‘Can Australia become a confident, independent country?‘, Pearls and Irritations, 5 August 2022
The article examines the prospects for the Australian-American ‘alliance’ at a time of increasing uncertainty.
Given the restricted military capability that Australia possesses (for example, its mystical nuclear submarine fleet), that its economy is heavily reliant on resources exports (not manufacturing), that its hybrid culture is still evolving, and that its population is relatively small, the question is: Why should its middle power pretentions be taken seriously?
The only possible answer to this conundrum is that the alliance with the United States lends Australia a certain je ne sais quoi, a certain status in the Asia Pacific, and perhaps globally, by embedding Australia within the defence strategies of America. This myth has persisted in Australia for decades, leading to a culture of complacency in Australia’s defence planning. In short, Australia’s middle power fantasising about itself is based entirely on its security dependency on the USA.
This means that Australia is now largely defined by its self-satisfied diplomatic profile … Australia’s dependence on the USA is no longer a tenable basis for guaranteeing the country’s security – if it ever was.
The author sets out four ways by which Australia ‘can reimagine itself as a confident, independent country’: disentangle ourselves from ANZUS; come to grips with the unreliability of the US as an alliance partner and thus recognise that our imagined status as a ‘middle power’ is delusional; educate ourselves into Asia through changes in our schools priorities and our public culture; beef up the quality and ubiquity of our diplomatic capacity.
Allan Patience is a senior academic at the University of Melbourne. Pearls and Irritations is a leading source of alternative commentary. For similar arguments, see John Menadue.