Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

US/Australia alliance « Previous | |Next »
June 10, 2004

The US/Australia alliance has become an election issue in Australia as a result of the interventions by the imperial president and Richard Armitage, the US Deputy Secretary of State.

The significance of these remarks is that Bush administration is not prepared to accept that the US and Australian governments can differ over Iraq, and yet still maintain a strong and mutually beneficial alliance. Those remarks by the Bush adminstration about the fragility of the alliance---it will fall apart because of the withdrawal of several hundred troops ---are nonsense. As Geoff Kitney points out in the Australian Financial Review (subscription required, 10, 6, 2004, p. 14) Latham's policy does not pose a dangerous threat to Australia's national security, or a threat to the alliance.

The political significance is that the remarks by the Bush administration enable John Howard to play 'the ALP is anti-American card' to help him get re-elected. He is strongly asserting the significance of Australia's alliance in an attempt to neutralize the electoral damage from the emerging public unease about the Iraq fallout. Bush has given him what he needs.

Hugh White digs a little deeper on the ground of the escalating conflict between the ALP and the imperial presidency. He says:

"Fault lies on both sides. Latham's policy on troop withdrawal has always been flawed. But it is Bush who has escalated the dispute to this level. By declaring Australian willingness to keep forces in Iraq a make-or-break issue, he has raised a fundamental question: does our alliance with the US require us to send forces wherever and whenever the US asks? Bush's strident response to Latham's policy suggests he thinks it does. That would be in line with the views of some of the President's neo-conservative advisers, who are fond of saying there is no such thing as an a la carte alliance - one where you can pick and choose what bits you want and what bits you do not."

I presume this is also the position of Australian neo-conservatives. They would claim that it is the price that Australia has to pay for its security insurance policy. The fervered imaginations of the gut reacting, knee jerk conservatives would say that those who think otherwise are fools, anti-American, appeasers and supporters of Al Qaeda.

The strength of High White's piece is that he looks at the strategic implications of the neo-con understanding of the alliance. He says:

"....that model of the alliance is unworkable. In Australia, neither side of politics could sign up to it. Many Liberals, for example, doubt Australia would want to send forces to help America fight China over Taiwan. So the alliance must allow scope for disagreements about individual policies and issues. That is the way the alliance has always been understood - until now."

In other words the alliance is bigger than Iraq, or Taiwan or North Korea for that matter.

We can add to White's piece by saying that the US has made it perfectly clear that it will only put the lives of its soldiers on the line where it reckons it has a strong national interest in doing so. Consequently, Australia cannot expect US military assistance in the event of a major threat to Australia's national interest but not that of the US.

It is time to drop the fantasy about expecting US protection if Australia is threatened and get real.

June 12
Alan Ramsay puts his finger on the "ALP is anti-American" media campaign. Chris at Backpages fingers Murdoch's Australian. And Shaun Carney, writing in The Age, asks a good question:

"But the truth is that the Bush Administration has no interest in hearing Australia saying "no" to anything at all. And those who trumpet the American cause on the Australian political stage and in our media have so far failed to produce a credible answer to this question: at what point is it OK to differ with the US, or to simply say "that's enough, we've done our bit"?

Carney goes on to say that:

"The subtext of Armitage's comments in an interview with ABC TV's Lateline, in which he said allies could not pick and choose the parts of their relationship they liked, suggested that if Australia wanted a close relationship with the US it had to accept that it would have to go along on any military adventure America chose to undertake. There is no other way to interpret the comments."

He then makes the point that Australian governments have an central "responsibility to protect and further Australia's interests ahead of any other country. As in any relationship, nations pick and choose the parts that most benefit them. When they stop doing so, they cease to be genuine sovereign nations and instead become client states."

The central question is:“would an Islamic regime in Indonesia be tolerated by Australia? Would it be tolerated by the United States? If not, then is the only way for Australia and America to proceed is to exert military authority, force and occupation in an Islamic Indonesia that is held to be dangerous to the national interests of Australia and the United States? Yes is the answer of those neo-conservative hawks who advocate preventive wars.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:47 PM | | Comments (15)


I made a comment about how outdated the ANZUS treaty is This treaty is being banded as basically covering everything while instead is very narrow in its scope.
For instance the Treaty is invoked only when the territorial integrity is threatened in the Pacific. So if you are in Perth or New York you're out of luck.

It's OK Guido, we've drawn up a secret plan to reteat and defend the 'Kalgoorlie Line' The fallback plan is Ceduna, while we wait for the UN.

Based on the US & UK backflip in the UN security council the newly appointed Iraqi government will, when installed, have the right to direct Coalition troops and to ask them to leave.

So the situation is: The US Govt has given the Iraqi government the right to withdraw Australian troops but feels a future Latham Australian Govt has not got the right to do so.

Perhaps we can raise the issue at the UN to see if we can be granted sovereignty

Observa, I support an USA-Australia alliance. But ANZUS is:

1) Outdated as it was devised at the start of the Cold War.

2) It is invoked to do things that it clearly was not meant to do (my comment on the Pacific was an example).

I believe that we need to negotiate a new treaty which reflects the modern situation

What a strange defence strategy you have.

Who are we retreating from?

Who are we falling back to defend the Kalgoolie line from?

Who is the UN protecting us from?

Who is the enemy here who so overwhelms us?

You do owe us an account of the all powerful enemy who can overrun our country so easily.

Whoa guys, all a bit tongue in cheek really. I just had visions of poor Guidos in Perth thinking they were going to be left north of the 'Brisbane Line', a la WW11 if the aliens land. Relax, at the very least Andrew Demetriou would rally the troops to rescue the Weagles and the Dockers. Can't have our AFL comp threatened. Hey, you don't think the French would want to get involved in our liberation, to culturally opress us with soccer or rugby do you? It might be enough to drive a bloke to gridiron. Gulp!

Good analogy Shaun, but another one might be a household party party going on across the street from another one at the local footy club. Now unfortunately the householders didn't take proper precautions and employ some reliable bouncers. A few carloads of thugs arrive and start trashing the place and bashing the guests. For obvious reasons they didn't pick on the footballers show, although a couple of them had graffiteed the club the night before, when noone was watching. The footballers hearing the ruckus come to the rescue and its vamoose thugs. The householders are happy for the footballers to stay on until the police arrive, because there's still a carload of thugs hanging about at the end of the street. The police patrol is of course feeding its face at the local burger shop, oblivious to the patrol car radio. Meanwhile the grumpy old bastard next door comes over and starts giving the footballers a serve, for keeping him awake and interfering in proper police business. He wants them to leave. The footballers look quizzically at the guests.

tut tut. When the hard questions are asked you back off.

Well let me name your unnamed foreign Other for you--a Muslim Indonesia.

In response to your questions, Gary, let me say that it's a nasty world out there, and danger could loom from a variety of sources. Indonesia? Absolutely not beyond the bounds of plausibility. China? It could happen at some time in the foreseeable future. In 1936 who'da thunk that 6 years later a bunch of half-trained Aussie militia would be the only thing standing between an advancing Japanese army and Port Morseby?

Worst case scenario planning is one of the cornerstones of any prudent defence strategy. And, maintaining the alliance with the US, as well as collecting a few Yankee IOUs that Australia could redeem if we ever got our ass in a crack is very wise national insurance policy.

John Howard collected a substantial IOU from the States with a minimal Australian military investement in Iraq. And, tfu, tfu, not a single casualty. Pretty damned smart, if you as me.

Hopefully, that IOU will never have to be redeemed, but if Australia ever comes under serious threat in the future, John Howard has substantially increased the chances that John Wayne and the US cavalry will ride to our rescue.

Of course, what Armitage, Colin Powell and Dubya have all been saying is that if Australia leaves the US in the lurch in Iraq, then those IOUs and that insurance policies become null and void.


'Hopefully, that IOU will never have to be redeemed, but if Australia ever comes under serious threat in the future, John Howard has substantially increased the chances that John Wayne and the US cavalry will ride to our rescue. '

Use your left hand, it feels like someone else is doing it, you enormous wanker.

Gary, my first response was a throwaway tongue in cheek response to Guido concluding that ANZUS was so out of date that 'if you are in Perth or New York, you're out of luck.' Let me respond seriously that I think treaties like ANZUS do not depend on some original document, but rather the ongoing maintenance and nurture of its first principles. I would liken it to the Australian Constitution and its relevance to the modern Australian political economy. It is a work in progress. Part of ANZUS is the ongoing implicit cooperation between allies, to further peace and stability for its signatories. It was inevitable that Sept11 and Bali would change the outlook and obligations of the initial signatories. A marriage certificate has a lot more meaning on your 50th anniversary, than your first, although the certificate is a bit yellower.

As to any serious military threats to Australia's sovereignty(invasion), I can't forsee any in the short to medium term because a)The civilised world has changed its outlook about military conquest and b)We could have squadrons of high performance aircraft from overseas here within days(our credit is good and there is no risk of giving us the technology, because we already share in its making.)With the ability to deliver awesome quantities of precision guided munitions, I would suggest any forseeable invasion force, would quickly be shark food. Also, any serious threat to invade Australia, would be months in the making and such buildup would be more than matched by our economy switching to a full war footing in that time. You would also be gambling that powerful friends would not assist us. We are a formidable mid range power, in our own right, in our region nowadays. With that power comes responsibility to exercise it wisely and humanely.

I can hear the howls of protest now about civilised countries refraining from military conquests like we have in Bali. Well Gary Bali was for humanitarian reasons, despite the very fact that it was not in our economic interests to do so. After all, didn't we have a perfectly good Timor Sea oil agreement with Indonesia? Why not ignore the screams of Timorese and go on pumping with the generals approval? Why buy ourselves dramas with Timorese now claiming this oil on our continental shelf? What was in it for us? When the left work that little conundrum out intelligently, I'll listen to them. Perhaps they might see a similar pattern in Afganistan, Bosnia and Iraq. But I forgot, its all about self loathing and by natural extension loathing the US. Never mind that political leaders as diverse as Bush, Blair, Howard and Kerry agree with staying the humanitarian course in Iraq. Never mind that the COW have said to the new Iraqi authority, we'll leave if you ask us. No its all about oil and power. The left have their new darlings in Latham and Garrett to self loathe with. What they think of Blair and Kerry is anyone's guess.

Wait a bit, I forgot about the Muslim thingy. Afghanistan, Bosnia, Timor and Iraq were all about christians crusading against muslims. Damn those bloody Serbs for stuffing up a good theory eh?

Err, make that military conquests in East Timor. The fundies night have liked those mistaken sentences though.

Of course we can cherry pick the alliance,fuck armitage.
The americans cherry picked over timor,they didn't want to offend the indos.
Armitage expects us to defend taiwan as well-what for?
Which australian parent will give his sons and daughters for a bunch of chinese.