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Tag Archives: 9/11

Qatar: the new kid on the block in the Middle East

By Mike Mizzi

An old Arab motto goes something like this: “The young son against the elder brother, the elder brother against the father, the daughter against the mother, the family against the clan the clan against the tribe and the tribe against the world”.

In the current escalating wars in the Middle East we could almost trace this idea into every and each nation now embroiled in what is turning out to be a military fiasco brought on by a spark ignited way back after September 11 2001 when the US invaded Iraq.

The complexity of the scenario unfolding there is immense and so are the stakes.

Everyone knows of the major actors such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Iran but little has been said about the tiny and filthy rich oil state of Qatar.

Decreased US interest in the region creates an opportunity for regional actors such as Qatar to take on a greater role in the resolution of conflicts in the region. Dr Kristian Coates Ulrichsen of London School of Economics and Political Science, believes that:

“The country took advantage of the unique niche which it had spent years crafting in order to play an astoundingly high-profile and increasingly controversial role in the uprisings. Initially, it displayed unprecedented regional leadership bordering on outright activism in responding to crises across the Arab world”.

There are also economic reasons that drive its policy.

In 2012 Felix Imonti, an analyst cited by Ansa Mediterranean, posed the article entitled Qatar: Rich and Dangerous, published by specialized website “”. There he provided the clue to the real motives behind Qatar’s Middle East policy. Imonti suggested that:

“Qatar’s involvement in the Syria civil war was based in part on its desire to build a pipeline to Turkey through Syria. According to him, the discovery in 2009 of a new gas field near Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Syria opened new possibilities to bypass the Saudi Barrier and to secure a new source of income. Pipelines are in place already in Turkey to receive the gas. Only Al-Assad is in the way. Qatar along with the Turks would like to remove Al-Assad and install the Syrian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is the best organised political movement in the chaotic society and can block Saudi Arabia’s efforts to install a more fanatical Wahhabi based regime. Once the Brotherhood is in power, the Emir’s broad connections with Brotherhood groups throughout the region should make it easy for him to find a friendly ear and an open hand in Damascus”.

That’s the gist of it. First and foremost it is a matter of finances. Transporting gas by pipeline is quicker and far more economical than cooling it down to liquid form to be shipped in specialised tankers. And although Saudi Arabia and Qatar may be working hand in hand to remove Bashar Assad from power, this is where their cooperation stops. Both the Saudis and the Qataris want to control the outcome of the Syrian conflict.

Enter Vladimir Putin.

At the Valdai discussion forum on October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin said some countries are playing a double game, adding that while they fight against terrorism they also “place figures on the board” in their own interests. “Success in fighting terrorists cannot be reached if using some of them as a battering ram to overthrow disliked regimes” Putin told the forum, saying that this way the terrorists would not go anywhere. “It’s just an illusion that they can be dealt with [later], removed from power and somehow negotiated with” he added.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are already embroiled in an expensive and bloody war in Yemen that may limit both their military and financial resources. An overt intervention in Syria would be a gross violation of international law if it is not sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council or conducted upon an invitation of Syria’s government. The notion that Qatar would even consider going into Syria against Russian forces is too bizarre to be considered let alone acted on. But there may be bigger cats in the bushes waiting to pounce once given the raison d’etre to act namely the USA and allies. America may just be biding her time to see how successful Putin is in pushing back ISIS and the other forces arrayed against Assad.

After the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre the US moved its Middle East base from Saudi Arabia into Qatar, effectively giving Qatar client state bases and a launch pad into the Syrian theatre of war. The US has been in Qatar since the 1970s and has two bases there; the Al Udeid Air base which also services Australian and British air force squadrons.

So the idea that Qatar would be engaging in Syria alone would be facile. In fact current US operations in Syria would most likely be implemented from Qatar.

There is an odd prophetic overtone to all these gatherings of armies in the Middle East. It seems that a final battle for control of the lucrative Middle East oil and gas trade are definitely winding out.

As alliances form and the spoils eyed off a conflagration of epic proportions is in the making. The result of which will form the basis for the economic and cultural landscape across the entire region for decades to come.


Has Abbott found his 9/11?



The Syrian refugee crisis has become the story of the week. The images of hundreds of refugees streaming off ferries, dozens in unseaworthy vessels, and endless lines walking along rail-line tracks toward Germany in search of a new life, have flooded our television news services.

In Australia, particularly on social media, the debate is in full swing. Will we accept our responsibilities and take some of these people? How many? How quickly? How soon?

Germany has lead the world in showing its concern for these unfortunate people caught up in a bloody conflict not of their doing. Now France and the UK have announced their intentions to follow Germany’s lead.

On Tuesday, a Newspoll peaked at 44% of Australians not wanting to take any refugees at all. They would sooner see these people starve to death or whatever, than let them come here.

That live poll result began to decline, however, once a call went out over social media sites encouraging fair-minded people to visit the website and vote.

A Channel 9 news poll showed 63% not wanting any Syrian refugees taken in here.  As at this morning, Wednesday, the Channel 9 poll had risen to 66% preferring we took none.

I suspect Liberal party strategists were paying close attention to these polls with a third eye on the upcoming Canning bi-election.

abbTony Abbott has already tried to make it a political issue. He said, “In the first full year we took 1000 and in the second full year, the last financial year, we took 2200 from the Syrian conflict,” noting that in Labor’s last year of office they only took 98.

Even in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, politics is never far away. Labor has moved for an immediate intake of 10,000. They have played their hand without worrying about public opinion.

It remains to be seen what assistance the government will extend but only the naïve could think it would be on the basis of true compassion first and politics second.

Over the next 10 days until the people of Canning vote, I suspect there will be a good deal of internal polling in Canning to determine what the “right decision” is and I suspect the government’s final decision will be delayed as long as it takes to get a firm grasp of the feelings inside that electorate.

Based on the government’s performance thus far, one can rightly expect they are looking for a wedge. Shorten has given them one. They can go higher or lower than 10,000. How much of their decision will be based on the results of their internal polling we will probably never know.

bernBut if we are to take the likes of Cory Bernardi’s insensitivity as a guide, it could well be lower. Time will tell. A decision is expected today but whatever the decision is, I expect that much of the government script from here on in, will need to be interpreted with Canning in mind.

Call me cynical. Maybe I’ve been watching too much of “House of Cards” and distrust Tony Abbott as much as I distrust Frank Underwood, but following politics does that to you.


Complaint against John Howard to the International Criminal Court

Australia’s former Prime Minister John Howard has been accused of war crimes before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

A document titled Complaint against John Howard to the International Criminal Court has been sent to The AIMN by a member of the SEARCH Foundation an on-line copy of the document can be found here. Permission has been given by one of the authors to reproduce the document, but due to its length (75 pages) we have reproduced a summary.

Early in 2012 the Committee of the SEARCH Foundation resolved to submit a complaint to the International Criminal Court (the ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, against John Howard, former Prime Minister of Australia, for his decision to send Australian forces to invade and wage war against Iraq.

The ICC is a permanent international tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and for the crime of aggression.  The Court was set up through the Stature of Rome which was drafted and signed on 17 July 1998, and came into force on 1 July, 2002.

Australia signed the Statute on 9 December 1998, ratified it on July 1 2002, so as to be bound as from 1 September 2002.

Article 17 of the Statute, which deals with ‘Issues of admissibility’ prescribes that every step of the domestic jurisdiction of a country be exhausted before the Court may take jurisdiction over a complaint.

The SEARCH Foundation believes that it has satisfied the preconditions for admissibility.

Here are the steps taken

On 16 March 2012 the Search Foundation sent  complaint to Commissioner Tony Negus APM, the head of the Australian Federal Police. The complaint is substantially the same as the one which would be sent to the Court. As far as the domestic jurisdiction is concerned, the complaint was based on Mr Howard’s violation of Division 268 of the Australian Criminal Code Act 1995. That Division ‘received’ the substance of Article 6: Genocide; Article 7: Crimes against humanity, and Article 8: War crimes, as contained in the Statute of Rome.

The Office of the AFP Commissioner replied to the effect that the complaint had been sent ‘for assessment’ and the subsequent response concluded that:

. . . An assessment by the AFP Legal Branch, of the information you have supplied, does not disclose an offence against Division 268 of the Code, and therefore the matters raised cannot be investigated by the AFP. You may wish to seek further independent legal advice to clarify this.

The SEARCH Foundation took time to reconsider the matter, to seek further legal advice, and resolved to submit a similar complaint to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

The complaint was sent on 9 May 2013 to Mr Robert Bromwich SC, Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

The reply contained the following:

. . . The CDPP has considered the material you have provided and will not initiate a prosecution of Mr Howard based on this material. The material is not a brief of evidence, containing admissible evidence against Mr Howard. I also note that the allegations set out in your letter do not appear to fall within the terms of any offence contained in Division 268 of the Criminal Code.

The SEARCH Foundation resolved that as all avenues of domestic jurisdiction having been attempted without success, time had come to approach the International Criminal Court.

The complaint

I have the honour hereby to file with you and your office the Complaint against Mr John Winston Howard, former Prime Minister of Australia, who is responsible for sending Australian military personnel into war, and into waters of, the Republic of Iraq, pursuant to a 17 March 2003 decision of the Australian Cabinet to join in the invasion of the Republic of Iraq.

As a result of this decision, I believe that offenses were committed, and that these offenses are punishable under Article 6 Genocide, Article 7 Crimes against Humanity, and Article 8 War Crimes of the Rome Statute.

I ask you initiate an investigation under Article 15, with a view to issuing a warrant of arrest for Mr John Winston Howard.

Australia’s ratification of the Rome Statute came into force on 1 September 2002, and these crimes were committed after that date. The offenses we enumerate are most serious.

On 16 March 2012, our organisation made a complaint in these same terms to both the Australian Federal Police, which is the primary agency responsible for investigating breaches of the Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995 which was amended to implement Australia’s ratification of the Rome Statute i.e. Chapter 8 – Offences against humanity and related offences, Division 268 – ‘Genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes against the administration of the justice of the International Criminal Court’. That Division of the Code ‘receives’ the provisions of the Rome Statute of 1998, as amended.

On 23 March 2012, the Office of the Australian Federal Police Commissioner acknowledged receipt of our complaint and on May 3 2012, the AFP Operations Coordination Centre stated that our information did not disclose an offence against Division 268 and so declined to investigate.

On 9 May 2013, after consulting with many lawyers about how to proceed, we sent our complaint to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the other agency which can consider a prosecution under Division 268.

On 18 June 2013, the DPP replied that it would not initiate a prosecution of Mr Howard, noting that information provided was not a ‘brief of evidence’ and that the allegations we made did not appear to fall within the terms of any offence under Division 268.

Under Article 17(b) of the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor cannot investigate if:

“The case has been investigated by a State which has jurisdiction over it and the State has decided not to prosecute the person concerned, unless the decision resulted from the unwillingness or inability of the State genuinely to prosecute . . . “

However, we have demonstrated that the Australian State has not investigated this complaint. We argue that this is because the Australian State is unwilling to prosecute a former Prime Minister, since it is very clear to us that the invasion of Iraq directly produce breaches of Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute, as we set out below.

Therefore we consider that this complaint is open to your investigation under Article 17.

(A brief summary of) The Facts

On 11 September 2001 Mr Howard was in Washington DC. USA, on a state visit while the terrorists on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon were taking place. The day after the attacks he is reported as having declared support for the USA in retaliation: “We will help them. We will support actions they take to properly retaliate in relation to these acts of bastardry against their citizens and against what they stand for”.

Five days later the Australian Government, with the support of the Opposition Labor Party, passed a motion in the Australian Parliament invoking the ANZUS military alliance with the United States on the ground that the criminal actions of Al Qaeda, the terrorist organisation responsible for the attacks of 11 September 2001, were the equivalent to a state “attack on the United States”.

. . .

In January 2002 Mr. Howard was in Washington and endorsed former President George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech, in which the President labelled Iran, North Korea and Iraq as an “axis of evil”, on the grounds that the three countries possessed “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs).

In June 2002 Mr. Howard returned to Washington to declare support for the Bush doctrine of “pre-emptive strike”, a doctrine which repudiated the entire framework of post-second world war international relations and asserted that the United States had the right to attack any country it deemed a threat.

. . .

On 17 September 2002 Mr. Howard presented the ONA report to Parliament and asserted that, unless Iraq was “disarmed”, its weapons of mass destruction would pose “a direct, undeniable and lethal threat to Australia and its people.”

. . .

On 26 February 2003 forty-three Australian international law experts publicly warned that:

“The weak and ambiguous evidence presented to the international community by the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to justify a pre-emptive strike underlines the practical danger of a doctrine of pre-emption. A principle of pre-emption would allow national agendas completely to destroy the system of collective security contained in Chapter Seven of the UN Charter and return us to the pre-1945 era, where might equalled right.”

They further warned that:

“The International Criminal Court now has jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity … It attributes criminal responsibility to individuals responsible for planning military action that violates international humanitarian law and those who carried it out. It specifically extends criminal liability to heads of state, leaders of governments, parliamentarians, government officials and military personnel.”

The Australian Government, led by Mr. Howard, defied legal opinion. Parliament was adjourned on 8 March 2003. In the late hours of 17 March 2003, Mr. Howard and his Cabinet voted to authorise Australian air, land and naval personnel to attack Iraq. US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage made an official request for the involvement of Australian troops late on the night of March 20. It later became known that Australian special operations troops, with Cabinet authorisation, had entered Iraq as much as 30 hours before the outbreak of war.

. . .

The House of Representatives Official Hansard records later that day, at 2.03pm, that Prime Minister Howard moved a resolution asking parliament to support the Cabinet decision. The record reads in part:

“This morning I announced that Australia had joined a coalition, led by the United States, which intends to disarm Iraq of its prohibited weapons of mass destruction.”

The ‘facts’ – and they are comprehensive with links provided to the ‘evidence’ – continue for over a dozen pages and conclude with:

As a result of the 20 March 2003 invasion of Iraq, there have been at least 105,439 – 115,149 civilians killed, and the Wikileaks war logs suggest a further 13,750, according to Iraq Body Count.

Nature of the complaint

The establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court with the capacity to investigate and prosecute genocide, the crime of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity, was a long standing human rights and foreign policy objective of the Australian Government.

The Commonwealth of Australia signed the Rome Statute, establishing the International Criminal Court ‘the I.C.C.’, on 9 December 1998. It deposited its instrument of ratification on 1 July 2002.

Australia’s instrument of ratification includes a declaration affirming the primacy of Australia’s criminal jurisdiction in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court. It outlines the conditions under which a person in Australian custody or control would be surrendered to the Court and clarifies Australia’s interpretation of the crimes within the Statute. The declaration has full effect in Australian law and is not a reservation. It reinforces safeguards already built into the Statute to preserve Australian sovereignty over its criminal jurisdiction.

The provisions of the Rome Statute have been ‘received’ into Australian domestic legislation, which must be read in a way consistent with that Statute; and that includes the provisions of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act [No. 12 of] 1995, particularly those of Chapter 8 – Offences against humanity and related offences, Division 268 – Genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes against the administration of the justice of the International Criminal Court.

The provisions referred to hereafter are, in order of their appearance in this complaint, reproduced seriatim in ANNEX 26.

By the operation of Art. 12 (1) Australia has accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

The Accused is a subject of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The Accused’s criminal policy and practice could be characterised as an “act of aggression”, the “supreme international crime” as early defined by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg” (hereafter IMT), and thus in violation of the United Nations Charter’s Art. 2 (3) which prescribes the use of peaceful means to settle international disputes between Members, Art.2 (4) which proscribes the use of force against sovereign states, Art. 33 which sets down the duty to exhaust peaceful settlement of disputes and Art. 39 which states that the power to determine threats to peace or acts of aggression rests with the Security Council. [ANNEX 26]

The Accused knew or was in a position to know that no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq.

The Accused had no legal justification to participate in the “coalition of the willing” in a war against Iraq under Security Council Resolution 1441, because that Resolution could not “reasonably be interpreted [as the Davids Commission found] as authorising individual member states to use military force against Iraq to comply with the Security Council’s Resolutions.”

The Accused rendered himself liable of endangering the international peace and security of the people of Iraq by causing the death of untold numbers of Iraqi people, by authorising the destruction, burning and looting of priceless historical treasures including those of two ancient civilisations which are the common inheritance of entire humanity.

The Accused is responsible for:

  • acts of aggression, as defined in United Nations G. A. Res. 3314, Art. 1 (1974),

  • breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights,

  • crimes against peace, as defined in Art. 6(a) of the Charter of the IMT at Nuremberg and Art. 16 of the Draft Code of Crimes Against the Peace and Security of Mankind (1996),

  • war crimes, as defined in Art. 6 (b) of the Charter of the IMT at Nuremberg and in Art. 8 of the I.C.C. Statute,

  • crimes against humanity, as defined in Art. 6(c) of the Charter of the IMT at Nuremberg and Art. 7 of the I.C.C. Statute,

  • crimes against Prisoners of War, including acts in contravention of the Article 8, and against the Convention against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984) and Arts. 13 and 14 of the Geneva Conventions Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (1949), and their 1977 Protocols,

  • crimes against civilians in contravention of Article 7 and Article 8, including the targeting of civilian populations and civilian infrastructure such as markets and residential areas, causing extensive destruction of property not justified by military objectives, using cluster bombs, using depleted uranium weapons; and acting in violation of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949) and the relative Protocol 1, Art. 54 on the protection of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, and Art. 55 on protection of the natural environment.

The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction. Subject to any other ground that you may find in the course of your investigation, the Accused is responsible for flagrant, repeated and longstanding violation of the provisions of the I.C.C. Statute Arts. 5 (a) (b), (c) and (d), Article 6 (a), (b), (c), Article 7 (d), (i), (j), (k), and Article 8.


I respectfully request that you as the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court initiate an investigation with a view to issuing a warrant of arrest for Mr. John Winston Howard, on the basis of the information that I have provided and which is in my view sufficient for that purpose.

At the time of publication of the document – August 2014 – there had not yet been a response.

Related articles:


p class=”content__headline js-score”>Could John Howard be citizen-arrested for his role in the Iraq war? (The Guardian)

Howard is war criminal, says former colleague (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Howard accused of war crimes over Iraq troop deployment (The ABC)

John Howard’s Iraq War Fantasy (New Matilda)

Mandatory data retention not in our interest or the national interest

Following the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001, the Western world reacted impulsively and in the very way we were told we shouldn’t have responded. We started stripping away our personal freedoms and rights.

In Australia, the Howard Government was one of the most ferocious of the Western world.

Despite the limited threat of terrorist attack on Australian soil, Australian people or Australian interests abroad, our Government at that time introduced some of the most regressive anti-terrorism laws. They went even further in eroding our personal freedoms and rights in many respects than the US Patriot Act, which is often considered to be a so-called egregious attack on US citizens’ privacy and personal liberties.

The problem with the laws as they have been proposed is that they don’t demonstrate how existing laws are insufficient. (Though it has to be noted that there are no details and the manner in which they were announced left a lot of information to be filled in). Worst still the current Government has not made the case for why these new laws are needed. The effort to link the tragedy of MH17 with the new laws was transparent and entirely weak; and tasteless to say the least amidst all the uncertainty and misinformation. Even the attempts to use the current tragedies in the Middle East as reasons for their introduction don’t provide the needed impetus of urgency. It appears the only urgency for these laws is because Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies believe current legal requirements, like the need to get a warrant, restrict them too much; makes it ‘too difficult’ to secure prosecutions.

Sadly the Australian Government, without any real reasons, is proposing to introduce a mandatory, society-wide data retention regime. This is about the right to determine for yourself, what you decide to keep private and what you’re happy to share. And it’s about dumping a fundamental principle of our legal system; the presumption of innocence.

Neither the Attorney General nor the Prime Minister understand the laws they’re proposing to introduce; or what the laws ultimately do other than appease the wants of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

These agencies already have broad powers to request that information about the communications of specified individuals be retained to support their investigations.

What they want now is for that information to be retained for two years for ALL Australians, even if you’re not being investigated or considered a person of interest. The mandatory data regime represents a massive invasion of the privacy of all Australians, while subverting the principle of presumption of innocence by treating all of us as potential suspects.

There’s no justification to dump the presumption of innocence just to make it ‘easier’; without the necessary judicial oversight.

And we the public will get the privilege of paying for the Government’s mandatory, society-wide data retention regime as telcos pass the costs of implementing the regime onto customers. It will also mean the creation of massive databases, which will become prime targets for crackers; thereby increasing the costs further as telcos invest in more expensive security options.

But since the Attorney General and Prime Minister have done such a terrible job in telling Australians why laws for a mandatory society-wide data retention regime are necessary, we have an opportunity to make sure they’re dumped before they get to Parliament.

It’s up to people like you and me who want to be treated like citizens, not suspects to stand up and demand our Government drop its plans to massively invade the privacy of all Australians. There is no reason for it and Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies already have the powers they need to access the data they need for their investigations.

The answer is simple. If our law enforcement and intelligence agencies need our metadata then they can seek a warrant.

Join me and thousands of other Australians and call on the Government to drop its proposed mandatory, society-wide data retention regime:

Check out these great articles about why the Government’s mandatory society-wide data retention regime is bad for us and the nation.

Nine reasons you don’t have “nothing to hide”

Hacking the Grapevine: Data Retention & Protecting Consumer Privacy

No justification for society-wide mandatory data retention scheme

Note: I am a member and Board Director of Electronic Frontiers Australia, which is spearheading the campaign against the Government’s mandatory, society-wide data retention regime.

This was originally published on Alex Schlotzer’s personal blog.

Abbott, ANZUS, and the dilemna of the mid-sized super power ally

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Pop Quiz:

Has the ANZUS treaty ever been invoked and if so when, and by whom?

Answer: Yes. In 2001 by John Howard immediately following 9/11.

Howard who was visiting the US at the time, rushed back to Australia, and framed standing in front of the Australian flag, assured both the Australian electorate and the US population that the ant would rush to the aid of the elephant.

“I can’t think of a time in our shared history where we have been so close” he declared, a sentiment echoed by then US Assistant Secretary for Defence, Richard Armitage, who assured the government that, “Australia and the United States couldn’t be tighter, we’re joined at the hip.”

Whilst Howard was the first Australian prime minister to ever invoke the treaty, his response was typical of a nation with a long history of the fear of invasion.

Since colonization, Australia has in succession feared the French, the Russians, the Japanese, Chinese communists, Malaysian communists and Vietnamese communists.

The fear fueled the reliance on great powers such as Britain until the end of WWII, and then shifted to the United States; ‘our great and powerful friend’ as Menzies put it.

The alliance has been held in such high esteem by successive Australian governments that its response to requests by the US of military commitment to Vietnam in 1965 and the first Gulf War in 1990, were so rapid as to elicit debate about the extent to which the request was actively solicited before it was received.

In return for its willingness to commit troops to aid the US in its conflicts abroad, Australia has regarded itself as the recipient of an ‘insurance policy’ through which the fears of attack or invasion could be alleviated by the securing of a ‘great power’ guarantee of protection.

However, as critics such as Max Teichmann in 1966 (Australia; Armed and Neutral?)  and more recently Malcolm Fraser, have pointed out, the US has no direct obligation to come to Australia’s aid in time of military attack and from a realist perspective, great powers act accordingly to their perceived interests from a global perspective.

Whether a great power will meet its obligations of its treaties is always dependent on the the calculus of interest at the time.

Howard’s declaration marked another cycle of dependence by Australia on US approval in the formulation of Australian regional strategic policy and brought it full circle to that of the early years of the Cold War.

If Richard Armitage could claim that the US and Australia were joined at the hip, then the Gillard and Abbott government have cemented relations to shoulder and thigh as well.

In its ongoing fear of ‘abandonment’ by its super power ally, Canberra has allowed itself to once more become ‘entrapped’ in US foreign policy making and as Teichmann and Fraser point out, allow Australia to become involved in a war not of our own choosing.

It should be remembered that the same level of dependency on the US for directions during the Holt era produced a moribund policy platform for the Gorton and McMahon governments which continued to support US involvement in Vietnam despite changing international opinion and also failed to recognize Nixon’s intentions toward China.

The Abbott government’s agreement to allow Australia to become a ‘pivot’ in Washingon’s plans to confront China are reminiscent of Harold Holt’s ‘all the way with LBJ’ stance during the Vietnam conflict, and similarly to Holt, Abbott is running the very real risk of losing any flexibility in its future policy making decisions.

Abbott’s decision appears to be based on the hubris that Pax Americana will be ongoing and unshakeable in Asia for the remainder of the 21st. century a view supported by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, who stated that  that over the coming decades the United States ‘will remain the single most powerful state in the world.’

As the line from the song goes however, ‘it ain’t necessarily so’, and both Abbott and Bishop’s views fail to take into account the rise of not only China but also of Indonesia.

In it’s first six months in office, the Abbott government has displayed an attitude to both nations that maybe best described as aloof.

We’re happy to do business with you but otherwise keep your distance.

This outlook does not bode well for Australia and its role in the Asian Pacific region in the future. China could very easily suspend Free Trade Agreement talks as could Indonesia, leaving Australia isolated in the region.

The Abbott government should also remember that the abandonment or entrapment scenario inherent in alliances between mid-sized powers and their more powerful allies works both ways.

If for example, Australia should should find itself in tensions with Indonesia which flare into conflict, Washington may decide that it is not in its best interest to intervene and abandon Australia to its fate.

Should the reader feel that the above statement is fanciful, then they should familiarize themselves with the history of the alliance between the US and Taiwan during the first decades of the Cold War, when Taiwan’s ‘hip, shoulder and thigh’ dependency on the US raised the fear in Washington that the United States could become entrapped in a war with China on behalf of Taiwan.

As a footnote, Washington’s fears at the time were well founded.

Because geography makes Australia neighbours with Asia, the intelligent approach to foreign policy especially those related to defence, should rest on diplomacy and multi-lateral agreements.

In this manner Australia can play a significant role as an agent for stability as a non-aligned middle power which can make positive contributions to security, trade, economic cooperation and global security.

Any other approach, particularly one of entrapment in a alliance with a super power that can, and if necessary will ignore the ANZUS treaty should it threaten its own interests – is folly.

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