Forty years ago, when I stepped off the aircraft which had brought me back from a year of war in Vietnam, I had the beginnings of an anxiety which has grown more acute since. My worry, in a nutshell, was that the United States for all its wealth and military power, did not know how to respond to a wellconceived insurgency. Many events since then have only confirmed that view. As a result we are now in a serious crisis. In this paper I shall focus on the problems the United States faces as the leading power in the world today, the insurgency of radical Islam, the future of nuclear weapons and the need for closer global cooperation.
Before moving into the substance of my presentation let me offer some words of respect for the man in whose honour this lecture is named. Kenneth Cunningham achieved fame and influence as an educator and especially as the first Chief Executive of the Australian Council for Educational Research. The quality of his work has given the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and our profession at large in this country, a splendid basis for their development. What is less well known about Cunningham is that he was a front line soldier in the hell of the Western Front, 1916-18, while in his late twenties. He was first a humble stretcher bearer, from whose perspective all of the most ghastly and horrifying aspects of that war must have been only too visible, before rising through the ranks to become a commissioned officer in late 1918.
From September 1918 a brighter prospect dawned for Cunningham, when he was selected to take a leading part in the huge civil re-education project which the Australian Imperial Force conducted in France and the UK from November 1918 to May 1919. It was a great feather in Cunningham’s cap to be chosen as one of the leaders in this program, as he had yet to complete his bachelor’s degree at the University of Melbourne. It would be interesting to know more about why he was chosen, but clearly he had made a strong intellectual mark among the hundreds of thousands of Australian soldiers in France. Such qualities were, of course, not unknown in the ranks of the stretcher-bearers in the Australian Army Medical Corps, for many of whom a medical post was the only acceptable way in which to serve in a war.