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Managing ANZUS in the age of Trump



Dear Readers,
 
Welcome to this our first War Powers Reform Bulletin for 2017.
 
The unexpected election of Donald Trump as President of the United States has led a number of commentators to call for a review of the ANZUS Treaty. This has provoked predictable responses to the effect that even entertaining a sceptical thought about ANZUS is tantamount to blasphemy, and in these first few days of the Trump Administration the Foreign Minister has even called for ANZUS to be strengthened.
 
I would argue from first principles that all of these responses are incorrect.
 
First, some definitions. I define “tactics” as the means by which we seek to deal most effectively with the world as we find it – whether that be structural (China is bigger than we are) or we are dealing with Harold Macmillan’s famous “events”.
 
“Strategy” is acting to shift the operating environment in our favour – which thereby enhances the effectiveness of our tactics. The Battle of the Atlantic during World War II was deeply strategic. Hitler’s aim was not to kill British merchant seamen – that was incidental. His aim was no less than to destroy Britain’s capacity to wage war.
 
The ANZUS Treaty has been the centrepiece of Australian strategic thinking (strategy) since it was signed in 1951. It shifts the environment in our favour by establishing a right to formal consultations with the United States whenever we consider our territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened, and providing in Article IV that in the event of an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties, each of them would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes. As a consequence of being a US ally, Australia has access to intelligence and technology that would not otherwise be available.
 
ANZUS is not a guarantee that the US would take military action on our behalf –but it is not an arrangement to be thrown aside lightly.
 
The central question in relation to ANZUS is not whether or not the treaty itself is A Good Thing, but how to manage it so that it best serves the Australian national interest.
 
In order to determine that, we need a clear-eyed and unsentimental view of what we are entitled to expect, and can reasonably expect, of the US, and of what the US is entitled to expect of us.
 
To deal with the second question first, while ANZUS requires us to “act to meet the common danger” in the case of an armed attack on the US in the Pacific area, it does not require us to participate in military adventures like the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Indeed, the parties agree in Article 1 to seek to resolve all international disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
 
Nor does ANZUS require us to provide facilities to support drone attacks on countries with which we are not at war (Pakistan, Yemen, Iran and Somalia), one of the concerns about Pine Gap expressed by Malcolm Fraser in his book Dangerous Allies.

 

As for our expectations of the US, we are entitled to expect that it will take seriously the Article 1 requirement to pursue through the UN Security Council the peaceful settlement of international disputes; that it will take our territorial integrity, political independence and security seriously; that it will continue to provide us with intelligence and technology and include us in appropriate military exercises; and that it will not seek via the provision of “dodgy” intelligence analyses to market to us spurious cases for military intervention, as occurred in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
 
Upon any change of US Administration, an “alert but not alarmed” Australian Government would review the publicly and privately stated defence and foreign policies of the incoming Administration to identify areas that we would regard as risks to our interests, and/or approaches that we would regard as unacceptable, and it would communicate in good time, discreetly but firmly, what we are prepared to do and not prepared to do, so that there are no surprises or disappointed expectations. This should have happened when George W. Bush was elected in 2000 – the neo-con intention of procuring regime change in Iraq and using US military force to reshape the world was openly proclaimed with the establishment of the Project for a New American Century in 1998.
 
Make no mistake about it, I think that the Trump Administration will be a nightmare, as early signs suggest. The correct response to this nightmare is not to rush screaming from the room, but to consider how best to manage our way through it.
 
Accordingly, I stand by my comment to The Sydney Morning Herald’s Deborah Snow that Australia should do a "really deep stocktake of what is in our vital national interests and what we are prepared to sign up to". This approach is consistent with my colleague Allan Behm’s call in a recent ASPI piece that the Government adopt a transformational foreign policy, one in which we seek to shape events, rather than merely reacting to them as they occur. Abandoning ANZUS because of the advent of Trump would be reactive policy of the worst kind.
 
I further believe that the mature and considered approach I am advocating is more likely to be adopted if any decision to deploy the ADF into international armed conflict becomes a matter for Parliament rather than being left in the hands of the Prime Minister of the day, with all the manifest risks of the decision being handled on the basis of party political advantage rather than a sober assessment of where the national interest lies.
 
I thank all our readers for their support in 2016 and wish you all the best for the year ahead.
 
 - Paul Barratt AO
 
AWPR's submission to the Foreign Policy White Paper
"No inquiry has been conducted in relation to the re-deployment of Australians to Iraq in 2014 and 2015, or to Syria in 2015 and 2016. Voters and taxpayers should be enabled fully to understand what is being done in their name, and why Australian service-people were sent on such missions and with what result."
Read it here and make your own submission here.
Letter to the Defence Minister, Senator Marise Payne
Our most recent correspondence with the Defence Minister is available to read on our website. We assert that the parliamentary approval to go to war is the norm, rather than the exception, in modern democracies.
Read it here.
Lessons from the Iraq War: a reappraisal
James O'Neill
Unlike a number of the “coalition of the willing” that were part of that invasion and occupation, successive Australian governments have refused to conduct a similar inquiry here.
Read on.
Why is Australia not fully behind efforts to prohibit nuclear weapons?
Dr Sue Wareham
Late on December 23 in New York, the UN General Assembly resolved by a strong majority to begin talks in March on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
Read on.
Don't Ask About the War
Dr Alison Broinowski
John Howard contributed to world events which are still affecting us: invasion, illegality, sycophancy to our allies, refugees, and even Brexit and Trump. Why do Australians not hold him accountable?  
Read on.
Hans Blix: from Iraq to a new Cold War
During the 
Iraq disarmament crisis before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Blix, former Foreign Minister of Sweden, was called back from retirement by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to lead the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission in charge of monitoring Iraq. 

In his report to the UN Security Council on 14 Feb 2003, Blix claimed that "so far, UNMOVIC has not found any such weapons [of mass destruction], only a small number of empty chemical munitions."

Read Blix's recent lecture to the London School of Economics here.
Inquiry Points Towards a Pentagon Plot to Subvert Obama's Syria Policy
Gareth Porter
The circumstances surrounding the September 17 attack suggested it may have been deliberate, its purpose being to sabotage President Obama’s policy of coordinating with Russia against Islamic State and Nusra Front forces in Syria as part of a U.S.-Russian cease-fire agreement.
Read on.
The views expressed in this Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Australians for War Powers Reform or the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry (Inc). Readers should note that both Australians for War Powers Reform and the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry (Inc) seek a diversity of views and opinions in order to identify common ground.
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