How Australia Sees America

(…..) Hugh White has argued that Barack Obama Doctrine “mirrors the geostrategic and political essence of the Truman Doctrine” and therefore represents a clear attempt to contain China. Do you agree that the Obama administration is positioning itself and its allies, or at least reinforcing perception thereof through its policies, to contain China? And, do you feel that White’s argument for a strategic reorientation for Australian foreign policy is gaining support in the Australian foreign policy community?

I don’t want to personalize this and comment on Hugh. But let me take this as a general proposition. Is the objective of the Obama administration to try to contain China? My read of Obama administration is no, that isn’t true. In fact, I think there’s an immensely sophisticated diplomacy being conducted by this country. And, it isn’t completely just the Obama administration. The George W. Bush administration was very subtle in its dealings with the Chinese. There is a thorough understanding that China already plays, and is going to play, a very substantial role in global politics. The United States isn’t entitled to block that, nor does it have an interest in doing so. It does have an interest in the character of the international political system which evolves. The United States wants to see it based upon law and practices which have been decently arrived at by common negotiation across globe. Particularly important are those that relate to the global commons and those that relate to boundary disputes, especially maritime boundaries. These are important issues in the region which you are dealing with. First, global commons here carries about 50% of the world’s shipping. Second, the countries which are the littoral states to the south in the Southeast Asian archipelago don’t have a single settled maritime boundary with China. There are a plethora of disputes, not just between those states and China, but also between each other. All of those disputes have the potential to produce clashes and some of them have already produced them. So, the relationship between the criticality of this portion of the global commons and a lack of agreement on where boundaries lie leaves a situation where there has to be resolution. The United States is prepared to pitch itself into this region to ensure that all of these issues are resolved in a way that: 1) Upholds the agreed practices; 2) Is based on negotiation not force. So, the U.S. stands there for the settlement of bilateral and multilateral resolution of boundary issues and the development of protocols for managing good conduct in the region. That’s what the U.S. presence does. It has nothing to do with containment. The US ought not to be verbally blackmailed out of doing what it is perfectly capable of, given its maritime capacity in upholding decent international practice and law, by some argument that what they are doing could be perceived as containment of someone else. I don’t think US gets sufficient credit for what is the real underpinnings of policy. There’s too much old Cold War thinking that too readily identifies the only possible form of relations between countries of substantial power as adversarial. That’s what is setting up the analysis which is supposedly designed to rail against it. We think it’s a good thing that the United States is involved in various organizations given the role it needs to play in upholding these important principles. As for Australia, we don’t have to be linear in the way we think about relationships between trade policy interests and strategic outcomes. The world is complicated and it doesn’t just simply revolve around a simple exchange of economic benefits for political favors. China trades with Australia because it’s in their interest to do so and vice-versa. We don’t need to be anything other than straightforward and direct in the reasons for our strategic relations. China and other countries in the region have been thoroughly aware Australia has had strong relations with US since World War II that has from time to time had a military component to it. There’s nothing going on between Australia and US which is in principle new. It’s always an evolution of practices long established (…..)



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional


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