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ANZUS and Dangerous Allies

Jared McKinney reviewsDangerous Allies, a new book by Malcolm Fraser, the former Australian prime minister. Fraser criticizes the alliance between the U.S. and Australia:

The 1951 ANZUS Treaty formalized Australia’s reliance on the U.S. The agreement did not establish an Asian NATO in which an attack on one was an attack on all; indeed, the treaty does not require U.S. defense of Australia, only “consultation” in case of an attack. But, according to Fraser, this fact is easily elided in Australian public discourse. The consequences are pernicious: just as Australia’s blind faith in the U.K. before WWII left the country unprepared for war, today, dependence on the United States may make Australia more vulnerable. In effect, Fraser is admitting the charge long leveled by American military leaders at U.S. allies: they free ride, or “cheap ride” as MIT Professor Barry Posen calls it in his new book. Why would you invest in your own military when you can have someone else pay the bills and assume the risk?

Australia is notable for being an ally that has participated in almost every U.S. foreign war since WWII, which is all the more remarkable when one remembers that these conflicts have had little or nothing to do with Australia’s security. Interestingly, Fraser reportedly expresses regrets over his role in Australia’s involvement in Vietnam, and likewise sees Australia’s participation in more recent U.S. wars as a mistake. It is understandable that some Australians would start to question the value of an alliance in which they join American wars of choice in places where Australia has nothing at stake. The surprising thing is that there aren’t more of them. As McKinney notes, the U.S. commitment to Australia is weaker than its commitment to other treaty allies, but in spite of that Australia has been a far more reliable supporter of U.S. interventions than many of the allies that the U.S. is obliged to defend. At the same time, it allows itself to remain dependent on the U.S. when it could be doing more to provide for its own security. It seems unlikely that there will be any change in the U.S.-Australian alliance in the foreseeable future, but Fraser’s book should remind Americans of the problems that come from making allies too dependent on the U.S. and then dragging them into unnecessary wars.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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