I seem to be changing my mind a lot. But perhaps I’m becoming more libertarian by the day. I’ve decided the US was wrong to go into Iraq. But that doesn’t really help me, sitting here in Australia. That’s primarily an issue for US taxpayers as they will have to deal with most of the hatred generated by American interventionism.
What I am interested in is separating the question of whether Iraq was right from the American-Australian alliance as encapsulated in the ANZUS treaty. Article 4 of that treaty was invoked by John Howard.
My general conclusion is that the alliance is too important for a non-nuclear state like Australia to take a principled stance on Iraq. And the price Australia has paid (either in lives or dollars) has been worth it for this reason. I’m not saying something new of course. Only stressing the point that we can’t afford to be openly ‘anti-American’ – like France – given our limited military capacity.
There is one way Australia could finally stop attaching itself to a benovolent power (first Britain, now the US). Australia could acquire nuclear weapons, as was considered during the 1960s, as a means of becoming more independent in foreign policy.
Furthermore, Australia could make it a priority to extract a NATO style security agreement (where an attack on one is an attack on all) from a major Asian power as well as the US. Unilateral dismantling of economic trade barriers is just the ticket to do this – Australia can act like its ‘conceding’ something because politicians don’t understand economics, when really Australians benefit doubly: once through a reciprocal security agreement, and once through cheaper goods and services of a higher quality.
I welcome the rise of India and China as potential superpowers. The US wields little influence over that region, maybe because Asian countries have a healthy disrespect for what the US thinks. And some have the WMDs to back them up in case US arrogance gets out of hand…which MAD ensures it won’t.
After China invaded India in 1962, the Indian government moved towards acquiring nuclear weapons and significantly increased defence spending, making sure it would never be caught short in defending its national borders. This is good. I like India. And I like that it stays out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and acts as a stabilising force without having to toe the US line like Australia.
Now I’m not saying Australia should go that far. Only that if it doesn’t, we should be prepared to abandon principle on issues such as Iraq. Presumably US protection allows Australian defence spending to be lower than it would otherwise be. Whether this is more libertarian in the long run depends on balancing the negative effects of US global interventionism (they have troops stationed in nearly 130 countries) with Australia’s ability to maintain a conservative defence/anti-terrorism budget as a consequence of such interventionism.