Dangerous Allies

Coinciding with the World War I anniversaries, Malcolm Fraser’s book will polarise Australian opinion on a fundamental issue. It has never been raised in this way, for Australian leaders have not discussed decisions to go to war in public, nor sought popular approval of Australia’s alliances. Yet successive generations of young Australians have fought in British and American wars to support our allies and to ensure that they would defend us. In Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the enemy were people who did not threaten Australia. But, as Fraser is not the first to observe, cowed countries do as great powers demand, while in return great powers do what suits their own interests.

Even before Federation, some had forebodings about what Australia was letting itself in for. H.B. Higgins, anticipating the 60,000 dead Anzacs, wondered if Australia would be expected ‘to contribute valuable lives and money in aid of wars which may not interest us directly’. Malcolm Fraser, who quotes him, puts up some equally pithy statements of his own, which delineate this theme. Here are some examples: ‘Why should we expect a great power to treat a dependent nation, even if an ally, as an equal?’; ‘The United States achieved true independence and true sovereignty whereas our sovereignty was heavily circumscribed’; ‘We need the United States for defence, but we only need defence because of the United States’. The United States, he tells Bob Carr (in Diary of a Foreign Minister) is ‘good at losing wars’.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.