Desmond Ball

Professor Desmond Ball was a Professor in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at The Australian National University, Canberra. (He was also Head of the Centre from 1984 to 1991.)

Professor Ball authored and edited more than 40 books or monographs on technical intelligence subjects, nuclear strategy, Australian defence and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

His most recent publication was A National Asset: 50 years of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (with Andrew Carr). Other publications include Militia Redux: Or Sor and the Revival of Paramilitarism in Thailand; Burma’s Military Secrets: Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) from the Second World War to Civil War and Cyber Warfare; Signals Intelligence in the Post-Cold War Era: Developments in the Asia-Pacific Region; Presumptive Engagement: Australia’s Asia-Pacific Security Policy in the 1990s (with Pauline Kerr);  Breaking the Codes: Australia’s KGB Network, 1944–50 (with David Horner);  Death in Balibo, Lies in Canberra (with Hamish McDonald); and The Boys in Black: The Thahan Phran (Rangers), Thailand’s Para-military Border Guards. He has also written articles on issues such as strategic culture in the Asia-Pacific region and defence acquisition programs in the region.

Professor Ball was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia (FASSA) in 1986. He served on the Council of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in 1994–2000, and was co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) in 2000–2002.

A National Asset »

50 Years of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre

Edited by: Desmond Ball, Andrew Carr
This volume commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC). The Centre is Australia’s largest body of scholars dedicated to the analysis of the use of armed force in its political context and one of the earliest generation of post-World War II research institutions on strategic affairs. The book features chapters replete with stories of university politics, internal SDSC activities, cooperation among people with different social and political values, and conflicts between others, as well as the Centre’s public achievements. It also details the evolution of strategic studies in Australia and the contribution of academia and defence intellectuals to national defence policy.

Geography, Power, Strategy and Defence Policy »

Essays in Honour of Paul Dibb

Edited by: Desmond Ball, Sheryn Lee
Paul Dibb AM has had an extraordinary career. He enjoys an international scholarly reputation of the highest order, while at the same time he has done much distinguished public service. He was a pioneer in moving back and forth between posts in government departments, notably the Department of Defence, and academia. He began as a student of Soviet economic geography, and then spent nearly two decades in Australian Defence intelligence, including service as Head of the National Assessments Staff (NAS) in the Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO) from 1974 to 1978, Deputy Director of JIO in 1978–80, Director of JIO in 1986–88, and Deputy Secretary of Defence (Strategy and Intelligence) in 1988–91, before becoming a Professor in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC) at The Australian National University (where he is now an Emeritus Professor). He has been quite happy to engage in vigorous public debate about important and controversial strategic and defence issues, giving him a high public profile. The contributors include two former Chancellors of ANU, one a former Minister of Defence, and the other a former Secretary of the Department of Defence, a former Chief of the Defence Force (CDF), and other former senior officials, as well as academic specialists in geography, international relations, and strategic and defence studies.   ‘This would be a high-quality set of essays for any edited volume, but for a festschrift – a genre that sometimes generates uneven collections – this is an exceptional assembly. The individual pieces are very good; together, they have coherence and power.’ – Professor Ian Hall, Professor of International Relations, Griffith University

The Tools of Owatatsumi »

Japan’s Ocean Surveillance and Coastal Defence Capabilities

Japan is quintessentially by geography a maritime country. Maritime surveillance capabilities – underwater, shore-based and airborne – are critical to its national defence posture. This book describes and assesses these capabilities, with particular respect to the underwater segment, about which there is little strategic analysis in publicly available literature. Since the end of the Cold War, Chinese oceanographic and navy vessels have intruded into Japanese waters with increasing frequency, not counting their activities in disputed waters such as around the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands and Okinotorishima where China and Japan have overlapping territorial claims. These intrusions have increasingly involved warships, including submarines, sometimes acting quite aggressively. Japan maintains an extraordinary network of undersea hydrophone arrays, connected to shore-stations which are typically equipped with electronic intelligence (ELINT) systems, for monitoring, identifying and tracking submarine and surface traffic in its internal straits and surrounding seas. Some parts of this network are operated jointly with, and are of crucial importance to, the US Navy. Japan’s superlative submarine detection capabilities would be of decisive advantage in any submarine engagement. But the relevant facilities are relatively vulnerable, which makes them very lucrative targets in any conflict. This introduces compelling escalatory dynamics, including the involvement of US forces and possible employment of nuclear options.

Power and International Relations »

Essays in Honour of Coral Bell

Edited by: Desmond Ball, Sheryn Lee
Coral Mary Bell AO, who died in 2012, was one of the world’s foremost academic experts on international relations, crisis management and alliance diplomacy. This collection of essays by more than a dozen of her friends and colleagues is intended to honour her life and examine her ideas and, through them, her legacy.  Part 1 describes her growing up during the Great Depression and the Second World War, her short-lived sojourn in the Department of External Affairs in Canberra, where she was friends with some of the spies who worked for Moscow, and her academic career over the subsequent six decades, the last three of which were at The Australian National University. Most of Coral’s academic career was spent in Departments of International Relations. She was disdainful of academic theory, but as discussed in Part 2, she had a very sophisticated understanding of the subject. She was in many ways a Realist, but one for whom agency, in terms of ideas (the beliefs and perceptions of policy-makers) and institutions (including conventions and norms of behaviour), essentially determined events. Part 3 is concerned with power politics, including such matters as Cold War competitions, crisis management, alliance diplomacy, and US and Australian foreign policies. She recognised that power politics left untrammelled was inevitably catastrophic, and was increasingly attracted to notions of Concerts of Power. ‘Coral would be touched by this collection of essays about her professional and personal life. The contributors offer honest, professional and insightful reviews of her many academic achievements and especially her ideas, many of them the forerunners of others’ work, that makes her one of the very best international relations and strategic thinkers.’  — Dr. Pauline Kerr, Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, The Australian National University  ‘It’s a rare thing in an international relations expert to possess a balance of theory and experience, history and imagination, realism and hope. Coral had this, and she had a 19th-century prose style to match it. Through her writing she explained the chaos of international events and human affairs in simple and clear language to her baffled compatriots. For the rest of the world, she brought an antipodean temperament and perspective to the great questions of our time; she was our George Kennan in thick glasses, blue floral dress, white sneakers and a string of pearls.’  — Minh Bui Jones, The Lowy Interpreter, 5 October 2012 

Breaking Japanese Diplomatic Codes »

David Sissons and D Special Section during the Second World War

During the Second World War, Australia maintained a super-secret organisation, the Diplomatic (or ‘D’) Special Section, dedicated to breaking Japanese diplomatic codes. The Section has remained officially secret as successive Australian Governments have consistently refused to admit that Australia ever intercepted diplomatic communications, even in war-time. This book recounts the history of the Special Section and describes its code-breaking activities. It was a small but very select organisation, whose ‘technical’ members came from the worlds of Classics and Mathematics. It concentrated on lower-grade Japanese diplomatic codes and cyphers, such as J-19 (FUJI), LA and GEAM. However, towards the end of the war it also worked on some Soviet messages, evidently contributing to the effort to track down intelligence leakages from Australia to the Soviet Union. This volume has been produced primarily as a result of painstaking efforts by David Sissons, who served in the Section for a brief period in 1945. From the 1980s through to his death in 2006, Sissons devoted much of his time as an academic in the Department of International Relations at ANU to compiling as much information as possible about the history and activities of the Section through correspondence with his former colleagues and through locating a report on Japanese diplomatic codes and cyphers which had been written by members of the Section in 1946. Selections of this correspondence, along with the 1946 report, are reproduced in this volume. They comprise a unique historical record, immensely useful to scholars and practitioners concerned with the science of cryptography as well as historians of the cryptological aspects of the war in the Pacific. “This publication fills an important gap in the present available knowledge concerning code-breaking in Australia during World War II. It also gives overdue recognition to the important contribution made by David Sissons to this subject”. — Professor John Mack, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Sydney.

Indigenous Biography and Autobiography »

In this absorbing collection of papers Aboriginal, Maori, Dalit and western scholars discuss and analyse the difficulties they have faced in writing Indigenous biographies and autobiographies. The issues range from balancing the demands of western and non-western scholarship, through writing about a family that refuses to acknowledge its identity, to considering a community demand not to write anything at all. The collection also presents some state-of-the-art issues in teaching Indigenous Studies based on auto/biography in Austria, Spain and Italy. For more information on Aboriginal History Inc. please visit aboriginalhistory.org.au.

Australia and Cyber-warfare »

Authored by: Gary Waters, Desmond Ball, Ian Dudgeon
This book explores Australia’s prospective cyber-warfare requirements and challenges. It describes the current state of planning and thinking within the Australian Defence Force with respect to Network Centric Warfare, and discusses the vulnerabilities that accompany the use by Defence of the National Information Infrastructure (NII), as well as Defence’s responsibility for the protection of the NII. It notes the multitude of agencies concerned in various ways with information security, and argues that mechanisms are required to enhance coordination between them. It also argues that Australia has been laggard with respect to the development of offensive cyber-warfare plans and capabilities. Finally, it proposes the establishment of an Australian Cyber-warfare Centre responsible for the planning and conduct of both the defensive and offensive dimensions of cyber-warfare, for developing doctrine and operational concepts, and for identifying new capability requirements. It argues that the matter is urgent in order to ensure that Australia will have the necessary capabilities for conducting technically and strategically sophisticated cyber-warfare activities by the 2020s. The Foreword has been contributed by Professor Kim C. Beazley, former Minister for Defence (1984–90), who describes it as ‘a timely book which transcends old debates on priorities for the defence of Australia or forward commitments, [and] debates about globalism and regionalism’, and as ‘an invaluable compendium’ to the current process of refining the strategic guidance for Australia’s future defence policies and capabilities.