You are not currently logged in.

Login through your institution for access.


Log in through your institution.

War, Strategy and History

War, Strategy and History: Essays in Honour of Professor Robert O’Neill OPEN ACCESS

Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL:
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    War, Strategy and History
    Book Description:

    This is a collection of essays in honour of eminent Professor Robert O’Neill. Each chapter was written by prominent academics and practitioners who have had a professional connection with Professor O’Neill during his long and distinguished career. The overarching themes running throughout the book are war, strategy and history. All the essays are shaped by the role that Professor O’Neill has played over the last 50 years in the debates in Australia, Europe and the US. This book covers not only Professor O’Neill’s impressive career, but also the evolution of strategy in practice, and of strategic studies as an internationally recognised academic discipline.

    eISBN: 978-1-76046-024-2
    Subjects: History
    × Close Overlay

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Foreword (pp. ix-xii)
    Michael Howard

    Fifty years ago, I compiled a Festschrift for Sir Basil Liddell Hart. Naturally, a key contribution had to be something about his influence on German military doctrine, which I had lined up a distinguished German scholar to provide. At the critical moment, he fell ill. I desperately asked Basil’s advice about a replacement, and he made rather a surprising suggestion. There was a very able young Australian Rhodes scholar, he said, who had been consulting him about the thesis he was writing on the German Army and the Nazi Party. Why not try him? I did, and Captain Robert O’Neill...

  2. Gaines Post

    I met Bob O’Neill at Oxford University in October 1961. We were lieutenants. He was on temporary leave from what he presumed would be a career in the Australian Army. I had just finished my tour of active duty in Germany with the US Army, delighted to return to civilian life shortly after the Berlin Crisis had threatened to ignite the Cold War and extend my service for at least another year. We were Rhodes scholars: he at Brasenose College, I at New College. And we were oarsmen, members of our colleges’ first eights, mine bumping his during Eights Week...

  3. Ashley Ekins

    In late 1966, Australia’s military intervention in the Vietnam War reached a watershed. As soldiers of the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) completed the first six months of their deployment to South Vietnam, their commanders took stock. During a brief lull in the tempo of operations, Captain Robert O’Neill, intelligence officer with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR), prepared a paper at the request of his commanding officer. He examined the operational experiences of the battalion during the previous six months in Phuoc Tuy province and assessed the likely effectiveness of alternative approaches to operations in the future.²


  4. Tony White

    Between 1966 and 1967, Bob O’Neill saw 12 months of combat duty with an Australian army infantry battalion in Vietnam. It is not widely known that Australia was one of a number of countries — including Thailand, the Philippines, the Republics of China (Taiwan) and Korea, Spain, and New Zealand — which, alongside the US, constituted the so-called Free World Military Forces in the Second Indochina War (1961–1975). These allies supported the Government of the Republic of (South) Vietnam against insurgents of the National Liberation Front (NLF), which, in turn, was sustained by the communist regime of North Vietnam....

  5. Desmond Ball

    Bob O’Neill rose to the pinnacle of his chosen profession — the academic study of arguably the most critical subject of public policy, that of war and peace, strategy and defence policy. His route took him to be Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London from 1982–1987, Chairman of the Council of IISS from 1986–2001, and the Chichele Professor of the History of War at All Souls College at Oxford University from 1987 until his retirement in 2001. These posts were fiercely competitive and required navigating the complex shoals at the confluence of the...

  6. Paul Dibb

    I have known Bob O’Neill for over 40 years and, as is well known, he is a highly distinguished scholar both nationally and internationally. He is also a man of many parts, as a former army officer, official war historian, the Head of SDSC for almost 12 years, the Director of the highly prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, and Chichele Professor of the History of War at Oxford. This is truly a stellar career that very few Australian academics have been able to match, and much of this book will examine his academic achievements. My contribution...

  7. Peter Edwards

    Like the citizens of many nations around the world, Australians are marking the centenary of the Great War of 1914–1918. With rather less fanfare, Australians are also marking the centenary of the start of a tradition of official war histories, which have had a fundamental role in shaping the way that Australians have thought about the nation’s involvement in war since 1914. Robert O’Neill’s contribution to that tradition was a major turning point in the development of that tradition, in at least two important respects.

    When war broke out in 1914, Australia was engaged in a general election, which...

  8. David Horner

    Robert O’Neill was the third of Australia’s six official war historians, and directly or indirectly had a major influence on at least four of the official history series — his own and the three succeeding official histories. When O’Neill was appointed official historian for the Korean War in 1969, Australia had already had two official historians — Charles Bean and Gavin Long. O’Neill would need to draw on the experiences of his two successors, but also make his own decisions about what was needed for this new history. The two previous official histories provided much guidance.

    The first official historian,...

  9. Catherine McArdle Kelleher

    This chapter views the postwar evolution of strategic studies as an academic field to illuminate the intellectual and organisational context of Bob O’Neill’s scholarly achievements and organising adventures. Bob has been deeply involved in this evolution for over five decades, and has enjoyed a truly global view. Quite apart from his own research, he has been a significant animateur of research and teaching, with an amazing record of attracting and supporting students and colleagues, women as well as men, in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and throughout Asia. Bob is also renowned as the builder and organiser of...

  10. Lawrence Freedman

    For decades, from 1982, Bob O’Neill played a central role in the British strategic studies community, first as Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and then as Chichele Professor of the History of War at Oxford. He also served, usually as chair, on the boards of numerous other organisations, including IISS, the Imperial War Museum, and the Centre for Defence Studies at King’s College. I have described elsewhere the remarkable qualities Bob brought to any organisation in which he had a part to play, and his unique talent for leadership:

    Bob was always in control and always...

  11. John Nagl and Octavian Manea

    After the shock and awe of Operation Desert Storm, in which one of us participated directly, the remainder of the 1990s confronted the West with a series of instabilities of a different nature. The post-Cold War security environment reflected less the typical challenges generated by strong powers that, for centuries, were at the core of the main international rivalries, and more a world of challenges produced by weak and failed states. Where the problems of the short twentieth century (1914–1991) were caused by states that were too strong and wanted to expand their borders, the problems of the decades...

  12. Mats Berdal

    The history and politics of the Western Alliance in the early years of the Cold War provided the backdrop to some of the more specific questions that, under the gentle, inspiring, and highly efficient supervision of Bob O’Neill, informed my doctoral project at Oxford. Benefiting from the release of newly declassified material, I was able to concentrate on the day-to-day politics, dynamics, and actual workings of the Alliance in greater detail than had previously been possible. Bob’s training and experience as an historian proved immensely valuable to my efforts.

    At some stage in the course of my work, in between...

  13. Beatrice Heuser

    In writings on war, we find the claim made that war is an art. Other authors stress the need for a science of war. This article explores these claims and the reasoning behind them. It will sketch how these terms were used in relation to the terms ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’.

    The difference between theoretical reflection and practical application of the results of the reflection is traditionally conveyed by the terms ‘science’ and ‘art’. A brief reminder of the etymology of both terms is useful here, as the current usage of both terms in English is the exact opposite of its...

  14. Marianne Hanson

    As a strategist and leading academic in the field of security studies, Robert O’Neill was at the forefront of the re-imagining of the role of nuclear weapons, a re-imagining which has gathered strength since the 1990s, and which has shaped the current aspirations (if not yet the full practice) of leaders of the nuclear weapon states. Robert O’Neill’s standing in the international strategic studies community and his willingness to reconsider prevailing assumptions about the utility of nuclear weapons have been instrumental in urging the nuclear weapons debate away a focus on Cold War deterrence thinking, and towards envisaging a nuclear...

  15. John Hillen

    International affairs are influenced by many factors, not the least of them Harold McMillan’s warning, ‘events, dear boy, events’. Statesmen, political leaders, military commanders, theorists, and influential writers on the topic play their role in the unfolding shape of the international arena. So too institutions — empires, states, militaries, government ministries, universities at times, international organisations, sub-state organisations, religious groups, and other popular movements — might all wield a geopolitical agenda and purpose that forms and sculpts history. But the role of the private institution — the so-called think tank — is a relatively new phenomenon, perhaps some 60–70...

  16. Carter Malkasian and Daniel Marston

    Robert O’Neill did not take part in the Iraq or Afghan wars. Yet he has had an abiding influence over how the United States and the West have approached the past 15 years of war. His experiences, books (Vietnam TaskandGeneral Giap), and most importantly, his teaching guided a cadre of scholar-practitioners involved in the Iraq and Afghan wars. His teachings lay at the root of many of the reforms that took place. Without him, the United States and the West would have been far less able to meet the challenges of the recent wars. Through six decades, O’Neill...

  17. Hugh White

    On 29 August 2001, a group of people gathered in a pleasant but nondescript conference room in a pleasant but nondescript office building in the inner Canberra suburb of Barton to launch the operations of a new, government-funded but independent think tank, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). This was the first meeting of ASPI’s Board of Directors, or Council as it was decided they should be called. They were a moderately diverse and distinctly talented group of people, including several former cabinet ministers and other senior politicians, two currently serving heads of major Commonwealth departments, a former senior public...

  18. Allan Gyngell

    Australia was late in developing a foreign policy separate from British imperial policy. Legislation to implement the Statute of Westminster establishing Australia’s full sovereign identity was not passed until 1942. Partly because of this, engaged individuals and institutions outside government have always played a role in shaping ideas about, and public attitudes towards, the way Australia protects and advances its international interests.

    This chapter looks at one comparatively recent dimension of that nongovernment involvement in Australian public policy, the role of think tanks in Australian defence and foreign policy. It examines the reason for their emergence around the turn of...

  19. Michael Wesley

    Like some of the other great scholars of the late twentieth century, it was war that introduced Bob O’Neill to Asia.¹ Already a well-credentialed strategist and military historian, Bob was posted to Vietnam with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR), in May 1966, where from the start he began a diary which would become his second book,Vietnam Task.² Tellingly, Bob titled the first chapter ‘The Problem’, and used it to inform the reader (initially his wife, Sally, to whom he posted instalments of his diary) about the terrain, politics, and military situation in South Vietnam. The chapter (like...