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Welcome to War Powers Reform Bulletin #47:
Australia in the Age of Trump


It’s now official. The members of the US Electoral College have cast their votes, and on 20 January 2017 Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States.
 
This means that the armed forces of the greatest military power the world has ever seen – the one with a defence budget which regularly exceeds those of the next seven military spenders combined – will be under the direct command of a notably volatile man with no direct governmental or military experience, and with no noticeable intellectual curiosity.
 
Accordingly, the Prime Minister’s comment that it will be business as usual with President Trump is a very complacent one. If ever there were a time to review our expectations of the ANZUS Treaty, which has been the bedrock of Australian strategic policy since 1951, this would appear to be it.
 
For too long the ANZUS Treaty has been implicitly represented by governments to the Australian people as a guarantee of Australia’s security, a guarantee to preserve which it is in our interest to march hand-in-hand with the US as it embarks on various military interventions around the world. 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 for Australia is 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.
 
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.
 
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. A group of foreign policy and international law experts has made a similar call in the context of the forthcoming Foreign Policy White Paper.
 
An essential part of this review should be how we do business in Australia on matters of war and peace. Four of our last five Prime Ministers have been people with no record of taking an interest in, or displaying intellectual curiosity about, foreign and defence policy matters, yet under our current arrangements each of them has effectively had in his/her hands the power to deploy the ADF into international armed conflict. The mature and considered approach I am advocating is more likely to be adopted if any decision to deploy the ADF 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.
 
We wish all our readers all the best for the festive season and for the year ahead.
 
Paul Barratt
President
Australians for War Powers Reform
Push for parliamentary approval for war deployments

Currently the law gives the government the power to send troops into conflict, but the issue of parliamentary approval has been recently raised by Victorian campaigner Michael Smith, who has walked from his home town of Chewton to Canberra carrying proposed legislation.
Read more in the Age. Image: Michael Smith outside Parliament.
We need a transformational foreign policy

A group of foreign policy and international law experts has submitted a proposal for Australian foreign policy for 2017 onwards, in the wake of Donald Trump's successful bid for President of the United States. The group has put its proposals before the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and all parliamentarians.
Hear an interview with Paul Barratt on ABC's World Today, and read the submission here
Peoples Tribunal on the Iraq War

US-based organisation Code Pink recently held a Peoples Tribunal on the Iraq War. "After 14 years of costly war based on lies, it’s time for truth and accountability. The People's Tribunal on the Iraq War will unify the global anti-war/peace movements with other justice movements by uplifting testimonies of the costs of this war—and war itself."

Watch the testimonies here. 
Saleh vs. Bush

Saleh v. Bush involves claims by an Iraqi woman, Sundus Shaker Saleh,  that former President George W. Bush and other high ranking Bush-era officials broke the law when they planned and waged the Iraq War. Read an update on the proceedings from the International Clearing House and some background from Truth Out. Image: Inder Comar and Sundus Shaker Saleh.
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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