Author: charles koon
Date: 06-13-12 08:12
Former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Fraser has delivered the 2012 Gough Whitlam Oration organised each year by the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney. He talks much more sense than many Western politicians.The following is part of the speech which will interest forumites as it touches on relationship between Australia, United States and with China:
Those who are interested in the whole speech should go to:
There is another issue however of complexity and difficulty that we need to address - the nature of our relationship with America.
In the last twenty years, we seem more and more than ever to be locked into the United States’ purposes and objectives. ANZUS was invoked to support America during the invasion of Iraq. The war in Afghanistan was originally sanctioned by the United Nations. It was for a specific purpose to destroy Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. It then morphed into an attempt to establish some kind of democracy in Afghanistan itself. That had not been sanctioned in the same way by the United Nations. Why did we follow America without question when so many believed this change in mission was impossible to fulfil?
Did we really believe that by force of arms we can force a system of government on people whose history and culture are so very different? We should have withdrawn from Afghanistan when the nature of the mission changed.
America had a huge army in Vietnam and was not able to win. In Iraq, the government arrested 300 or 400 hundred political opponents almost in the same week that President Obama brought the last troops home and suggested that the job had been successfully completed. There are bombings in Iraq almost every week and scores of people are killed. Security is limited and there are grave doubts about the future.
Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan should give pause to those who believe that there can be military solutions to problems of governance in other countries.
We need our military, a military efficient, operating and effective. When our military goes to war it should be for purposes and objectives clearly in Australia’s interests, not merely because the Americans want some company.
There are too many who believe if we support the United States and go to war when they want us to, they will in turn support us on issues that we regard as fundamental to our own security.
History strongly suggests that the real determinant of the actions of great powers are their own interests. We should not expect anything else.
The British Empire once existed, Australia was part of it. I remember being shown a map of the world coloured pink. We would be told that where the map was pink you would be safe because that was part of the British Empire. But, when Australia was very much under threat, when Darwin was being attacked, when Japan was advancing, Britain was so beleaguered that helping Australia was not possible. Strong arguments can be made that Churchill used every device, every mechanism, every lever of power and influence to secure Britain, no matter what the consequences to a country like Australia. That was his job and without Churchill, Britain and the free world may not have survived.
The point remains however, that too much reliance on great powers for one’s security is not wise.
Once it became clear that Britain could not help us, we transferred our sense of dependence, which had dogged Australia since Federation, from Britain to the United States. That sense of dependence remains. Today I believe we should be old enough and mature enough to grow out of it.
I support ANZUS and the American alliance. At the same time my belief in its efficacy has its limits. Our own skill, our own strength, our own diplomacy, wisdom, our contribution to our region, our contribution to the overall security of that region - these are what will secure Australia’s future.
We need to be a nation acting independently with a mind and direction of our own and we need to be recognised as such.
This does not mean we cannot have alliances. There are many things in which we will always agree with the United States, but there are some very important things in which the Australian interest is quite different from theirs.
The United States’ major interests are in the western hemisphere. Our major interests are in the East and South-East Asia. Our future is totally bound with that of the Western Pacific, East and South-East Asia. That geographic difference defines in significant ways our different national interest. We live in the Western Pacific, our secure and peaceful future depends upon our relationships with countries of the region. We do not have the luxury, as the United States does, of being able to withdraw across the Pacific, to the western hemisphere.
We must rely more on ourselves. We need to recognise that ANZUS itself is a strictly limited treaty. It is limited geographically and substantively. It involves a commitment in the first instance to consult. Then according to their constitutional processes the United States may or may not provide military support. There is no blank cheque, no automatic provision of military support. The hard commitment does not go beyond consultation.
That is quite unlike NATO which contains an automatic commitment to defend. The difference between the treaties is remarkable.
There have been a number of occasions when the United States has not supported an Australia view when we had felt our particular interests were affected. During the period of confrontation the London Economist had this to say “No Indonesian regime short of a blatantly communist one would earn active American hostility, no matter what harm it did to the national Australian interests”.
To point this out is not an anti-American statement. It is a statement of fact. If we blind ourselves to these realities we blind ourselves to the necessities for our own survival. The United States remains enormously important. On some counts it remains the world’s best hope for a peaceful and secure world. Many of the good things that have happened since the Second World War, the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, even the International Criminal Court, which they have not ratified, but whose statutes they helped draft, would not have been put in place without the United States’ leadership and support. Good things have happened because of leadership or support from America.
This does not mean that Australia can buy security by supporting America unconditionally. Unconditional support diminishes our influence throughout East and South-East Asia. It limits our capacity to act as an independent and confident nation. It limits our influence on the United States herself. The United States would expect an ally to have views and to put those views and help form policy.
I am reminded of some words of Abraham Lincoln:
I am not bound to win,
but I am bound to be true,
I am not bound to succeed,
but I am bound to live up to what light I have.
I must stand with anybody that stands right,
stand with him while he is right,
and part with him when he goes wrong.
I believe that in dealing with countries in our own region, we need to show a greater element of independence and a greater strength of mind.
We need to increase our sophistication in our approach to relationships throughout East and South-East Asia. For example our government still tends to say that strategic considerations have no impact on our good economic and trade relations with China. That is plainly not true. We cannot expect our trade relationship to be unaffected if on every occasion we follow America in strategic matters.
Independence of mind and recognition of Australia’s national interests will become more important in the light of developments in the relationship between China and the United States. If the United States wishes to maintain a position of primacy over all others, that will not be acceptable to China. No less, if China because of its increasing economic influence and growing military strength, seeks to replace the United States, that will not be acceptable to the United States.
There has been a recent conference in Singapore, the 11th International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia Security Summit. The most thoughtful, constructive and rational presentation by far was made by the Indonesian President Yudhoyono. By contrast the United States Secretary of Defense’s main thrust was the rebalancing of military forces into the Pacific. It was not a constructive speech because it shows quite clearly that the United States believes that the backdrop of military power is necessary for her to achieve the outcome that she wants. One could almost believe from that speech that the Secretary of Defense regarded the Western Pacific as a region to be controlled by the United States. The way Australia immediately rushed in, and once again tied herself to American coattails shows that the Australian Government does not understand how to secure peace.
The only solution that I can see of minimising the potential friction between these two major powers, is by cooperation. It is by partnership. It is if you like, by a concert of nations. This should contribute greatly to peace, security, progress throughout our entire region. A major part of Australian policy should be to work for such a result.
Such a result is well capable of achievement. A senior Chinese said to me the other day, China does not want America to withdraw from the Western Pacific. China knows that her strength and increasing influence causes some concern amongst neighbouring countries, that concern would be all the greater if the United States withdrew. It is in China’s interests also for America to remain a country of influence. This suggests that a concert of nations, acting with due respect to all countries does hold promise.
Australia does need to play a part. If we have independence of mind, if we have confidence in ourselves, as indeed we should as an independent nation, we cannot just keep doing as we have in recent times, just doing what America wants. Troops in Darwin, military activities on Cocos Island, our following America into Iraq, staying in Afghanistan, all indicate an unthinking compliance with American policy.
If we continue on this path we will very soon find that we have made ourselves irrelevant to East and South-East Asia, politically and strategically. Irrelevant, because Australia will have nothing to contribute. Being and being seen to be independent and having a clear eyed view of what can achieve security and continued peace throughout this whole region is critical to Australia’s future.
The choice for Australia to make is not for China or for the United States, but independence of mind to break with subservience to the United States. Subservience has not and will not serve Australia’s interests. It is indeed dangerous to our future.
Australia should not do anything for example that suggests that we could be part of a policy of military containment of China, but marines in Darwin, spy planes in Cocos Island make us part of that policy of containment.
We would not be alone in opposing containment. At the InterAction Council meeting in Tianjin, China which I recently attended, with 20 countries represented, including a significant number from our own region, Singapore and South Korea included, endorsed a Communiqué which condemned containment. In his opening speech, former Prime Minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong had this to say “Any rhetoric of “containment” is dangerous. My view is that any attempt by the US to contain China will not work, nor will countries in the region want to take side on this.” These are strong words for a Singaporean, former Prime Minister. Singaporean Governments have normally avoided public criticism of the United States.
We should be trying to lead the United States away from containment.
It is not always understood as China understands very clearly, that the United States is running a two track policy. When I was in Beijing recently, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton led a large effective delegation to China for a 4th round of Strategic and Economic discussions. It appeared that those discussions went well. A number of continuing dialogues were established. We want consultation. We want mutual understanding. We want to resolve difficulties through diplomacy and dialogue. We want to understand each other better. That seemed to be the message coming both from China and the United States.
If that is the true American attitude, why does the United States talk of rebalancing military power to the Pacific? They already have massive power in the Pacific. More than all other nations combined. Do they really need more, for what purpose? What is the need to enhance naval cooperation with the Philippines and Singapore? What useful purpose do marines based in Darwin fulfil? What is the purpose of spy planes on Cocos Island? Add to this, strategic discussions involving the United States, India and Japan and naval exercises between those three countries. Why is Secretary of Defense Panetta visiting Cam Ranh Bay? Why is he examining with Vietnam the potential to use, not only the naval facilities there, but an adjoining airfield? Far from contributing to peace and stability in the Western Pacific, they are creating a period of tension and even danger. Why?
The United States can say this is not containment, as does the Australian Government, but nobody believes them. To continue to say that something that is obvious is not so, is to damage your own credibility. If the United States is genuine in wanting dialogue and discussion with China, what is the need for this military rebalancing?
There are further disturbing elements. The House Republicans added to the defence appropriation bill for the coming year, obligations on the administration “a report on deploying additional conventional and nuclear forces to the Western Pacific region to ensure the presence of a robust conventional and nuclear capability, including a forward-deployed nuclear capability …..”
I have some reason to believe that the current United States administration has at some levels begun such discussions. For Australia to be part of such a policy would be dangerous to our future. I would sooner be out of ANZUS altogether than have any nuclear weapons on Australian soil.
American military expenditure is 43% of the world’s total. China’s is 7% or a little over. When China increases her military expenditure, our newspapers have alarmist headlines “China rearming” “China expanding her military”. There is little effort of explanation, there is little logical analysis. There are claims China is being more assertive. Reports are often couched in such a way as to cause concern.
By contrast, if America renews her arms or develops new weapon systems, we generally applaud. We need balance and we need better comprehension.
China has perhaps the most unstable borders of any country in the world. North Korea, Iraq, Iran, tensions between India and Pakistan, Afghanistan. The China nuclear arsenal is not much bigger than Israel’s. The fact that she is now seeking to strengthen her navy is now being used by some to create another element of concern. People ask, “Why does China need a navy? For what purpose do they want an all seas navy?” Well there is one answer, China is the last major nuclear state to put her nuclear missiles on submarines. It is necessary for China to do something to increase the viability of a small deterrent force, about the size of Israel or a little more. As comparison, Russia and the United States have 10,000 warheads each.
The future cannot be predicted with any real degree of accuracy. But there are some things that are likely, one of them is that if the United States believes the way to establish good relations with China is to have a military alliance of nations whose purpose is to limit China’s influence, or to contain China, the United States is mistaken. This is the wrong way to preserve peace and security. We should not be part of it.
Such views demonstrate a significant failure to learn from the military mistakes from past decades starting with Vietnam. It demonstrates a failure to realise that the break up of the Soviet Union created a different post Cold War world. The United States response is a Cold War response.
The great task for the United States is to recognise that many of the things she wants for herself and for others cannot be achieved by military means. She needs to place much more emphasis on “soft power”, on diplomacy. Australia should use every effort to persuade the United States that her two track approach to relationships with China is wrong. We should tell the United States that we will not be part of it and not allow joint facilities on Australian soil to be used to support policies of containment.
Historically, China has not been an imperial power the way most European States have been imperial powers and America and Japan. There is no real evidence that they wish to become such a power. We need to understand that what China becomes, how China’s influence is used in future years is not only a function of China’s own internal dynamics, or her perception of the world, but it is also a function of how the United States and countries like Australia and Japan and many others, deal with China. We need a better understanding that China’s policies will be formed, in part as a consequence of the attitudes and policies of the United States and of countries with which she deals.
If the consensus that military containment of some kind prevails then there will be prospects of military conflict and military conflict between China and the United States is the one thing that would be most dangerous to Australia.
In 1956 when many feared that China might invade Taiwan, Eisenhower moved the 7th Fleet in or close to the Taiwan Straits. Many feared war between the United States and China over Taiwan. Prime Minister Menzies then advised President Eisenhower that if there were such a conflict between these two powers, Australia would not be part of it, it would not be our affair. Menzies had a keen understanding of Australia’s own interests, which seems to be quite lacking in today’s world.
Australia needs to be confident as well as independent when we seek to advance values that are important to us. We also need to be clear eyed and understand how other countries see us.
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