Beeson, Mark: Trump triggers overdue policy debate

Mark Beeson

Trump triggers overdue policy debate‘, The Conversation, 8 February 2017

Whatever else Donald Trump’s election may have done, it’s had at least one welcome effect: it has finally sparked a long-overdue debate about the possible costs and benefits of Australia’s most important strategic relationship.

Yet many in the debate are still trotting out the same old saws about vulnerability and the need for defence spending to be increased. ‘The historical record suggests’, says Beeson, ‘that arms races are not only a pointless waste of money, but they generally end in tears – oceans of them, in fact’. (On this point, see our collection of resources from 12 months ago and earlier, entitled ‘In the wake of the White Paper: does arms spending lead to war?’) Beeson’s take from all this?

As a so-called “middle power” we arguably have far more in common with the likes of Japan, South Korea and Indonesia than we do with the US or China. Establishing closer ties, even strategic ones, with such like-minded powers could transform Australia’s security position and reinforce our status as a serious stakeholder in the region.

Beeson adds to the material that has been flowing out over the last three months. Regular readers of Honest History will know we have been closely tracking Trump, particularly his implications for Australia. Much of this is in the form of links to the excellent Pearls and Irritations blog of John Menadue, one of Honest History’s distinguished supporters, and to other non-MSM sources; we worry less about what appears in the MSM, partly because we cannot afford to climb over their pay-walls, but also because the non-MSM stuff seems better to us.

Issues like those canvassed by Mark Beeson are also addressed by Alison Broinowski in her chapter of The Honest History Book. The chapter is called ‘Australia’s tug of war: Militarism versus independence’. And, of course, the other side of looking more widely in our region is learning the languages our neighbours speak and the cultures they inhabit, as Fazal Rizvi says, in this piece in The Conversation and in his chapter in a new book.

Update 17 February 2017: see also the arguments of Ramesh Thakur in the Japan Times, reprinted in Pearls and Irritations.

Update 27 February 2017: Thakur again on whether Trump wants to overturn rules-based international order.

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