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lurching to a Mad Max world « Previous | |Next »
July 30, 2003

I mentioned earlier that there has been little debate over the changes to Australia's foreign policy by the Howard Government.

One of the issues that has been raised is imperial overreach with the US donning the mantle of empire and running the world from Washington. Paul Kelly had mentioned three lines of criticism that had been made of the Bush administration's geopolitical strategy: its aggression provokes rogue states; it exaggerates what the US can achieve alone; and it downplays the importance of winning the battle of ideas.

Paul Keating, the former Australian Prime Minister, takes the imperial overreach in an article in the Australian Financial Review (subscription required, 29 July, p. 55) He addresses the unilateral American policy, which he says rejects any notion of co-operation and eschews resort to multilaterial frameworks. Keating is a liberal internationalist who hold that the world should be run co-operatively, and so he is critical of the unilateralism, the pre-emptive first strike doctrine and the militarism of US foreign policy.

Keating's criticisms are directed at the consequences of this foreign policy. He says:

"The really bad news in all of this is that by walking away from multilateral arrangements, such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and by their failure to live up to commitments made under the Non-Proliferation Treaty the Americans have given a signal to the rest of the world that they, too, can be part of a resumed nuclear arms race."

Keating then argues that others have taken this message to heart.

"Believe you me, this has well and truly begun. Not just in India or Pakistan, or Iran and North Korea or even Israel, but in lesser states which believe they need their pocket nuke to make the world deal with them respectively. I hope the Americans have not lead us into a Mad Max world--while they seek to shield themselves in the cocoon of national missile defence."

The Mad Max image is an appopriate one to express our fears and anxieties.

The other line of debate has been about the independence of Australia's foreign policy. Ross Garnet had argued that the new interpretation of the US alliance under the ANZUS Treaty, which represents a shift from the regional to the global, seems to allow no room for independent judgment. Garnett then illustrates what he means:

"This could have fateful consequences. At the Australia-US Leadership Dialogue in Sydney in 1999, Armitage, then a foreign policy adviser to candidate Bush, challenged the Australians present by asking whether they were "ready" for war with China. War may be necessary under a Bush administration, he advised, to secure Taiwan's interests in the event of conflict with the mainland. Some Australians present responded that they were not ready. Australia's response should depend on the circumstances that give rise to war."

Observa, in commenting on the earlier the lie of the land post, argued that by breaking with the previous Keating Government's multilateral foreign policy the Howard Government had shown independence. He says:

"Now you might criticise the policy of Howard, but it could well be said that it is the most in your face, like it or lump it foreign policy stance in decades. Perhaps this is a sign of maturity in Australian foreign policy now. We are not afraid to offend some countries in order to do what we think is right. That may be a sign of true independence."

So we have a tough, no nonsense foreign policy whilst we all lurch to a Mad Max world.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:10 PM | | Comments (0)