The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
The Forum - On Line Opinion's article discussion area


RSS 2.0

Main Articles General

Sign In      Register

The Forum > Article Comments > Rethinking Australian foreign policy in a post-Bush world > Comments

Rethinking Australian foreign policy in a post-Bush world : Comments

By Ben Eltham, published 20/11/2007

Both sides are refusing to acknowledge that we will soon be faced with some very difficult strategic foreign policy challenges.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. All
From background information through historical accounts and not so much through Media reports, would say that reports from Iraq in particular have been deliberately quietened down.

That is why we should now look thoroughly into Middle East history since WW1, especially regarding historical reputations which certainly does not put America nor Britain in a good light.

With the present position in Iraq, the main focus should be now on Iran, which we should present more as a normal nation and not as evil as George Bush and John Howard would like to present it. A nation by its record against allies, America, Britain and Australia, as clear and honest as it could be in the circumstances dealing with our world’s so-called premier nation, which itself has broken so many laws in International Relations, politics and trade.

The US, for example , has highhandedly used its unipolar global positioning not only to illegally occupy Iraq, but to trash WTO rules by subsidizing its producers, and made a laughing stock of the UN, especially in the Middle East, by having personalities like Condoleeza Rice jump in front every time a UN leading personage is needed in a critical discussion.

We do believe that the above should influence our coming election, because if it does not, we are going to have the same old Middle East problem for years to come, mostly caused at present not so much by big power rivalry, as with the Cold War, but by a kind of slavishness from powers seemingly scared to say what should happen when one big unipolar power dominates, with certain smaller power leaders, as has been said, like Deputy Sheriffs just taking orders.

The above needs a drastic change, and it is so interesting that Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher and Father of the principle of a United Nations, was against unipolarity in world organizations, but better a Federation of Nations, not necessarily completely in agreement but working together both ethically and honestly.

If the above can get to Rudd, all well and good
Posted by bushbred, Tuesday, 20 November 2007 11:19:45 AM
Find out more about this user Recommend this comment for deletion Return to top of page Return to Forum Main Page Copy comment URL to clipboard
An interesting evaluation, Ben.

Another example is the issue of Clusters munitions. At the CCW conference which just ended in Geneva, Australian diplomats did bugger all beyond that done by our major Ally, the US. In other words, they did nothing toward a clusters ban or moratorium.

Australia rushed through a commitment to buy "smart" cluster munitions, 155 mm antitank shells, this September. A year after the outrageous and inappropriate use of clusters in Lebanon.

And it now appears that the current Oz gov't chooses to call any opposition to its current cluster purchase an ideological opposition.

The ALP is taking a policy position in line with Oz DoD, and has claimed that the international Clusters Munition Coalition and Handicap International, among others, are in line with the acceptance of "smart" cluster munitions.

Here is part of the ALP statement, available at:
Hobart Peace Coalition Survey – ALP Response

"It is noted that Landmine Action UK, the Cluster Munitions Coalition, and Handicap International, have conceded that precision-guided munitions that discriminate between targets, such as those in the process of being procured by Defence, do not pose a greater risk to civilians and constitute legitimate alternatives to general cluster munitions."

A response by Rae McGrath, International Spokesperson on Cluster Munitions, for the Handicap International Network says:

"[The] ALP statement is a total misrepresentation of Handicap International's position regarding the munitions being procured by the Australian Ministry of Defence. We are of the view that, on existing evidence, sensor fused weapons retain the indiscriminate properties of other cluster munitions. In addition we are of the opinion that these weapons are still subject to the design deficiencies which result in a persistent post-conflict threat similar to landmines. Neither have the Australian MOD made any viable strategic argument to support their decision to procure cluster munitions at a time when nations with substantial experience of these weapons are working together to achieve a ban on their continued use, manufacture, stockpiling and transfer."

How do we explain this glaring error on the part of Labor? Where will they be, November 20, 2008?
Posted by Sir Vivor, Tuesday, 20 November 2007 11:31:38 AM
Find out more about this user Recommend this comment for deletion Return to top of page Return to Forum Main Page Copy comment URL to clipboard
Australia has got itself into a difficult position, its relationship with the US has been based on conformity in foreign policy and military support.

This relatively minor contribution has enamoured Australia to the US to the extent we have got a free trade agreement and military co operation unmatched even with the UK, and was based to a large extent the bipartisan support in the US congress and senate for the US military.

The benefits of this have been the elevation of the global status of Australia and the ability to maintain a minute and inexpensive military.

However, with the disaster in Iraq, the support for the military in the US has now become very partisan, with the republicans supporting the continued involvement in Iraq and democrats vehemently against it.

Howard is stuck in the middle with two bad choices ahead of him:
a) Stick with Bush in Iraq and be seen as partisan by the future democratic administration, and lose some international prestige, or
b) Pull out, and lose the support of the American public, the democrats and the republicans. (as it will be seen as an abandonment however unfair).

While I think the war in Iraq stinks, and that Howard should have been honest and simply admitted that Australia was to provide moral and not substantial support to an unjustified conflict, the decision whether to stay in Iraq is fraught with dangers.

I am sure that Howard will be glad to hand that poisoned chalice to Rudd.
Posted by Shadow Minister, Tuesday, 20 November 2007 11:52:50 AM
Find out more about this user Recommend this comment for deletion Return to top of page Return to Forum Main Page Copy comment URL to clipboard
Ben, good overview of the situation. Australia does face a number of foreign policy challenges as the relative decline of the US results in a re-distribution of power in the international system.

I am not sure what you consider an "independent foreign policy" might look like, but I imagine it would involve the following aspects that always serve a smart middle power:

1) A return to an emphasis on multilateral institutions and multilateral commitments, de-emphasising unilateral or "coalition of the willing" type commitments.
2) Improve our reputation and parlay our liberal and democratic governance structures into an international system based an orderly, law-observing states. This rather than trying to "pick a winner" in the continuing struggle between great powers.
3) Work with other similar sized states with the same interests in maintaining an orderly, rules-based state system.

In process of accomplishing these goals, we also must make it difficult for those Australians who askew multilateral commitments to back out once we've made them.

Here is an idea.

You mention the "melancholy fate" for Australia as we have "eroded decades of Australian commitment to the instruments of collective security enshrined in the United Nations". This erosion has also undermined the United Nations itself. In order to correct this situation and meet the goals I mentioned earlier we could consider something daring, quite possibly revolutionary but certainly within our power to achieve: replace our ambassador to the United Nations with a directly elected representative.

A directly elected representative would fight for Australian interests within the context of the United Nations, while his/her very existence would lend strong support to a multilateral system. Moreover, a directly elected representative could leverage (hijack?) the commitment of the United States to "democracy" and "freedom", thereby using US power for multilateral goods. Finally, it would be near impossible for a subsequent Australian party to form government and then back out once UN elections had started - in fact, they would probably begin to implicitly support the system by nominating candidates themselves.

Plenty more to say on the topic, but I'll leave it there.
Posted by sjk, Tuesday, 20 November 2007 1:09:56 PM
Find out more about this user Recommend this comment for deletion Return to top of page Return to Forum Main Page Copy comment URL to clipboard
SjK, could agree with you, if the UN was filling its role as Immanuel Kant had devised it, though would say he was going too far saying it was an idea for the preservation of Perpetual Peace.

Much of this was talked about during the Cold War, but it has always been the case of strong powers lording it over smaller powers.

Then to try and even it up, representatives from smaller nations were put in charge in turn.

Kant's idea of a Federation of Nations was more regional apparently which certainly would have been more difficult in the late 18th century than now.

But certainly Kant was right to lock out unipolarity, as proven by what a mess is being made of the White House neo-con plan for the American 21st Century.

It has not only stuffed up the UN, but there does not appear enough top brains in today's world to fix it?

Some say it's modernity, we are not letting our thoughts delve deep and sensible enough, too much letting electronics do it for us?

Cheers - BB, WA
Posted by bushbred, Tuesday, 20 November 2007 4:15:48 PM
Find out more about this user Recommend this comment for deletion Return to top of page Return to Forum Main Page Copy comment URL to clipboard

I agree that the powerful have always lorded it over the weak. What I am suggesting is that we use the weapons of the powerful (the US), with their commitment to “democracy” and “freedom”, to further our interests by implementing a multilateral system that will be very difficult to rollback. In fact, it is designed such that to oppose the change is to oppose “democracy” and “freedom” … an impossible position for the US.

There are a number of reasons the United Nations is not presently living up to expectations. First and foremost is its design: The United Nations is designed to be an *arena* where national governments can convene to extract as much from the rest of the world as they possibly can. It is entirely appropriate for these national governments to do this, as they have no commitment to the United Nations nor to any other country. They are solely committed to using the levers of the United Nations to protect their own privileges as the national government. The current system could in no way be described as “Kantian”, it is not a federation of nations, but a jungle of national governments. Such a system favours the strong, hurts the weak and pulls at the middle.

Australia and other democratic middle powers have the ability to change this situation and possibly realise a Kantian vision of a federation of nations. It does not require any special vote, circumstance or agreement from the great powers. With enough elected representatives, these middle powers could turn the UN into an *actor*. Each representative would have a commitment to the UN (similar to present representatives in federal government systems), to the other representatives (in order to form coalitions to pass resolutions) and to their national *people* (in order to be re-elected).

Changing the UN from an arena to actor would result in a multilateral system that furthers the interests of middle powers like Australia. And it would be nigh impossible to roll back.
Posted by sjk, Tuesday, 20 November 2007 9:02:27 PM
Find out more about this user Recommend this comment for deletion Return to top of page Return to Forum Main Page Copy comment URL to clipboard
  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. All

About Us :: Search :: Discuss :: Feedback :: Legals :: Privacy