Arguments for and against Australia’s Alliance with the United States
Australia, apart from being the United States’ oldest friend as well as ally in the Asia-Pacific region also is America’s second closest ally worldwide. In spite of the fact that this alliance has been in existence for over 50 years, it was until September in 2001 (few days before the 50th anniversary) that the treaty was for the first time since its signing invoked. Since then Australia has increasingly gotten involved with the United States and its activities.
Not only did Australia join the American-led coalitions in fighting against Iraq and Afghanistan but also signed a free trade agreement with the United States, a development that both governments perceive to be most significant in the bilateral relationship since the ANZUS Treaty that binds Australia, the United States and New Zealand. ANZUS’s also separately binds the United States and Australia to cooperate and assist each other on matters of defence in the Pacific region.
More developments have however been made on this treaty with current understanding implying that the cooperation relates to attacks in any area globally. These events, developments have however prompted a debate in Australia about what the nature of the United States’ power and what its expectations from the alliance are. The costs and benefits of the close ties, military as well as economic with the United States are also being hotly debated in Australia. Critics of the formation of the free trade area perceive it to be a way of killing the country more than developing it .
In spite of all these doubts and criticisms of the alliance, there are those who believe that this alliance places Australia in a privileged position with the world’s greatest if not the only remaining superpower which has large and potentially enormous benefits that would enhance Australia’s economic strength and its national security . The Australia-United States alliance is not just any ordinary alliance. There are not many alliances that last up to fifty ears and even exceed it. Very few alliances have ramifications that go beyond military and diplomatic affairs into economic, social, cultural and political affairs as this alliance .
The Australia-America alliance has developed such that in its own right, it can be described as a political institution that is more like a monarchy or a political party. Those charged with the responsibility of managing such an institution constantly face the challenges of assessing and ascertaining the elements that need to be changed so that they adapt to meeting changing circumstances and those that must be maintained constant . In the case of this alliance, those responsible for its management must ensure that it retains support of the opinion of both the government and the public of the two countries.
Since the signing of this agreement, the Americans, with the exception of the Nixon administration have been comfortable and secure with the alliance. The Australian politicians regardless of the criticisms and opposition to the alliance while in opposition have invariably kept the alliance when they got to the office. This is because they have witnessed the consistent benefits of the alliance which they perceive to outweigh the political costs and/or military risks of any of the subservience that the might of Washington is alleged to have.
Australia’s position in the Southeast Asia and South Pacific enables it to have a defense posture that is self reliant which enhances mutual security between the two countries in the alliance . The United States has guaranteed security to this posture and access to its intelligence, weapons, defense science and support with military logistics. This has also enhanced the status of Australia in global affairs and particularly in Asia. The Australian public opinion is the one that has raised questions over the durability of this alliance.
Public opinion matters so much that in 1984, Paul Wolforwitz, the then US assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, reminded the Australian audience (both the public and the government) that the most significant task in management of an alliance was to constantly nurture public support . His remarks though diplomatically phrased were a message to the Australian government about the country’s public opinion and its significance. The current debate on this alliance is therefore due to public opinion which determines the period the alliance might last.
This paper therefore seeks to study the prevailing debate on the Australia/America alliance and critically analyse the arguments for and against the alliance. Arguments for Australia’s Alliance with the United States One of the arguments used in support the Australian-United States alliance is the security guarantee that is promised by the United States. This promise guarantee includes the terms that were agreed upon in the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS Treaty) in 1951 in which the two countries committed themselves to acting together to deal with common dangers .
This treaty also binds the united states to aiding Australia in the event it faces a major strategic threat and vice versa. Australia is confident that it is safe and can rely on the United States for help in the event it needs them. It can be argued this reasoning is based on the fact that the United States is the most powerful nation in the world. Having the support of a superpower increases the probability of Australia winning any security confrontation it might face. This is because the United States has all the necessary resources required to counter an attack in the event of one.
Another reason as to why those who support the alliance count on the guaranteed security of the United States is because of the fact that Australia has been there for the United States when most needed. Australia responded to this agreement by evoking it in September 2001 after the terrorist attacks on the United States. Australia did so by supporting the United States attack against Afghanistan and sent its forces to fight alongside those of the US in an effort to contain terrorism.
The fact that Australians sent their soldiers to bleed and even die alongside the Americans in pursuit for its security justifies their reasoning and reliance on the United States to step in when it is needed . Australia, sharing the same view that spread of weapons of mass destruction is threat to humanity and should be not be encouraged sent its army to fight in the United states led war against Iraq after it was suspected of producing weapons of mass destruction. Australia has been faithful to the agreement for over fifty years.
It has fulfilled it part by participating in joint defence facilities and supporting a number of the United States’ very critical and most sensitive strategic capabilities. These capabilities include systems that are related to collection of intelligence, early warning of ballistic missile, submarine and satellite-based communications . Australia has also responded to humanitarian needs by the United States like sending its forces to help during the Katrina and Tsunami disasters. Australia’s actions have showed commitment to the alliance over the years by going to America’s aid when they were needed.
In regard to this, Australia expects the United States to take any security threats to the country as seriously as Australia did when the United States’ security was threatened. Recent development however seem to challenge this argument for support of the alliance. Over the years, Australia has not been involved in any wars individually but currently faces security threats from the rising China . China is perceived to be enhancing and growing its military power through modernization at a pace that is very fast.
The nature of the scope and structure of this military development in China have been a cause of concern to its neighbours especially since China has done very little to explain the aims and agenda of its military plans . China has also not done much to build the confidence of its neighbours in its military developments. It is perceived that china is going to be Asia’s strongest military power and the fact that it is not explaining the purposes of its military plans creates the idea that China is preparing for a future confrontation that is bigger than the conflict over Taiwan with its neighbours.
Australia perceives china to be a potential future threat to its security and has responded by preparing its forces and arming itself to face the challenge in case it arises. The United States is however seems not to be committed to assisting Australia prepare for this potential war. It has either cancelled, delayed, postponed and shrinked the delivery of weapons and war technology such as the F-22 program, aircraft carrier fleet, new cruisers and procurement of new bombers to Australia.
In other words, the United States is reluctant to give Australia the services it would need to counter china in the event of a threat . These events challenge the reasoning of the supporters of the alliance based on the fact that the United States will honour the agreement of the treaty as they imply that the United States might not be so ready to engage in a war that does not concern it. This is in spite of all that Australia has done in the past to assist it in its security threats.
Another argument for support of the alliance is that Australia will have the privileged access to advanced science and technology especially in areas that concern defence . The United States is as developed and industrialised nation is known to be advanced in technology in all areas and more so in security and defense issues. Being an ally to such a nation implies that in the event the less fortunate country can enjoy the privilege of accessing these technologies which are not available to other countries that have no relationship with it.
Less powerful nations have used the same strategy to benefit from the technology that superpowers have and it can be said that this is the reasoning this argument is based on. However, it would be worth to remember that the United States and any other nation for that matter can not easily give away its technology to a foreign country no matter how close the ties are. Each country always strives to be better equipped technologically than others so as to remain powerful and competitive.
The United States is also known to be resistant in arming other nations as it delights in claiming that it advocates for peace. This is also clear in the way the Obama administration is reluctant in letting Australia acquire the weapons and technology it needs to arm itself against the potential threats that China poses to its security. In regard to this it can be said that the argument for support of the alliance that is based on the reasoning that Australia will benefit by having access to the United States’ advanced technology is vague as this access is not guaranteed.
The other argument for the alliance is that Australia will have exceptional and unlimited access to the high-level American policy makers who will give them advice on political, military and diplomatic affairs . It is common knowledge that the United States has some of the best strategies in these areas and has been able to develop due to the implementation of these strategies. The United States is argued to be the most democratic country in the world hence most politically stable.
The United States also has one of the best diplomatic strategies that have enabled it to have good relations with its neighbours and other countries world wide which is good for the social and economic development of the nation as it enhances trade, tourism and other exchange programs. Being an ally to the United States will therefore enable Australia to borrow some of the policies and strategies hence apply them in the mentioned areas enhancing its stability and development.
Moreover, the geographical positioning of Australia requires it to have these strategies especially the military and diplomatic ones in order to survive . It however is of worth to note that not all of the United States policies and strategies are desirable. Some of its military policies particularly ones on war against terrorism and its operations in Iraq have raised several questions amongst humanitarians causing it to be accused of violating human rights and being discriminative. Not all US policies are good and care needs to be taken when deciding on which ones to borrow.
Australians who support the alliance also argue that it will enable Australia to benefit from results of the American intelligence agencies . On addition to the American intelligence agencies using modern advanced technology in their operations, their agents also are some of the best trained in the world. This implies that the country can easily dictate threats to its security or that of its allies and warn them. Australian figures that due to its geographical position that is close to Asia and the fact that it has constantly supported the United States in its war against terror makes it vulnerable to attacks .
Having a powerful friend with advanced intelligence agency would enable it to detect threats and mitigate them or prepare adequately to ace them. Australians who use this reasoning to support the alliance expect the United States to warn them of impending threats and dangers. Intelligence agencies are however more committed to the security of their country and might not concentrate on that one of their allies. This creates opportunity for information to on the allies to slip them.
This is to say that being an ally to a nation that has advanced intelligence agencies does not provide full protection. This intelligence can however be borrowed and be used to solve some security challenges and treats by Australia. The other argument for the Australian-American alliance is that it will economically benefit Australia as it will have access to the American Market under the free trade area . Formation of free trade area is one of the strategies that most countries have implemented to enhance their economic development. This is because of the benefits that it has.
It creates a large market for goods and services and removes all trade barriers such as revenues and taxes promoting business. Free trade area will enable Australia to get access to American produced goods and services at lower prices. Australia will be able to sell its produce to the larger America n market without incurring the cost of taxes and revenues . This promotes international trade which contributes greatly to economic development. Free trade area however has its weaknesses especially when it is between a weak and a powerful nation that is industrialised.
This is because it easily ‘kills’ the local industry as cost of production might be cheaper in the more industrialised countries causing their products to be cheaper hence denying the local products a chance in the market as they can not compete in terms of price . Arguments against Australia’s Alliance with the United States One of the strongest arguments against the alliance is that the United States take Australia’s commitment for granted . Australians who are opposed to the alliance based on this reasoning are justified to do so. This is because as explained earlier, Australia has been very faithful and committed to the ANZUS treaty.
Australia has stood by the United States and responded when needed in facing threats to security such as terrorist and production of weapons of mass production hence supported the United States in its war against Afghanistan and Iraq respectively . Australia has supported and fought alongside the United States in other wars before this one as well such as Vietnam and the Second World War. Over the years, Australia has not faced any major threats to its national security hence has not been in need of military and defense help from the united states.
Recent military developments in china however pose a great threat to Australia’s security which the united states refuses to acknowledge and is even reluctant in letting Australia acquire the technology and weapons it needs that will enable it to counter attacks from china in the event they occur. It can be argued that the reluctance of the US to assist Australia prepare itself for potential future attacks to its security justifies the opposition to alliance and the claim that the US has been taking Australia’s assistance for granted .
However, the reason the United States is reluctant to avail these weapons and technology to Australia could be that being a nation that advocates for peace and democracy, it does not want to contradict itself by arming one nation against another. The other argument against this alliance is that it renders Australia completely dependent on the United States . This can be argued to be true based on the study of the way Australia has over the years supported the United States always expecting something in return because it is a more powerful nation.
Continual support of this alliance implies continual dependency on the United States which is not right as each country should strive to be independent . However, it can also be argued that each country needs the support of others in order to develop and getting this support from a superpower is the best thing that can happen to a less powerful nation because of the because of the advantages that come with it. Other individuals opposed to the alliance argue that the creation of a free trade area is ‘killing’ the country (Australia) .
We could argue that this argument is completely justified. Free trade area implies that the goods and services produced within the member states can be traded freely without any trade barriers or restrictions. Free trade areas can however have a negative impact on local industries and cause some of them to completely shut down. This happens when the cost of production is lower in one of the countries in the block due to availability of raw materials in that country or low cost of energy. The goods produced in such a country usually are priced low when they come to the free market.
Countries that produce the same goods but at a higher cost, are hence forced to stop producing as they can not afford to sell them at low prices without making massive loses. The fact that they can not beat the cheaply produced goods in the market forces these industries to shut down hence ‘killing’ the country. Free trade areas however have several advantages; they have the potential of producing large per capita such as the one produced by NATO, increasing employment opportunities, promoting trade between the member countries hence enhancing economic development.
Conclusion It is predicted for the foreseeable future that Australia will remain one of the committed allies of the United States. Both Canberra and Washington have the same views on fighting the war against terrorism, dealing with and curbing the spread and production of weapons of mass destruction that threatens the security of the humanity, supporting and upholding democracy and preventing the re-emergence of failed states.
The challenges faced by Australia in its own neighbourhood however have the first priority when dealing with these issues. As the United States is comfortable with the alliance, maintaining support for it hence overly depends on how successful the strategies taken by Washington will be in convincing the Australian government and public that the United States policies are necessary as well as legitimate. The Australian public will also have to be convinced that the United States does not take its contribution to mutual security for granted.
Obstacles to good relations in this alliance could arise in the event the United States makes demands that are politically difficult on Australia in combating of terror, or if the US sought from Australia military support that forced risks that are unacceptable to Australia or one that drew the country into a major conflict with China over Taiwan. Differing views on security challenges that emanate from a rising China is perceived to be the alliance’s greatest potential threat.