‘…our true brotherhood must be a matter of feeling and not merely a matter of thought; no vain glory, no arrogant sense of power, no jingoism, but an unquenchable sense of common destiny and common duty and common instinct…a spirit, a proud memory, a confident prayer, courage for the future…’Sir Robert Menzies
The recent announcement of the AUKUS pact between Australia, The United Kingdom and the United States is, quite simply, the most important post-war development in Australian foreign policy history. It will define the coming decades both here in Australia and abroad, as well as signifying the completion of a reset of US, and a reestablishment of British, foreign policy.
“The future of our nations, and indeed the world, depends upon a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead. This is about investing in our greatest source of strength, our alliances, and updating them, to better meet the threats of today and tomorrow.”President Joe Biden
For the United States, this marks a significant movement in its global strategic pivot toward the Indo-Pacific. Farcical trade wars and open-ended conflicts across Western Asia are being replaced with alliance build-up and military development. The Indo-Pacific is being given every indication of a far more resolute and decided United States, gearing up to prevent the notion of American decline and Chinese ascent from becoming reality.
“Only a handful of countries possess nuclear powered submarines, and it is a momentous decision for any nation to acquire these formidable capabilities, and perhaps equally momentous for any other state to come to its aid. But Australia is one of our oldest friends, a kindred nation, and a fellow democracy, and a natural partner in this enterprise.”Prime Minister Boris Johnson
For the United Kingdom, this agreement marks a culmination of what post-Brexit Britain is supposed to be: global, committed and bold. Britain abdicated its role East of Suez in the 1950s and 60s only to replace it with a listless lack of self-belief. It is excellent to see that the United Kingdom – still one of the great economic and military powers of the world – has decided to truly reassume the mantle of a global role. The greatest enemy of British foreign policy in the last few decades has been a lack of will, a cowardly mumbling and grumbling from an intelligentsia who base their existence upon talking Britain down. This agreement is a slap in the face of the deranged pommy-bashers and Britain-doubters. An active Britain is a welcome development for the Indo-Pacific, and reassurance for those who favour the cause of liberal democracy.
“Our world was becoming more complex, especially here in our region, the Indo-Pacific. This affects us all. The future of the Indo-Pacific will impact all our futures. To meet these challenges, to help deliver the security and stability our region needs, we must now take our partnership to a new level. A partnership that seeks to engage, not to exclude, to contribute, not take, and to enable and empower, not to control or coerce.”Prime Minister Scott Morrison
The implications for Australia are tremendous. This marks the most significant shift for our nation in some seven decades, reaffirming the prime importance in Australian security affairs of both our oldest and our strongest allies. Australia is taking steps toward the front-rank of global powers (and perhaps pre-eminence amongst the democratic powers of our region), becoming only the seventh country in the world to attain a nuclear-powered submarine fleet, with the promise of more to come. This agreement affirms even greater levels of trust and reliance between Australia and the United States: America has only once before shared the secrets of nuclear submarine capability, and that was to Britain itself in the 1950s. Australia will serve as the linchpin of Anglo-American power projection in the most important geo-strategic region on earth, becoming the leading partner of the United States in the Indo-Pacific and shouldering much of the burden for regional defence and stabilisation.
Domestic implications will be considerable. A success for the Morrison government, it will create great problems for the political left. Labor have endorsed the move, but serious questions remain. Labor’s traditional antipathy to any strengthening of links with Britain, and Labor Left’s traditional unease with the American alliance, married with the party’s strident opposition to domestic nuclear development and the truly pathetic nihilism surrounding the supposed inevitability of Chinese dominance, remain. As seen in the rhetoric of Kevin Rudd (who wouldn’t know a solution to foreign policy problems that didn’t involve slavish gratification of China if it slapped him in the face) and Paul Keating (who hasn’t had an accurate take on Australian socio-cultural history and foreign policy in his career), significant problems will dog Labor. As for the Greens and the wider left, little needs to be said. The truly unhinged and uninformed opposition to anything involving the word nuclear, combined with a pathetic and disgusting hatred of Australia’s historic links with the United Kingdom and the United States, will persist and serve to remind the sensible among us of the total inability of the Australian Greens to run so much as a public dunny. The cultural intelligentsia, a bizarre mafia opposed to anything that might bring us closer to (what is in their eyes) evil Imperial Britain, along with the general lefty luvvies, dupes and dope-smoking hippies who get a twitch every time the United States is mentioned, will no doubt come out kicking and screaming in their vehement opposition. Match that with the total embarrassment of the French, spitting the dummy and withdrawing their ambassadors to Australia and the United States, demonstrating for all to see the eternally-present, prideful chauvinism of French foreign policy. The best interests of the Western Alliance come secondary to the best interests of France, as, unfortunately, they consistently have in the post-War years. Que also the delusional kumbaya attitude of segments of the media, who can’t go a day without decrying anything that strengthens the Western Alliance as a matter of principle. Let’s be frank: who cares. The opinions of those without vision are hardly worth the cheap paper they’re often printed on.
This deal marks a new era for Australia, rejecting the slavish defeatism of those who believe we must appease China, and countering the claim that Australia must abandon its links with tradition, history and common-sense. Australia looks towards the two countries that it has always looked to: the United Kingdom and the United States. This is not mere nostalgia, some yearning for the American Aegis of the Cold War or a return to the shield of the British Empire. This is a vibrant, sensible and coherent agreement, built upon trust and kinship, an agreement upon which Australian security and stability will stand throughout the remainder of this century.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Alexander Back is the Vice President of the Sydney University Conservative Club