Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser submitted this paper to the government in response to its white paper on the Australia in the Asian Century …
Since I had a discussion with the Chairman of the Committee Dr Ken Henry, various events have occurred which are detrimental to Australia’s future security and have led me to want to put a written submission so that my thoughts are firmly on record.
In my discussion with Dr Henry I made the point that Australia’s relationships throughout East and South East Asia were hampered by the appearance, and many would say the reality of subservience to the United States.
The debates of recent years over refugees and boat people have also done us much damage in Asia. They have reawakened concerns that Australia is a racist country despite the mix of people who are now within the Australian community. I won’t develop this argument in this paper but it is a reality and it is a problem that at some point the government is going to have to address.
Over 20 years now we have given the impression of doing that which America wants. We seem to believe that our security can be best assured if we do what we can to win brownie points with the United States. This is a mistaken assumption. No country can really win brownie points with great powers. Great powers follow their own national interests and we should follow ours.
With the United States, on many occasions we will have interests in common, but Australia also has interests that are uniquely Australian and which the United States does not share. For example, we live in the Western Pacific. We cannot retire to the western hemisphere. The United States is in a totally different position.
There are a number of factors that need to be taken into account in accessing the reliability of the United States as an ally. The ANZUS Treaty itself is a commitment to consult, it is not automatically a commitment to defend, so it is quite different from NATO. Even the commitment to consult would not have been accepted by the United States if Prime Minister Menzies had not refused to sign a peace treaty with Japan until we had some arrangement and so ANZUS was made with the United States.
There are those who suggest that Article 4 of the ANZUS Treaty creates a commitment to defend. It does however leave a significant amount of room for a partner to avoid that obligation. The same clause carries the terms “in accordance with its constitutional processes”. That means the President has to then go to Congress to seek the power and authority to act. That may or not be forthcoming. There are no guarantees. Australian Governments have acted as though Australia’s compliance with the United States would guarantee support from the United States. That is a dangerous assumption. It is only necessary to compare the difference between Articles 3 and 4 of the ANZUS Treaty and Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Article 5 states “The parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” That is a powerful and committing clause. There is no mention in that clause of “in accordance with its Constitutional processes”.
If we turn now to Article 11 of the North Atlantic Treaty it states in part “This Treaty shall be ratified and its provisions carried out by the Parties in accordance with their respective constitutional processes. The instruments of ratification shall be deposited as soon as possible with the Government of the United States…”. This means that whatever Constitutional processes are necessary to give effect to the substance of Article 5 have already been undertaken in preparation for action under Article 5. There is no question of renewed power or renewed authority by Congress. That power and authority has already been ceded to the President by the process of ratification under Article 11. This creates a very significant and major difference between NATO and ANZUS treaties and Australian Governments would be derelict in their responsibility if they did not recognise that difference.
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In many ways ANZUS became the linchpin of Australian policy during the Cold War. ANZUS was limited to the territory or forces of either country, originally including New Zealand, in the Pacific theatre; it does not extend beyond that geographic limit. The Vietnam War was never conducted under ANZUS; if anything it was under SEATO. Governments generally did not claim that it was an obligation under any particular security arrangement.
In assessing what we should do for the future, we need to be conscious of our own history. Until the time of the 2nd World War, Britain looked after our defence and foreign policy and we believed that Britain would be able to secure our future. It never occurred to us that Britain would be so preoccupied, so beleaguered, that in a situation of emergency she would not be able to help. We had a sense of dependence on Britain. Even then, there were stirrings of an independent policy. Menzies wrote to Bruce, High Commissioner in London in 1939, that the British did not understand Asia, were not conducting policy well or effectively, and that we needed to be advised by our own people who would have Australia’s national interests at heart. It was announced after he formed government in 1939 that missions would be established in Washington, Tokyo and Beijing. The war overtook two of those decisions.
So here we have somebody whose reputation was that he loved association with the great and powerful, especially Britain, recognising that interests of great powers are not necessarily the interests of Australia.
When Britain could not help us we transferred our sense of dependence and appealed for help to the United States and there our sense of dependence has remained ever since. One of the most important things for Australia as an independent and effective nation, is to develop a sense of independence, a sense of security as a result of our own actions and not as a result of protection from somebody else. National pride requires that change. National security, or in the end survival, also requires that change.
There are other things we need to take into account. Why did America leave Britain fighting alone for 2¼ years against Nazi Germany? America’s wealth really began during that war as her factories churned out military equipment. She took decisions that would guarantee that Britain would not be able to be a financial power in the years after the war, long before she was forced into the war first by Japan in Pearl Harbour and secondly by a German submarine sinking American ships in the Atlantic. America did not initially declare war on Germany when she declared war on Japan. The pro-Germany lobby was strong.
I believe the free world survived by a thread, by the personality and courage of Churchill. During Dunkirk, if for example only a 150,000 British troops had been saved instead of 350,000 there is no way Churchill could have turned that defeat into a victory. At that time he did not have a majority in his war cabinet. Halifax and others were actively talking to European Ambassadors urging that Hitler offer Britain terms. At this time the United States was trying to persuade Britain to shift the British Fleet to American or Canadian ports so that it would not fall into the hands of the Germans. A friendly act at a most critical time in the survival of Britain!
So even in that contest, America’s decisions were equivocal and the choice of going to war was not voluntary but forced, first by Japan and then by Germany.Let us look closer to home. In the period leading up to confrontation with Indonesia there were many discussions with United States officials concerning the relevance of ANZUS and whether or not it would provide protection for Australian troops fighting in Borneo. The discussions began before fighting battalions were placed in Borneo and continued thereafter. Australia wanted an unequivocal statement of commitment. The Americans were trying to be polite but would not make such a statement or even give one privately. This private discourse was brought to a head when Foreign Minister Barwick publicly said on 17 April 1964 that our troops fighting in Borneo were covered under ANZUS. Barwick soon after ceased to be Foreign Minister. Barwick and Tange denied that he lost his job because of that statement but there is no doubt his determination, his independence, had incurred Menzies displeasure. Hasluck was appointed Foreign Minister to smooth over the problems.
In the previous year The London Economist was quite blunt in its assessment. It wrote “No Indonesian regime short of a blatantly communist one would earn active American hostility, no matter what harm it did to the national Australian interests”. I believe that to be an accurate statement of the circumstances then and of the circumstances now.
During the discussions of the relevance of ANZUS, a principal adviser to President Kennedy, McGeorge Bundy, wrote that “once or twice Australians have tried to interpret our ANZUS commitment as a blank cheque” implying in that written report that Australians were being a nuisance.
The history of these matters leads one to believe that too great a reliance on ANZUS and the United States as a saviour in times of dire emergency are misplaced and involves assumptions which are just not true.
This is reinforced by the knowledge, never publicly explained to the Australian people, that three times the United States has chosen Indonesia over what Australia regarded as her interests. The first significant occasion concerns Borneo and Confrontation. The United States despite Australian efforts was unwilling to give an unambiguous commitment that ANZUS would apply to Australian troops fighting in Borneo. The United States was not prepared to take any position hostile to Indonesia. Over the question of West Irian where Australia wanted an effective act of self determination, the United States again sided with Indonesia. Over East Timor if Australia had done what Australia sought to have done and seeked to involve the United Nations in 1974 and 1975 the United States would have opposed the act because the United States approved incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia. On each of these issues, especially in relation to Confrontation, the fact of the existence of the ANZUS Treaty had little relevance to American attitudes.
Many opportunities were lost at the end of Cold War. A multilateral world could have been established. Resources could have been spent wisely in development and advancement of living standards around the world, instead the Statement of Principles of the Neo-Conservatives in 1999 developed new objectives. The Neo-Conservatives would not like being accused of it, but they in fact reversed Stalin’s argument, that the Soviets would only be secure when democracy, that is America, is destroyed. The Neo-Conservatives said that America could only be really secure when the world is a democracy in America’s image. It is our solemn duty to achieve that, by persuasion if possible, if not, by force of arms.
This was a philosophy which certainly did nothing to diminish the outrageous War in Iraq, based on lies and statements known to be lies at the time. There is no way for example that Saddam Hussein could have dropped weapons of mass destruction over London in 45 minutes as was reported. A lie that Prime Minister Blair and others left hanging out there. It fitted his purpose, an ideological war against Iraq.
The United States monitors missiles that take off right around the world, they knew what Iraq had and did not have. They did not have missiles that could threaten European cities, much less London. That is only one of the lies and one of the deceptions that was used to justify a war that was illegal under British and international law.
America is nearing the withdrawal stages of the third failed war in Asia and South Asia. Despite claims to the contrary, Vietnam was a failure and a massive waste. Nobody could say that there is a strong vibrant democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan on the withdrawal of NATO forces will fall into her old ways. 3 wars on Asia and South Asia, 3 failures.
Add to that a policy in the Middle East, a policy in relation to Palestine and Israel which clearly leaves the region totally unsettled and significantly at risk. Failed policy again. Opportunities to establish a Palestinian State alongside a secure Israel, lost time and again. America therefore turns her attention to the Pacific and the signs are that the policy basis for her Western Pacific and Asian policy maybe even more tragic than policy relating to other regions.
American economic power will continue to grow, but relatively it is declining. Her military power will be supreme for many years but the difference in capability between that and other countries will diminish. If America wishes to maintain a position of primacy by whatever means it will not be acceptable to China. If America believes, as she gives every sign of believing, that for a secure peace with China it is necessary to have an arrangement involving Japan, Australia, Philippines and indeed India, then that will be regarded by the Chinese and many others as a policy of containment and it will lead to grave and serious difficulties. On the other hand, if China wishes to push America off the greasy pole and become number one, that also would not be acceptable to the United States and the rest of us.
A leading Chinese diplomat said to me the other day that China does not want the United States to leave the Western Pacific because China knows her growing power causes concern amongst her smaller neighbours that will only be increased if the United States leaves. That is not in China’s interests.
The only way peace and security can be achieved throughout this region is through a concert of nations where all the relevant countries have a seat at the table, where the great powers, especially America and China, are treated with respect, but neither one seeks to assert or claim dominance over the other.
That outcome will not be achieved by Australia compliantly going along with whatever the United States wants. Since I spoke with Dr Henry we have had the announcement of troops in Darwin and of spy planes in Cocos Islands.
The stationing of troops in the Northern Territory is a major and significant mistake. For America to say that 2500 troops do not constitute a base is nonsense, indeed a fabrication. In military terms a base does not have to be bricks and mortar. If 2500 troops are stationed in a particular place then the language makes it quite plain that they are based in that place. It is a base. To say that they are just passing through and that it is not a base is deceptive and misleading. It sends the wrong message, not only to China, but to countries like Indonesia.
What are those troops going to be used for? It is difficult to envisage any useful productive purpose, but if the United States wishes to conduct a hostile action from Australian shores we are complicit in that action and party to it. We have no protection. The Americans will not ask our permission first before the troops are used. This makes Australia a second class and compliant country.
It wasn’t long after this mistake was made that it was compounded by the statement over Cocos Island. Again it sends quite the wrong message. It has led to concern in Indonesia which has indeed been remarkably restrained as a result of these decisions made in relation to Australia. The spy planes will only be the first item on the agenda if it is allowed to go ahead. The United States will then wish to place bombers or predators on Cocos Island. Is Australia then going to say no? America would bring great pressure on Australia to comply. We would be locked in to American policy without redress. We have already seen how the somewhat indiscriminate use of predators has seriously alienated other communities. We would again be complicit in everything that the Americans did.
These actions add nothing to Australian security, they add nothing to security of the region. They will leave China concerned and bewildered. China which has never been an imperial power, as the European powers were imperial in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, or as Japan sought to be in the 1900’s and as America apparently seeks to be now.
America has immense power, several aircraft carriers. It does not need more power in the Western Pacific. It does not need greater capacity for surveillance in the Western Pacific. Is the purpose of these Darwin and Cocos Island moves really to increase America’s capacity for deployment or are they designed quite offensively to lock Australia into American policy and make it impossible for us to develop an independent policy.
Trying to achieve peace through this region by military means will not succeed. Security for countries in this region will be secured because a decent relationship has been established between those countries and because outstanding disputes have been resolved either through diplomacy or through international law. It should be our objective to achieve such outcomes. Recent moves run counter to that objective.
There is another aspect to our relationship with the United States. Our armed forces are very close to American armed forces. They train together, they undertake contingency planning, they play war games, war games which whatever they are called, will be related to what they regard as real life circumstances. Such war games are not declared to governments, they are not declared to ministers, but they can be used to create obligations. The United States in some circumstances may want to turn those war games into reality. An Australian government may wish to refuse the Americans. The United States would then say but we have planning this with our armed forces for fifteen years. The government can hardly say we didn’t know that. The services should not be allowed to undertake any actions or any joint exercises or contingency planning which carry with them implications for future involvement and which can impact on the future freedom of action of Australian governments.
Australia has already done too much to lock herself in to American policy. The decisions over the Darwin base and over Cocos Islands are potentially disastrous. They will put Australia at risk. If an attempt to contain China through miliary means leads to hostilities between China and the United States, the outcome would be highly uncertain. We know China could sustain massive casualties and would still fight, the United States could not. If they couldn’t win in Vietnam, if they couldn’t win in Iraq, and they can’t win in Afghanistan, how could they possibly win against China. Even the Republican Party as presently constituted, or the Tea Party which has so much influence in that party, might hesitate before using nuclear weapons.
Because of past humiliations, China is quite determined never to experience or to suffer humiliations ever again. They would be able to fight and would find some way of inflicting sufficient damage on the United States to cause America to withdraw. America can withdraw to the western hemisphere. If we have been a compliant ally of a virtually defeated super power would we not be regarded as a prize, a prize to be taken?
Reliance on Britain for our defence proved to be a disaster. Are we going to repeat the mistake and rely on the United States instead of on our own national interest, our common sense, our capacity to establish a decent relationship with countries of the region and to achieve that through diplomacy based on respect for all countries of the region? The United States cannot advance one serious reason to suggest that the exercise of military power will secure long term peace within the region. If they were to advance such an argument I suppose it would be that China must be defeated in conflict. Well that is not going to happen.
You might think that this is an argument against the American alliance. It is not. It is an argument for the assertion of Australia’s independence within the alliance. Menzies told Eisenhower when Quemoy and Matsu were being shelled in 1956 that if you have a war with China over that issue we are not part of it. It is not our affair. Why have later Prime Ministers forgotten their responsibility to Australia and forgotten that in some important things our interests are separate and different from those of the United States.
In short the main objective of Australian policy, which should be publicly stated, would be to contribute to and to help achieve a resolution of any disputes in the Western Pacific through diplomacy or through the application of international law. It should be to deny the use of force except in protection against blatant aggression. It should be to establish a concert of nations with both the United States and China having equal seats at the table and other nations being appropriately involved. We should make it clear that we are opposed to the policy of containment. We should not take any actions that can be construed as supporting that objective and we should not support actions which suggests that military solutions offer an appropriate path to a peaceful Western Pacific, East and South East Asia. That would be an assertion of Australian policy, principled and practical. It would gain support from many countries throughout the region.