Let's be friends to all & enemies to everybody
06 December 2022
TUMBY BAY - Whether it is at the clan level or the national level, human society seems to be most comfortable when it has a clearly defined enemy.
During World War II, Australia had Japan to hate and Europe had Germany. In the post war years we feared the communists in Russia, and then in China.
Everyone was happy. Community solidarity was in force on both sides of the fence.
That solidarity in the face of the perceived enemy provided the impetus for the maintenance of a sound economy and the organisation of a happy rallying and flag-waving society.
On the other side of the coin was the choice of our friends and allies.
Prior to World War II, Australia’s greatest friend and ally was Great Britain, but it let us down badly.
First, and quite naturally, it had a total preoccupation with defending its own shores; and then, and most surprisingly, its defeat by the Japanese in the capture of Singapore.
The British thought the Imperial Japanese Army would come by sea. Instead its troops swept down the Malayan Peninsula.
In the face of those disappointments, after the war Australia quickly dumped Britain and aligned itself with the USA.
After all, Uncle Sam had saved us from being invaded by the Japs while the British, who we had relied on, only wanted us to help save themselves.
Our decision back then to go with the Yanks seemed straightforward enough, but things have since got a lot more confusing.
Nowadays we have trouble identifying who exactly is our enemy. There are so many options from which to choose.
Is it the Russians in faraway Europe or the Chinese closer to our doorstep?
And what about all those nasty little in-between countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia who are exporting terrorism to all points of the globe?
Then there’s Indonesia with its humongous Muslim population. Is it really a friend or is it a potential enemy?
When Indonesia gets nasty, it’s pretty good at it, just ask any West Papuan.
And what about our supposed friends? Is the USA really a friend who’s likely to stick with us if things turn really bad?
Perhaps we made a mistake cosying up to them so tightly after World War II.
Might they just be using us like Britain did before them?
It’s worrying that the US is a nation continually on a war footing. Preparedness for war drives everything it does. It is a warrior nation.
Since World War II, the US has dragged us into all of its pointless little wars and some big ones.
Now they are beefing up northern Australia as a base for what looks like a big future fracas with the Chinese. Could be said to be an unhealthy basis for friendship.
And just look at the sneaky way the US has infiltrated us culturally since World War II.
Has it been making us more like itself as part of some softening up process?
It’s all very confusing but maybe there is a solution.
Perhaps we should forget about the USA and China and tell them to piss off while we declare war on New Zealand.
Or maybe we could invade Papua New Guinea. We’d probably call it a peace keeping mission.
PNG is a big country with big problems which could provide meaningful work for our generals and politicians for decades. That Bougainville thing will especially rattle their brain cells.
On second thoughts, maybe that’s not a good idea. The Yanks and the Chinese have had their eyes on PNG (and Bougainville) for a while and we don’t want to upset them too much.
Better to despatch our rusty submarines to New Zealand. We once had our eyes on it as a seventh state. Putin-like, we could justify a takeover as a fulfilment of manifest destiny*.
I’m sure the Kiwis won’t mind, they look and talk like us already and can beat us at cricket and rugger.
Together we could use New Zealand’s ‘incorporation’ as an excuse to tell the Yanks and Chinese to go away and leave us alone.
Sorry, chaps, we’re busy.
And about those nuclear submarines, B52 bombers that are as old as I am, and fighter planes that don’t work, er, we’ll get back to you….
* Refer also to Xi Jinping for explanation of this logic.
A good pun on the title, Phil.
Indeed, 'friend to all, enemy to none' is a laughable and utterly naive foreign policy dogma, devoid of the nuance of real relationship creation and indicative of an unwillingness to maintain national integrity.
It was suitable for the first 10 years of government after independence and should have been dumped in the dustbin of history immediately following that phase.
Except Papua New Guinea continually lacked political leadership of creative vision, the collective maturity to act forthrightly and the spinal tolerance and intestinal fortitude to nurture our 'nation of a thousand tribes' based on our foundational principles.
That's my opinion.
Posted by: Michael Dom | 16 January 2023 at 10:04 AM
It was Lord Palmerston who first said, in a speech to the British House of Commons on 1 March 1848, that Britain had ‘no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.’
This axiom ought to be the guiding principle for Australian diplomacy and, in fact, I think it has been since 14 march 1942, when Prime Minister John Curtin said that Australia turned to America for support and advice in confronting the Japanese peril in the Pacific.
Our relationship with America has endured since that time and, as Phil rightly points out, we have usually acted loyally if sometimes unwisely to support our ‘great and powerful friend’. Successive American administrations have come to regard Australia as their most stalwart ally in a world where suspicion, fickleness and bad faith is more often than not a feature of diplomatic relations between nations.
Critics say that Australian governments have been too servile and supine in their dealings with the USA and that this has led us into grievous error, notably nasty and futile small wars. There is, I suppose, some truth in this.
That the USA has behaved badly at times is hardly contestable. Like all imperial powers its judgement can by skewed by mistakes, misunderstandings, misjudgements and various internal factors. Despite this, in general it has been a force for good.
Importantly, it is plainly the case that Australia’s voice is heard and carries some weight in Washington’s ‘beltway’ and this matters still even in what seem to be the autumnal days of the uncontested US imperium.
I think that this will continue to matter in a world where events are plainly slipping from the control of the world’s political and business elites.
Putin’s grave errors in judgement with respect to Ukraine are merely one especially egregious example of how badly things can go wrong when hubris, ambition and desperately bad judgement inform the political decision making process. Smaller but still appalling examples of this may be seen in relation to Ethiopia, Eretria, Syria and Iran.
Now the great and not irrational fear is that China’s President for Life, Xi Jinping, will fall victim to the same thinking that has propelled Russia into a crisis for which no good exit is now possible.
The USA and Australia, along with many other countries in the Asia Pacific, may well soon be confronted with an appalling choice between supporting the democratic rights and freedoms of Taiwan or acquiescing to a military takeover by a resurgent imperial China.
This will be yet another ‘wicked’ problem for the world, in which nations must decide on what is the least worst solution.
If that moment comes then Australia will once again have to decide if its national interests align with those of its various partners, including the USA. Once again, as has usually been the case since the end of World War 2, all eyes will turn to the USA for leadership, including Australia’s.
There is no escaping the reality that the USA, for good or for ill, still exerts leadership of the so-called democratic world and critics of the USA would do well to remember that when casting aspersion upon Australia’s leaders for supposedly failing to correctly assert our national interests.
Posted by: Chris Overland | 06 December 2022 at 06:38 PM
SILENCING THE LAMBS - HOW PROPAGANDA WORKS
The United States dominates the Western world's media. All but one of the top ten media companies are based in North America. The internet and social media - Google, Twitter, Facebook - are mostly American owned and controlled.
The United States has overthrown or attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, mostly democracies.
It has interfered in democratic elections in 30 countries.
It has dropped bombs on the people of 30 countries, most of them poor and defenceless.
It has attempted to murder the leaders of 50 countries. It has fought to suppress liberation movements in 20 countries.
The extent and scale of this carnage is largely unreported, unrecognised and those responsible continue to dominate Anglo-American political life.
Before he died in 2008 the playwright Harold Pinter defined American foreign policy as 'Kiss my arse or I'll kick your head in'.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 06 December 2022 at 04:54 PM
Phil, in answer to your question, "is the USA really a friend?" we are reminded of what John Foster Dulles (former US Secretary of State) said.
"The United States of America does not have friends; it has interests." So as long as the US is interested in stationing Marines and B52s here, I guess we are still safe.
Posted by: Chips Mackellar | 06 December 2022 at 12:53 PM
James Marape is talking sense:
And then there's this - Australia as a 'useful idiot' for the US:
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 06 December 2022 at 10:51 AM