You know a book is worthy read when all copies have been snapped up before the official launch has even begun.
Such was the fate of Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb’s new book, ‘Inside the Wilderness of Mirrors: Australia and the Threat from the Soviet Union in the Cold War and Russia Today,’ recently launched by the former ASIO head, Dennis Richardson AO.
The book aims to fill what Professor Dibb calls the “gaps” in Australia’s Cold War history.
“I think there’s a tendency in this country to think that we didn’t do much in the Cold War,” he says. “Well, none of that is true.”
In the book, Professor Dibb uses recently declassified information to explain how the American-Australian joint intelligence facilities in Pine Gap, North West Cape and Nurrungar actually made Australia a possible target of Soviet nuclear attack.
But Mr Dennis Richardson sees the book as more than just a Cold War memoir.
“It is partly autobiographical, it is partly a study of governance and intelligence and it is partly a history of the essential ingredients of Australia’s approach to national security, foreign and defence policy.”
“Through it all, there is a profound understanding of the Soviet Union and Russia, demonstrating… that he [Professor Dibb] is one of Australia’s great scholars and strategic thinkers.”
Mr Richardson also explains how the book revealed many “essential truths” which remain relevant in today’s strategic and volatile environment.
Of particular importance is the need for rigorous debate when examining potential foes and the threats they pose.
To Professor Dibb, this means avoiding “group think” and over-specialisation to the detriment of holistic intelligence analysis.
He explains his own experience of such pressures during the 1980s.
“I knew I would get into trouble even saying that it [the Soviet Union] was not a proper superpower, ” says Professor Dibb.
“It was weak economically; it was weak socially and ideologically. It’s one strength was military power and even that America exaggerated.”
Yet he warns the same folly might be playing out in defence planning circles today.
“Right now,” Professor Dib says, “I am sick of hearing about the strength of the Chinese military… I don’t mean to say that China isn’t making some remarkable progress because it is. But where is the book, where is the analysis that tells us that China has some serious problems?”
The book is online and available in hard copy.
By CAP Student Correspondent Georgie Juszczyk