Three thought-provoking foreign and defence policy posts (no, actually four) on the Pearls and Irritations blog

Even when the times are out of joint, the Australian media is not good at looking intelligently at issues of foreign and defence policy. Stories that can be linked to striking pictures – of oddball leaders gloating over missile test shots or eerily lit and clutching orbs in rich sandy kingdoms, of islands rapidly turning into military bases, of terrorist-claimed explosions in countries to which we have just rounded up our token ‘training’ commitments – get a run, but there is generally a lack of consistent and sensible writing about strategies and implications.

The Pearls and Irritations blog, wrangled by Honest History distinguished supporter, John Menadue, is an exception. Yesterday, we posted a Pearls and Irritations piece by Alison Broinowski (also Honest History vice president) on what might be called ‘the Merkel model’ for dealing with Trumpian Washington. Today, we link to these useful items:

  • Richard Woolcott, former head of DFAT and now aged 90, on the desirable directions for Australian security and trade policy: ‘The Australian people are in much greater danger now than they were five years ago as a result of our involvement in the Middle East’.
  • Swiss professor Jean-Pierre Lehmann on phasing out US disorder in the Pacific: ‘In the process of dismantling the US-led Asia Pacific order, a new 21st century edifice with solid foundations should be constructed by the Asia Pacific itself, though with the US’ benevolent support’.
  • Former senior diplomat Geoff Miller on the importance of clear thinking about options for Australia: ‘If, as senior figures involved in the alliance have said, a more independent approach would mean an increase in our defence spending, that need not necessarily be something that we should shy away from. But it may be that, looked at from a different perspective, we find that our defence needs do not require all the enormously expensive equipment currently in the pipeline.’
  • And, fourthly, former Australian ambassador to Israel, Peter Rodgers, is scathing about President Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia: ‘Trump termed the new approach he unveiled in Riyadh – which omitted any reference to democratic governance and basic civil and political rights – as “Principled Realism”. Tragically, this president wouldn’t know a principle even if it were illuminated in neon from atop one of his towers.’

David Stephens

31 May 2017

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