In 1962, US President John F. Kennedy reviewed the Atlantic Fleet as it passed before him on the cruiser USS Northampton.
It was the height of the First Cold War.
As this panoply of American power passed before the young President in salute, Kennedy asked himself: “What do I do with all this fire power?” The answer quickly came to him: “Nothing”.
It was the presence of this enormous array of American might that was the core reality.
The Atlantic Fleet, along with the rest of the US armed forces, had been constructed as a deterrent to the aggressive ambitions of the Soviet Union and its satellite states.
Deterrence overrode every other consideration in American foreign and defence policy, and the national security of the United States rested upon it.
This story returned to me as I considered the impact of the release of the unclassified Defence Strategic Review last week by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Defence Minister Richard Marles.
The DSR is an appropriate mix of deterrence and diplomacy for Australia.
It sends a signal of reassurance to allies and partners while communicating a very clear determination to potential adversaries and those hostile to our interests.
Denial and deterrence are central drivers of Australian defence policy for the foreseeable future.
Diplomacy, whether it be with our partners within the Quad (India, Japan and the US) or AUKUS (the US and UK) is of greater significance than at any time since 1945.
This is particularly true of the near regions of the Indo-Pacific, embracing the countries of ASEAN and South Korea and the island states of the South Pacific.
The impact of all of this is not lost on the region.
As one senior Indonesian strategic observer put it accurately, “Indonesia is not troubled by a strong Australia, but it would be troubled by a weak Australia”.
Defence Minister Marles has built the DSR upon six pillars, one of which is diplomacy.
The others interlock.
Nuclear-powered submarines are being secured through the already established vehicle of AUKUS.
But the objective of developing the capability of the Australian Defence Force to strike at longer-range targets is a much needed and major step forward.
This will depend overwhelmingly on the ability of the Australian defence industry to manufacture missiles and munitions in this country.
Defence Minister in the Hawke Government, Kim Beazley, saw the need to develop bases in the north of Australia during the 1980s.
These are now the foundation stones for lifting the ADF’s capacity to operate from those northern assets and project into the Indo/Pacific.
Cooperating with allies and partners, especially the United States, is pivotal in this regard.
Building a greater capacity for incorporating disruptive new technologies into ADF capability is the final but critically significant pillar.
It is worth noting that Richard Marles is emerging as the most consequential Defence Minister since Kim Beazley.
The dilemma of future Australian submarines was like a Damocletian Sword hovering over Russell Hill in Canberra.
Marles has achieved what was not thought possible.
While the previous government designed AUKUS, it was Richard Marles who delivered the deal for Virginia Class Submarines with American technology and the prospect of next generation Anglo/American submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.
The Americans recognised the value of their British allies in 1958 in passing atomic technology across the Atlantic.
This has not occurred since.
The US is now passing nuclear technology, in cooperation with the UK, to Australia.
Until recently this was not thought to be possible.
The hard part will now emerge in Canberra and the challenges will run for at least 30 years.
The critics are already carping and a continuing degree of bipartisanship among the major parties – the ALP and LNP – is an absolute prerequisite for policy success.
This is to fund the necessary acquisitions, training, bases, and technologies for Australian future security.
AUKUS, after all, is a technology partnership, including quantum computing, as well as the submarine delivery framework.
Allowing for all of this, there is an unmistakable clarity in the decisions of the Australian Government, governing the embrace of the DSR.
Much more is to come.
But a future adversary that seeks to impose their malign will on Australia will have to consider not only the lethality of the Australian Defence Force at a distance, but also the strengthened alliance and diplomatic relationships which we are continuing to build.