Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is discovering the political cliché “change the government, change the country” might have bigger implications for Australia’s relationship with the United States than anticipated.
We might re-engineer the cliché to read “change the government, change its foreign policy”, and thus how America manages its relationships with friends and foes alike.
If it has not already dawned on Turnbull and his foreign policy advisers then it should have: a new American administration like no other in recent memory will require a rethink in how Australia calibrates its relations with Washington.
Not since the Gough Whitlam’s Labor government of 1972-75 has such a potentially awkward relationship existed between Australia and its principal ally, or to use another description, custodial power.
Whitlam parted company with his predecessors in his testy interactions with the Richard Nixon White House. Whitlam felt under no obligation to espouse a “pro-American” perspective on matters relating to the war in Indo-China in particular.
Many Australians found this refreshing.
While it was inevitable that a moment would arise when Australian and US interests would find themselves out of kilter, it has perhaps come more quickly than anticipated, driven by the arrival in the White House of a man untethered from principles that have guided American foreign policy for generations.
In Trump’s Inauguration speech there was one passage that should have given Turnbull and his advisers pause, even if these words might be dismissed as a rhetorical flourish:
We assembled here today are issuing anew decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land, from this day forward, it’s going to be only American first, America first.
Protection will lead to greater prosperity and strength.
The latter observation could hardly have been more antagonistic to the free trade principles and practice on which Australian prosperity rests, or for that matter be regarded as anything more than an affront to America’s own history.
In 1930, Congressmen, Senator Reed Smoot and Representative Willis C. Hawley sponsored legislation that raised punitive tariffs on some 900 imports, and in the process added poison to the well of slowing global trade, as The Economist put it.
Smoot and Hawley did not cause the Great Depression or add significantly to it, but the legislation represented a populist response to political anxiety.
Nearly a century later, an American president appears to hold the view that an “America first” approach – or a form of isolationism – will serve his own country’s economy well and those of its friends.
This view, even if you accept that the trade liberalisation pendulum has swung too far, is not sustainable if economic growth globally is to be nurtured.
Otherwise, disaster beckons, including a global entrenchment that will serve no-one’s interests, including America’s.
Trump’s stroke-of-a-pen end to America’s involvements in the liberalising Trade Pacific Partnership gave expression to his antagonism towards trade deals generally and spelled a pause in American leadership of a laborious process of opening markets and reducing trade barriers.
From the establishment of the General Agreement on Tariffs Trade, to the formation of the World Trade Organisation, to progress towards open markets under the Uruguay Round – alongside a plethora of bilateral trade deals – an era of liberalising trade has underpinned global prosperity.
So, the question becomes: how should the Turnbull government respond to these new circumstances in a way that serves Australia’s interests, and in an environment in which the world is in disarray? And it is likely to become more so if the early stages of an idiosyncratic Trump administration is any guide.
Policymakers need to think outside the narrow confines of what has been regarded as “America first” policy postures that have dictated Australia’s foreign policy choices, to consider what might be regarded as a less dependent relationship on our security guarantor.
None of this is an argument to weaken Australia’s commitment to the ANZUS alliance, nor our alignment with what we have always regarded as America’s better angels. But the time has come for a reassessment.
Trump’s ascendancy to power reminds us there is no such thing as permanent alliances, simply permanent interests.
Australia is not obliged to make a choice between its security in the form of its treaty arrangements with the US and its commercial interests, namely with China. But it does need to move to a position where it gives itself more flexibility in addressing its security and other challenges.
In other words, arguments for greater self-reliance – including defence preparedness – grow by the day.
How Turnbull achieves such a shift will prove a test of his diplomatic and leadership skills, and indeed his understanding of our country’s history. After relying on great and powerful friends for our security, we may be entering a new and distinct phase.
Whatever judgements might be made about the likely trajectory of a Trump administration, early days suggest that what he said on the campaign trail will guide his actions in office.
So when he talks about a form of isolationism summed up by the phrase “America First” he must be taken at his word, until demonstrated otherwise.
This poses obvious challenges for Australian policy. Do we gravitate towards the sort of world defined by Trump – with its risks of a return to a 1930’s isolationism or perhaps a form of 19th century mercantilism – or do we assert our own separation from such a worldview?
Are we seeing the end of “pax Americana”, in which the US proved to be the indispensable cornerstone of global security in the rebuilding of Europe, the containment of the Soviet Union, and a security presence in Asia post the Korean war that has enabled an extraordinary economic transformation in our own region to our advantage?
Turnbull needs to ask himself whether it is in Australia’s national interest for institutions like the United Nations, World Trade Organisation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to be weakened.
Is it in Australia’s interests for there to be a confrontation between the US and China on trade, or security in the South China Sea?
Or a return to a ground war in the Middle East that would demand a larger commitment from Australia with unknowable consequences?
Lessons might have been learned from an earlier disastrous intervention.
Finally, Turnbull should resist pressure from his the right wing of his party, salivating over the arrival of an authoritarian in the White House.
Turnbull was derided over his initial response to Trump’s decision to abandon the TPP, in which he said China may wish to fill the gap as if, reflexively, he needed to fall in line with Washington.
While the TPP may be dead, Turnbull and his ministers shouldn’t be blamed for trying to keep alive an idea that would have provided a basis for a liberalising trade and investment zone in the Asia-Pacific.
Contrary to the views of its critics, the TPP was always about more than simply a trade liberalisation mechanism. It was also aimed at providing a framework for further action in counterpoint to China’s growing dominance.
Finally, Turnbull might consider the example of former Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who politely declined when he came under pressure to join George W. Bush’s cavalry in the invasion of Iraq.
Chretien, as leader of a country that shelters under a US security umbrella and is a fellow NATO member, said “no”, or “non” in his native Quebecois.
Last time we checked the sky had not fallen in for Canada.
The current ‘marriage equality’ debate, is really a debate about a redefining of what marriage is. From a Christian perspective there is no debate as the Bible is clear on the issue and so for Christians there is no change no matter what may or may not happen around us. What happens in the world happens there and that is not something the church has a say over in real terms. Certainly God does have something to say about it and he has said it through the Scriptures to the world today. Whatever happens in that world outside of Christianity, the Christian definition of marriage will never change, regardless of the pressure that may or may not be brought to bear upon it and/or the church of Christ.
It would seem to me that the next logical step – the next progression for relationships in the civil marriage/relationship space, but not necessarily with those seeking same-sex civil marriage legality, would be the polyamory culture that appears to be growing out there in the world.
For more on ployamory see:
The link below is to an article that takes a look at China’s relationship with North Korea.
The link below is to an article that reports on the situation in Nigeria for Christians and their relationship with Islam.
The following video on YouTube is a program dealing with the Queen of Sheba. It is an interesting take on the queen, in which her relationship with King Solomon is also explored. However, I don’t think everyone will be taken with everything that is said in the program (I certainly wasn’t). Still, it is worth a look – especially the dig in Yemen.
Rumor of romance with Christian sends hundreds into destructive frenzy.
CAIRO, Egypt, November 29 (CDN) — Christians in a small village in southern Egypt are rebuilding their lives and homes after hundreds of Muslims rampaged through their community firebombing houses and businesses over rumors of a romantic relationship between a Christian and a Muslim.
At least 23 homes and numerous businesses, all Christian-owned, were damaged or destroyed in the village of Al-Nawahid in Qena Governorate, 454 kilometers (282 miles) south of Cairo. Five people were injured, two seriously.
The attack devastated the Christians of Al-Nawahid, said Badier Magdy Demetry, 22.
“It has affected us in every way, financially, physically, spiritually – everything,” Demetry said. “My brother saw the house after it was burnt down, and he fainted. He couldn’t believe what happened to the house. Everybody is living in sadness and desperation.”
The attack started on the evening of Nov. 15 when a throng of hundreds of Muslims poured onto the streets chanting “God is great!” while brandishing swords, knives, meat cleavers and shooting rifles in the air, according to Ra’fat Samir, a human rights activist in Luxor.
The mob moved to four streets in the village where some 40 homes owned by Christians are huddled together. The Christians fled as the crowd approached.
“People started to run away from their houses, from the top of their roofs to the house next door, so they could escape with their wives and children,” Demetry said. “Then they attacked us and set the houses on fire – more than 20 houses.”
Others were too afraid to leave their homes when they heard the gunfire, rights activist Samir said.
“When they knew there was an attack, they all started to hide,” he said.
Five people who couldn’t run quickly enough were injured, according to Samir. Two 87-year-old men suffered head injuries, and the rest had injuries to their arms and shoulders, he said.
The mob pelted the homes and businesses with rocks and then looted them. They then torched the buildings with Molotov cocktails and bombs made out of propane tanks. Numerous shops were destroyed along with a grocery store and a business that sold animals to butchers. Also destroyed were farms and two water pumps worth more than US$20,000 each. The pumps were vital for transporting water from the Nile to farms in the arid, agricultural-based community.
“They stole as much as they could, and whatever they couldn’t take, they burned,” Demetry said. “There was screaming all over the village. We were screaming and asking God to help us. We have never seen a night like that before.”
The rioters were responding to a rumor that a 20-year-old Coptic man, Hussam Naweil Attallah, was romantically involved with an 18-year-old Muslim woman, whose name has not been released. Attallah knew the woman because he and his family lived next door to her.
Someone had allegedly seen the two alone together near a cemetery. Attallah and the woman were detained and then handed over to police. After subjecting the young woman to a medical examination to confirm her virginity, authorities decided the two had not been intimate, and the woman was released. Egypt’s State Security Intelligence kept Attallah in its custody, presumably for his protection. He is still in custody.
It is unclear who started a rumor about an illicit relationship, but Samir said there is a feud going on in Al-Nawahid among three families for political control of the area, and two of the families are inciting violence, using Christians in the area as pawns to depose the current mayor.
Local police and area residents seemed to be aware unrest was coming before the riot happened, Samir said. Church officials canceled St. George’s Day services in anticipation of violence. Security forces had been posted near the Christian area of Al-Nawahid for a few days, but for unknown reasons they moved away shortly before the destruction started.
When the rampage began at 8 p.m., at the start of Eid al-Adha – the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice – local police were quickly outnumbered, and military police were called. At 10 p.m. the new security detail surrounded the area of the violent mob but did nothing to stop the attacks.
Security forces prevented firefighters deployed to the scene from entering the area where fires were burning, according to Samir. When fire-fighting teams eventually entered the area, Muslim groups had severed fire mains. The blazes raged for four hours.
Two rioters were detained, according to local media reports. The use of tear gas eventually broke up the mob.
After the rioting was over, Copts whose homes and property had been damaged were rounded up and taken to a police station. They declined to cooperate with the police, citing alleged irregularities in police reports and objections to how officers conducted the investigation into the fires.
Initially police claimed that the fires started suddenly and that area Muslims tried to help put them out. Samir said he thought the claim was dubious at best.
“The fires started at the same time in 23 houses?” he said.
Demetry was less diplomatic. “We saw them,” he said. “We saw them, one by one, doing it.”
According to Samir, police did not let the victims report the names of the people who attacked their homes or report damages. He also said police did not take any information about men who suffered physical injuries. The group of victims has obtained a lawyer to take both criminal and civil action against the attackers.
“As long as the police fail to make strong charges against these people, these problems will keep going for years,” Samir said. “Because they try to hide the truth.”
Meantime, victims like Demetry and his family are left to sift through the rubble and try to rebuild their lives. He said his brother is still trying to cope.
“His whole apartment was turned to ashes,” Demetry said. “Even the plaster [from the walls] was on the ground. They even tried to break the ceramic floor and take it.”
There are many similarities between this month’s attack and an attack that happened in November 2009 in the village of Kom al-Ahmar, also in Qena Governorate. For several days, mobs swept through the village burning Christian-owned houses and businesses after a rumor started that a Christian man, Girgis Baroumi Girgis, then 21, raped a Muslim girl, then 12. Samir said people often use rumors in Qena to incite violence against the Christian minority.
“When people want to make a problem, they make up a story that a Christian boy is in love with a Muslim girl or vice versa,” Samir said.
Numerous Coptic human rights activists and some journalists in Egypt have called the rape accusation into question. They cite the conflicting accounts from the alleged victim, physical evidence that seems to contradict an accusation of sexual assault and lack of witnesses to a crime that allegedly took place in broad daylight on a major thoroughfare of the village.
Girgis has been in jail without any serious attempt to bring him to trial – another sign, interested parties said, that the evidence against him is weak.
Things are now quiet in Al-Nawahid, but it is an uneasy peace.
“Everyone is still afraid. Even the people in the village next door are afraid,” Demetry said, “We can’t trust anyone.”
Report from Compass Direct News
Iran’s president claimed his country is a genuine cradle of liberty. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in New York for the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, reports MNN.
Ahmadinejad insisted that political opponents are free to demonstrate, refusing to acknowledge that opposition groups and Christians have been driven underground by a vicious government crackdown.
"When we discuss the subject of freedoms and liberty it has to be done on a comparative basis and to keep in mind that democracy, at the end of the day, means the rule of the majority, so the minority cannot rule," Ahmadinejad said.
President of Open Doors USA Carl Moeller says, "Any person that’s had any exposure to the realities of life in Iran would disagree with President Ahmadinejad."
Moeller says Ahmadinejad is the master of the big lie. "He’s a holocaust denier, for example. And it’s easy to deny something as long as you don’t have to [back it up with] evidence. In this case, it’s easy to say Iran is a free country because everybody who would dissent knows clearly that if they dissent, they would be sent to prison."
Iran is one of the most repressive places to be a Christian. It ranks second on Open Doors’ World Watch list of countries which persecute Christians. "We’ve talked, on this program, about those who have spent months in prison simply for converting to Christianity and suffered huge abuse because of it," says Moeller.
Despite this oppression, Moeller says many Iranians are turning to Christ. They’re responding to Christian radio and satellite television broadcasts. Some are reading about Christ on the Internet. Some young people are starting churches as a result.
Moeller says most Iranians are aware of it. "90 percent of Iranians are aware that Muslims are turning to faith in Jesus Christ and have first-hand knowledge of that. It’s an incredible statistic. And we see that the increase in persecution is a direct relationship with the growth of the church in Iran."
Report from the Christian Telegraph
In its news night program on Friday 10th September Iranian State television announced that nine people had been arrested on the charge of carrying out evangelism just outside Hamedan. The report was announced by one of the security authorities, reports FCNN.
In this report State television mentioned that two of these people were being supported by organizations that are based outside the country, in particular the United States and Great Britain, but they did not mention the nationalities of these people.
In this report it has been said that: ‘the other seven people who were arrested are Iranian and were cooperating with these Christian-Zionist organizations’. This report labels the arrested people as ‘Christian Zionists’ and ‘evangelicals’ but it did not say anything about their relationship with Israel or Zionists.
In the Iranian government culture ‘Christian-Zionists’ is a title that they use to call Evangelical Christians who are benefiting from having access to a number of networks and TV satellite programs for evangelism.
This State TV report has not been reflected in other media and it is only the Fars news agency, which is connected to the Revolutionary Guard, which has mentioned that people had gathered to thank the security agents of Imam Mahdi and the legal authorities. This news agency has also published the lecture by Chief Justice Hojat Al-Islam BeegLare on this matter.
During the last few months and years there have been several times when Christians in home groups and new converts have been arrested by security agents, but this appears to be the first time in three decades that the State TV has broadcast the news of the arrest of a group of Christians in its program for a particular purpose.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
In response to an openly gay woman being ordained a bishop in the Episcopal Church on Saturday, Anglican leaders from around the world decried the action as “gravely concerning and wrong,” with some adding that the move has “hurt and alienated” many within the Episcopal community, reports Catholic News Agency.
Fifty-five year-old Mary Glasspool, an openly parterned lesbian, was ordained a bishop at Long Beach arena on May 15. Some 3,000 people attended the ceremony which featured a procession with liturgical dancers in bright colored outfits, costumed dragons and drums, according to Virtue Online.
This recent move by the Episcopal church in the U.S. has caused tremendous controversy within the global Anglican church, prompting Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to issue a statement of caution when the announcement of Glasspool’s ordination was first made last year. He urged church leaders at the time to consider the “implications and consequences of this decision.” Archbishop Williams wrote in March that the Episcopal leaders’ later confirmation of Glasspool’s election as bishop-suffragen was “regrettable.”
Several world leaders within the Anglican community denounced Saturday’s ordination.
“The decision of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America to consecrate as a bishop a woman in a sexually active lesbian relationship is gravely concerning and wrong,” said Rev. Dr. H. William Godfrey, bishop of the the Anglican Church of Peru on May 15.
“It is impossible,” he added, “to know by what authority the Episcopal Church is taking this action. It is disobedient to the Word of God, to the teaching of the Church, and deeply hurtful and damaging to their Christian brothers and sisters.”
“It appears,” the bishop observed, “that their decision is being taken in accord with their instincts and feelings, and the ways of the liberal society in which they live, and that they have forgotten the moral values and teachings of the Holy Scriptures and their Church.”
A coalition of Evangelical Anglicans in Ireland issued a joint statement expressing support for those within the Episcopal community who feel “hurt and alienated” by Glasspool’s ordination.
“Many Christians of all traditions and denominations will share our sorrow and see Mary Glasspool’s consecration as a defiant rejection of pleas for restraint and, even more importantly, as a rejection of the pattern of holiness of life called for in Scripture and endorsed by believers over the centuries,” they wrote on Sunday.
Rev. Robinson Cavalcanti, Bishop of the Diocese of Recife in Brazil, said in a statement on May 15 that the ordination was “lamentable” and that it has caused “a de facto rupture” within the Anglican community.
The bishop of the Diocese of Caledonia, Rev. William Anderson, added that he “can only hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury will finally accept that bishops and national churches who choose to willfully ignore the teaching of the Anglican Communion and Holy Scripture, ought to suffer the natural consequence of choosing to go their own way – which is to say, that they ought to be considered to have left the Anglican Communion.”
Report from the Christian Telegraph