The Right Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH.

Dangerous liaisons

01 May 2014

Former Australian PM, Malcolm Fraser, labels United States a dangerous ally.

Australia made a “major strategic error” causing “a betrayal of the national interest” by not showing strategic independence from the USA after the fall of the Soviet Union, former Prime Minister the Right Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH argues in latest edition of Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies.

Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies is the flagship journal of the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy.

In his article, Mr Fraser writes that the country made a serious mistake by aligning itself closer to the US in the post-Cold War era, has compounded the problem through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and needs to be cautious that it doesn’t again follow the US into another war, which could be in the Pacific involving China.

“In 1990 the Soviet Union disintegrated…[but] instead of showing some degree of strategic independence, we chose quite deliberately to ally ourselves, and to tie ourselves, much more closely to America’s coattails than ever. This was a major strategic error, a betrayal of Australia’s national interest,” he writes.

Mr Fraser said there are four key reasons why this was an error. The first is that America, without the Soviet Union to counterpoint it as a superpower, has become a power “unchecked and unbalanced”. A problem, Mr Fraser adds, exacerbated by the rise of neo-conservatism during President George Bush Junior’s term.

The second reason he identifies is that Australia has followed its ally into wars of no importance to our country, simply out of duty. He says Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam before it were all examples of this.

Thirdly, Mr Fraser says the Australian Pine Gap facility is now being used to target drone attacks.

“Pine Gap…has become integral to the drone killing program which President Obama has used massively. There are many American experts, including those who know Afghanistan and Pakistan well, who say that the program is totally counter-productive. For every terrorist killed, ten or more are created, vowing revenge because of hatred of America.

“Australia should be telling the United States, we do not like these operations, we do not want to be a party to them, we do not wish to be complicit in them.”

The final reason highlighted by Mr Fraser is that Australia needs to be cautious that it doesn’t follow the US into another war – one which could be closer to home than Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I don’t want Australia to follow America into a fourth war, blindly, unthinkingly, with little regard for Australia’s national interest and little regard for our security. A fourth war would be in the western Pacific. It would likely involve China.”

Mr Fraser writes that the US has a two-track policy with China – diplomacy on the one hand, and on the other a “ring of armaments” throughout Asia with Australia as the southern point.

“The recent skirmishes over the East China Sea demonstrate how dangerous the situation can become,” he writes.

“I would see Japan, less probably the Philippines, both of whom rely on America for support, as being the most likely source of provocation to China and of conflict with China. There has also been pressure for us to establish a defence treaty with Japan which would directly involve us in any such dispute. That is something we should resist and say it will never happen. Any such conflict is outside of the terms of ANZUS, as Iraq was outside the terms of ANZUS. If the Americans say we must do our bit, we should tell them that we are not involved. It’s not our fight, it’s not our problem.

“Australia needs to decide where we are heading, and we need to make this decision ourselves. Do we attempt to carve a role for ourselves in the region through an independent, intelligent and consultative foreign policy? Or do we continue to rely on an ally whose strategic interests and domestic political values might not directly align with our own?”

A copy of Mr Fraser’s commentary, ‘Australia’s role in the Pacific’, is available online at the APPS website. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1002/app5.18

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Updated:  25 February 2016/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  Editorial office