McKinley, Michael: The ANZUS Alliance-as-disastrous diffusion

McKinley, Michael

The ANZUS Alliance-as-disastrous diffusion: The political virology of a wartime liaison: Presented to the Panel WA 71 Diffusion-as-Empire: Theory and Comparative Studies in Disastrous Circulations of Power, 54th Annual Convention, The International Studies Association, San Francisco, California, USA, 3 April 2013

This paper (pdf provided by the author) should be read in conjunction with David Stephens’ post on speeches by Australian prime ministers, which asked whether Julia Gillard’s effort before the United States Congress in 2011 was the most sycophantic speech by an Australian prime minister.

McKinley’s paper

argues that, in the first instance, World War II provided the efficient cause for the security treaty between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States (ANZUS), but that the Cold War provided its final cause for the two subordinate powers: they so abandoned any search for sovereignty within the developing alliance relationship that they became dependent in ways that were escapable, and ultimately, pathological.

The paper goes on to show how a ‘once pragmatic and essential relationship’ has been transformed into a ‘system of civil-religious belief. Indeed, across the spectrum of obligations and rituals now entailed in the alliance relationship, any deep criticism of it, particularly in Australia, is accorded the status of heresy, no matter the tragic costs it now exacts in national self-knowledge, self-exploration, and ultimately, lives.’

The paper commences with Gillard’s speech and goes on to consider other prime ministerial speeches and the broader implications. Towards the end of the paper there is this key paragraph:

The period 1914-2013 marks the ascendancy of blood sacrifice in Australian and New Zealand history and identity construction.  Convergence with the US is close.  Both, now, have well-established Cults of the Dead which, instead of, or in addition to, honouring those killed in the defence of the nation, now act to inspire others to replicate the fate of the fallen.  In parallel, Australia, a far less religious country than the United States, has now nevertheless sanctified its dead, its wounded, its veterans, and all serving members of the Australian Defence Force.

The paper’s illustrations (of contact between leaders) are instructive in themselves.

Michael McKinley is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the Australian National University.

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