Foreign Policy White Paper finally acknowledges world power is shifting



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China’s rise in power has changed Australia’s foreign policy outlook.
Reuters/pool

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper released today cannot be accused of understatement.

Navigating the decade ahead will be hard, because as China’s power grows, our region is changing in ways without precedent in Australia’s modern history.

That’s the point. What we are witnessing is “without precedent” in Australian post-second world war history, during the various tremors that have unsettled the region from Korea to Vietnam and beyond.

Despite all of that, there has been nothing in our experience like China’s rise in all its dimensions.

The changing of the guard?

The much-used word “disruption” hardly does justice to the impact a modern China is having on age-old assumptions about a regional power balance in which US military superiority would prevail, come what may.

Starting with the above declaration, the white paper – a year in the making and more than a decade since the last such effort – does a reasonable job in laying out Australia’s choices in a new and challenging environment.

In this regard, we are spared an impression that policymakers are seeking to cling to the old order in which the US was paramount and suggestions to the contrary smacked of agnosticism about American power and influence – even an incipient anti-Americanism.

Those days – described in a 2003 white paper that underestimated the velocity of China’s rise and sought to adhere to age-old certainties about US paramountcy – are over.

Here’s the 2017 white paper on the end of the age of certainty for Australian foreign policy:

Powerful drivers are converging in a way that is reshaping the international order and challenging Australia’s interests. The United States has been the dominant power in our region throughout Australia’s post-World War II history. Today, China is challenging America’s position.

There is nothing profound in the above observation. It’s simply a statement of fact.

What is clear is that policymakers in Canberra are hedging their bets. They cannot be sure the US will remain invested in a wider security role in the Indo-Pacific, and one that will be long-lasting.

This prompts observations like the following:

The government recognises there is great debate and uncertainty in the United States about the costs and benefits of its leadership of the international system.

US alliance remains strong

However, for the foreseeable future the US will remain the “bedrock” of Australia’s security.

Interestingly, Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Penny Wong, addressed alliance issues on the eve of the white paper’s release.

In an important speech, at a moment when Labor itself is debating how to frame its adherence to the alliance, Wong was at pains to encourage a sense of realism about what America might – or might not – be prepared to do in the event that Australia’s security was challenged.

She spoke at length about mutual obligations under the ANZUS Treaty that are misinterpreted as a blanket requirement for the US to come to Australia’s assistance in extremis. Put simply, what is required under Articles III and IV of the ANZUS Treaty is a commitment to consult.

In the final analysis, the 2017 white paper cannot be read separately from the 2016 Defence White Paper. This laid down a reinvigorated commitment to Australia’s ability to assert power in the Indo-Pacific via a significant investment in its maritime capabilities.

Leaving aside whether you agree with spending upwards of A$50 billion on 12 new French-sourced submarines rather than less expensive alternatives that could have been bought off the shelf, the defence paper foreshadowed an Australian foreign policy that recognised a more challenging environment, and thus the need for a more robust approach.

In this regard, the foreign policy paper speaks of “shifting power balances” in an era of “greater rivalry”, and calls on the US to remain “strongly engaged in the economic and security affairs of the region to help shape its institutions and norms”.

The paper also acknowledges challenges inherent in Australia’s policy of maintaining a balance between its alliance relationship and its management of relations with China if both the US and China cannot be persuaded their own interests would be served by preserving regional harmony. The paper adds that “this is not assured”.

In the decades ahead we expect further contestation over ideas and influence, directly affecting Australia. It is imperative that Australia prepare for the long term.“

Our place in the region

The white paper’s emphasis on the need to bolster regional friendships and alliances is a clear reference to moves by the Turnbull government to resuscitate a quadrilateral security dialogue with the US, Japan and India. The Rudd government shelved this on the grounds that it would appear to be a grouping whose aim was to contain China.

In its latest incarnation, the “Quad”, as it is known, clearly has a hedging purpose. But whether it develops past an agreement to consult and perhaps conduct joint military-to-military exchanges will depend on circumstance.

In other words, China’s regional assertiveness will dictate the extent to which Australia and its like-minded partners collaborate in seeking to balance China’s inexorable rise.

The Quad’s critics regard it as an unhelpful diversion, unnecessarily antagonistic to China. Its supporters see it as a prudent step to bring together functioning democracies intent on preserving regional security.

What would seem to be more productive would be a consensus involving the US, China, Russia, the ASEAN countries, Australia and New Zealand in an East Asia Summit agreement on regional security arrangements, much like the Helsinki Accords.

An encouraging aspect of the unclassified version of the white paper (a classified version will use starker language) is that within the constraints of bureaucratic language it provides a fairly direct challenge to China to live up to its commitment to a rules-based order.

So it encourages China to “exercise its power in a way that enhances stability, reinforces international law and respects the interests of smaller countries”.

This implies that China’s recent behaviour does not meet this standard.

Finally, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Australia’s policymakers have more or less come to the view – reluctantly – that US leadership in Asia is on a downward trajectory, and there is little point in pretending otherwise. The question is how fast, and to what extent will China continue to assert itself.

In his introduction, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sets the tone for the next phase of Australian policy in a way that recognises these realities. “Australia,” he writes, “must be sovereign not reliant.”

The ConversationIf that’s not an acknowledgement of a disrupted security environment in which power relationships are shifting, I’m not sure what is. The 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper makes progress in coming to terms with that reality.

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper offers more wishful thinking than concrete ideas


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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launch the long-awaited foreign policy white paper.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Susan Harris Rimmer, Griffith University

A white paper has many purposes and audiences. There are, for example, the other government departments, ministers, opposition, internal staff that have to breach the silos and understand the Grand Vision.

The 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper will be snatched up by the diplomatic community in Canberra, analysed to a hair’s breadth and cabled around the world. This white paper, after a long pause and significant uncertainty created by the presidency of Donald Trump, attracted strong domestic interest outside the usual “business and boffins” types that follow the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio.

These disparate audiences usually mean careful phrasing. This white paper is a little different: it is certainly filled with the usual “risk…but opportunity” stock phrases, but at moments is also unusually blunt in tone and stark in its delineation of options. For example:

The Government is publishing this White Paper to chart a clear course for Australia at a time of rapid change.

It goes on to name a most significant change:

The United States has been the dominant power in our region throughout Australia’s post-Second World War history. Today, China is challenging America’s position.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addresses the Trump in the room in his foreword:

More than ever, Australia must be sovereign, not reliant. We must take responsibility for our own security and prosperity while recognising we are stronger when sharing the burden of leadership with trusted partners and friends.

But whom should we trust?

The question of what we should do is relatively clear, and uncontroversial:

  • promote an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo–Pacific region in which the rights of all states are respected;
  • deliver more opportunities for our businesses globally and stand against protectionism;
  • ensure Australians remain safe, secure and free in the face of threats such as terrorism;
  • promote and protect the international rules that support stability and prosperity and enable cooperation to tackle global challenges; and
  • step up support for a more resilient Pacific and Timor–Leste.

The question is how we should do it. The guidance in the white paper sounds remarkably like that Australia should just keep being its awesome self – strong economy, strong borders, strong institutions (like parliament?) – and everything will turn out fine. That sounds more like wishful thinking than a foreign policy plan. Trying not to be the grass that gets trampled when elephants fight is not a plan.

The closest the white paper gets to a plan is to double-down on the US relationship, and trust that the Trump administration is a blip. Turnbull has just spent an extended period in Asia with Trump, attending the Asian Summit Season. Can he really be as confident as this document sounds?

Still, the white paper has to land somewhere, and that the US will wake up to itself soon is a defensible place to land. Acknowledging “friction” between our stronger engagement with China and our “different interests, values and political and legal systems” might be the best we can do at present.

Chapter two is probably of the most interest to the reading public – it is an excellent synthesis of all the complexity DFAT faces daily, although the climate chapter must be the rosiest version of facts possible. There is surely a top contender for understatement of the decade in the section headed “An Environment Under Strain”:

The coming decade will likely see an increased need for international disaster relief.

Generally speaking, the climate section is underwhelming. Other nations and international organisations, such as the EU Global Strategy, have underlined the strategic risk climate poses to the conduct of foreign policy in a clear-sighted and comprehensive manner.

What is also missing is the will to invest in diplomacy. What will Australia do if US global leadership conflicts with our desire for China to take a stronger role in regional security, which it must, given time?

A white paper ignites a domestic conversation about foreign policy, and this one is certainly substantive and to be welcomed. But there is little point in a Foreign Policy White Paper if it largely apes the Defence White Paper and the viewpoint of the intelligence community – as this one does. It should align, certainly, but it should also add value, the perspective gained from experienced statecraft about non-traditional security threats and relationship-building. When it comes to diplomacy, the government has to “live within its means” (bah), but defence is be described as “strong” or “substantial” no less than nine times.

What if geographic proximity to a rising Asia is not enough to ensure our own rise? What if increased defence spending doesn’t placate the US, and chokes off more creative options to integrate into the region?

There is more depth in the trade section of the paper, perhaps reflecting the increasing dominance of the trade agenda over the other parts of DFAT. The economic vision of the paper is clear – we will maintain an open economy and manage the winners and losers from this policy. “Strength through openness” is a strong narrative:

The Government will continue to work hard to ensure community support for our openness to trade, investment and skilled migration._

As a voter wading through a Queensland election at present, I can attest that the federal government has a serious job getting that narrative through to ordinary Australians. Moreover, the hard sell on trade continues with little acknowledgement that Australians outside the business community might have valid concerns about human rights or gender equality issues arising out of trade negotiations.

Other notable features

The promising governance innovation of MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, Korea and Australia) is missing from the document, and seems to have been restructured out of existence. Mexico and Turkey are not mentioned at all. The focus on Indo-Pacific is clear. This is understandable, and the ALP’s “FutureAsia” policy means this is now a welcome bipartisan focus. But Bishop’s investments in innovative pivotal power diplomacy should not be abandoned.

The “cumbersome” United Nations is treated with a level of ambiguity and grudging acceptance. Australia will run for another Security Council term in 2029. Nonetheless, there is a encouraging focus on supporting international law and the rule of law.

In a breakthrough from the previous white paper in 2003, there is a section on gender equality. It is expressed as a development issue rather than a strategic foreign policy issue, and comes at the end of a 100-page plus document. But it is still a step forward. And before the poor old Great Barrier Reef and Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Pacific, all of which surely deserve deeper treatment than is offered here. But at least our neighbours score a chapter to themselves and a spot as the fifth priority.

It is worth looking at the section on “soft power” at the very end of the document, an important addition. It covers science diplomacy, sports and creative diplomacy, international education, digital engagement and people-to-people links, as well as the New Colombo Plan.

The ConversationIt may feel like an afterthought, but much of Australia’s way through the maze presented in the white paper may in fact stem from better investment in these areas of statecraft and a stronger nation brand in pursuit of our five new priorities.

Susan Harris Rimmer, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Griffith Law School, Griffith University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

USA Foreign Policy Failure in Afghanistan and Iraq?


Article: Massacre of Christians Around the World a Result of US Policy?


The following link is to an article that suggests that massacres of Christians around the world are a result of US policy? What do you think? Certainly there are some attacks that are linked to what the US has done in some countries, such as attacks because of US troop action in Afghanistan burning Korans, etc.

For more, visit:
http://thenewamerican.com/world-mainmenu-26/asia-mainmenu-33/11443-christian-massacres-a-result-of-us-foreign-policy