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talking sense on foreign policy « Previous | |Next »
December 1, 2006

If the ALP is not going to engage in a debate on foreign policy beyond bringing the troops home from Iraq for fear of upseting the great and powerful Americans, then we need to turn elsewhere. Owen Harris has an interesting article in todays Australian It is a summary of a speech entitled After Iraq given to the Lowy Institute.

Harris begins by stating the hegemonic Australian foreign policy tradition:

If you consider the grand strategy of Australian foreign policy over the past century, what stands out is its essential simplicity and consistency. It has always consisted of allying our country closely with a great power that is committed to preserving the existing international order against those who want to change it radically. For the first 40 years of Australia's existence, that power was Britain. After 1941 it was for a period Britain and the US. For the past half-century it has been the US alone. Between them, those states strove to maintain the international status quo against those revisionist states - Nazi Germany, militaristic Japan, communist Russia - that sought to change it radically.

Howard has continued this tradition with its muted or limited independence for Australia when he gave his support to the US after 9/11. However, as Harris points out, a neoccon Washington was not concerned with maintaining the staus quo in international affairs. The US, to speak a different language, was the imperial power.

Harris states it this way:

The Bush doctrine, formally proclaimed in the presidential national security strategic document of September 2002, committed the US not only to combating terror but to actively promoting democracy and a market economy in "every corner of the world" - that is, to transform the whole international system to conform with American values. To that end it would, where necessary, use its vast military force, not only defensively to contain and deter its adversaries, but actively, assertively and pre-emptively.

That is what Howard signed up to, and continues to support in Iraq and Afghanistaan. It's time for a reassesment since we are now close to the end game in Iraq. By almost common consent, and even in the opinion of Tony Blair, America's Iraq venture is a disaster. So what now? Harris is cutting in a way that the little Americans in the ALP never are:.
There is plenty of scope for discussion as to what is the best course of action from here on, the order and tempo of events. But simply yelling "No Cut and Run" and having no apparent plan for ending participation in the business, beyond making our decision entirely dependent on the decision of an inept and demoralised Bush administration, is surely a pathetic sign of political and intellectual bankruptcy.

The danger is that because the relationship is inherently unequal the weaker party may well become so enmeshed in the affairs of the senior partner as to lose its autonomy. That is the case now. Iraq highlights how Australia has committed itself to marching in lock-step with a superpower that is committed to an incredibly ambitious program of global change. What is given in return? The US typically ignores Australia and take no notice of Canberra. There is no sense of reciprocity in the so called special relationship.

Does not the "special relationship" need to be rebalanced and rethought?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:41 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)

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» that "special" relationship from
The UK, like Australia, talks about the special relationship it has with the US imperial power ---Washington in shorthand. The UK is the "bridge" between the US and Europe ---the London bridge so to speak. Steve Bell In Australia's case there is little... [Read More]