Australia-US Alliance Series: Week 3

The Meaning of ANZUS

By Joe Siracusa

Whatever government is in power, for more than fifty years the primary goal of Australian foreign policy has been to keep the U.S. engaged in the Pacific as the ultimate guarantor of Australian security. For this reason, then, the ANZUS Treaty continues to remain the cornerstone of the relationship.

For Washington, during this same period of time, Australia remains the “southern anchor” of America’s Asia-Pacific security arrangements (with Japan the “northern anchor”), astride both the Indian and Pacific oceans, intermediate between California and Southeast Asia.

As for Australia, a middle power at the southern end of the world, any defence treaty could probably find its own justification. In this sense, Australia has always been a willing member of the “Coalition of the Willing,” prepared to stand together, in Robert Menzies’s felicitous expression to a New York audience in 1953, “till the crack of doom.”

Thanks to Fiona Katauskas.

That Australia, under John Howard, invoked the ANZUS Treaty in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11 should come as no real surprise. For, as with the case of the ink-blot designs in the Rorschach test, Australian politicians and policymakers were quick to see what they wanted to see and adapted the ANZUS Treaty accordingly; a decision, it was calculated, that would serve the national interest for years to come.

And whatever the next crisis — Taiwan, North Korea or Iran — Washington will doubtless become more, not less important to Canberra in the years ahead.

A Labor view on the Alliance

By Bob McMullan MP

Australia ‘s alliance with the United States has always had a different character under Labor governments. The key elements remain the same: policy dialogue; intelligence; access to technology; and the distant possibility of the “security guarantee”.

A 21st century alliance will have to respond to the rise of China and India; the risk of post-Iraq isolationism in the US and the emerging “responsibility to protect” doctrine.

The recent attempt to tie trade access to the security relationship has been short-sighted and potentially counter-productive. The next trade issue may well have a negative impact on the alliance.

There is a myth that the alliance was responsible for our mistaken commitments in Vietnam and Iraq. These were sovereign mistakes made by Menzies and Howard respectively. Others stayed out while remaining allies.

This illustrates the possibilities for an enduring 21st century alliance compatible with a genuinely Australian and progressive national security policy.

The first essential feature of such an approach would be a contemporary version of the Hawke government’s “self-reliance in an alliance context”. This would make possible the second feature of a modern alliance, the recognition that our interests are often similar but sometimes different from those of the USA.

Third, as the Lowy Institute has stressed, there is a need to build support for the alliance within the Australian public. A positive contribution to this would be a broader Leadership Dialogue to engage the public in the debate.

Fourth, Australia should develop its role in the alliance to focus on reducing the prospect of conflict between China and the USA.

My experience suggests that Australia needs to recognise that our region is more important to us than to the USA. Therefore we need to become more effective contributors about issues affecting South East Asia, the South West Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

Such a range of initiatives could create an effective independent foreign and strategic approach within the context of an enduring alliance.

What do we gain? What do we pay? Is it worth it?

By Ray Funnell

Our alliance with the United States dominates both our foreign policy and the way in which others view us. Given this dominance, an issue worth serious consideration is the ultimate value of the alliance to Australia.

The questions that need to be asked are: What do we gain? What do we pay? And is it worth it?

What do we gain? We obtain the support of the world’s superpower and, among other things, we gain access to U.S. technology and hardware, and we gain access to the products of the enormous U.S. intelligence machinery. These are important in the area of defence and security, but of how much value have they been? If you have the money, you can get the technology and hardware; and, with intelligence, you get enormous amounts of detailed information while the important issues have been ignored or badly judged.

The price we pay is high. In recent times, we have lost both influence abroad and self-respect at home through subservience to an inept U.S. administration and reluctance to oppose our chief allies in a principled way on substantial issues.

And it is so unnecessary.

We are a natural ally of the United States; we do not need a formal alliance. We are a well-educated, technologically-advanced nation occupying a large, inherently secure, island-continent strategically placed between the Pacific and Indian oceans, and on the fringe of potentially the most dynamic area of the world.

Let us accentuate our advantages and emphasise the principles that are at the core of our culture. That is the way to gain the friendship of the world’s superpower and ensure that our counsel is sought and heeded.

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