Is ANZUS worth the paper it is written on?

ScoMo thinks so:

Scott Morrison has named the ANZUS Treaty with the US, which formalised the Australia-US alliance and was negotiated and signed by the Menzies government in 1951, as “the single most important achievement” of the Liberal Party in government.

In an exclusive interview to mark the party’s 75th annivers­ary, the Prime Minister said the essential contribution made by Liberal governments to Australia had been “safety, stability (and) prosperity”.

“If you don’t have a strong economy and a strong budget, then you can’t pay for hospitals and schools,” Mr Morrison, 51, said. “If you don’t have a strong economy and a strong budget, then you can’t pay for the defence forces and (the) intelligence and security and law enforcement that you need to keep Australians safe.”

Chris Uhlmann isn’t so sure:

The US President’s decision to forsake the Syrian Kurds must surely give his allies the last compelling piece of evidence to prove that they should not vest any faith in Donald Trump.

When Trump boasted “I defeated the Caliphate” at an impromptu Oval Office press conference on September 20 he omitted the fact that it was the Kurds who did much of the fighting and most of the dying in that war.

If an alliance that is measured in a sea of blood has no value to Trump, then what price does he put on defence relationships built on pledges of burden-sharing made by nations such as Australia?

It’s a point well made. As I have said many times, Trumpian America is not Wilsonian, it is Jacksonian, and it will withdraw from foreign wars wherever and whenever it can.

That said, there are reasons (often made by Steve Bannon) to think that ANZUS, or at least Australia, occupies a more strategically important position to the US than do Kurds. Put another way, ANZUS is more in the American national interest than is the ethnic conflicts of northern Iraq:

  • the great power conflict ahead revolves around the Pacific not the Middle East;
  • the US has no threat to its Atlantic coast and is bulwarked by Europe vis Russia;
  • all threats to the US mainland come from the east and it makes abundant sense to keep them as far from the mainland as possible (just ask China!);
  • Pine Gap is a critical US military asset;
  • as the CCP’s key commodity supplier, Australia is a Chinese economic choke point of immense value as well.

We should think these things through very carefully when weighing the value of ANZUS to Washington, especially when an isolationist administration occupies the White House. But given the only realistic threat presented to US power abroad and at home is from a rising China, it makes no sense at all to the American national interest to toss away Pacific assets.

At least, not until such a time as strategic balance is reached and a geographic carve-up between super powers takes place.

That is many years hence yet, if it comes at all.

Latest posts by David Llewellyn-Smith (see all)

Comments are hidden for Membership Subscribers only.