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Australia’s close security relationship with the US is indeed logical

By Chris Lewis - posted Tuesday, 24 April 2012


There is no doubt that war is the saddest expression of human activity and the crudest form of politics. It nearly always brings misery in terms of lives either killed or injured, infrastructure destroyed and so on.

But conflict is unlikely to go away, nor Australia’s need to secure a great like-minded partner, despite our need to learn from humanity’s ongoing struggle for resources and the influence of certain ideas.

Kellie Tranter claims in yesterday’s On Line Opinion that the “ANZUS Treaty unfortunately has wedded us to the US in an abusive relationship” which “has been conscripted to support illegal invasions and occupations of sovereign nations for highly questionable purposes”.

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Now, I do not deny that the US and Australia have not made some security mistakes. I suspect that some strategic decisions may deserve the wrath of public scrutiny.

But as an imperfect individual who recognises my own contradictions, I will not suggest supposed moral certainty by supporting a ridiculous proposition that win-win security policy solutions are possible, or that we can merely sit on the fence.

Despite US credibility being harmed in recent years by unilateral action in Iraq, as well as some evidence that torture was sanctioned, Australia’s need for such a close security relationship remains logical and appropriate in this ultra-competitive world. 

Take US-Australian involvement in Afghanistan. Can critics be serious when they suggest that the war in Afghanistan will only be over when international troops have gone” so that “Afghanistan can proceed down the path to self-determination free of foreign interference”. 

History demonstrates the risks of action, but also of inaction. Whilst Afghanistan has see off more armies than most, it is also true that US inaction after the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1988 allowed that country to disintegrate further into warring chiefdoms.

But rather than blaming the US for this oversight, I do not suggest that this could have been avoided if only we gave them the resources and so on. Nor do I declare (decades later) that the Cold War could have easily been avoided, or that we had nothing to fear from totalitarian regimes.  As if.

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Instead I look back at events and realise just how difficult it was for Western leaders to prop up poor states from the 1980s at a time when governments were coming under greater pressure both to ensure that their own domestic economies remained competitive yet also meet growing social welfare demands. 

 

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About the Author

Chris Lewis has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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