The history of warfare is the history of the world, for war has shaped the world more than any one other factor. It has been rightly said that ‘medicine has progressed on the dung-hills of war’, but this can also be said about much of our modern technology.
Most Australians, being a happy, sports loving people, pay scant attention to matters dealing with defence and foreign affairs. In the more recent conflicts in which Australia has been involved in the Middle East, South East Asia and the South West Pacific, the only Australians touched by these wars are the relatives and friends of the Australian Defence Force personnel who have been committed to these conflicts.

In ‘The Defence Theory of Relativity’ Brian Cooper explains and simplifies some of the complexities of defence and foreign affairs taking us from the past history and development of warfare, through the current design, training and equipping of the Australian Defence Force, to possible future scenarios.
Does Australia have enough soldiers? What new fighter/strike aircraft should they purchase? Are the proposed new amphibious ships too large? What is the meaning of The Revolution in Military Affairs and Third Wave Warfare? Is Australia under threat? These and many other International and local defence questions are addressed in ‘The Defence Theory of Relativity’.

In Store Price: $AU33.95 
Online Price:   $AU32.95

ISBN:  978-1-921240-09-6
Format: B5 Paperback
Number of pages: 198
Genre: Non Fiction



Author: Brian H. Cooper
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2006
Language: English


Read these Reviews:

Brian Cooper is ‘an opinionated columnist and strategist dedicated to Australian defence who also has wit and a sharply pointed pen’.

Denis Warner

Author and War Correspondent

‘These pages do encourage creative thinking’.

Dr Keith Suter

Author and Broadcaster

‘I found The Defence Theory of Relativity analytical, critical, stimulating, persuasive and an attractive read’.

General Peter Cosgrove

Australian Chief of the Defence Force

2002 - 2005  

WHEN Australia withdrew from Vietnam in 1972, defence planners took a deep breath.  The Australian Defence Force had been engaged in overseas operations almost continuously since 1939.  Australia ’s decade long involvement in Vietnam had been deeply unpopular and divisive.  Although the conventional wisdom was that Australia had ‘lost’ the war, a different view prevailed in uniformed circles, while internationally the Australian Defence Force had gained a reputation as one of the world’s best counter-revolutionary forces, particularly its own environment of South East Asia.  Instead of capitalising on this capability and in the prevailing political climate, defence planners turned to Israel for inspiration given what were seen to be sweeping, decisive victories in an environment similar to, though smaller than, continental Australia.  

By the early 1980s, Brian cooper was the Colonel Operations at Headquarters Field Force Command at Victoria Barracks in Sydney ’s Paddington. With the absence of a real war to fight, Field Force Command became something of the Army’s think tank, where up and coming officers, like a young Major Peter Cosgrove were engaged in rewriting Australia ’s tactical doctrine and devising exercises to test the new theories.  It was a difficult time for the profession of arms when, denied the career progressing awards won on the field of battle, the Australian Army’s senior leadership seemed more focussed on being seen aligned with the victors on the field of political skirmish.  

This didn’t necessarily achieve the best outcomes for those who would, one day, once again, be required to enter the fray on Australia ’s behalf.  Through it all Brian Cooper argued for what he believed was right rather than what was politically convenient for the hierarchy.  Nor has he been silent in retirement, when those who follow military affairs would regularly see his name appended to letters to the editor in the national media in which he argued passionately for what he believed.  Although conventional wisdom says empty vessels make the most sound, Cooper’s vessel overflows with wisdom.  

His collected essays, The Defence Theory of Relativity, written in conjunction with a number of his distinguished peers who held similar views, is his legacy of his military thought, his treatise arguing where we should be heading in an increasingly dangerous and unstable world.  Several of the pieces are formal submissions to official enquiries and reviews and therefore not entirely suited to the casual reader.  To the veritable army of armchairs strategists however they should be required reading and the book should have its place on the library shelves of any serious student of military affairs.  

What Cooper aspires to achieve, as he has done throughout his career and into his fruitful retirement, is to encourage debate about the state of Australia ’s military preparedness, now and into the future.  

Agree or disagree with his arguments and conclusions, that is no bad thing.

In future generations we may well be grateful to the Brian Coopers of the world who believe it important enough that the debate about military affairs should be robust and wide ranging.  

Ross Eastgate
Gold Coast Publications


Foreword by General Peter Cosgrove, AC, MC  

I first met Brian Cooper back in 1980 when I worked for him in what was then known as Headquarters Field Force Command at Victoria Barracks Sydney.  Brian was then the Colonel (Operations).  This was a very important job because in those earlier times, there were not the layers of headquarters and lines of command that presently exist in the Australian Defence Force.  Simply, if the Army needed to do a job of work either operational or some specific peace time project somewhat out of the ordinary, then the Colonel (Operations) at Victoria barracks in Sydney would be the principal staff officer who would plan, direct and monitor its execution.  Brian was a very good boss and I learned a great deal from him.  In those days what shone through was his good humour, great wisdom and experience and his considerable pragmatism.  When he eventually retired we all of us saw a totally different dimension to Brian Cooper.  Within months he had become the keenest analyst and student of defence and security issues, a prolific writer on those issues and in all of that the most splendid catalyst to challenge orthodoxy, eminent opinion and the obfuscatory effects of modern jargon.  

Like many other readers of this excellent collection of essays, analyses and think pieces, in the past I spent many stimulating and pleasurable moments reading Brian's literary contributions to strategic and defence conceptual debate over the preceding years.  He remains both balanced and from time to time appropriately pungent.  He combines good humour and keenly drawn criticism of woolly thinking and humbug.  Brian is that rare creature among the defence commentariat -- he has a deep and admirable expertise as a practitioner.  His analysis of systems, platforms, processes and behaviour has the ring of truth based on experience. I agree with a great deal of what he proposes.  

I found The Defence Theory of Relativity analytical, critical, stimulating, persuasive and an attractive read.  You will too.  I congratulate Brian and those. with whom he has collaborated most warmly on this significant contribution to issues vital to Australia 's future safety and prosperity.  

Peter Cosgrove

Read this review:

Always a privilege to launch a book, particularly one like The Defence Theory of Relativity.  I have known Brian (Curly) Cooper for at least two decades and knew of him before that.


The Defence Theory of Relativity is a worthy follow on (to Brian’s first book the Diaries of Genghis Khan).  It is in four parts, each confined to a specific chapter.  The first discuses strategy and theory.  Principles of war, the RMA, different types of warfare … the issue of command … the language of war … he also goes on to say that war is not an academic matter.  Indeed I suspect that most of today’s theorists are just that.  I found this quite a refreshing section.  The second chapter deals with Australia ’s defence strategy (and) the range of possible threats … He also makes the point that soldiers are not policemen, a point lost by our bureaucrats.  Also found chapter three (defence capabilities) most informative with Brian using his knowledge and experience to discuss the capabilities that we need to satisfy our strategy. The final chapter is equally provocative and demanding.  Titled future equations, it looks at everything from the chaotic world we live in to what Michael McKinley refers to as the intellectually frivolous nature of current policy and its potential to undo national security.  And finally there is a wonderfully provocative article titled the future world of Genghis Khan which, if you did not need sobering by now, you certainly will  by the end of the book.


Overall assessment.  Must read; written by one of the few original military writers in the country; evocative; challenges convention; and clear, direct and simple.


Major General John Hartley

National President Royal United Services Institute of Australia



Most people with whom I have come in contact over the years have taught me something. Some have shown me things I should do while others have shown the opposite. I thank them all. In particular, thanks must be given to the Inter Service Discussion Group [ISDG], an unofficial meeting of a few officers of lieutenant colonel equivalent rank, which met for lunch one day a week in Canberra during the period 1976 – 78. The discussions ranged from the qualities of higher command to the lack of capability of the ADF. To protect the innocent the members shall remain nameless.  

I am indebted to General Peter Cosgrove who has served his country so well for his very complimentary foreword.  Brigadier John Essex-Clark, Dr Keith Suter, Brigadier Jim Wallace and Dr Michael McKinley are also deserving of my thanks for their perceptive introductions to the chapters in the book.  

I would like to record my appreciation to all at Zeus Publications for deciding to publish The Defence Theory of Relativity. In particular, my thanks to Chief Editor, Marilyn Higgins, my Editor, Julie Winzar, and Clive Dalkins for the cover design.  

Finally, but by no means least, my thanks to my wife Echo, who forgave me all the time I spent with my computer, and to my sons Glenn, Garth and Scott for their critical reviews and their specific contribution to Chapter 2.

Brian Cooper


The Defence Theory of Relativity  

The Defence Theory of Relativity states that a nation’s military ability to defeat a defence threat is relative to the structure of its defence force, the morale and fighting ability of its troops, the quantity and effectiveness of its weapon systems, its ability to sustain the force and its adherence to the principles of war.


The House of Caladan

Chapter 1 (sample)

Military Strategy and Theory


A national strategy is in essence a survival statement. China goes further with: ‘To develop superior man’ which, in effect, is a strategy of domination. Other less positive nations often fluff-up their national strategies with politically expedient statements of peace, rule of law, economic well-being and good will to all. Nevertheless, a national strategy must lead to a military strategy as a deterrent or intent to use force which, in turn, leads to a doctrine at an operational level of war and tactical capabilities which further leads to organisation, equipment, training and economic resources needed to implement that strategy.


 Our author is concerned that this process can lead to an academic and remote approach to warfighting (the latest buzz word for ’battle’ or ‘combat’) that can avoid the reality that battle is visceral, bloody and confused, and that winning tactics consist of killing with ruthlessness, cunning and speed, coupled with quick action and reaction, irrespective of the modern capabilities of information technology and weaponry. He challenges his readers with his hypothesis that war has changed little in its essence of destruction of the enemy forces, or their will to win. He further warns us of the dangers of an academic approach that can dismiss so readily the killing, noise, fear, courage, confusion, intellectual intensity, and reality of the battlefield. He warns us of the danger of believing that the essence of battle has changed or could be softened by replacing old terminology with new, or putting ‘old wine into new bottles’ and making warfare sound too simple and too easy.


He challenges the belief that warfighting has been significantly changed by modern equipment coupled to the so-called ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ (RMA), ‘transformation’, asymmetric warfare, and ‘network-centricity’, and the dangers of thinking so. He uses the writings of past strategic thinkers such as Sun Tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, Basil Liddell Hart, Robert Leonhard, and Hans Guderian’s Blitzkreig (‘Lightning war’), plus others, to drive his punches.


Our author also feels that many modern writers seem to believe that warfighting is a management science and forget that winning in battle is an art that has an absolute need for good dynamic, motivating leaders with positive strategies and tactics to command the forces used to implement any military strategy. He describes the essence of this need for sound leadership by giving historical examples of successful leaders and their campaigns. In this chapter the author analyses and condenses the principles of war and also manages to compress a potted known history of warfare that would interest many younger potential historians and whet their appetites for further study.


I am sure the author would respect any academic writers who pick up the gauntlet and respond to his challenges to much of today’s writings on warfare. In particular, he would welcome responses from those who promote the current RMA theory that wars will now be won by the use of information technology (IT), new weapons’ destructive capability and accuracy, and greater speed of action and reaction. Perhaps the second ‘pacification’ phase of the current war in Iraq where so many theorists thought, with hope, that RMA plus the ‘softly-softly’ new counter-revolutionary warfare doctrine would be successful, may have now opened the eyes of many warfighting theorists.  

Brian Cooper, an ardent warfare-realist, asks us to invite the past into our present thinking and refrain from naďvely ‘reinventing the wheel’, especially by those, academics or serving officers, who may have much operational but little or no combat experience.  

In a nutshell – that’s his challenge to all of us.  

John Essex-Clark


War has always been fought in the four dimensions of breadth, depth, height [airspace] and time, but the relative importance of each dimension has changed over the years, as has the mobility and the capacity of land forces to manoeuvre changed with the domestication of animals and improvements in technology.  

Early warfare was linear in nature with little or no depth, employing some cavalry but relying on masses of low mobility infantry armed with weapons such as the pike, spear, javelin, sword, sling and bow. Although chariots were in use they were used mainly for transport and most fighting was carried out dismounted. The only manoeuvring involved was to find a suitable place for battle and the timing requirement was to attack and destroy the enemy before he could destroy you.  

Although the Greeks with their phalanx gave some depth to the battlefield, the first real depth in deployment for battle came with the Romans and the Legions, with their fortified camps and the employment of field fortifications in battle. However, while they used light missile engines as field artillery in conjunction with their field fortifications[1] they lacked mobility being slow in the introduction of effective cavalry. It was not until late in the 4th Century CE at the Battle of Adrianople that they recognised how important it was. The legion was finished as an offensive instrument and was replaced by heavy cavalry as the main reliance of the army. The heavy infantry was to play a defensive role, in which it provided a base for manoeuvre by cavalry and light infantry[2].

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