Pearls and Irritations, the blog run by John Menadue, one of Honest History’s distinguished supporters and former senior public servant and businessman, regularly serves up pithy and thought-provoking pieces from experts with strong backgrounds in their fields. The blog’s masthead reminds us that the pearl is the irritation of the oyster. This week we found eight pearls that had important things to say on foreign and defence policy. We hope readers are irritated – but in a good way.
- ANU academic Michael McKinley has four articles on the unmooring of our national defence from our national interest. One. Two. Three. Four. They cover the drift from defence to offence, the emergence of the ‘post-democratic’ military and security complex in the US, the strategic dimension to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, and Australia’s developing relationship with NATO.
- Richard Rigby (also ANU) questions the wisdom of Japanese military manoeuvres in the South China Sea. ‘How can the reappearance of Japanese warships flaunting the Rising Sun naval ensign that symbolised half a century of aggression and depredation (they really should have changed that flag), possibly help make things better? Australia may at some stage feel the need to act independently in its own interests, but it should avoid any involvement in this.’
- Walter Hamilton, formerly of the ABC, goes further into the question of taking sides in international disputes – and wonders whether it is the right question to even ask. ‘The “don’t take sides” argument relies on the assumption that the two Pacific powers with apparently the most to lose from the rise of China – the United States and Japan – are looking for partner states to help “contain” China. It assumes that every dispute involving China is about containment (whatever that means) and by “taking sides” Australia would be making a fatal choice … It is not a question of taking sides in disputes between other states. It is a question of deciding what constitutes Australia’s own interest.’
- John Menadue assesses the progress of the so-called United States ‘pivot’ to the Pacific. ‘But the ever reliable Australia follows the US, right or wrong. Our entrapment proceeds apace.’
- Finally, who wins out of all this? Inevitably, someone, somewhere will be making dollars – lots of them – out of it. Jon Stanford, former senior public servant, looks at the current state of naval shipbuilding. ‘The Turnbull government’s policy towards naval shipbuilding, the centrepiece of its innovation and “jobs and growth” agenda, represents one of the biggest protectionist rorts in Australia’s long and chequered history of industry assistance.’
24 September 2016