Nationalism and Globalisation - Old Fashion Patriotism in The Age of NATO

By Lewis Benbow September 29, 2021

Before bed at Kapooka, recruits sing the national anthem and the Australian Soldiers Contract. Both are strong examples of the young soldier’s commitment to serving their country. However, how many of these young people understand their true role within the geopolitical environment that endlessly surrounds our armed forces? Should our recruits begin pledging their allegiance to the United Nations (UN) or the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) before bed? Of course, this is ridiculous – they are Australian soldiers – but the truth is not that far from farce.

What Is Our Role?

As a sovereign entity, the Australian Defence Force is vulnerable. Lacking the sheer size of many regional adversaries while also having limited capacity for domestic production during the outbreak of war, Australia instead relies on the pen far more than they do the sword. Despite what many of our top brass may admit, it is truly the diplomats and bureaucrats that do much of the leg work in ensuring Australia’s military might. Australia is fortunate to be strong allies with the USA – having one of the world’s premier militaries on speed dial. However, it is the network of soft-power that enshrouds the USA that bunker-hardens Australia’s sovereign borders. Australia’s global partnership to the NATO alliance, the most stable international security organisation, protects Australia from both the South Pacific and Central Asia.

The Rise of Nationalism

International terrorism, the COVID-19 pandemic, and new regimes have all played a role in encouraging states to pull away from international organisations. President Trump famously withdrew from the World Health Organisation, while Brexit has been lingering for nearly a decade. If the trend changed and great powers withdrew from organisations such as NATO, countries such as Australia would be left chronically undefended, right? The simple answer is yes, but don’t be concerned. Political ploys and diplomatic smoke and mirrors are a long way from withdrawing from the institutions that guarantee relative global security. Even great powers like the USA rely on NATO to contribute to military strategy, intelligence, and to contribute manpower and alternate assets.

What Should Soldiers Think?

Patriotism is a beautiful thing. Being proud of the country you serve is a critical feature of being an asset to the ADF, and long may we live in a country that is worth being proud of. All that is being asked of junior soldiers is to have a basic understanding of how international organisations work. Just like in infantry minor tactics, we always have a battle buddy. Relish the opportunity to learn from our partner forces and understand that if the ADF is deployed to a conflict zone, it will be with the assistance of another partner state. For the keen, learn a language of a country you might get the opportunity to work with and keep up to date with contemporary issues of domestic and foreign politics of our closest allies. When the opportunity comes to work together as a team, the time spent will pay off.


Note from The Cove Team: If what Lewis is saying has resonated with you and you want to know more about the Indo-Pacific region, check out the Know Your Region series on The Cove. There are also great units of study on COVE+. Here is a complete list of units available for you to use right now. 



Lewis Benbow


Lewis Benbow is an Infantry Solider who studies International Relations at University. The focus of his submissions on The Cove will be the operational environment that surrounds the ADF while we conduct operations at home or overseas. He aims to provide a wider picture of the broader social, political and environmental issues that are relevant to commanders and soldiers alike and wishes to start a discussion on how these issues may impact the ADF

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.


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