A country’s foreign policy may be described as its set of goals on how it relates and intends to relate with other countries. Among other things, a foreign policy is primly designed to guard a country’s interests. This may include measures aimed at enlarging its economy, ensuring security for its citizens among other things. When flipped on both sides, most or all foreign policy papers will reveal some elements of selfishness. Australia is one of the most developed countries in the world. It has many interests and its wide economy is interrelated with other world economies. The country has therefore established a mutual friendship with other strong economies. (Australian Aid 2005, p. 7) It is therefore expected to play an active role in world politics, policy formulation, and leadership. As expected, the country will write down policies described as those intended at improving the living conditions of people living in the third world.
We are living in a changing world where new patterns are coming up. Important players in the world are emerging whose influence is not based primarily on their economic capacity but on other issues that affect the world. These may concern areas of trade, terrorism, security, and stability among others. It is also becoming clear that some forces of evil may take advantage of the poverty in developing countries to meet their ends. A tactical approach that has a wide perspective should therefore be considered while drawing a foreign policy paper.
The Australian foreign policy paper seems to have been drawn by Australians themselves or people who don’t have grassroots knowledge on problems facing areas where the country intends to focus aid. This is because it does not describe the real situation in the countries. To achieve this, it may rely on some data from the United Nations and other bodies which is not enough. It gives views from the Australian government’s perspective. The aid program is therefore unlikely to have the most impact in eradicating poverty and promoting development. (Australian Aid 2005, p. 32)
Besides being unclear, the paper is taking some assumptions on fundamental issues. The paper has more words that describe the problem and the situation in developing countries than the solutions. For example, it talks about how important it is for the private sector to play a role in the country’s growth without stating the role it will play in promoting this. It repeatedly states some available data on poverty and all that kind of information without talking about how it intends to play an active role in eliminating poverty. I find it absurd that the paper tries to justify how the government has been spending aid. If the effects were positive, everyone would see for himself. The truth is that as much as aid might help, most countries are more likely to reduce poverty on their own.
One is also likely to question the effectiveness of the government aid to other countries. Why doesn’t the government empower manpower in these countries by focusing scholarship to increase technical skills besides sharing technology know-how or joint research ventures for example? Why doesn’t the government invest or encourage its companies to directly invest in manufacturing in these countries? Such policies can enable countries to produce drugs, increase employment and get more revenues. This is obviously a better way of fighting poverty.
The sincerity of the government to help developing courtiers should also be questioned. Countries like Iraq and Afghanistan have always been in need of Australian help. The surprising fact is that the government quickly and readily sent its troops to these countries to “bring stability” when it has never cared about or taken steps to help these countries before. The money spent in these wars could have gone along way in fighting poverty. Could this be the reason why the Australian government has not given a breakdown estimate on how it has spent aid?
The paper has over focused on the Asian-Pacific region without regarding other regions. While this region might appear to be foremost to its current interests, this might change at any time. For example, Africa could be the main supplier of energy to the world in the future. Besides, non stable states in Africa could be a haven for terrorism activities which could put the country’s security at great risk. Some Australian ships have been hijacked off the Somali coast by pirates. It would be better for the country to focus into the future and see the potential of some countries apart from looking them at a face value. The Australian foreign policy seems to be very isolated.
Many questions are not answered by the Australian foreign policy. The white paper consists of an academic literature that is very blunt. It gives more of the content instead of giving the process information. It contains historical studies of Australian foreign policy and geographical information of some countries that the government relates with. These are brief because the paper focuses on other areas of foreign policy that are not even clear.
The Australian foreign policy seems to be ignoring major silent players that are having more impact in the Asia-Pacific region than the Australian government itself. By cooperating and working with these countries which would mean changing some foreign policies, the impact in the region would be more directed and positive. A country like china for example will invest more in the region through Industries and infrastructure and cut some deals with governments instead of talking more about a non-clear foreign policy. India has a lot of technological recourses that can greatly benefit the region and reduce poverty.
One can sense some dishonesty while reading the paper. For example, when the paper states that: “With new technologies, a global donor campaign against malaria, and a much-increased aid program to Solomon Islands, Australia will commit to tackle malaria in Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and eventually the entire Pacific, in concert with other agencies and regional governments” (Australian Aid 2005, p. 50) Have we seen any concrete evidence of these activities in the region? Besides, the fact that the paper itself is unclear could indicate a tailoring to hide the truth on Australian foreign policy or package it in an acceptable way.
The influence and power of the United States in world affairs has significantly reduced. The new government may therefore rethink its friendship with the U.S. It may withdraw troops from Iraq and instead encourage intervention in such situations through the United Nations. The Australian Government involvement in Iraq has had a negative impact on its foreign relations.
The New government may also need to redefine or rethink the terrorist threat. Australia has never experienced any domestic terrorism but its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has probably put it in a dangerous position. Even in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Taliban and other groups may be fighting foreign invasion than anything else. Moreover, involvement in these conflicts has deteriorated relations between China-an emerging world power and Australia.
With decline of the U.S influence in the global scene, the Australian government together with some other countries will be required to play an active role in world leadership. This will include areas like globalization, global warming, mass migration, terrorism and nuclear proliferation. This is great challenges that the Australian government cannot tackle without strategic partners.
Another issue that may be altered under the new ALP government is the nuclear issue. Under pressure from citizens, the new government is likely to pursue disarmament and prevention of nuclear proliferation. The government is also likely to review waste uranium waste methods. In this regard, new nuclear management techniques that are less harmful to the environment should be adopted. The Alp party has opposed uranium enrichment programs in the country. The market for enriched uranium is also declining.
Generally, the emerging trend of relationship among world countries is a friendship that acknowledges mutual respect and benefit. The New government will therefore find it hard to obtain new strategic friends without following suit. These include poor countries that have a wide range of options when choosing world partners. They also include powerful emerging nations that may have very divergent opinions on core issues.
It may be necessary for Australia to rethink the bedrock of its allies. Getting new allies and moving more towards regional integration would be a good place to start. Engaging or associating with international security organizations like NATO and environmental treaties like the Kyoto protocol should also be considered. Sometimes, Australia appears as an ally that thrives to approve the moral legitimacy of the United States. The country’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan for example has shown this.
The main purpose of a foreign policy is to guard a country’s interests and needs apart from promoting its values. Many changes are taking place in a world that is also revealing some unforeseen evils like terrorism. An honest evaluation of the most powerful countries foreign policies in the past and present will reveal that they have contributed to some of these problems in one way or another. For example, the aggression of the United States Government in Iraq may lead to some negative effects. It is a fragile state that draws a lot of resources from the U.S apart from allowing some military groups with terrorist connections to operate. The war may also legitimate Muslim extremist to launch attacks against the U.S and its allies. China is also emerging as a world economy whose impact cannot be ignored. The relevance of some countries in world affairs cannot also be ignored. Moreover, the declining influence of the U.S is also something to worry about.
Like many other countries, the Australian government may have begun feeling some heat of dilemma regarding its foreign policy. This means acquiring new roles and responsibilities from those it has known in a changing world. Drafting a new foreign policy may require some extra ordinary brilliance to ensure that the country’s interests and that of its allies (new or old) are taken care of. While the country may hang on the fence to see how new scenes will unfold, the only time to act may be now.
Australian Aid, 2005, Promoting Growth and Stability, pp 1- 92.