Leadership Change, Alliance Support and Domestic Priorities: Australia’s election and the US in the Asia-Pacific

Andrew Kwon

This week, Australia will be going to the polls to decide on whether it should keep the incumbent Center-Left Labor Party or the Opposition Centre-right Liberal-National Coalition. A culmination of several years of domestic instability and drama, when considered in the context of the regional ‘big picture’, the Australian election is potentially another leadership change following on the heels of others that have occurred in Major US Allies in the Asia-Pacific. At a time when the Obama Administration is increasingly looking to its partner to insure the success of some of its key legislation (such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement) as well as unity in the face of destabilizing threats (such as North Korea), the importance of understanding the potential effects of the Australian election and its representation of a larger trends in the region cannot be underscored.

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Recently having undertook my civic duties as an Australian Citizen and voted (living abroad, I pre-polled), the lead up to the election and the events which triggered it had led me to see parallels with Australian counterparts throughout the Asia-Pacific. Though it is true that China and North Korea recently went through change, the degree of uncertainty that resulted from these leadership transitions was due in no small part to similar changes occurring in The Republic of Korea (hereafter referred to as South Korea) and Japan.

Much like Australia, South Korea and Japan are key US allies that recently experienced leadership changes amidst a highly divisive and domesticized political climate fed by economic tumult or uncertainty. South Korea recently saw the election of Park Geun-hye to the presidency. Though the candidate who seemed most likely to succeed, the road to the presidency was a tumultuous one. The president’s familial ties to one of the most divisive figures in South Korean political history (her father was the authoritarian figure Park Chung-hee), substantial criticism over and undistinguishable policy alternatives between candidates on key issues as well as the unpopular and controversial legacy of her immediate party and presidential predecessor were all major factors. Japan in turn saw the return of the Centre-Right Liberal Democratic Party and a contentious former premier, Shinzo Abe. Winning in a landslide election following mass public outcry against the Centre-Left Democratic Party of Japan, now-Prime Minister Abe rode to power on not only a platform to satisfy the electoral demand for economic recovery but by also appealing to its resurging nationalism. Australia has similarly dealt with considerable turbulence. The last several years have been a roller-coaster in Australian politics, acts ranging from internal party coups (called leadership spills in Australia), partisan mudslinging, scandals as well as doubts over the sustainability of Australia’s economic growth has created a poisonous political environment, pushing party and leadership disapproval to almost parity.

However, in comparison to the domestic negativity, political support for the US is contrastingly high. The first high profile summit abroad for Prime Minister Abe and President Park was in the US. Also, besides the multiple occasions Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has visited, even the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has visited the US and declared the importance of the US-Australia alliance on that occasion. In addition, public support is also extremely favorable in the aforementioned countries of South Korea, Japan and Australia. Overall, all of this raises questions as to what happens when domestic concerns collides with continued support of the US alliance, which of the two forces will prevail?

Though it is difficult to say what either a Labor or Coalition government will do, a divisive pre-election period which includes critical elements like a lackluster economic projections have led Australian counterparts to create some difficult self-imposed obstacles. Much like Japan and South Korea before it, the winning party in the Australian election will remain highly supportive of the Alliance but will likely be tied down by a heavy domestic agenda and be posed to prioritize the economy and consolidate amidst the still fresh fissures of a divisive period. This will likely lead to foreign engagement which has maximum potential domestic gain but minimal effort required, this is particularly so for large and time-consuming activities like those led by the US. Hence, the Obama Administration should watch closely the events in Australia and take overtures of support with a grain of salt. When all is said and done, the calculus is shifting and so are the priorities.

Andrew Kwon is a Joseph S. Nye Jr. Research Intern at the Center for a New American Security in Washington DC, USA. The views expressed are his own.

Flashing a little flesh: A few observations in relation to my piece yesterday and the released Australian Defence White Paper today.

Ben Moles

The 2013 Australian Defence White Paper is available hereand here’s yesterdays piece.

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No new Air Warfare Destroyer, but the Australian government has made a commitment to (eventually replace the already decaying and obsolete Collins Class by 2038 perhaps?) build its new submarine fleet in Adelaide:

8.46 Due to the strategic value and importance of Australia’s submarine capability, the Government remains committed to replacing the existing Collins Class fleet with an expanded fleet of 12 conventional submarines that will meet Australia’s future strategic requirements. The future submarines will be assembled in South Australia. The Government has ruled out consideration of a nuclear powered submarine capability to replace the Collins Class fleet.

Strangely at a time when the Government ‘buzz phrase’ seems to be all options are on the table; where Australia’s submarine future is concerned only one option is left on the table, and in the whole scheme of options, it’s not a particularly good one! Domestic politics, and a political cost-benefit analysis, has trumped strategic need, and a defensive cost-benefit analysis:

8.50 The Government has also taken the important decision to suspend further investigation of the two Future Submarine options based on military-off-the-shelf designs in favour of focusing resources on progressing an ‘evolved Collins’ and new design options that are likely to best meet Australia’s future strategic and capability requirements

Australia will take 12 new Super Hornets (EF-18G ‘Growler’ electronic warfare models) and reduce its JSF F-35 order to 72, from the 100 it had indicated it would require:

8.17 Recognising the importance of winning the electromagnetic battle, the Government announced in 2012 its commitment to a future fleet of 12 EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft for Australia. Since this announcement, the Government has decided to acquire 12 new-build Growler aircraft and retain Australia’s 24 existing F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft in their current configuration. This decision takes advantage of a valuable opportunity to assure Australia’s air combat capability during the transition period to the Joint Strike Fighter.

Expect to see the number of Super Hornets increasing overtime relative to a decrease in (interest, as the price soars) JSF F-35’s.

Concerning ‘what do we want to be able to do’ and ‘where to we want to be able to do it’- the latter seems to have been addressed, worryingly- without too much thought being given to the former:

2.5 The 2009 Defence White Paper made clear Australia’s enduring interest in the stability of what it called the wider Asia-Pacific region. The Indo-Pacific is a logical extension of this concept, and adjusts Australia’s priority strategic focus to the arc extending from India though Southeast Asia to Northeast Asia, including the sea lines of communication on which the region depends.

2.6 The Indo-Pacific is still emerging as a system. Given its diversity and broad sweep, its security architecture is, unsurprisingly, a series of sub-regions and arrangements rather than a unitary whole. But over time, Australia’s security environment will be significantly influenced by how the Indo-Pacific and its architecture evolves.

The Indo-Pacific, a strategic colossus (from an Australian perspective) I’ve warned about before, is now Australia’s apparent region of strategic interest. How we shape our interests and influence what happens there, remains to be seen. A point acknowledged in the paper is:

2.11 For Australia, this more complex environment will make it more challenging for us to achieve or influence outcomes. Asian countries will balance a broader range of interests and partners, and Australia’s voice will need to be clearer and stronger to be heard.

How will this be achieved? Well, no clear answer is provided. With a diminishing defence budget and an already under resourced Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade- we’ll have to make do with hope for the time being, or perhaps there remains a certain amount of intent to attempt to cling onto the coattails of a powerful friend as we get dragged along and through the Indo-Pacific Asian Century?

On the Alliance. If an ANZUS Alliance reliance is to remain the foundation of Australia’s defence strategy (which the White Paper seems to indicate that it is), as we largely continue to attempt to free-ride off the US relying on our demonstrated unwavering loyalty and ‘special relationship’ with them, then Australia will have to be prepared to ‘show a little more leg’- so to speak, to ‘keep them on board’ and this Australia has signalled we are prepared to do, sowing the seeds for a gradual but greater US military ‘footprint’ on Australian soil and in/on our waters soon:

6.14 The second force posture initiative involves enhanced aircraft cooperation, which is expected to result in increased rotations of US Air Force aircraft through northern Australia. This will enhance bilateral collaboration and offer greater opportunities for combined and multilateral training and exercises.

6.15 At the Australia-US Ministerial Meeting (AUSMIN) in Perth on 14 November 2012, Australia and the United States welcomed the success of the first rotation of US Marine Corps personnel and agreed to continue to progress the initiatives in an incremental and considered manner.

6.16 In recognition of the importance of the Indian Ocean and our combined focus on the global strategic significance of the region, Australia and the United States also agreed to continue exploring cooperation on Indian Ocean matters, reflecting our combined focus on the global strategic significance of the region. This will include potential opportunities for additional naval cooperation at a range of locations, including HMAS Stirling, Australia’s Indian Ocean naval base.

6.23 The Government will explore further opportunities to support US defence communications capabilities, including through hosting capabilities and the possible establishment of a Combined Communications Gateway in Western Australia, which would provide both Australia and the United States greater access to the Wideband Global Satellite Communications constellation in which we are partners. This cooperation will build on the longstanding defence communications relationship, including at the Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station at Exmouth which provides support to US and Australian submarine fleets, and which will host the C-band space object detection and tracking radar to be relocated from the United States.

Whether our powerful friend will take the bait and will be enough, remains to be seen.

Reflecting the overall theme of the 2013 Australian Defence White Paper- for now we will just have to wait, treading water in the Indo-Pacific while we do, and hope for the best!

Ben Moles holds a Masters in International Security Studies from the University of Sydney and has interned for the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute, Sydney. He can be contacted at bwmoles@gmail.com or bmol4353@uni.sydney.edu.au or Follow on Twitter @bwmoles

ANZUS – A skilful and necessary exploitation of America

Guy Roberts

It’s no insight to say there’s a debate in Australia about the nature and necessity of our alliance with the United States.  This has been going on for decades, but was kicked into high gear by Hugh White’s 2010 ‘Power Shift’.   Ben Moles, Andrew Kwon and Jerry Hofhuis have all commented on this blog about the US/Australian relationship.  Other big fish have also spoken – Prime Minister Gillard wowed the US Congress, Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser made an elegant contribution at the 2012 Whitlam Oration.  Yet too often there seems to be a focus on what we give (which is comparatively little) to what we get (which is comparatively much).

Debate about the relationship is a good thing – but the only logical conclusion is that the ANZUS alliance is incredibly useful and beneficial to Australia – it gives us access to US decision makers, it gives us security, and it also (frustratingly for America) gives us quite an enjoyable bit of a free ride.

This is not to say we shouldn’t continue to examine the relationship both constantly and critically – but this should include recognition of the concrete advantages of the relationship, and not just the intellectual imperfections or imbalances that some commentators complain about, or view it as a zero-sum card game with the wrong partner, against the inevitability of Sino-hegemony which some strategists (wrongfully) predict.

Access: America takes Australian individuals, ideas and interests seriously.  If we feel something is serious enough to talk about, then they will listen.  But remember, the idea that Australia can ‘teach’ America something about Chinese engagement is a little patronising (Since ’79, three of the US Ambassadors to the PRC were actually born in China).   What Australia can do best is to drop the right comment in the right ear at the right time.   To paraphrase Churchill, if America does the right thing after exhausting all other possibilities, then the task for Australia is to help steer America there more quickly and conveniently than would otherwise be the case – to the benefit of Australian interests.  Fraser’s autobiography gives one example, when a word in the ear of Reagan’s Vice-President triggered a realisation that a planned US apathy over the Argentinean invasion of the Falklands would render Margaret Thatcher so furious with betrayal that she would have made De Gaulle look like Lafayette.   During the Bush era, words were said that helped America appreciate the risk of being seen as the anti-Islamic Crusader of Bin Laden’s propaganda (perhaps not as successfully resolved as Fraser’s example, but it could certainly have been far worse!).  Picking up a megaphone and shouting the obvious is crude – but having a serious talk off the record can get results.

Thus, we should appreciate that our words count, and that a discrete and sophisticated Australian Word to the American Wise can and does help steer America toward more effective and successful policy goals.

Security: America provides a security guarantee to Australia and the region – a guarantee that has been tested time and again.  In the 1950s it protected Taiwan and South Korea from communist occupation.  It went into South Vietnam for the same reason (and arguably bought enough time for more southern countries to shore up their own anti-communist defences).  In the 1980s it worked in Afghanistan, and has of course been involved with many countries in the region.  America has proven itself – and even if Clinton might have apparently almost fumbled the ball over in East Timor, Indonesia still knew what was what.

As Authoritarian China continues to rise, and its future remains unknowable (to itself, if not to those predicting the inevitability of democracy ), and the PLA plays its own in-country game, the guarantee of a liberal-democratic rule-based friendly powerful off-shore balancer is self-evidently a good thing.  After all, if Andrew Kwon is correct, and Australia ‘needs’ an alliance with the powerful…why did we choose America in ’41, and not Japan in ’39?

Free ride: The problem of this security guarantee is that it let many countries relax – why should you do the heavy lifting on your security when America will always step in for you?  America’s response to this altitude was the Guam Doctrine of President Nixon.  Richard Armitage’s recent call for increased Australian Military spending is very much in the same vein – and perhaps equally in vain.  As Hartcher noted, “The rotating deployment [of US Marines in Darwin] provided a level of assurance that gave the government an excuse to cut the Australian defence outlay”. It did indeed, and quite an adroit step it was!  Australia has an amazing level of access to the US machine – both in military hardware and intelligence data.  Our alliance gives us a phenomenal bang for our buck – and we need to calibrate our spending to make sure we don’t take too much for granted.  Thus, given America’s self-interested commitment to regional stability, the call by some Australian commentators to draw away from America and pursue an ‘independent’ foreign policy strikes me as self-indulgent blather.   Australia would look like a rebellious and snotty-nosed teenager making a scene – pursuing an ‘independent’ foreign policy in the full knowledge that America’s presence means nothing can seriously go wrong.

Free rides are free rides, and Australia should not increase defence spending just because America feels slightly used.  But at the same time, scorning the alliance for the sake of Canberra’s ego would put us out in the cold for no gain at all!

Overall: With contemporary China alternating between cranky and belligerent and cranky and insecure, maintaining a snug alliance with America makes sense – to us, and to all the regional countries that are scrambling to strengthen their own ties with the USA.  When the Chinese Foreign Minister declares “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that is just a fact”, (can you imagine the opprobrium if a US Secretary of State had said that!) then we should straighten our backs and walk with pride by America’s shoulder.  Given that  America has many more years of bearing the leadership burden – Robert Lieber, Robert Kagan and a recent New York Magazine article all point out America’s many regenerative strengths – we should welcome the fact that our alliance is in such good shape – and that it serves Australian interests so such an effective and efficient manner.

Guy Roberts is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne.  His thesis examines the ‘China Policy’ of President George W. Bush.

ANZUS Entrapment: it’s about not leaving IN-donesia-OUT

Jerry Hofhuis

Ben’s call for a reconsideration of the US alliance is timely and necessary. But as a basic tenet of Australian foreign policy, it is unlikely the next Australian government will take a revisionist approach to ANZUS. Rather, the Australian government should look at what it can do, and that is to improve its strategic relationship with Indonesia.

Australia, as Ben rightly observes in his article, is unquestioning of the ANZUS alliance. But to question the US alliance in Australian politics would be as conducive to a ‘pollies’ career as questioning the need to ‘stop the boat people’; as a matter of political survival, it does not happen.

In the 1950s, fearing abandonment as a European country in an Asian region, Australian leaders were adamant about securing US support in case of attack. With few economic ties to its near-neighbourhood to speak of, the opportunity cost of Australia being alienated from its neighbourhood was acceptable.

The main risk in Australia’s unquestioning commitment to the ANZUS alliance today—as Ben points out—is that it offers Australia little flexibility in adapting to new realities in a rapidly changing neighbourhood. While it maintains strong economic ties with the United States and Europe, the main recipients of Australia’s exports nowadays are Asian. Politically, however, the ANZUS treaty remains all-important to Australia. As Ben points out, it is central to Australian identity, as a close relationship to the US affords Australia ‘middle power’ stature.

As such, questioning the US alliance is a noble but vain effort. It is a cornerstone of Australian foreign policy: a given, not a variable. From a policy perspective, Australian leaders will have to look elsewhere for options to secure Australia’s future.

Look North

Australia’s relationship with its nearest and most influential neighbour is what really needs change.  A healthy and robust relationship with Indonesia could cement Australia’s role and place in the Asian region. As Hugh White has pointed out, Australia’s relationship with Indonesia is still based on the conception that the latter is a ‘poor and weak country’ with headlines dominated by issues of Australian drug smugglers, Indonesian people smugglers, and cattle.

The facts paint a different picture. Politically, Indonesia is a key ASEAN member. Militarily, it is the dominant Southeast Asian naval power. Economically, it is on a trajectory that will see it passing the likes of Italy and Britain in the next two decades.

A good place to start transforming the relationship with Indonesia is in fact with the US Marines rotating through Darwin. Indonesia was actually not all that baffled by the announcement last year that the US would start rotating Marines through Darwin. One Indonesian diplomat recently suggested that the visit to Darwin by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was in part to signal his consent or even endorsement; SBY went on to  suggest Indonesian involvement in US-Australian military training.

The Geopolitical Impetus

While on a growth trajectory to greater power, Indonesia is and will remain a weakly governed state. With over 17,000 islands spread over almost two million square kilometres, Indonesia’s geography will always inhibit strong centralised administration. As such, Jakarta will always carry existential concerns over the state’s territorial integrity. Australian assurances over this would go a long way.

Such assurances could come in the form of joint coastal and oceanic patrols. Between Indonesia and Australia lay highly strategic waterways. Joint patrolling in the Indian Ocean along Indonesia’s maritime boundaries would carry mutual benefits in terms of security. It would reduce the porousness of Indonesia’s boundaries, and assure it that Australia is committed to Indonesian security.  For Australia, more maritime patrols would increase the ability of the Australian Navy to interdict unauthorised vessels before they reach Australian territory—an easy sell at home.

The US Marines in Darwin could play a role in this. The US Marine Corps (USMC) has strong ties with the Indonesian Marine Corps dating back to the founding days of the Korps Marinir or KorMar. Currently restructuring towards a more amphibiously-oriented structure, the Australian Army enjoys long standing ties with both the USMC and KorMar.

While I’m not suggesting the Australian Army and USMC start patrolling Indonesia’s coastline in conjunction with KorMar, intensive three-way training will not only serve as an effective confidence building measure between nations, but also help the Indonesian Marines develop and strengthen core-capabilities, which will help improve Indonesian security—which would be positive for Australia too.

In 1994, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating quipped that “no relationship offers greater potential, on the social, the cultural or economic fronts, than this one with Indonesia.” He went on to warn that if Australia were to ‘fail to get this relationship right…the whole web of foreign relations is incomplete.” Unbeknown to most Australians, this belief led Keating to sign a security pact with Suharto, the wording of which was in fact very similar to the ANZUS treaty. The Indonesians tore it up in 1999 in response to Australia’s stance on East Timor. But Keating’s words still hold true. The difference is that, today, Australia stands to gain far more from positive relations with Indonesia than it has in the past. Strong ties with Indonesia will cement Australia’s role and place in the region in terms of both security and economics.

Jerry Hofhuis recently completed a Master’s Degree at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney. He may be contacted at ghof3560@uni.sydney.edu.au

The Perils of Continuing an Unquestioning ANZUS Alliance Reliance:

Ben Moles

ANZUS has been the cornerstone of Australian security policy and the foundation upon which Australian identity has been built for the past 60 years. However, Australia must rid itself of the fear that to say no to the US would be the ruin of the ANZUS alliance, when saying yes without critically analysing and questioning the demands being made on Australia, could lead to Australia’s own ruin.  

Forward to the past: Alliances have remained a cornerstone of international relations for millennia. The offensive realist paradigm characterises the international system as anarchic, stating that in absence of an international arbiter: states seek to maximise their power through achieving relative gains in pursuit of attaining hegemony. However, not all states possess the capabilities necessary for competing. The cost of internal mobilisation is too high a burden for many states to carry alone and in a competitive international environment, where the ultimate duty of the state remains to maintain sovereignty and state survival, states will seek to balance the power of hegemons, or those with hegemonic aspirations, through the formation of alliances until power equilibrium is achieved, or so balance of power theory posits.

However, Stephen Walt observes that balance of power doesn’t adequately explain the formation of modern alliances such as those extant under the US San Francisco system, of which ANZUS is a part, and claims that “It is more accurate to say that states tend to ally with or against the foreign power that poses the greatest threat.” Walt claims that states seek to balance threats, not power. The most important threat that states calculate against, of which he lists aggregate power, geographical proximity, and offensive power, is aggressive intentions.

Back to the future:  The ANZUS alliance is central to Australia, both in terms of identity and security and has been since it was signed in 1951. ANZUS is integral to the construct of Australia’s Asian identity; it remains the foundation upon which is built Australia’s status as an Asia-Pacific ‘middle power.’ Australia’s connection to the US, and some believe influence in Washington, bestow upon Australia a standing that enables Australia to ‘punch above its weight’ in regional affairs.

From a security perspective, Australia places great faith in the belief, although it has never been tested, that if Australia were ever attacked the US would come to its aid. In recompense, or the price paid for maintaining this safety net- if you like, Australia has been and remains in PM Julia Gillard’s own words “…an ally in war and peace, an ally for hardship and prosperity, an ally for the 60 years past and an ally for all the years to come.”  However, great danger exists in continuing to walk down the path of ANZUS alliance reliance without surveying the current and rapidly changing strategic landscape that surrounds us. It would be extremely foolhardy to believe the path to a secure and prosperous Australian future in this rapidly transforming geopolitical region within which Australia sits, will be as easy to traverse advancing into the future as it has been throughout our recent past. A more nuanced government approach will be required, one characterised by creative policy dexterity. Australia needs to progress cautiously and should seriously begin to question its policy of ANZUS alliance reliance.

In a move seen as strengthening the ANZUS alliance, in April 2012 the first 200 US marines arrived in Darwin and this will eventuate in a rotational troop deployment of a full 2500-strong Marine Air Ground Task Force to Australia. The move was initially announced when president Obama visited Australia back in November 2011. The ANZUS alliance receives bi-partisan political support in Australia and is furthermore, largely supported by the Australian public. In a recent Lowy Institute poll, 74% of people asked were in favour of up to 2500 US troops to be based in Darwin. Interestingly 46% were in favour of allowing more US troops to be based in Australia; a number that increased to 51% if Indonesia or China objected to the move.

So, what was the reaction of Indonesia and China to the news of US troops being deployed to Australia?  It was largely one of bafflement. I have sat in on many roundtables and work-shops of late, where it has often been said that it wasn’t the substance of the message that drew the ire of Beijing and Jakarta, but the delivery. I don’t think this is entirely correct, I believe it was both and the failure on behalf of the delivery stems from not really understanding the true implications of the message (or what the message actually was entirely) and how, more importantly, it might be interpreted by others within the region. Here, Australia certainly slipped up.

The US asked Australia to base/rotate US troops in Australia. Prima facie, this appears a low cost initiative for Australia to agree to and engage in that would enhance the ANZUS alliance and strengthen Australian security. However, Australia failed to ask, or fully understand the implications of, how might this be interpreted and be seen by others? Yes, it strengthens the alliance (two allies working side by side deepening and demonstrating their commitment to one another is natural and nothing new) but what is it that has altered, where is it that balance equilibrium has been lost that means there now exists a need and requirement for basing/rotating US troops on Australian soil when there previously was none? Ultimately this is a question of balance, which returns us to a theme this piece began with. What is it the alliance seeks to balance? It isn’t power because in both latent and military terms the US remains the regional preponderant power. Is it then threat? If so, who is the threat and where is it originating from? Despite protestations stating otherwise, it was and remains clear to many whom that perceived threat is.

Stationary in the present: Australia is now very much on the strategic radar of China. Australia now grapples with balancing a desire to be noticed with the consequences that stem from the actuality of that desire being recognised. At the moment Australia appears to be dangerously band-wagoning with the US at a time when many regional states are hedging, thus drawing not only the attention of China but also that of other regional states. China is not a threat to Australia and even if it ever were, does anybody seriously believe that the US would go to war with China to protect Australia. Former Australian PM Malcolm Fraser, with a firm grasp and understanding of realpolitik, certainly doesn’t. I believe, in accordance to Lord Palmerston’s dictum, that this would very much be dependent on the perception of US interests at that moment in time, and it could never be said with any degree of certainty that US interests would align with those of Australia, irrespective of the loyalty and permanence of Australia’s friendship. At the very best, or worst, the policy of ANZUS alliance reliance represents one of hope, but as Richard Armitage, a former US Deputy Secretary of State under George W. Bush, has noted before- hope is not a policy at all.

Before Australia walks down the path of allowing US Carrier Strike Groups and Virginia Class submarines to berth/rotate out of Western Australia (an unthinking decision that could easily be arrived at considering Australia’s Defence budget cuts and the perception of large public support for the alliance), or inviting increasing numbers of troops to rotate through Australia, questions must and need to be asked of the alliance and serious eventualities must be considered. The most obvious that springs to mind is in the instance that- for whatever reason- Australia wants US troops off Australian soil while the US wishes to remain- this would certainly signal the end of the alliance. As the US increases its military presence in Australia- without being asked to, the US will only ever leave when it wants to and when it wants to would most likely be the time Australia needs its alliance partner most, a US exit under such circumstances would, at the very least, signal the end of the alliance…

Finally, and certainly something to think about. Quentin Crisp- the British playwright once warned on the matter of relationships “It is explained that all relationships require a little give and take. This is untrue. Any partnership demands that we give and give and give and at last, as we flop into our graves exhausted, we are told that we didn’t give enough.”

Perils certainly exist in continuing Australia’s unquestioning ANZUS alliance reliance.

Ben Moles completed his Masters in International Security Studies at the University of Sydney last year. (bwmoles@gmail.com or bmol4353@uni.sydney.edu.au). Follow on Twitter @bwmoles