RICHARD WOOLCOTT. The present threat to global security.


In the second decade of this century we are living in a greatly changed world, compared with that to which we accustomed ourselves, following the defeat of Japan and Germany in WWII in the second half of 1945.

The international “rules based “situation of the late 40s and early mid 50s was essentially created by the US with some British and French support. It is now completely dated and out for touch with the present situation, driven as it is by the rise of China and India,and the rapid growth of the domestic economies of Indonesia,Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia.

The apparent present insistence of the US that no other power, including China,should resist its belief in its own global supremacy, can be a serious danger to global stability.

Also, a threat of Russian ambition,promoted by the US, is not the main threat to peace at present. As US supremacy recedes,Chinese power rises and Russia continues its recovery, it is US resistance to this tide of historic change now underway,which puts at risk,as this century unfolds both global security and the emergence of an Asia Pacific community.

If Australia does not respond promptly,we shall find ourselves left behind.

Richard Woolcott, Former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (1988 – 2002), Permanent Representative to the United Nations (1982 – 1988)


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2 Responses to RICHARD WOOLCOTT. The present threat to global security.

  1. Julian says:

    “If Australia does not respond promptly, we shall find ourselves left behind.” Hmmm. I mean no disrespect here Richard, but I have to agree with Andrew Farran and go one step further: We have been left behind, such that most of the time, I get the impression that successive Australian “leaders” have had (and continue to have) no real clue about what it means to live where they do, and the physical and other restraints that places on all of us – having as we do a liking for “great & powerful” friends who just happen to reside a hemisphere away, and way beyond Asia, a fuzzy concept that for many Australians means Bali, a beaut place to get cheaply pissed and make fools of themselves. We are soooo far behind, its not funny.

  2. Andrew Farran says:

    With due respect to Dick Woolcott, if Australia is at risk of being left behind, in his terms, it is probably already too late. But there are spurious assertions underlying his view. First, one has to be sceptical over his assertion that there is an Asian Community that we should be responding to. A community presupposes the existence of common values and common standards. These do not exist in ‘Asia’ and may be a long time coming. Look at China, Japan and India for starters. As for Indonesia, while there is much to like about its culture, it has yet to come to terms with the domestic traumas generated in 1965.

    But a greater criticism of Dick’s assertion is the statement: “The international ‘rules based’ situation of the late 40s and early mid 50s was essentially created by the US with some British and French support. It is now completely dated and out for touch with the present situation.”

    That system was not like a reinvention of the wheel. Its origins go back at least to 1648 and the Peace of Westphalia and the international rule based system that emerged from that time. Notwithstanding the huge seismic changes in power relations over the centuries since, resulting from wars, other turbulence and diplomatic practice, the essential elements of the global system remain the same as underlaid in everything from the Treaty of Vienna in 1815, the Versailles Treaty of 1919 and the League of Nations, and now the UN Charter and what flows from that, including international courts and tribunals that preside over the well established and widely accepted system of international law.

    The next global compact will of necessity embody the same or similar conventions, principles and standards, not those imposed by would-be new imperialists. The system survived the Soviets and will survive other present or future pretenders. So let’s not abandon the foundations of the existing evolved system and the values it embodies by being too ready to concede to new pretenders.

    Realpolitick is another thing and should be treated as such. But it doesn’t change the system, a system that is in the mutual interest of all.

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