The United States has led Australia into one lost war ( Viet Nam),two ongoing losing wars ( the second invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan ) and,most recently, into the dubious operations in Syria opposing Assard . Russia ,China and Iran will not allow Assard to be removed and,as Ross Burns has so well argued,Australia would be prudent not to involve itself in this complex conflict .
On the basis of some 70 years experience and involvement I want to set out what we need to do, if we do not want to find Australia left behind and sinking into a mire of irrelevance.I fear this is where we are heading at present. Only bold ,strong and decisive leadership can move Australia forward along the course we should take.
Firstly, we must focus on OUR region of the world – South east Asia,
North Asia and the South west Pacific. To be effective and useful,we
must now and in the future follow better balanced, updated policies,
rather than try to reinforce long-standing outdated policies. The world has
changed greatly and we must respond without delay.
Secondly, it follows logically that we should end our military involvements
in the Middle East. In the religious and national conflicts in that region we
can make no meaningful contribution to solutions. We should not deceive
ourselves about an early capture of western Mosul and the defeat of the I S
group in control there. It is very unlikely.
Thirdly,we should acknowledge the potential value to us of the rise of China
which now has the largest middle class in the world and offers us great
opportunities. We should acknowledge China’s legitimate interest in the South China Sea region and Australia must avoid taking any provocative action there.
Fourthly, we should seek to play an active role in those institutions, in which
the main countries with interests in our region participate, namely the United States,China,Indonesia,India,South Korea,Russia and possibly Mexico. The main institution is the East Asian summit,which now includes the U S and Russia.
( APEC does not include India). Also,our meetings with the ASEAN Heads of Government and,separately,their Foreign Ministers ,which rotate around ASEAN capitals, provide us with opportunities for talks.
Fifthly,we must stop pressing for the Trans Pacific Partnership ( TPP). Trump has dumped it. It was launched in 2007 by four small countries . I thought even then that there was very little benefit to Australia in it . The Foreign Minister’s recent public statement that she had asked China to join the TPP was ridiculous. There is no chance China will join the TPP. China had for some time supported the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which was backed by ASEAN and which we ourselves belatedly joined. That is the way Australia should go to develop increased regional trade.
Sixthly,we should acknowledge that North Korea is not really interested
in the six country talks. ( Australia sought to be added but this was declined because Australia’s views were regarded as the same as those of the United States. ) . North Korea wants to have BILATERAL talks with the United States. This is reasonable,but so far the U S has refused.
Seventhly,we should appoint as Heads of Mission to our main regional posts
only appropriately senior,culturally sensitive,and preferably local language
Eighthly, Australia must develop a realistic policy on Climate Change. It should not be confined to island States and to low coastal areas. For example parts of Mexico City -an elevated capital (2,240 metres) of about 20 million persons – are gradually sinking. While our alliance with the United States is very wide-ranging and of great importance, we should always in future act in what are AUSTRALIA’s NATIONAL INTERESTS,in which the United States’ wishes are a part,but not necessarily decisive,in our consideration. The alliance is not a sacred cow and a review is indeed overdue.
The United States has led Australia into one lost war ( Viet Nam),two ongoing losing wars ( the second invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan ) and,most recently, into the dubious operations in Syria opposing Assard . Russia ,China and Iran will not allow Assard to be removed and,as Ross Burns has so well argued,Australia would be prudent not to involve itself in this complex conflict.
Richard Woolcott AC is a former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador to Indonesia and Ambassador to the UN from 1982 to 1988.