Strategic capitalism, geoeconomics and Australia’s choices

As market-based economic globalisation gives way to a system of state relations based largely on strategic capitalism, the Australian government seems to be using an outdated operating system. The demise of the multi-lateral, rules-based and open world will pose problems that demand imagination, innovation and deft and agile policy and diplomacy. In this environment Australia has a difficult course to chart.

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The metrics of strategic competition with China don’t add up

The recent Belfer Center report by RAAF Group Captain Jason Begley, Winning Strategic Competition in the Indo-Pacific, offers important insights into the strategic thinking of the Australian military. The author’s analysis of the strategic competition with China in which the US and Australia have engaged far surpasses the level of the policy arguments offered in the Australian government’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update.

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For moral certainty, war is the solvent

The brutal reality of war never features in political discussions of strategic and defence policy. How many non-combatants in foreign countries is it moral to kill, displace, or impoverish in order protect or preserve some objective, principle or values? In ministerial offices and cosy think tank suites, distant from the ruined cities, refugee camps, and destroyed lives, decision makers and advisers should think on these things.

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The open secret of US war plans: what does Australia know?

The influence of the US in Eurasia will continue to falter, and as its economic, diplomatic, and moral potency dwindles, America’s military will become its primary asset. In America’s strategic logic, loss of leadership demands a military response – and the nature of the military preparations for war on a recognised emerging Asia hegemon are now well known. While the trajectory to war is not irreversible, and the step to launching a war is huge, the consequences would be calamitous. Is Australia complicit in the preparations?

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Australia hopes Asia-Pacific trade deal will improve ties with China

Australia hopes the trade deal about to be signed by 15 Asia-Pacific economies will help improve Australia’s strained relations with China. Australia’s Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said that the trade pact offers a platform that can lead to a positive change in relations. “The ball is very much in China’s court to come to the table for that dialogue,” he is reported to have said.

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ASPI’s guide to submarines leaves the biggest strategic questions unanswered

ASPI’s Special Report; submarines, your questions answered aims to “become the go-to guide for authoritative comment on all things to do with the present and future of Australian submarines”. However, rather than clarify the issues around submarine warfare and the Attack class, it raises more questions than it answers. That’s not to deny that there are important contributions in the report from Andrew Davies, Marcus Hellyer, Malcolm Davis, and others.

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Exaggerated threats and contrived military strategies shouldn’t drive Defence spending: a response to Jon Stanford

In a series of three articles, Jon Stanford has argued that Australia needs “a sound military strategy to deter an attack by a great power and careful analysis of how to design the right force structure to deliver it”. An external, more ‘neutral’ review of Australia’s military strategy is proposed. But it is not clear that Australia needs a new military strategy – let alone one that would require a 50 % increase in the Defence budget.

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The strategic aspect of human rights in a multipolar world: a tool of hegemony

The UDHR is being challenged by the rise of competing understandings of human rights, and very different interpretations of the relationship between the state and the governed. The US response has been an attempt to redefine ‘unalienable rights’ in a dangerous formulation that is aimed at restating the primacy of the US world view, and adding to the US’s reasons to confront, and perhaps fight, China and Russia.

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The bathtub is nearly full: Australia’s extraordinary energy plan

The urgent need to reduce carbon emissions can be usefully compared to filling a bathtub without a drain. Until the emissions tap is turned off completely, the bath keeps filling. And even when the tap is turned off, the bath is still filled to an undesirably high level. If the tap is never turned off, or turned off too late, in time the bath overflows disastrously. The Australian government’s extraordinary new fossil-fuel centred energy plan ensures the emissions tap will continue to flow.

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Scientists and capitalists agree on climate. When will governments act?

A new set of reports highlight the failure of governments to deal with the coming climate disaster. The unsurprising news is that current emissions of both CO2 and CH4 are not on track to limit global warming to the levels which were the goal of the Paris Agreement. None of this is a revelation to anyone following climate issues. However, what continues to amaze is the apparent repeated inability of this alarming information to have an impact on policy makers.

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Strategic mirror: Pentagon’s China report reveals converging power and strategy

The Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on military and security developments in China describes an already formidable military capability, and China’s intention that its military strength will achieve parity with the US by 2049. Ironically, the report unintentionally reveals that China’s major strategic objectives mirror those of the US, past and present. Additionally, the report provides evidence that Australia’s increasing investment in Defence is no substitute for diplomacy.

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Out of shape: Australia’s lack of strategic influence

It seems clear from recent surveys that the Australian government is overestimating its influence in ‘the immediate region’ and underestimating the capacity of the ASEAN states, in particular, to recognise their own strategic interests. The strategic objectives set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update rest on the assumptions that Australia will be able to ‘shape’ strategic perceptions in the region, and that this can best be done while acting in close association with the US. Are the foundations of Australia’s strategic logic sound?

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A bigger canvas: Russia, China and Australia’s strategic policy

The proximity and size of China, and the belligerence of the US toward China, has occluded the view of Russia among Australia strategic planners. While Russia poses no credible direct threat to Australia, it could be a key player in a conflict between the US and China. Once Russia is factored into the analysis of the situation in East Asia, the global consequences of a war are magnified and the recklessness of contemplating participating in such a conflict becomes even clearer.

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Why is ‘values’ the new buzzword in Australian foreign policy? (Benjamin Reilly)

In international affairs, words are bullets, according to an old diplomatic saying. If so, Australia in recent years has begun firing new ammunition. ‘Values’, a word seldom used in the past, has now assumed a central place in our foreign policy rhetoric. Speeches, press conferences and policy statements vibrate with the V-word. If values are now the coin of our foreign policy realm, we will have to start walking the talk.

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