top, well ahead of the Federal Police, the Federal and High Courts, ASIO, the Reserve Bank, and the Commonwealth Public Service.

Kevin Foster reviews 'No Front Line: Australia’s special forces at war in Afghanistan' by Chris Masters

No Front Line: Australia’s special forces at war in Afghanistan

by Chris Masters

Allen & Unwin, $32.99 pb, 609 pp, 9781760111144

Comments (2)

  • I am not surprised to see Kevin Foster use the descriptor 'puerile' in relation to the behaviour of the ADF forces who fought in Afghanistan. My direct experience with the military extends only to cadets, where I was a sergeant in the late 1950s. However, I had an experience some seven or so years ago while working in a box at the MCG. The box was booked for a group of Afghanistan-experienced personnel, some of whom, I gathered, had undergone several rotations. I had been brought up on the myth of the near-nobility of our fighting men, and knew a few of that kind who had gone off to Duntroon. My experience at the Boxing Day Test at the MCG gave me a far different impression: foul language, sexism, and put-downs were the order of the day. I got the impression that, underneath, these young men - and their youth was palpable - were 'over it'. This was not mere 'toughness', but a kind of sickness. The mother of one of their number was a guest on the day, and her presence did not seem to deter their behaviour. The obscenities of varying kinds rolled on all through the long day, and their passion was gripped by whatever it was they were battling with far more than by the batting that was going on down on the pitch. Maybe the mother, who appeared to be tolerant of the goings-on, knew the truth, and was playing a role of care in another kind of battlefield, one of standing by to help this sad, degraded bunch of men, her son one amongst them.
    Posted by Jim Daly
    25 August 2021
  • A timely, fascinating, and disturbing story about how Australian soldiers fought in Afghanistan.

    I remember reading it when it was first published, but reading it again now has reminded me that war is an ugly business.

    I feel sorry for those soldiers who were sent to fight a foreign war that most Australians didn't care about or understand. That's why the soldiers suffer so badly when they return home.

    The review also puts into a much clearer setting the current war crimes trial of Ben Roberts-Smith VC.
    Posted by John Scully
    23 August 2021

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