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OZ Foregn Policy: Debate Continues « Previous | |Next »
August 4, 2003

dysonCartoon1.jpg

Kim Beazley, the former Federal ALP Opposition leader, intervened into the spluttering foreign policy debate late last week. His key argument is that Howard's foreign policy has damaged Australia. It is a different argument to the one put forward on these pages, that Australia foreign policy is too tied to supporting the US and that it is not independent enough. The above cartoon by Andrew Dyson expresses my position.

It's an important argument. It is a counter to the neo-con claim that a deep silence exists among Australia's Left cultural gatekeepers on the Howard-Downer success in achieving equal vigour in US and Asia relationships. The neo cons, such as Ross Terrill, argue that Australia's national interests are global and not bound by geography; that regionalism has faded within the past decade; that Australia's leadership steps in Asia are called "aggression" and "military adventurism" by the lefty gatekeepers; that the left are isolationists who hold that an inferior Australia is not worthy of a leadership role on the global stage; that the left's creative imagination holds that the Australian national security state is repressive.

Terrill basically argues that our future lays with the US because of the need to confront China by acting to maintain a balance of power equilibrium in the Asia-Pacific that "keeps in check a still-authoritarian China that may be tempted to substitute national glory for political liberalisation." A strong US presence in East Asia would forestall any danger of renewed China-Japan rivalry. Hence a balance of power equilbrium.

I will lay out Beazley's argument out so that we can still access it when the links to The Age go.

Beazley begins by acknowledging the strengths of political opponent--John Howard, the Australian PM. Beazley says:

"John Howard is a skilled political counterpuncher. Years in the business have taught him how to empathise with community fears, tweak them to advantage and rapidly produce apparent solutions that wrong-foot opponents."

Kim Beazley then acknowledges the threat to Australia's national security:

"We confront real problems in our region now characterised correctly as an "arc of instability" around our north. The al-Qaeda extreme Islamist campaign against our allies and us is serious, and is manifest in the South-East Asian region. The troubles with the regime in North Korea could produce outcomes that seriously damage the Australian economy and draw us into a fight."

So far this is common ground on which most of us stand:--the current consensus of public opinion, if you like. Beazley then highlights the flaw in John Howard's strategy:

"This Government's shrewd counterpunching has concealed an erratic course on foreign policy that has diminished, not eliminated, our effectiveness in the region within which we must secure our future."

He then makes two points to justify this claim. The first is about the losing the coherence of the structure of our defence forces through overachieving on the expeditionary side (eg., Iraq, Solomon Islands) and under-achieving on the organisation of our intelligence and policing responses, which are critical for addressing short-term problems.

The second and more substantive point is about the long-term strategy for all seasons in our relationships with our allies and the nations in this region. Beazley argues that Australia could, and should not, shift our burden onto other nations in the region:

"Australian security also [lies] in the goodwill of our neighbours; particularly those in South-East and East Asia, and that military and diplomatic policies should be combined to achieve this."

Beazley argues that Howard drew down on the good will in the region established by the Hawke/Keating Labor Government for short-term domestic political gain. Howard painted the ALP as soft on national security. Suddenly Beazley's tone changes:

"There was no flaw in the US-Australian relationship he [Howard] inherited, and yet he invented one. Straining for a demonstration effect, he temporarily damaged relations with China and, with his deputy sheriff notion, cast doubt over the independent bona fides we had established in South-East Asia. The domestic flirtation with Hansonism, the careless talk about pre-emption, the dismissal of the relevance of the South Pacific Forum, the casual acceptance of our exclusion from many of the emerging regional organisations, such as the ASEAN-plus-three group, would not have been so lightly done. There was a generous response from the Government to the Asian economic crisis, but it was accompanied in the bureaucracy and the body language of the Government by a certain "there, I told you so - they weren't worth much, anyway".

Howard has been using up Australia's good will in the South-east Asian region by turning his back on Asia. And that is crucial mistake because the region is vital to our national security. Our national security lies within Asia and the Pacific and not from it. Beazley puts it this way:

"Security within our region is everything to us. We have to again convince them that we matter. We need to convince them that our relationship with the US is valuable, not as our umbrella or as a statement about our difference, but as an opportunity for the region to have a further channel to the most powerful nation on earth."

Howard, in short, has neglected the nation states in our region. That neglect is costly because our national security depends on the good will of our neighbours.


| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:17 PM | | Comments (5)
Comments

Comments

Alison Brionowski in her recent book "About Face". (The one that Andrew Bolt attacked so unjustifiably), paints a chilling picture as to how the image of Australia in our region has declined dramatically since WW2. Beazley suggests that this has been a recent event under Howard, and there is no question he has aggravated it, but it is a far more complex story. One where the leaders of the South East Asian nations are deliberatly and transparently racist toward us, and seek at almost any opportunity to demean Australia in the eyes of their people, so as to gain political mileage. Mahatir is just the most outspoken and obvious of these.

It is almost in a way understandable why Howard had turned his back on the region, and embraced the US because, at least the US treats us with a little respect. Our neigbors on the other hand appear to have an unnofficial policy of blocking any rapproachments that we make, and deliberatly squeezing us out of the economic play in the region.

Any discussion of our declining influence in the Asian region must also consider this fact that it is just as much our neighbors cynical and manipulative attitude as it is our own fumbling and unsubtle foriegn policy that contributes to the problem.

Rex

Rex,
you are dead right. Australia has been squeezed out of the region by both Malaysia and Indonesia.

This rejection is most noticeable in attempts to liberalize trade within ASEAN.

Hence the turn to the US by the Howard Government.

Yet Australia is still our region. We are in it.

Why not seek greater cooperation with China in terms of increasing trade as well as the US?

PM J. Howard's new foreign policy which seems to rely on the power of US in the region is acceptable though there are few disagreements from others inside and outside Australia territory. However, with exisiting threats and comments of s leaders in a few ASEAN countries against PM Howard's annoucement last week, he needs something to ensure the security of his people and nation. The generous and friendly foreign policy of former prime ministers of ALP had made many people in ASEAN countries much appreaciation, but their leaders had made certain comments as a warning sign to current PM of Australia of how they felt.
Ot

PM J. Howard's new foreign policy which seems to rely on the power of US in the region is acceptable though there are few disagreements from others inside and outside Australia territory. However, with exisiting threats and comments of s leaders in a few ASEAN countries against PM Howard's annoucement last week, he needs something to ensure the security of his people and nation. The generous and friendly foreign policy of former prime ministers of ALP had made many people in ASEAN countries much appreaciation, but their leaders had made certain comments as a warning sign to current PM of Australia of how they felt.
Ot

John Howards sucks bushes balls