IT'S hardly controversial to state that war can have a downside. Some wars. Sort of.
But I feel an urgent need to highlight this right now. I know, I know, the new Defence Minister Peter Dutton (whose sources of information are unquestionably much better than mine), isn't worried.
Asked whether the prospects of a "battle over Taiwan" were growing and could happen "quite soon", Mr Dutton told ABC TV's Insiders: "I don't think it should be discounted."
Is he telling us all "build bomb shelters," or even "get out of iron ore stocks"?
No - the problem can all apparently be dealt with by puffing out the national chest and elevating the national chin so that our manly national willpower deters all aggressors.
As Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo says, free nations "again hear the beating drums" of war, and Australia must be prepared "to send off, yet again, our warriors to fight".
Australia is showing the way to the future by spending half a billion dollars on an enlarged war memorial showing how Diggers always win, war crimes happen to other people and civilian casualties are just NPCs (non-player characters).
It's possible that China, which lost 16 million people in World War II and half a million soldiers in Korea, takes these matters a bit more seriously, but that just shows how primitive its media infrastructure is.
I agree with Dutton, too (that's unusual), that the chance that such a battle would escalate into an atomic exchange that would exterminate human life on earth through nuclear winter is low enough to be disregarded - well under 10 per cent, I'd estimate.
If this war is like all our other post-1945 outings we'll just send over a couple of thousand special forces soldiers to back up our strategic partners, showing the flag, coalitioning the willing and not worrying too much about why we're there or who wins in the end. It's the Australian way!
Dutton is also taking steps to support our allies in this particular martial arts challenge by hosting more Marines in the Northern Territory.
Unsympathetic critics might say that if Dutton really believed a war was on the cards, he'd be doing a bit more.
But I'm entirely on his side in this one; anything Australia could conceivably do would be swept aside like a bug on a windscreen in any case, so why put in the hard yakka when it's press releases that really impress the electorate?
If they're sensible, the conflicting parties are going to have this one on Zoom anyway, and if they aren't, nothing's going to matter any more (see "nuclear winter", above).
And yet, and yet ... What if the worst does happen?
What if being at war with China affects our thermal coal exports? What if some of the billion or so civilians under bombing attack try to reach asylum in Australia by boat?
What if the other side treacherously takes out every Australian naval vessel bigger than a surfboard within 20 minutes of the declaration of hostilities? Where would we take our photo ops then?
Australia hasn't been successfully invaded since 1788, and only the refugees among us have any recent experience of mass graves, carpet bombing, rationing, landmine casualties, detention camps, military justice, sucking chest wounds, burning hospitals, strafed highways, prisoners being shot, women being mass-raped, towns being razed, and all the other things that distinguish big-boy wars from your average Australian political campaign.
I'm sure Dutton knows the difference. I think. I hope. I'd even pray, if that'd get me a hearing with this government.
Have you really, really thought this through? All the way? What sort of body count, when we get down to brass tacks, are you contemplating? I mean, war with China?
Actually, my main worry here isn't being unpopular, it's being snatched off the street to face an in-camera trial for leaking state secrets. Ask Witness K! I'm wearing my pyjamas under this suit.
There are two ways to build national unity.
One is to build consensus though supporting the engagement of communities in open debate - and, yes, I know that's difficult.
The other is by whipping up panic about external threats, which is as easy as falling off a log.
A log that's got a two-million-strong military. What could possibly go wrong?
Denis Moriarty is group managing director of Our Community, a social enterprise helping Australia's not-for-profits.