Butler, Richard: The myths of Australian foreign policy

Richard Butler

The myths of Australian foreign policy‘, Pearls and Irritations, 31 March 2017

The former senior Australian diplomat surveys the scene as Australia develops a foreign policy white paper.

It will be of crucial importance in the review of Australian foreign policy, now underway, that we address our own history and its enduring and misleading myth: that we cannot survive nationally without the protection of a large power. It was the British, when we were effectively a dependency and able, for example, to be dispatched to Gallipoli and Flanders, and then the Americans, for whom we have now made ourselves a surrogate, beginning, in the modern period, with our request to take part in their war on Vietnam and now extending to Iraq and Syria.

The enquiry into our future foreign policy will be an abject failure if it does not address, in honest terms, the costs and benefits of the US Alliance, freed from its mythological, historicist, clothing.

Butler also looks at whether the United States is becoming fascist and the implications of ‘post-truth’. He laments the lack of Australian discussion of foreign policy. He concludes: ‘We could conduct our relations with the US on a constructive, civilized, and indeed friendly basis, as the overwhelming majority of countries do with the US, without our acting as a client state’.

These issues are also addressed by Alison Broinowski in her chapter in The Honest History Book. The chapter is called ‘Australia’s tug of war: Militarism versus independence’.

Richard Butler AC is among Honest History’s distinguished supporters, as is John Menadue AO, who wrangles Pearls and Irritations. Previous Butler remarks on foreign policy at this current juncture are here and here and in some compilations (use our Search engine with search term ‘Butler’).

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