Saturday 25 January 2014

Defending the American Alliance

Defending the American Alliance

In 1951 Australia, New Zealand and the United States signed a security treaty called ANZUS. The Treaty is only 3 pages long and the important part is:

Article V
For the purpose of Article IV, an armed attack on any of the Parties is deemed to include an
armed attack on the metropolitan territory of any of the Parties, or on the island territories
under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the

In other words, if you attack one you've attacked all three.

All three countries were at that time engaged in fighting the Korean War, the fifth war Australia and the United States had fought in together, the others were the Boxer Rebellion, WWI, Northern Russia during the Russian Civil War, WWII and of course the Korean War. Subsequently both nations fought together in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War.

ANZUS or as it's also know the American alliance has always been popular in Australia but it has never been unanimously popular. There have always been critics and they tend to come in three flavours:

-Pacifists who oppose all war, or at least say they do and tend to believe that even preparing for war in the form of an alliance is wrong.

-Anti-Americans who dislike, sometimes hate, something or occasionally everything about America. They tend to come in three shapes: those who hate Americas culture (much more pronounced in the past than now, for example 50 years ago there was a real difference between British and American culture, now not so much), those who hate Americas power (the idea of an American "Empire") and those who hate Americas money (people with money are crass and bullies, America has money, America is a crass bully).


 -Australian Nationalists who tend to be broadly to the left and isolationist, believing that Australia should and can go it alone. No friends, no allies, Switzerland for an entire Continent.

Strangely there is a Conservative strand of opposition, it tends to be a combination of Anti-Americanism and Australian Nationalism. It also tends to the conspiratorial, with the idea that America and Britain before that, bullied, bribes and hoodwinks Australian Governments into providing bases or fighting wars we don't want. Australia is just a poor innocent puppet being controlled by the evil puppet master.

The only thing missing is actual history. When studying Australia's wars you find that, one we are very eager and supportive of our wars and two Australia is remarkably consistent in why it fights wars. If it were true that we were being forced to fight other peoples wars neither of those things would be true. An underlying and bizarre idea you come across is that Australia doesn't have any national interests. What interest did Australia have in fighting on the Somme or in Afghanistan or in Vietnam? These places are so far away how could they affect Australia? The reason we must be fighting in these distant places, far from Australia is to please others, we are fighting other peoples wars.

The reality is that we do have national interests and like every other country on Earth we try to look after them. One of the ideas that underpins Australia's security is called "collective security" and it means that the world is a safer place in both war and peace if we act with other countries. One curious aspect of Australian military history is that we have never fought a war by ourselves, we have in every war been part of an alliance. And I doubt that Australia ever will fight a war by itself, it gives enormous benefits having allies. Australia does not have to provide everything itself it can share the load with it's allies and that works in reverse as well. Our allies including the United States get the benefits of Australia's assets. I'll give one example, during WWII an Australian naval officer was attached to the US Marines because before the war he had captained a wooden merchant ship in the Pacific and had intimate knowledge of tides, currents and beaches of remote Pacific islands, that knowledge was used in 19 amphibious assaults from Tarawa to Okinawa.

Another bizarre idea is that Australia doesn't and apparently never has had any enemies. Apparently everything would have been fine if Germany had won WWI, no problems it wasn't our war. The defeat of the British Empire and the victory of German militarism wouldn't have affected us. WWII is normally not questioned although you'll always find one. But the Cold War is another matter, again apparently Communism was bad but not really our problem, always someone else's, but not ours. I'm sure that if the Communists had won the Cold War it wouldn't have affected us. Now we have Al Qaeda  and the other Islamist's ideologues who attack and kill us in tall buildings, in bars and on buses around the world. Apparently they aren't our enemy either, if we leave them alone they will just leave us alone. Our enemies have never been in any doubt that we are their enemy, they don't need our permission to be our enemy, they get to decide that. The idea that if we ignore the world it will go away is not true.

Australia has national interests and one of the ways we protect those interests is by being an ally of the United States and other countries. It's not a one way street and nor should it be, if we expect America to fight for us when the time comes then we must in return be prepared to fight for America. Not because we are a puppet but because we believe in collective security, we believe in supporting our friends and we believe it is in our national interest to align ourself with nations that have similar national interests. There are many very good reasons for Australia and the United States to be allies and not that many reasons for us not to be. May the ANZUS Alliance last for many years to come.

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