June 13, 2005


OUR ALLY DOWN UNDER: The strongest Anglosphere link. (Michael Rubin, June 7, 2005, National Review)

Bush's rhetoric may repulse many British elites, but it is a sincere reflection of belief: Without exception, terrorists and their supporters are evil. This might be a scary notion in sheltered London, but not so in New York and Washington or, after the bombing of a Bali discotheque, Australia.

Howard was in Washington when terrorists attacked the Pentagon. The Bali bombing a year later cemented meetings of the mind. It was no coincidence that Howard echoed Bush verbiage when he declared, "For the rest of Australian history, 12 October 2002 will be counted as a day on which evil struck."

The common experience has permeated down through the bureaucracy. When British officials visit their American counterparts, the atmosphere is professional and guarded. U.S. policymakers fear the inevitable leaks to British broadsheets. But when Australians visit Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon, staffers let down their guard. The ease of interaction between Americans and their Australian counterparts is also one of culture: Both countries have an immigrant culture; both eschew the class distinctions that so many Eton and Oxford-educated British officials embrace. While Britain perfects nanny-state political correctness and closed-circuit televisions on every street corner, Australians and Americans emphasize small government and liberty. Personal relationships have thrived. Outside the notice of the European elite, senior Australian and American officials annually meet to debate, discuss, and coordinate policy in the Australian-American Leader Dialogue.

London may feel that Washington does not appreciate its sacrifice. Labour lost several dozen seats because of Blair's embrace of Bush. Howard committed far fewer troops to Iraq, but he has put Australians in harms way. There have been at least four attacks on the Australian embassy in Baghdad.

Regardless, while Iraq may loom large for British policymakers, for their American counterparts it has never been the sum of relations. Too many other disputes interfere. While Iran is part of the "Axis of Evil" for Bush and an "outpost of tyranny" for Condoleezza Rice, it has become destination of choice for Jack Straw and Prince Charles. While British intellectuals ostracize Israel, both Americans and Australians support the Jewish state's intolerance for terror.

The Anglo-American gap has grown wider over Asia. British officials see commercial opportunity in China's rise; many support lifting the European Union arms embargo. American and Australian planners, meanwhile, worry increasingly that they will face a People's Liberation Army equipped with European weaponry. Such anxieties predate Bush. Howard supported former President Bill Clinton's decision to dispatch a carrier group to the Taiwan Strait in 1996 in response to Chinese provocations. Nor is China the only regional threat. A nuclear North Korea might be an abstract problem in Whitehall, but for both Australia and the United States its threat is direct.

European security is the result of a half-century of Anglo-American partnership. But ironically, its success is now driving the alliance apart. Ten Downing Street and the White House may trumpet partnership, but both countries have different agendas and goals. The Anglo-American partnership is alive and well — but America's closest ally? She's down under.

The reality is that the North Atlantic just doesn't matter much anymore, but the Pacific and Indian Oceans do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 13, 2005 10:17 AM
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