Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne

Australia’s foreign policy: Resurgent realism or the survival of multilateralism?

By Mike Scrafton | Conceptual confusion in thinking about foreign policy is evident as the post World War II era’s structured international arrangements of durable institutions and agreed norms, – designed to facilitate peaceful dispute resolution and cooperation on security, economic and social matters between nations – is challenged by the United States and others.

The indeterminacy over whether a gradual transition from the rules-based order to a degree of anarchy is taking place is generating a certain dissonance in the speechmaking of leading Australian political figures.

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Race is not real: It’s time to stop acting as though it is

By Mike Scrafton | For something that doesn’t exist, race exerts a pernicious and persistent influence on society. Placing people into a racial category, based on observable external features, and then attributing to it holistic ‘cultures’ that determine behaviours or moral character, is not supported by evidence.

But even those who are prepared to go to the barricades to oppose racism perpetuate the notion that race is real. This makes the management of entrenched racism inordinately difficult – but belief in race can be undermined – this is what needs to happen.

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The Australia-India Strategic Partnership: ‘Shared values’ mask the real strategic purpose

By Mike Scrafton | The much-used phrase ‘shared values’ is regularly used as the basis for international relationships and alliances. It can be used to selectively point to values found in political, social or economic ideologies, or in religious or ethical systems – and to divert attention away from substantive issues or conjure up imaginary communities of interest. In the context of the Australia-India Strategic Partnership, does the use of the phrase mask the real strategic purpose of the agreement?

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The Deep State conspiracy theory: Is Trump laying the groundwork for The Great Presidential Robbery?

By MIke Scrafton | Should US presidential hopeful Joe Biden prevail in November, the grounds will have been laid for Donald Trump to cry foul – with the potential for a crisis of political legitimacy. Australian policymakers, struggling with balancing the economic relationship with China and the security relationship with the US, should be following domestic trends in America with nervous apprehension.

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Historical amnesia: Great power behaviour and criticism of China

By Mike Scrafton | Positioning the adversarial relationship with China as one of morally superior western democratic nations in competition with a somehow illegitimate and malevolent China is an exercise in historical amnesia. The democratic United State’s 1890 – 1920 trajectory from western hemisphere state to global power has some economic, military and foreign policy parallels with authoritarian China’s growth in the twenty-first century.

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Rising powers: grand strategies, balance of power and Australia

By Mike Scrafton | Grand strategies are the territory of great powers, while other states see their strategic independence incorporated into another state’s grand strategy. The comfort that Australia embraced while enclosed in an American grand strategy can’t last, and hard choices lie ahead. In the shifting power balance, Australia will need to recover its autonomy.

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The dogs of war cry wolf: the post-pandemic China threat

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Peter Jennings and Michael Shoebridge have recently written of a potential military crisis in North Asia, possibly as soon as late 2020 or early 2021.

Amongst other extraordinary measures, Shoebridge calls for the ANZUS Treaty to be invoked, while Jennings calls for the Australian Defence Force to be placed on the highest levels of readiness and for Australian defence expendture to be boosted to around 3.2% of GDP.

Are their conclusions supported by the evidence they proffer?

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A tale of two Americas: Australia’s foreign policy choices post-pandemic

Writing in ‘The Strategist’ (Australian Strategic Policy Institute), Michael Shoebridge rightly points out that how the US rebounds from the COVID-19 crisis will be important for international relations and Australia’s foreign policy.

But his arguments posit an excessively flattering picture of the US and an incomplete view of its history.

It is crucial that Australian foreign and strategic policy-makers have a realistic and unvarnished understanding of how the US might approach the post-pandemic world. For better or worse Australia is tightly bound with the US economically and strategically.

Following the US lead may prove to be the right course. However, good, clear-eyed policy in the post-COVID environment cannot be based uncritically on an illusion.

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Geostrategic shifts in a time of contagion

The COVID-19 crisis will affect the global geostrategic situation in a number of ways: some obvious and some still obscure.

Post COVID-19 economic conditions within nation states and across the globalised world will have shifted; governments will be juggling with the options of austerity policies, tax increases and welfare demands. Liberal and democratic values are likely to have suffered, along with confidence in democratic political leadership. And internationally, competition between political and economic systems might just be heating up.

The future geostrategic situation could turn on whether China or the US bounces back best from the current predicament. The coronavirus could prove to be a test of the resilience and viability of the political and economic systems of the two key states, and reposition their strategic competition.

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Herd immunity or herd culling? Shades of Bentham, Spencer and Galton stalk government COVID-19 responses

Seeping faintly through the pronouncements and policies of some government responses to the coronavirus pandemic are the vapours of older belief systems; a whiff of utilitarianism, the scent of social Darwinism, and the fetid reek of eugenics.

Closer examination of the UK government’s ‘herd immunity’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that it’s not too farfetched to connect contemporary politics with these ostensibly outdated ideas.

The capacity of governments to respond appropriately to crises has never been more important. How will they respond to greater crises? Where will they find their moral moorings?

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US Presidential Election 2020: who would Kim Jong-un vote for?

The nuclear threat to North Asia, and possibly the US homeland, will remain one of the most intractable problems for the US president.

It is highly unlikely that in a second term Trump would step back from his maximum pressure sanctions strategy, and there is little evidence that this approach is anything other than counterproductive.

There are some indications that a Democrat victory in the presidential election could lead to a change in direction for US policy, which might offer greater opportunities for a pragmatic diplomatic solution.

For North Asian security, the best hope for a partial denuclearisation and a lessening of the security threat probably lies in Trump’s defeat.

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Institut Montaigne: Space – will Europe awaken?

Institut Montaigne continues its study of risks and opportunities for Europe in relation to space affairs. This February 2020 policy paper takes stock of recent trends and issues in the space sector. It analyses Europe’s current position in New Space, highlighting the potential and limits of the space policy pursued by the European Union in recent years and makes five public policy proposals aimed at making Europe a real space power.

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Friends of Europe: Transatlantic defence cooperation in the Trump era

An element of strategic divergence means the US and Europe are currently “not quite watching the same movie on the two sides of the Atlantic”, but there is hope that transatlantic defence industrial cooperation can function better if trade-offs are accepted and we have a shared view of the value of working together as allies says the author of Friends of Europe’s latest report on peace, security and defence.

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