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Obama's address to the Australian Parliament « Previous | |Next »
November 17, 2011

The video and transcript of Obama's address to the House of Representatives is not online yet, but there is a video of the address. It was a plain speaking speech despite all the flattery and over-statement.

The core of Obama's speech was that the United States was “here to stay” in the Asia-Pacific, that it would be stepping up its role in the region, and that America’s fiscal problems will not be an opportunity for China's expansion at the expense of the United States.

Contrary to what Kim Beazley was saying on Radio National this morning that containment was a Cold War term that had no meaning in the current geopolitical context, Obama clearly signaled a determination by the US to counter a rising China. And Beazley is on board--like he always has been. The strengthening of military ties between America and Australia can be interpreted as the latest step in Washington’s coordination of Asia Pacific nations into a containment strategy aimed at limiting China’s growing influence in the Asia Pacific region.

Will the Australian Defence Force now become a fully-fledged subsidiary of the US Armed Forces? One that make "niche contributions" to US-led coalitions far beyond Australia’s immediate region, such as Afghanistan? That was John Howard's model. Will Gillard Labor tread the same path?

In The National Interest Stephen Walt says:

If China is like all previous great powers—including the United States—its definition of “vital” interests will grow as its power increases—and it will try to use its growing muscle to protect an expanding sphere of influence. Given its dependence on raw-material imports (especially energy) and export-led growth, prudent Chinese leaders will want to make sure that no one is in a position to deny them access to the resources and markets on which their future prosperity and political stability depend.

He adds that this situation will encourage Beijing to challenge the current U.S. role in Asia and that such ambitions should not be hard for Americans to understand, given that the United States has sought to exclude outside powers from its own neighborhood ever since the Monroe Doctrine. he continues:
By a similar logic, China is bound to feel uneasy if Washington maintains a network of Asian alliances and a sizable military presence in East Asia and the Indian Ocean. Over time, Beijing will try to convince other Asian states to abandon ties with America, and Washington will almost certainly resist these efforts. An intense security competition will follow.

The short-lived “unipolar moment” to an end, and the result will be either a bipolar Sino-American rivalry or a multipolar system containing several unequal great powers.

The US's grand strategy since the 1990s has been one of global dominance or global hegemony, which John J Mearsheimer in The National Interest describes thus:

Global dominance has two broad objectives: maintaining American primacy, which means making sure that the United States remains the most powerful state in the international system; and spreading democracy across the globe, in effect, making the world over in America’s image. The underlying belief is that new liberal democracies will be peacefully inclined and pro-American, so the more the better. Of course, this means that Washington must care a lot about every country’s politics. With global dominance, no serious attempt is made to prioritize U.S. interests, because they are virtually limitless.

He adds that this grand strategy is “imperial” at its core; its proponents believe that the United States has the right as well as the responsibility to interfere in the politics of other countries.
The Obama administration belongs to the liberal imperialists version of global dominance, and they hold that running the world requires the United States to work closely with allies and international institutions.

Judging from Gillard's action's Australia's defence and diplomatic interests are to remain dependent on US primacy remaining unchallenged-- Australia uncritically supports the Obama Administration's policy of global dominance.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:26 PM | | Comments (14)
Comments

Comments

Beijing would see that the US is engaged in a policy of encirclement of China. The Gillard Government downplays this interpretation.

"Obama signalled a determination by the US to counter a rising China. The strengthening of military ties between America and Australia can be interpreted as the latest step in Washington’s coordination of Asia Pacific nations into a containment strategy aimed at limiting China’s growing influence..."

I wonder how the yanks would have responded to any attempts to contain them circa 1961? I suspect the would have objected... strongly.

In any case, given America's recent history, I wouldn't be surprised if other nations in our region are NOT quite as enthusiastic about this development as la Gillard.

mars08
Indonesia is none too happy

I really don't give a shit about what people today thing about Obama. What matters is that there's some really loopy individuals in the US power elite, just itching to get back into the driver's seat.

Take this charming quote from US Ambassador to the United Nations (2005–2006)... "The United States makes the UN work when it wants it to work, and that is exactly the way it should be, because the only question, the only question for the United States is what is in our national interest. And if you don’t like that, I’m sorry, but that is the fact."

He said that back in February 1994. Looking at the fools who are battling to be the Republican Presidential candidate... those folks are getting dumber and more self-absorbed by the minute!

Chinese leaders only need to look at the use the US has made of NATO to know how little credence they can give to Obama's rhetoric. A defensive alliance has been turned into a concerted project to draw every country in Eastern Europe into an anti-Russian exercise, even those that were part of the old USSR. There is no conceivable American national security interest in any of this; it is imperialism pure and simple in the cause of global domination. Covert American behaviour in the Chinese SW border region likewise.

If you are the biggest baddest guy in the neighbourhood then it's in your interests to stomp on anyone who looks like they might one day grow up to be a threat. That's broadly the US foreign policy and in an amoral context good luck to them. Not really our business.

But it's not in Australia's long-term interests to be a willing junior partner in the enterprise and I've yet to hear a serious attempt to argue that it is from anyone in Canberra. All we get is tired old crap about terrorists and special relationships that is utterly devoid of any reality-based analysis of what our region will look like in 10, 20 or 30 years time.

Australia will soon have to adjust its mental model of the world. We will soon face the unprecedented situation where some of our nearest neighbours will have more military muscle than us. We might even have to learn to be polite to Indonesians instead of lecturing them about Western values and demanding that they put that poor 14 year old boy on the phone to the PM right now please so we can get him home where he belongs and away from those frightful savages in Bali.

Yes it's going to be a whole new ball game for us when BRIC becomes Brazil/Russia/India/Indonesia/China. Europe and the USA are gonna seem a loonnnng way away. Sadly, everyone in Canberra seems happy to leave that to the next generation to worry about. They're having too much fun planning their Gallipoli Centenary tours where they can make speeches about Enduring Anzac Values.

Of course it's possible we could be lucky yet again. The US might realise it should be cultivating Indonesia as well as Australia to join its China encirclement. A powerful, pro-American Indonesia would be a very comforting security shield for Australia. However there are few signs the yanks are prepared to cosy up to a bunch of Muslims and I have no idea how the Javanese would react to the idea.

The 2009 Defence White Paper sees the rise of China as a threat to Australia. In response, Australia intends to build up Australia's military forces to contain Chinese expansion.

The underlying theme is one of containment.

Australia's strategic policy of containing China's growing power in the Asia Pacific is at odds with Australia's economic policy of China's continued industrialisation representing Australia's only plan for economic prosperity. The former is premised on continued American domination of the region; the latter is premised on multilateralism.

The China threat scenario requiring an arms build-up by Australia to contain Chinese expansion is overblown.

Why cannot China peacefully develop dominance in its own region, just as the United States did in the latter half of the 19th century, despite clearly challenging the economic dominance of the British Empire?

Synonyms for "contain" include... encircle、 surround and enclose.

I'm sure the Chinese are aware of that.

There won't be anything like a cold war between China and the US. Economically, they're too interdependent.

True, Obama won't be around forever and we never know what American elections are going to throw up for the rest of the world to deal with, but I think the bigger context of this is being overlooked.

All that American military stuff has to be paid for, wherever it is.

lyn,
can't you have containment without a cold war context?

'The 2009 Defence White Paper sees the rise of China as a threat to Australia.'

Yes exactly, because Australia is a puppet of the USA and the USA is determined to contain China. It's circular logic. If Australia were to distance itself from the US alliance there would be no threat from China at all.

'Why cannot China peacefully develop dominance in its own region, just as the United States did in the latter half of the 19th century, despite clearly challenging the economic dominance of the British Empire?'

Seems to me that's precisely what the Chinese have been doing, unless I missed something. It wasn't the Chinese who turned a Korean civil war into an international conflict. Ditto Vietnam. It's not the Chinese who insist on stationing troops permanently in Japan and Australia and Guam; it's not the Chinese who send battle fleets to conduct war games just off the coast of the USA. Of course China is going to push back by arming itself.

BTW those who follow wingnut conversations in the USA will know that Taiwan is emerging as the Asian Israel; the tiny gallant American ally who must be supported and defended no matter what. Do we seriously want to be aligned with a future US President who thinks that way?

It's been interesting for me to spend half my time living in the Philippines in recent years. This is an ex-American colony, but it's clear the ruling class looks to China as the dominant regional power. The US is just there to hit up for some goodies every now and again; as the largesse dries up, so does America become an irrelevancy. If poor economically undeveloped Philippines can manage an independent foreign policy, despite being able to see China from their houses (well almost), it should not be beyond Australia to do likewise. Not to mention all the ASEAN countries of course, which also manage to get by without grovelling to the yanks, despite being potentially 'threatened' by a resurgent China much more than Australia will ever be. But they don't really count of course, being Asian and all.

It's been fascinating to read the comments thread on an ABC story about reported Chinese concerns. Many of them are along the lines of "Bugger off China, we'll decide which troops come to our country and the circumstances under which they come. We're INDEPENDENT, baby!" The cognitive blindness is remarkable; as if we haven't been slavishly doing what we are told by Washington since 1941.

"The US is just there to hit up for some goodies every now and again; as the largesse dries up, so does America become an irrelevancy. If poor economically undeveloped Philippines can manage an independent foreign policy, despite being able to see China from their houses (well almost), it should not be beyond Australia to do likewise"

Ex-bloody-actly Ken!

If the witless clowns in Canberra has a clue, they'd be playing those two powers against each-other! Working the courtship(s) to get goodies from both sides. Making them EARN our affections.

Instead, the POTUS drops in for a couple of days, flashes a smile... and Australia is on the floor with it's legs in the air... again. It's embarrassing, is wot it iz!

First thing i thought when i heard this was what will we do with all our chinese people if things turn ugly between the US and China. Round them all up and ship them to Tasmania? Perhaps US has a problem with not being the boss of the world but that is their problem not ours was the next thing i thought.
Then i decided that any future yanks who come here and use Aussie Slang should be shot. Then i switched the tv off.