Scott Morrison does not like to explain the decisions he makes on our behalf. Sometimes he just refuses to discuss them, as he did when, as immigration minister, he simply rejected any questions about how his boat-turnback policy was being implemented at sea. At other times he is a little subtler, as he has been this year while presiding over what will probably prove to be the most consequential shift in Australia’s foreign relations in decades. The collapse in relations with our most powerful Asian neighbour and most important trading partner is not just Canberra’s doing, of course; it has resulted from decisions made in Beijing too. But Australia’s recent and current choices have certainly contributed to the chill, and our future choices will do much to determine where things go from here.
Barely a decade ago, Australia was in the middle of much excitement about the Asian Century. Today, those heady days seem a distant memory. A growing number of pundits see the north as troubled by dangerous flashpoints and great power rivalries. On top of that is an America apparently in strategic retreat from the region ...
For upward of a decade, Hugh White has been sounding a warning: that Australia’s long-standing policy of relying on the United States as guarantor of our security in Asia was approaching its use-by date. As a conspicuous relic of European colonial expansion, Australia has always viewed with trepidation the ...
Sometime around 1820, forty years after its Industrial Revolution began, Britain overtook China to become the world’s richest country. Sometime between now and 2020, forty years after China’s own Industrial Revolution was launched by Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms, China is set to overtake the United States and regain its place at the top of the world’s economy.
Not for forty years have Australians had real arguments with their governments about international relations. Many marched in 2003 against the Iraq invasion, but were ignored. Now, if the national obesity rate is any guide, Australians spend more time eating, partying and sleeping than having the earnest pre-breakfast discussions about foreign relations that Fukuzawa recommended.
It is easy to believe, in the glad confident morning of the new presidency, that not being George W. Bush will be enough: that to restore America’s place in the world, Barack Obama need only avoid the mistakes and repudiate the misdeeds of his discredited predecessor. If so, his task will be easy, and this book may help. But what if something more is needed?
Beyond American failure in Iraq lies a second, deeper failure. America’s Iraq project was always intended by its proponents not just to fix Iraq and transform the Middle East, but also to demonstrate a new grand policy concept for the twenty-first century. This was the Bush Doctrine, enshrining the now-familiar ideas of the neo-conservatives: America’s power, especially its military power, is omnipotent; its values and institutions are universally desired and universally applicable; hence America’s destiny – and after 9/11 even its very survival – requires it to use this immense power, pre-emptively and unilaterally if necessary, to reshape the world in America’s image. The neo-cons themselves called it a vision for a New American Century.