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PAPER SERIES

FROM DOWN UNDER TO TOP CENTER


AUSTRALIA, THE UNITED STATES,
AND THIS CENTURY’S SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

Iskander Rehman
Research Fellow, Transatlantic Academy
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From Down Under to Top Center
Australia, the United States,
and this Century’s Special Relationship

Transatlantic Academy Paper Series

May 2011

Iskander Rehman*
Research Fellow, Transatlantic Academy

Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
From Liminality to Centrality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
The Evolution of Australia’s Strategic Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Gauging Australia’s Role in an Enlarged Airsea Battle Framework . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Conclusion: This Century’s Special Relationship? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
Endnotes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

*Iskander Rehman is currently a Ph.D. candidate at CERI, Institute of Political Sciences (Science Po) in Paris and a Research
Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy. He is also a Former Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses
in Delhi; he has contributed on strategic matters for BBC World, The Guardian, and the South Asian news channel ANI.
In 2008, he received a two year grant from the French Ministry of Defense, for which he has also served in an advisory
capacity.
Executive Summary

F
or most of its history, Australia has floated been compelled to operate offshore, often at great
on the edge of much of the western world’s distances from their homeland. Closer to home, the
mental map, a continent-sized island lying at Australian Defence Forces (ADF) have traditionally
the fringes of our traditional representations of the been active in playing a stabilizing role — whether
Asia-Pacific rim. This can be attributed as much it be via its UN-sponsored intervention in East
to what Geoffrey Blainey famously phrased “the Timor in 1999, large-scale relief work in the wake
tyranny of distance”1 as to the enduring legacy of of the 2004 tsunami, or sustained efforts to nurture
antiquated Cold War-era perceptions of Asia. good governance and rule of law in places such as As the world’s
the Solomon islands or Fiji. center of gravity
Today, however, as the world’s center of gravity
shifts from West
shifts from West to East, Australia’s position As China pursues its economic and military ascent,
to East, Australia’s
has swiveled from “down under” to “top center” there is a growing realization that Australia’s
in terms of geopolitical import. Situated at the traditional oscillation between continental defense
position has
confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and offshore presence can no longer provide an swiveled from
Australia stretches from the cold seas circling the adequate conceptual framework for dealing with “down under”
Antarctic to the vast belt of archipelagoes that the rapid evolutions unsettling the region. As a to “top center”
speckle the waters of Southeast Asia. result , the nation’s seminal 2009 defense white in terms of
paper calls for the biggest military build-up since geopolitical
A small Western nation with a vast continental World War II,5 and Australia’s vibrant strategic import.
landmass, Australia has grappled with a defining community is currently engaged in some of the
paradox since its early days: its cultural proximity most intense, and fundamental, debates it has yet
to the West and its geographical distance from it. had to undertake.
This has led some to posit that Australia is a Meanwhile, Washington’s strategic cognoscenti are
“torn nation,”2 a country that constantly teeters crafting a revolutionary new doctrine, entitled the
on a cultural fault line in a quest for its identity AirSea Battle Concept,6 which calls, among other
and place in the world. In reality, far from being things, for a seamless cooperation between the
a source of existential malaise, Australia’s very U.S. Navy and Air Force in order to offset Beijing’s
liminality,3 or location at the intersection of two growing anti-access prowess. Fears at the Pentagon
worlds, has become its greatest virtue at a time over the growing vulnerability of American forward
when China’s rise and growing assertiveness have bases to Chinese missile barrages have rendered
given urgency to concerns over the future of Asian Australia, with its strategic depth and logistical
stability. wherewithal, an ever more alluring tactical location.
This geographical advantage is compounded by
Australia’s strategic culture has, since its beginnings,
the fact that Australia is staunchly committed to its
wavered between a “continental ethos” that looked
alliance with the United States, and does not share
inwards rather than out, and the realities imposed
the same degree of reservations over U.S.-basing as
by the exigencies of modern security crises, which
other countries in the region such as Japan.
have led Canberra, time and time again, to adopt
a more amphibious mindset.4 From the Boer War Canberra’s presence at the heart of the Asian arena
and Gallipoli to the Southwest Pacific campaigns of has also led it to seek to extend its strategic vision,
World War II, from the jungles of Vietnam to the from its traditional Pacific focus to the Indian
mountains of Afghanistan, Australian troops have Ocean, which has sometimes been termed “the

From Down Under to Top Center 1


neglected ocean,”7 and which forms its vast western Australia alliance. During the Raj era, the Viceroy
maritime front. This strategic elevation of the would preside over the future of Asia from the
Indian Ocean Region has been accompanied by a small Indian hilltop town of Simla or the bustling
growing appreciation of the need to build stronger streets of Calcutta or Delhi, while far to the West,
ties with major rising powers such as India, and the intricacies of European and Mediterranean
more substantively, with Indonesia, which is rapidly geopolitics would be unraveled in the halls of
emerging as one of Australia’s pivotal partners Westminster. In a similar fashion, the United States
In the future, in the region. In the future, Australia may well will only remain a global power if its strategic
Australia may prove to be a bridge between the United States and vision is buttressed by a transpacific, as well as by a
well prove to be Indonesia as well as other Southeast Asian and transatlantic special relationship.
a bridge between Oceanic states, thus becoming a central link in a
the United States chain of inter-state cooperation.
and Indonesia, The combination of Australia’s prime geostrategic
as well as other location, its staunch commitment to the U.S.
Southeast Asian alliance, and its growing enmeshment in the
and Oceanic Asia-Pacific region have led some to venture that
states, thus the U.S.-Australia relationship may well turn out
becoming a to be this century’s “special relationship,” to the
central link in a point at which it may in fact displace the U.S.-UK
chain of inter- relationship in terms of scope and importance.
state cooperation.
It will be argued here that Australia will indeed
emerge as the United States’ strongest ally in
the Asia-Pacific region, and that this solidifying
strategic convergence between these English-
speaking nations will have an immensely positive
influence on regional developments and stability in
Asia. This special relationship is one that will both
be attuned to the realities of an Asia-Pacific century
and help define it. This will not necessarily happen
at the expense of the U.S.-UK relationship, but
rather will form the Asian wing of the Democratic
Anglosphere, which has formed the inner core of
the U.S. system of alliances since its inception.

This will, in time, lead to the emergence of a form


of division of labor, or geographical differentiation
interlocking both strategic relationships. The U.S.-
UK special relationship will still be highly invested
in issues pertaining to the more traditional Atlantic
and Mediterranean regions, while the area “East of
Suez” will be the focus of the strengthened U.S.-

2 Transatlantic Academy
1 From Liminality to Centrality

A Historic Vantage Point in Asia importance of trade rivalries in 18th century British
For years, Australia has floated on the edge of much policy, and the emerging importance at the time
of the Western world’s mental map, a continent- of global sea power. Australia, which had already
sized island lying at the fringes of our traditional been mapped in part by the Dutch, started to be
representations of the Asia-Pacific rim. This can viewed as a highly important asset for Great Britain
be attributed in part to what Geoffrey Blainey during the world’s first truly global struggle, the
famously phrased the “tyranny of distance,” which Seven Years War, which raged from 1757 to 1763.
has made Australia the eternal frontier state. The southern Pacific landmass provided Whitehall For years,
In the 18th century, European explorers refused with a naval base of operations from which it could Australia has
for some time to believe that Australia was the interdict the maritime communications of the floated on the
last great southern landmass in between Asia Dutch, French, and Spanish, as well as an entrepôt edge of much
and the Americas. Captain Cook and his rivals for trade and goods pouring in from the East Indies of the Western
vainly searched for what they called the “missing and China.9 At the time, Lord Sydney is known to world’s mental
continent,” which they believed was waiting to have urged the directors of the East India Company
map, a continent-
be found and would add balance to the southern to encourage the population of Australia in order to
sized island lying
hemisphere. Indeed, while nowadays such a “prevent the emigration of our European neighbors
firm belief in geographic equilibrium may seem in that quarter.”10
at the fringes of
somewhat whimsical, such was not the case at our traditional
the time. Europe’s great geographers and hardy Australia’s centrality in Asia was also brought to representations
explorers deemed it illogical, impossible even, light during the two world wars, from which it of the Asia-
that landmass in Asia should be so haphazardly provided a vital staging point into Oceania and Pacific rim.
distributed.8 When, to their disappointment, the Southern Pacific: in World War I, when a
it was discovered that Australia was in fact large number of Australian troops led a series
the last continent, our perception of Asia was of successful amphibious operations against the
captured once more by the large landmasses, Kaiser’s troops in places such as Papua New Guinea
great civilizations, and teeming cities north of and the Solomon Islands; and then, to a much
the equator. Australia became yet again the final greater extent during World War II, when Australia
outpost, the great lonely land curving over the provided a vital arsenal and logistical support base
known world’s edge. The Cold War, by focusing to for the United States and took part in the great
a great degree our attention on the global struggle campaign to roll back the Japanese in the Southwest
between the Western democracies and the Soviet Pacific.
Union, sustained this traditional cartographic and
mental representation. From Down Under to Top Center
A small western nation with a vast continental
In reality, however, Australia has always been landmass, Australia has grappled with a defining
central to Asian geography, not least during the paradox since its early days: its cultural proximity
years of its founding. The notion that Australia was to the West and its geographical distance from
viewed merely by Imperial Britain as the dumping it. This sense of isolation from the civilizational
ground for the worst —or most unfortunate cradle has forged the narrative of Australian
— members of its society is a highly reductive identity since the times of the early Federation,
one. Historians point out that the decision to when Sir Henry Parkes famously referred to the
colonize South Wales cannot be divorced from the “crimson thread of kinship” that tenuously bound

From Down Under to Top Center 3


Figure 1: Australia’s geographic position. attention shifts to Asia, where China’s
seemingly unchecked influence has
triggered widespread concerns over
regional and even global stability.
The rapidly morphing geopolitical
landscape has led the United States to
shift its attention from West to East,
In reality, far from and has given birth to a feeling in
being a source Washington that the United States is
of existential still “underweighted” in Asia, while
malaise, “overweighted”13 in regions such as
Australia’s very the Middle East. This can be imputed
liminality, or not only to an underestimation of
the tectonic shifts in relative power
location at the
and influence in Asia, but also to the
intersection of two
bloody upheaval brought about by
worlds, is what
Sept. 11, 2001, which led to American
has become its involvement in two mass counter-
greatest virtue at insurgency campaigns in the Middle
a time when the East. As Kurt Campbell, Assistant
world’s attention Secretary of State for East Asian and
shifts to Asia. Pacific Affairs recently stated, “We (the
United States) have been on a little bit
the nation to Great Britain.11 This duality —of
of a Middle East detour over the course of the last
Western identity and Asian geography — has also
ten years (…) And our future will be dominated
heavily marked the country’s strategic culture since
utterly and fundamentally by developments in the
its inception, and has led some in the past, such
Asia and Pacific Region.”14 Washington’s renewed
as Samuel Huntington, to posit that Australia is a
focus on Asia is thus underpinned, to a certain
“torn nation,” a country that constantly teeters on
degree, by a sense of urgency, as well as by a desire
a cultural faultline in a vain quest for its identity
to make up for lost time. Official documents call
and place in the world. Political scientists, when
for a “more widely distributed and adaptive U.S.
referring to the young nation, have attempted
presence in Asia,”15 and for a two ocean strategy
to define it by the concept of “liminality,” which
that revolves around the Indian and Pacific Oceans,
depicts it as a country that has an in between
rather than around the more traditional Pacific/
or liminal location, “suspended between two
Atlantic oceanic arena.16 U.S. Defense Secretary
different worlds in which there is access to both,
Robert Gates has been explicit in stating that the
but in which permanence in either appears to be
United States’ “overriding obligation” to allies
elusive.”12
and partners was to “reaffirm America’s security
In reality, far from being a source of existential commitments in the region.”17 This re-emphasis
malaise, Australia’s very liminality, or location at of America’s military footprint in Asia has
the intersection of two worlds, is what has become been accompanied on the ground by a gradual
its greatest virtue at a time when the world’s repositioning of naval and air assets to the Western

4 Transatlantic Academy
Pacific Theater of Operations (WPTO) and by the been referred to as its “forgotten ocean” or “ocean
build-up of existing U.S. bases in places such as of neglect.”18 Australian analysts point to the fact
Guam. The Obama Administration’s determination that the Indian Ocean, which forms the world’s
to revamp the American presence in Asia has third largest body of water, has reemerged as a
also been expressed via a bevy of diplomatic and major hub of maritime trade, with more than half
institutional initiatives, whether it be through the of the world’s container traffic, and 70 percent of
holding of the first U.S.-ASEAN summit, America’s the world’s total traffic in petroleum products,
joining of the East Asia Summit, or through Hillary passing from its entry point, the Strait of Hormuz, Australia will be
Clinton’s open support of a multilateral resolution to its congested exit, the Straits of Malacca. drawn into the eye
to the South China Sea disputes during last year’s of the storm in
Asian defense ministers meeting in Hanoi. The Australian author John Birmingham elegantly
coming decades.
frames this strategic rotation westwards, writing
All this means that, today, as the world’s center of in the Australian Monthly: “The forgotten ocean’s
gravity shifts from West to East, Australia’s position time is coming. The next century will only partly
in Asia has swiveled it from “down under” to “top belong to the Pacific. Just as Europe’s rise made
center” in terms of geopolitical import. Situated at the Atlantic a setting for 500 years of maritime
the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and naval contention, shifting power centers will
and stretching from the cold seas circling the draw new fleets of merchantmen and warships
Antarctic to the vast belt of archipelagoes that into play across the 68.6 million square kilometers
speckle the waters of Southeast Asia, Australia of the Indian Ocean. Geographically dominating
will be drawn into the eye of the storm in coming the south-east quarter of those open seas, rich
decades. And through its rarefied geography, it will in mineral and energy resources, and long allied
not only acquire a new centrality, but also pride of globally and regionally with the declining power of
place in the Western system of alliances that has, the United States, Australia is about to undergo the
since the end of the Cold War, undergirded global wrenching experience of having its world literally
stability. turned around.”19

And indeed, although Canberra has historically


Wading into the Forgotten Ocean
neglected its vast western maritime front, Australia
Canberra’s presence at the heart of the Asian
is, paradoxically, the largest Indian Ocean state in
arena has also led it to extend its strategic vision.
terms of the extent of its offshore maritime claims.
Traditionally, Australian policy and decision-
Furthermore, Western Australia, which was long
makers have been beholden to a heavily Pacific-
dismissed as something of a backwater, is booming
centric world view. This was due to the fact that
economically, due to the recent mushrooming of
most of the population’s economic and population
offshore oil and gas developments off the west and
centers are clustered along the eastern seaboard,
northwestern coastlines. Approximately one third
and Australia’s greatest ally, the United States lies
of Australia’s exports now come from Western
on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, which is
Australia and this portion is only set to grow, as it
sometimes colloquially referred to in Australian
is estimated that approximately 90 percent of the
strategic circles as the “ANZUS Lake.” Over the
nation’s natural gas reserves lie to the West.20 Trade
past few years, however, Canberra has elevated the
with the region has been growing at a breakneck
importance of the Indian Ocean, which laps against
pace, and India is fast becoming one of Australia’s
its western coastline, and which has sometimes

From Down Under to Top Center 5


maritime security in the region.22 This was followed
up in 2009 by the signature of a Joint Declaration
on Security Cooperation, which will work to
strengthen cooperation in a wide range of security
and related areas including counter-terrorism,
defense, disarmament and non-proliferation, and
maritime security. Nevertheless, there is a certain
Australian defense degree of caution in Canberra to not give Beijing
analysts are reason to feel that a strategy of containment is
concerned over being put in motion. In 2007, when Australia,
the lack of bases Japan, India, and the United States engaged in
between Perth massive joint naval exercises, China issued a
and Darwin and diplomatic demarche demanding whether a form
of Asian NATO was being put into place.23 Since
fret over how greatest export markets with a growth of 40 percent then, Australia has been careful not to send out
ripe the region is over the past five years.21 that impression, focusing on multilateral maritime
for great power
On a more strategic level, Australian defense exercises that emphasize counter-terror or anti-
rivalry, most piracy missions, rather than more conventional
notably between analysts are concerned over the lack of bases
between Perth and Darwin (which are more than operations. It remains to be seen, however, whether
India and China. this Australian attention to China’s perceived
3,000 km apart), which may be needed in the
future to protect increasingly critical economic sensitivities will continue in light of the latter’s
infrastructure, and fret over how ripe the region is growing assertiveness in the region.
for great power rivalry, most notably between India
and China. During much of the Cold War, Australia
was wary of India’s maritime intentions, in large
part due to Delhi’s proximity to the Soviet Union.
This thinking, interestingly, to a certain degree still
permeates Australian strategic discourse to this day,
and although the language of “Indian hegemony”
has been jettisoned, there are still concerns in some
quarters that drawing too close to India could
alienate smaller South Asian nations such as Sri
Lanka or Pakistan, or, more importantly, China.

Substantial progress has been made in terms


of defense cooperation between the two Asian
democracies with the signing of a defense pact
in 2006, which called for greater cooperation
in maritime security, military research and
development, and military joint training. In
2007, both sides also agreed to share intelligence
information related to terrorist activity and

6 Transatlantic Academy
2
The Evolution of Australia’s
Strategic Culture

Sinking Paradigms: Continental Defense versus The surprising thing, however, is that Australian
Offshore Presence strategic thinking in times of peace has largely
Australian strategic culture is both fascinating and been at odds with the realities imposed by the
riddled with complexity, a labyrinth of intersecting exigencies of modern security crises, which have
and interrelated paradoxes. led Canberra, time and time again, to adopt a
more amphibious mindset. From the Boer War
An array of seeming contradictions has thus to the Southwest Pacific campaigns of World War
permeated its formulation over the years: II, from the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains Australian
• Australia’s Asian geography and Western of Afghanistan, Australian troops have been strategic culture
identity; compelled to operate offshore, often at great is both fascinating
distances from their homeland. Closer to home, and riddled
• Its continental landmass and island status; the ADF has traditionally been active in playing a with complexity,
stabilizing role, whether it be via its UN-sponsored a labyrinth of
• Its periodic quest for greater self-reliance along intervention in East Timor in 1999, large-scale
with a traditional great power dependency; and intersecting
relief work in the wake of the 2004 tsunami, or
and interrelated
sustained efforts to nurture good governance and
• Its strategic theorizing and wartime practice. paradoxes.
rule of law in places such as the Solomon islands or
Australian strategic thought has been heavily Fiji.
marked in peacetime by what could best be
described as a “continental reflex,” which has led it
to look inwards rather than out, and to look to the
defense of Fortress Australia rather than outwards
to the great blue. This has led some to say that
“Australians are a coastal people with a continental
outlook, an island nation with an inward focus,”24
and that in Australian strategic culture, the sea
has consistently been viewed as a defensive moat
and not as a maritime maneuver space, a “sea-air
gap” that separates the continental landmass from
the South-East Asian band of archipelagos. This
bastion mentality became increasingly apparent in
the wake of the Vietnam War and the United States’
enunciation of the so called “Guam doctrine” in
1969. For at least two decades, Australian defense
planning focused on continental defense, and on
the need to deny an enemy’s approach of the “sea-
Figure 3: Major battles or campaigns in the Pacific in
air gap” through a narrowly defined strategy of sea World War II.
denial, or as some disgruntled military officials
have phrased, by hiding behind “a blue-water
This disconnect between strategic theorizing
Maginot line.”25
and wartime practice has led some to say that
there is a profound “dissonance”26 at the heart of

From Down Under to Top Center 7


Australian strategic thinking. This inner debate The Rise of China
notwithstanding, Australian strategic culture can be in Australia’s Strategic Discourse
defined by two overarching factors: When the People’s Republic of China first came
into being, Australia’s official defense papers (which
A tradition of “dependency on imperial were then called Strategic Appreciation papers)
benevolence,” i.e. on a great and powerful friend largely viewed China in terms of the communist
overseas.27 The more powerful ally was Great threat and the risk of Maoism spreading to
It should be Britain until the second half of the 20th century Southeast Asia through the “large groups of ethnic
stated that the — the trauma of the fall of Singapore in 1942 Chinese that honeycomb the region.”29 The threat
constituting no doubt the watershed moment — was perceived as being more ideological than
debate that has
and the United States since the early 1950s and the conventional, and more cause for potential regional
raged between
signature of the ANZUS treaty. instability than as an existential threat. In 1953, the
continentalists
or minimalists Strategic Basis of Australian Defense Policy, referred
And secondly, by a predisposition to use force to
to China for the first time as the enemy in the wake
and those protect and further its interests overseas, to bring
of the Korean War, during which Australian troops
advocating a more the fight to the enemy rather than let it spill over
suffered more than 1,500 casualties, 339 of them
vigorous forward onto Australian shores.
fatal, many cut down storming heavily fortified
presence has Chinese positions. Nevertheless, then and for many
This strategic behavior has arguably proven to be
had a profound extremely effective. Indeed, barring the Japanese air years, China’s military capabilities were viewed
impact on defense raids on Darwin during World War II, Australia has as being primed first and foremost for defense,
procurement and never been directly under attack. and were not seen as embodying a direct threat to
has frequently Australian security.
straitjacketed It should be stated that the debate that has raged
between continentalists or minimalists and those Interestingly, and maybe by virtue of its geographic
Australian force
advocating a more vigorous forward presence has proximity, Australian strategists have frequently
structure and
had a profound impact on defense procurement been remarkably prescient when it comes to
capabilities. evaluating China’s intentions and capabilities. In
and has frequently straitjacketed Australian
force structure and capabilities. Nevertheless, the October 1964, for example, the Strategic Basis
paradigm squabble has had little bearing in terms paper predicted that China’s first nuclear test was
of Australia’s actual strategic behavior in times of to be “expected any time soon,” which did happen
crisis. only a few months later. And already in the early
1970s, Australian planners were forecasting that
The Australian 2009 white paper, Defending China would become the greatest Asian economy
Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030,28 and that India would in time emerge as a useful
is a turning point in the sense that it may well be counterweight to China in the region and “provide
the first fully fleshed-out effort to realign force some counterbalance to the power and prestige in
planning with reality. This new hard-headedness is Asia of communist China.”
driven by a sense of urgency due to China’s rise in
Australia’s strategic discourse. The 1976 review’s concluding note on China
encapsulates what was to be Australia’s approach for
the next 20 years by stating that China “is of little
direct defense, as opposed to political, significance
to Australia at the present time,” though “in the

8 Transatlantic Academy
longer term there are
bound to be uncertainties
about a China that has
developed the political
and economic strength to
pursue significant policy
beyond its neighboring
regions, and capability The latest white
to project supporting paper comes
military force… China at a time of
could in time establish unparalleled
a primary status in the concern in Asia,
region that would be a and in Australia,
substantial political and
over the risks
strategic consequence for
surrounding
Australia.”30
China’s rise.
After the Cold War,
more concern started
transparency and provocative military signaling,
to be expressed due to
from the 2008 Anti Satellite test to the truculence
the increased uncertainty of a multipolar world
Chinese vessels have displayed in the South and
and in 1993 to China’s “potential to emerge as a
East China Seas.31 Australian newspapers have
strategic rival to the United States in Asia.” In the
drawn attention to the unprecedented number of
course of that same decade, Australia’s defense
cyber attacks being conducted on the Australian
community displayed once again a remarkable
government apparatus, with even former Prime
degree of foresight by predicting that China’s
Minister Kevin Rudd’s personal email having
economic growth would lead it to engage in a
been reportedly cracked by a hacker originating
massive overhaul of its naval forces. In 2000, the
in China. As Australia draws closer to Japan,
government of Prime Minister John Howard
signing a landmark defense declaration on security
anxiously noted “a small but significant possibility
cooperation in 2007, it has been increasingly
of …confrontation between major powers in Asia,
alarmed by the deteriorating relationship between
and even outright conflict,” and that Australia, by
Beijing and its close ally. The Rio Tinto affair32 in
virtue of its alliance with the United States, may
2009, which had large resonance in the Australian
well find itself being sucked into the turmoil.
media, cast a further pallor on Canberra’s
The latest white paper, published more than nine perception of its large neighbor to the “near north.”
years later, comes at a time of unparalleled concern
in Asia, and in Australia, over the risks surrounding Edging Towards a Maritime Strategy
China’s rise. These concerns are multiple, and Australia’s 2009 Defense White Paper must thus
range from China’s perceived growing influence in be viewed in this light, as well as in the context
Oceania, which Australia has traditionally viewed of a fear in certain quarters that the United States
as its Southern Pacific backyard, to unease over will no longer be able to maintain the same level
the People Liberation Army’s’s lack of military

From Down Under to Top Center 9


of military presence or freedom of action in the is almost impossible that a war can be decided by
WPTO as it used to. For Australians, this echoes naval action alone.”33
the concerns they felt at the beginning of the 20th
century, when their main security guarantor, Great This implies a high degree of interoperability,
Britain, started to scale down its naval presence in flexibility, and capacity for joint service action.
Asia in order to offset the expansion of the Imperial The Australian white paper reflects this synergistic
German Navy in Europe. approach. The most significant additions are in
While naval terms of maritime warfare capabilities, with, for
power seeks first The white paper thus calls for Australia’s biggest example the planned addition of three Aegis class
military build-up since World War II. Force 2030 destroyers, a fleet of 12 conventionally powered
and foremost to
is expected to be considerably more proficient submarines, 8 ANZAC frigates optimized for anti-
rule the waves,
than the current ADF, particularly in all aspects of submarine warfare, and 20 offshore vessels. But
maritime power
maritime warfare. the white paper also focuses heavily on the ADF’s
calls for action future amphibious component, which will involve
from the sea in Whereas in the past, Australian strategic thought the introduction of two large amphibious landing
order to influence had tended to view the Navy, Air Force, and Army vessels, and the need for the Australian army to be
happenings as acting separately rather than symbiotically, able to engage both in amphibious operations and
on land. the latest white paper goes well beyond the land warfare. While it is stated that “the main role
continentalist versus offshore debate and places the of the ADF should continue to be able to engage in
first foundations for a genuine maritime strategy. conventional combat against other armed forces,”34
It is important to distinguish maritime and naval the white paper also places much emphasis
power. While naval power seeks first and foremost on high-end asymmetric warfare, through the
to rule the waves, maritime power calls for action channeling of significant resources towards cyber
from the sea in order to influence happenings on warfare and the establishment of a Cyber Security
land. Operations Center, and the revolutionary decision
This distinction was
clearly theorized by the
great maritime thinker Sir
Julian Corbett, who wrote:
“By maritime strategy we
mean the principles which
govern a war in which the
sea is a substantial factor.
Naval strategy is but that
part of it which determines
the movements of the fleet
when maritime strategy has
determined what part the fleet
must play in relation to the
action of the land forces; for Figure 5: New Canberra Class of Australian Amphibious Assault Ship: the
it scarcely needs saying that it largest ship ever built for the Australian Navy, the first of which will be
commissioned in 2014. Source of image: Australian MOD

10 Transatlantic Academy
to arm all Australian MAJOR ACQUISITION PLANS
vessels with long-range
Conventionally Fleet will be doubled to over 12 vessels.
land-attack cruise
Powered Submarines
missiles (presumably
the Tomahawk). This F-35 Joint Strike Announced purchase of up to a 100 over the next
decision to morph the Fighters decade.
Australian fleet into F/A-18F Purchase of 24, 12 of which may be reconverted for
an “arsenal fleet” as electronic attack. Australia’s surge in
well as one capable Long-Range Land Major decision to equip naval platforms with long-range naval capabilities
of conducting more Attack Cruise cruise missiles. should therefore
traditional naval Missiles not be viewed
operations is a highly Surface Naval 3 AEGIS class destroyers, 8 ANZAC frigates with anti- through a bluntly
pragmatic one, as with Platforms submarine warfare capabilities, and 20 offshore combat navalistic prism,
the highly debated vessels, some of which will be outfitted for mine warfare. but rather as a
withdrawal from service Naval Helicopters 24, yet to be selected. pragmatic attempt
of the long-range
Amphibious 2 Canberra Class LHDS, 6 heavy landing craft, and a to emerge as a
F-111s from the AAF,
Capabilities sealift ship. well-rounded hard-
Australia’s long-range
strike capabilities will Australian Army Will not be expanded beyond eight battalions, but hitting amphibious
be gravely weakened. will receive Abrams tanks, artillery, and new troop-lift power in the
Equipping vessels with capabilities. Asia-Pacific.
long-range missiles
The scale and ambition of the reforms and
enables a resource-
acquisitions outlined in the white paper have cast
limited Australia to cut back on costs and to skirt
doubts over the Australian government’s ability to
the tactical headaches associated with deploying
fund and manage such an unprecedented overhaul
long-range fighter bombers in increasingly
of its defense apparatus. The white paper calls for
contested environments.35
a 3 percent increase in real growth of the defense
Australia’s surge in naval capabilities should budget until 2018, and then of 2.2 percent until
therefore not be viewed through a bluntly navalistic 2030 in order to finance the 20-year plan. These
prism, but rather as a pragmatic attempt to emerge costs are to be covered in large part through a
as a well-rounded, hard-hitting amphibious substantial program of reform, efficiencies, and
power in the Asia-Pacific, which can engage savings within the Defence Department, which is
simultaneously in: expected to generate close over US$25 billion in
savings over the next few years.
• maritime interdiction and power projection,
The question is whether the Australian government
• conventional assaults and high-end asymmetric will be able to honor its commitments. Past
warfare, and experience in this regard gives cause for a certain
degree of circumspection. The 1987 white paper,
• anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare, along
for example, called for an allocation of 2.6 to
with sea-based long-range land strikes.
2.9 percent of GDP to undergird its proposed
reforms. Figures show that the defense budget

From Down Under to Top Center 11


actually declined to less than 2 percent in the
following years. This meant that many of the
proposed reforms never actually took place, and
instead of expanding to 16 or 17 ships, as hoped,
the Australian surface fleet remained at 12.36
An analysis of the 2010-2011 defense budget,
however, reveals that, for the time being at least, the
The goal behind government is intent on honoring its commitments,
Australia’s as the defense budget records a 6 percent increase
defense posture in nominal terms.37 Whether this encouraging
is not to provoke trend will persist over time is an open question
China towards and hinges largely upon the speed of Australia’s
conflict,however, economic recovery and the nature of its evolving
threat perceptions.
but rather to have
the wherewithal to Chinese reactions to the white paper were largely
deter any form of contained, if frosty, in public, but reportedly
Chinese military apoplectic behind closed doors.38 The goal behind
adventurism in Australia’s defense posture is not to provoke China
the event that towards conflict, however, but rather to have
it becomes the wherewithal to deter any form of Chinese
aggressively military adventurism in the event that it becomes
expansionist. aggressively expansionist, or in the spirited
language of Ross Babbage, one of Australia’s more
brilliant defense experts and one of the co-authors
of the white paper, to “rip off China’s arm”39 if it
ventures down too far south. This presupposes
however an unlikely and dire situation in which
Australia would be isolated from any form of
significant American assistance in the event of a
major security crisis involving China. In reality
Australia, the United States, and other regional
allies such as Japan and Taiwan would most
likely act in concert, under the architecture of a
revolutionary new doctrine currently being crafted
at the Pentagon in response to China’s anti-access
challenge and growing naval clout entitled the
“AirSea Battle Concept.”

12 Transatlantic Academy
3 Gauging Australia’s Role in
an Enlarged Airsea Battle Framework

Tectonic Shifts in Asia’s Tactical Environment term has its roots in ancient Chinese folklore,
Despite the fact that the U.S. Navy, with its 11 which recounts how a hero wielding such a
nuclear-propelled carrier groups, still far outstrips weapon managed to overcome a far more powerful
in terms of sheer power projection any of its rivals, adversary. Since then, in Chinese military strategy
several observers in the U.S. strategic community it has come to mean the capacity to rapidly and
have been drawing attention to the gradual decisively seize the initiative and turn the tide to
“withering”40 of the U.S. combat fleet, which today one’s advantage when confronting a conventionally
numbers about 280 ships in comparison to the peak superior foe. This is embodied in the People’s This disquiet over
of 597 reached during the presidency of Ronald Liberation Army’s intense focus on anti-access and the widening
Reagan. Both surface and subsurface platforms area denial (A2/AD), via the mass acquisition of “quantity gap”
have been affected, with the U.S. submarine fleet submarines, and, more recently, by the induction of between the
having declined from 102 boats in 1991 to merely the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile, the DF- Chinese and U.S
53 today. This number is projected to dwindle even 21 D. China has long sought to counter U.S. carrier navies in the Asia-
further, to approximately 41 in 2028. dominance in the Taiwan Strait by fielding such a
Pacific region has
carrier killer missile, and its development gained
While the U.S. fleet is expected to stay at a relatively been exacerbated
fresh impetus after the 1995-1996 Taiwan missile
stable level over the next few decades, oscillating by the fact
crisis,42 when the deployment of two U.S. Carrier
between 280 and 313 vessels, many question the Battle Groups to the region nurtured intense that America’s
wisdom of choosing stagnation over expansion at feelings of helplessness and frustration among traditional
a time when the Chinese navy, which is already Chinese military officials. technological edge
said to comprise at least 260 ships, including more may falter in the
than 75 principal combatants and 60 submarines, is The Assassin’s Mace thus combines China’s growing face of China’s
engaged in a process of unremitting expansion. Its prowess in the field of A2/AD with its tactical “Assassin’s Mace”
submarine fleet, in particular, is cause for concern. approach to “waging a local war under conditions
or “Shashoujian”
of informatization,” which consists of a pre-emptive
Currently composed of 6 nuclear submarines and strategy.
“blinding” assault against U.S. information systems
54 diesel-electric submarines half of which are via Anti-Satellite Warfare (ASAT) and wide scale
the highly-effective Kilo, Song, or Yuan class, the cyber attacks.
People’s Liberation Army Navy submarine flotilla,
if it sustains its current rhythm of induction, is China’s blinding strategy has long been studied and
projected to vaunt 70 such vessels in the next 10 taken into account by American military strategists,
to 15 years. In all likelihood, one or two medium- but it is above all its strides in the field of A2/AD
sized STOBAR (“short takeoff but arrested recovery that have radically transformed the nature of the
system”) carriers will also be launched in the course tactical environment. The sudden annihilation
of the next decade, as well as a new class of more of lightly defended American forward bases in
advanced destroyers. Okinawa and Guam under a barrage of China’s
increasingly large number of conventionally armed
This disquiet over the widening “quantity gap” ballistic missiles is now an abiding concern, as
between the Chinese and U.S. navies in the Asia- is that of U.S. carrier groups becoming wasting
Pacific region has been exacerbated by the fact assets, as their growing vulnerability to Chinese
the America’s traditional technological edge may aircraft and submarines armed with high speed
falter in the face of China’s “Assassin’s Mace” or sea-skimming ASCMs (anti-ship cruise missiles) or
“Shashoujian” strategy.41 This exotic-sounding to the DF-21 D risks rendering them operationally

From Down Under to Top Center 13


irrelevant. This irrelevance would be
further accentuated by the fact that
the carriers carry short-range strike
aircraft, which would be compelled to
operate well within Beijing’s anti-ship
ballistic missile strike range.43

Responding to The Substance of


this changing the AirSea Battle Concept
environment, the Responding to this changing
United States environment, the United States is
is radically radically rethinking its doctrine and
rethinking its force posture in the WPTO. The result
doctrine and is a strategy entitled “AirSea Battle:
force posture A Point of Departure Operational
Concept,” first released by the
in the WPTO.
Center for Strategic and Budgetary
Assessments in May 2010.44 The
concept, which is currently being
red-teamed and integrated by the U.S.
Navy and Air Force, is an attempt to
reconcile two hard truths: the relative Figure 6: Conventional anti-access capabilities. The PLA’s
conventional forces are currently capable of striking targets well
stagnation of the U.S. naval force level
beyond China’s immediate periphery. Not includes are ranges
in Asia, and the great strides China for naval surface- and sub-surface-based weapons, whose
has made in the field of anti-access employement at distances from China would be determined by
and area denial. Using the LandAir doctrine and the scenario in which they are employed.
Battle Concept implemented by the
AirSea Battle is comprised of two interactive stages,
U.S. military in the early 1980s as a
the first focusing on repelling a preemptive Chinese
template, the AirSea Battle Concept calls for a
strike and regaining the operational initiative, the
seamless cooperation between the U.S. Navy and
second on creating options to resolve a prolonged
Air Force in order to offset China’s prowess in anti-
conventional combat on favorable terms. Thus,
access capabilities.
according to the executive summary, “U.S. and
While wartime operations and scenarios are allied military forces can withstand initial large-
meticulously outlined, the avowed goal of the scale Chinese conventional attacks, mitigate their
newly forged strategy is not to assert crushing U.S. effects, reduce the effectiveness of China’s A2/AD
dominance over the Asian maritime theater, but system by rapidly blinding it, regain the strategic
to ensure that American presence in the region and operational initiative, and thereby set the stage
remains a powerful deterrent to any form of for sustained follow-on operations.”45
Chinese expansionism or military adventurism.
The core of AirSea Battle is what is termed the
“scouting campaign,” or “blinding campaign,”

14 Transatlantic Academy
during which both sides would conduct lightning shift in the United States’ tactical perception of the
strikes on each other’s command and control and WPTO.
communication networks in order to deny their
adversary vital tactical information. This blinding What Role for Australia in AirSea Battle?
campaign would involve fourth and fifth dimension The AirSea Battle Concept states that “Australia
warfare, by unfolding in both the space and cyber would provide strategic depth and capable forces
domains, with offensive cyber attacks on space and for peripheral campaigns, perhaps involving sea
ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) control and support operations in the eastern What kind of
systems, kinetic and non-kinetic ASAT (anti- Indian Ocean, Oceania and the South China Sea.”46 concrete role
satellite warfare) through ballistic missile strikes could one expect
or the use of newly developed directed-energy Various areas of potential cooperation are laid out: Australia to play
weapons. in the event
• Partner with the United States and Japan in
Joint air and naval action are presented as a way developing the next-generation anti-ship/anti- of a conflict
of neutralizing China’s A2/AD threat to the U.S. surface cruise missile; with China?
navy’s carrier fleets, with air force counter-space
• Support its fielding a fifth-generation fighter
operations targeting China’s space-based maritime
force to support combined air superiority and
surveillance systems, and U.S. Navy Aegis-equipped
anti-submarine warfare ASW operations;
destroyers contributing to the defense of vulnerable
forward air force bases. Air force planes would • Join the U.S. space surveillance system and
be called on to neutralize PLA missile boats with build an S-Band radar to improve southern
inadequate air defense, while navy short-range hemisphere Space Situational Awareness; and
strike aircraft would find themselves imparted a
hunter-killer role in the elimination of Chinese • Establish an offshore node for the U.S. Joint
Airborne Warning and Control AWACs and Space Operations Center to create a Combined
AEW&C aircraft. One of the most pivotal stages Space Operations Center, thereby improving
in the conceptualized conflict revolves around operational integration and enhancing C2
the destruction of the PLA submarine fleet in survivability.47
the first island chain. The AirSea battle concept
These are broad brush stokes, that lay out valid
recommends a form of maritime quarantine of
and interesting ideas for an Australian involvement
China’s littoral, with anti-submarine barriers along
in a regionalized AirSea Battle framework. If one
the Ryuku islands and the Luzon Strait cordoning
were to take a step further however, by looking
off potential escape routes for the PLA submarine
at Australia’s future force structure and strategy
fleets, and mobile mines and armed unmanned
as outlined in the latest Defense White Paper, as
underwater vehicles UUVs being sent into the
well as at some of the force structure amendments
danger zone via the U.S. submarine fleet. These
suggested by a preeminent analyst in a recent
efforts would be supplemented by offensive mine
monograph, what kind of concrete role could one
laying operations conducted by air force stealth
expect Australia to play in the event of a conflict
bombers.
with China?
These are a few of the measures and tactical
The paper written by Ross Babbage of the Kokoda
recommendations outlined in the extremely
Foundation, entitled, “Australia’s Strategic Edge
detailed document, which point to a profound

From Down Under to Top Center 15


in 2030,”48 is one of the few recently published Applying these two core principles and the two
Australian strategic documents to rival the Defense force structure variants outlined in both the
White Paper in terms of sheer impact. Defense White Paper and the Kokoda Foundation
monograph, what are the different options open to
In this monograph, Ross Babbage calls for a Australia in an AirSea Battle contingency?
revamped defense strategy that builds on the 2009
Defense White Paper, but goes for a step further. He There are three different possibilities, all of which
Australia’s claims that Australia must be both more self-reliant should, ideally, be pursued simultaneously:
greatest asset is in the event of the United States not being able
to come to its assistance, and also more capable • Supportive rearguard actions
its strategic depth,
of operating more synergistically with the United
due to its distance • Disruptive peripheral campaigns
States, most notably through the medium of Air Sea
from China’s short
Battle. • Offensive amphibious strikes
and intermediate
range missiles, Australia, he says, needs to “make the most of Supportive Rearguard Actions
and its vast Australia’s limited strategic resources to leverage Australia’s greatest asset is its strategic depth, due
continental the country’s close allied partnership with the to its distance from China’s short and intermediate
landmass. United States and generate an integrated suite of range missiles, and its vast continental landmass.
highly asymmetric capabilities.”49 He calls for the In the future, as American forward bases in Japan,
replacement of the planned fleet of conventional Korea, and Japan become increasingly vulnerable
submarines with a flotilla of nuclear Virginia to Chinese missile barrages, the Southern Pacific
class submarines, for the reconfiguration of the Continent, with its solid infrastructure and local
Australian Army for long range special forces technical expertise, could provide the United
operations, and for the establishment of a potent States with the possibility to station hardened
joint U.S.-Australian cyber capability, among and dispersed bases. By ensuring that joint space,
other things. He also states that Australia needs cyberspace, and radar monitoring facilities are
to be involved in the development of joint long stationed in Australia rather than closer to Chinese
range strike options, whether it be fifth generation shores, the allies considerably enhance the chances
strategic bombers, conventional global strike, of their C2 abilities surviving the “blinding
or high endurance long range drones, as well as campaign” outlined in the AirSea Battle Concept.
provide the facilities from which these strikes could There has already been some speculation in U.S.
be launched. Both “Australia’s Strategic Edge” and and Australian policy circles, as well as in the
the Defense White Paper recognize that if Australia Australian press, of the possibility of establishing
is to survive in a high-intensity conflict involving a full U.S. base in Darwin, a joint amphibious
China, it needs to be able to: strike force in Townsville, or an enlarged joint
naval facility in Western Australia.50 For the time
• Leverage asymmetric abilities in order, in a way, being though, it seems as though the preference in
to “do a China on China” and Australia may continue to slant towards joint basing
• Act as force multiplier by operating on the model of what already exists at Exmouth and
synergistically with its allies in the region such Pine Gap.
as the United States and Japan. During World War II, Australia served as a major
logistical hub and arsenal for Allied Forces fighting

16 Transatlantic Academy
the Japanese in the Southwest Pacific. This function between the United States, Australia, New
could easily be reprised in the event of another Zealand, East Asia, and Guam.”53 Australia, by
regional conflict. Australian dockyards already deploying submarines, UUVs and mobile mines
have the required facilities to repair damaged in the area, could ensure that it becomes a highly
American aircraft carriers, and deep sea ports contested environment in the event that a Chinese
can shelter American and Japanese submarines. amphibious force felt tempted to replicate the
Australia’s AEGIS-equipped Air Warfare Destroyers American island-hopping strategy of World War II.
could also undoubtedly play a vital role, helping to Australia’s
shield vulnerable Japanese airfields from incoming Australia’s strategic depth could also play to its strategic depth
missile attack, for example. Chinese naval analysts disadvantage, however, if its distance from the
could also play to
have been particularly concerned over Australia’s Chinese mainland prevents it from providing any
its disadvantage,
planned induction of AEGIS class ships, suggesting significant support to allied operations in terms of
however, if its
that Japan, Australia, and the United States could long range strike. The 2009 White Paper attempts
to compensate for the phasing out of Australia’s distance from
form a future tripartite Ballistic Missile Defense
long-range airstrike capability by emphasizing the Chinese
alliance, operating under some form of division of
that its vessels will be equipped with long-range mainland prevents
labor, with Japan and the United States providing
land-attack cruise missiles. While it is a good it from providing
forward defense against incoming land-based
missiles, and Australia monitoring the waters of decision to provide Australia’s fleet with such a any significant
the Pacific for Chinese submarine launches. As capability, it seems unwise to cut back on long- support to allied
James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara point out in range airstrike while simultaneously announcing operations in
their excellent study of Chinese maritime strategy,51 the prohibitively costly acquisition of up to 100 terms of long-
Chinese writers may in fact be overestimating short-range F-35 Joint Strike Fighters over the range strike.
Allied capacities in terms of ballistic missile defense course of the next decade. Carlo Kopp, one of
when they claim that the three partners could in Australia’s leading airpower strategists, has drawn
the future “erect a protective shield reaching 50,000 attention to the fact that in addition to its high
meters above the earth’s atmosphere along the cost, the Joint Strike Fighter can only attain a
entire first island chain.”52 This may be true, but combat radius of 600 nautical miles at best, and
Chinese forecasting of a division of labor in terms requires force multipliers such as air tankers,
of missile defense can serve as useful advice to something which the Australian Air Force currently
integrate into Australia’s AirSea Battle planning. is short of, in order to be effective. Kopp argues
convincingly for the reintroduction of the F-111,
The country’s ANZAC class frigates, with their albeit in a more evolved form, stating that “as the
potent anti-submarine warfare capabilities, F-111 has the endurance and combat radius to
could also be called upon, along with the future perform many roles with little or no aerial refueling
submarine force, to help cordon off the second support, important operational economies could
island chain and protect Guam against marauding be realized in comparison with smaller multi-role
Chinese submarines during the subsurface aircraft which cannot function effectively without
quarantine phase of AirSea Battle. Analysts have continuous tanker support.” An evolved F-111,54
also pointed out that the sprawling atolls and would also be “more precisely tuned in capability to
islets of Oceania, which Australia has traditionally the Australian Defence Force’s unique geographic
considered to be its strategic backyard, “straddle and strategic needs”55 than shorter range fighters,
the geopolitically significant maritime routes which are “optimized for European, Middle Eastern

From Down Under to Top Center 17


or other less demanding short-range strategic Wars, with wolf packs of two to three Australian
environments.”56 In reality, Australia need only submarines harassing Chinese energy shipments
have two or three forward deployed JSF squadrons. or task forces on their way back from deployments
The rest of its inventory should be composed of in the Gulf of Aden or stationings in Gwadar.
the evolved F-111s suggested by Kopp, and of the Such campaigns would require long transits and
new class of long-range stealth drones, which will periods of operation. Babbage’s suggestion that
be inducted into the U.S. Navy from 2018 onwards. Australia seek to acquire Virginia class SSNs
Australia and the Likewise, Ross Babbage’s proposal that Australia rather than build conventionally powered attack
United States focus on the co-development of a stealth long-range submarines should therefore be seriously taken into
may be presented bomber aircraft with the United States should be consideration.
with a situation heeded at a time when strike range will count as
much, if not more, as strike density. Offensive Amphibious Actions
in which they
The 2009 White Paper lays out the framework
have no choice Disruptive Peripheral Campaigns for a significantly more potent amphibious force,
but to divide their In the early days of the 20th century, Imperial with the planned acquisition of two large LHDs
areas of operation Germany’s frantic naval build-up gave birth to (Landing Helicopter Docks), half a dozen smaller
when confronted much anxiety in Paris and London. As the first landing crafts, a replacement replenishment ship,
with a growing storm clouds scudded across the old continent and and a medium-sized sealift ship. This has been
Chinese navy. rumors of war grew ever louder, both allied nations framed as a return to an Australian amphibious
decided to split responsibility for naval operations culture “present in earlier Australian military
for the duration of the pending conflict. The Royal eras.”57 Amphibious forces, an Australian analyst
Navy was to take on the German High Seas fleet in at the Land Warfare Center notes, provide much
the North Sea and the Atlantic, while the French flexibility in terms of signaling and shaping enemy
were to focus their attention on the Mediterranean. perceptions, by “mixing the speed-persistence
In a similar fashion, Australia and the United States and relatively inoffensive presence of a warship
may be presented with a situation in which they in international waters with the directness and
have no choice but to divide their areas of operation decisiveness of land forces.”58 Thus an Australian
when confronted with a growing Chinese navy. amphibious task force could deploy itself 13
In this case, it would seem logical that American nautical miles from a Chinese refueling station
forces would be primarily deployed in the heart of or node in its “string of pearls”59 in an attempt to
the Western Pacific Theater of Operations, while apply pressure and compel Beijing to deescalate.
Australia, at the rearguard, could simultaneously Amphibious task forces could also be used to
conduct disruptive peripheral actions from its “sanitize” the Southern Pacific, island hopping
vast western seaboard into the Indian Ocean. from atoll to atoll, or destroy Chinese intelligence
By stationing some of its short-range joint strike gathering facilities in Southeast Asia or Oceania,
fighters on enlarged airfields on the Coco Islands, such as the one Beijing recently strove to erect in
the Australian Air Force could conduct lightning East Timor.60
strikes on Chinese vessels attempting to exit or
enter the Malacca Straits. Australia’s small but With vast archipelagoes stretching from its near-
potent submarine fleet could also be called upon north to the swathes of atolls in Oceania circling
to conduct a campaign similar to the German U its north-eastern rim, it is natural for Australia to
Boat campaigns undertaken during both World rediscover its honored tradition of amphibious
warfare. An abiding concern, however, is the

18 Transatlantic Academy
vulnerability of these same amphibious task forces frigates and maybe a screen of submarines,
to anti-ship missiles, mines, or wake-homing which could lead to a costly dilution of Australia’s
torpedoes. This means that any amphibious force warfighting potential elsewhere.
will need to be provided with an escort of ANZAC

AUSTRALIA’S AIRSEA BATTLE ROLE


Amphibious
Supportive Rearguard Peripheral Campaigns
Strikes
Geographical division
Strategic
Strategic Depth of labor under an ASB Archipelagic warfare
Foundations
framework
Air Warfare Destroyers Disruptive “U-boat”
Island hopping/WWII
shield Allied Forward campaigns launched from
Pacific Campaign
Bases the western seaboard
Amphibious strikes
ANZAC frigates provide Airstrikes from the Coco
against Chinese bases
vital assistance during the Islands
intelligence facilities in
ASW campaigns Strait interdiction Southeast Asia and the
Tactical Options Long-range cruise missiles Strikes at Chinese task Southern Pacific
can strike at over-the- forces returning from thePreliminary cruise missile
horizon radar systems and Indian Ocean strikes to soften up the
hardened structures Breaking of China’s “String beachhead before risking
Logistical hub, arsenal, of Pearls” and support an amphibious landing
and repair center for allied bases in the Indian Ocean
forces region
More long-range strike Enlarged airfields on the Reconfiguration of
capabilities. Strike range as Coco Islands. Stationing Australian Army for
important, if not more, as of two squadrons of Joint Special Ops Campaigns/
strike density Strike Fighters Amphibious Strikes
A smaller fleet of Joint Large naval base between Offset growing
Strike Fighters in favor Perth and Darwin vulnerability with escort
Force
of several squadrons of Nuclear rather than of ANZAC frigates and air
Requirements
evolved F-111s conventional submarines support
Long-range unmanned in order to prosecute Establishment of a joint
aerial vehicles UAVs and lengthy submarine American/Australian
co-development of a new- campaigns Amphibious Warfare
generation long-range Mobile mines and UUVs Strike Corps and Training
stealth bomber for strait interdiction Facility

From Down Under to Top Center 19


4 Conclusion:
This Century’s Special Relationship?

A
s the world’s axis pivots from West to it. This will not necessarily happen at the expense
East, Australia has swiveled from down of the U.S.-UK relationship, but rather will form the
under to top center. Nestled in between Asian wing of the Democratic Anglosphere, which
the two great oceans of our time, bound by strong has formed the inner core of the U.S. system of
cultural, political, and military ties to the Western alliances since its inception.
hemisphere, Canberra is coming to terms, at last,
with its Asian geography. Shedding antiquated This will in time lead to the emergence of a form
Canberra’s paradigms, Australia has emerged as a maritime of division of labor, or geographical differentiation
new special nation in the making, an important actor at the between both strategic relationships. The U.S.-UK
heart of the Asia-Pacific Century rather than an special relationship will still be highly invested in
relationship with
isolated hinterland clinging onto its edge. The vast issues pertaining to the more traditional Atlantic
Washington is
continent’s western shore booms with the echoes and Mediterranean regions, while the area “East of
one that will both
of the forgotten ocean, and Australia, by tearing its Suez” will be the focus of the strengthened U.S.-
be attuned to Australia alliance. The recent decision to let Great
gaze away from its traditional Pacific horizon, has
the realities of Britain and France spearhead the intervention
reacquainted itself with its Asian centrality.
an Asia-Pacific in Libya may be the first glimpse into this new
century and It is this same centrality, when combined with its division of labor which will, by virtue of necessity,
help define it. strategic depth and growing concerns over China’s come to characterize Western action in a multipolar
rise, that ensures its emergence as the United States’ world.
strongest ally in the Asia-Pacific region. Its efforts
to develop a 21st century force structure emphasize At the time of the Raj, the British Viceroy would
both the virtues of self-reliance and the need for preside over the future of Asia from the small
greater synergy with United States and allied forces Indian hilltop town of Simla and the bustling
operating under the mantle of an enlarged AirSea streets of Delhi or Calcutta, while far to the West,
battle framework. Canberra’s warfighting prowess the intricacies of European and Mediterranean
and operational flexibility will guarantee both its geopolitics would be unraveled in the gilded halls
survivability in the face of strategic uncertainty, and of Westminster.
its continued value as a major U.S. ally. In a similar fashion, the United States will only
This solidifying strategic convergence between both remain a global power if its strategic vision
English-speaking nations will have an immensely is buttressed by a transpacific, as well as by a
positive influence on regional developments and transatlantic special relationship.
global stability. Australia’s deep enmeshment in
Asia, and increasingly close ties with countries such
as Indonesia,61 may well prove to be its greatest
asset. At the intersection of two worlds, Australia
will also be their bridge, linking the West with an
Asian hemisphere slowly pulling away from the
Middle Kingdom’s orbit.

Canberra’s new special relationship with


Washington is one that will both be attuned to the
realities of an Asia-Pacific century and help define

20 Transatlantic Academy
5 Endnotes

1 
See: Geoffrey Blainey, The Tyranny of Distance- Michael Evans, “The Tyranny of Dissonance:
12 

How Distance Shaped Australia’s History, Australia’s Strategic Culture and Way of War,
Macmillan 2nd Edition, London, 1975, 232pp. 1901-2005,” Australian Land Warfare Studies
2 
Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and Centre, 2005, p. 29. Available online at www.
the Remaking of World Order, Simon and Schuster, defence.gov.au/army/LWSC/Publications/SP/
New York, 1996, p. 158. SP_306.pdf
3 
Richard A Higgot and Kim Richard Nossul, “The National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, quoted
13 

International Politics of Liminality: Relocating by Ryan Lizza in “The Consequentialist: How the
Australia in the Asia-Pacific,” Australian Journal of Arab Spring Remade Obama’s Foreign Policy,” The
Political Sciences, n.2, Vol.32, 1997, pp. 169-185 New Yorker, May 2nd 2011 Edition
4 
Michael Evans, “The Tyranny of Dissonance: Quoted by Ryan Lizza in “The Consequentialist:
14 

Australia’s Strategic Culture and Way of War, 1901- How the Arab Spring Remade Obama’s Foreign
2005,” Australian Land Warfare Studies Centre, Policy,” The New Yorker, May 2nd 2011 Edition.
2005. Available online at www.defence.gov.au/ Quadriennal Defense Review Report, U.S.
15 

army/LWSC/Publications/SP/SP_306.pdf Department of Defense, February 2010, p. 82.


5 
Commonwealth of Australia, “Defending Retrievable at http://www.defense.gov/qdr/
Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030” qdr percent20as percent20of percent2029jan10
(Canberra: May 2009), retrievable at www.defence. percent201600.pdf
gov.au/whitepaper/. See: A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century
16 

6 
AirSea Battle: A Point-of-Departure Operational Seapower, U.S. Department of Defense, October
Concept, Center for Strategic and Budgetary 2007, p. 9. Retrievable at http://www.navy.mil/
Assessments, officially released on 18 May, maritime/Maritimestrategy.pdf
2010, retrievable at http://www.csbaonline. Remarks at the first plenary session of the 2010
17 

org/4Publications/PubLibrary/ Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapore, Saturday 5th June


7 
Sam Bateman and Antony Bergin, “Our western 2010.
front: Australia and the Indian Ocean,” Australian See Sam Bateman and Antony Bergin, “Our
18 

Strategic Policy Institute, March 2010, available western front: Australia and the Indian Ocean,”
online at www.aspi.org.au/publications/publica- Australian Strategic Policy Institute, March 2010,
tion_details.aspx?...248 p. 33 p. 33. Retrievable at www.aspi.org.au/publica-
8 
See Geoffrey Blainey’s fascinating account of this tions/publication_details.aspx?...248
rarely recounted obsessive quest for the “missing John Birmingham, “Looking West: Australia and
19 

continent” in Sea of Dangers: Captain Cook and his the Indian Ocean.” The Monthly, August 2009,
European Rivals, Viking, Melbourne, 2008, 420pp. available online at http://www.themonthly.com.
9 
See Jeffrey Gray, A Military History of Australia, au/monthly-essays-john-birmingham-looking-
Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 45 west-australia-and-indian-ocean-1852?page=0
percent2C1
10 
Ibid.
11 
See Bernard Ringrose Wise, The Making of the
Australian Commonwealth 1899-1900, A Stage in
the Growth of the Empire, Longmans, Green and
Co. London, 1913, p. 51.

From Down Under to Top Center 21


20 
Sam Bateman and Antony Bergin, “Our western See Richard Smith’s brilliant short analysis in
29 

front: Australia and the Indian Ocean,” Austra- “The Long Rise of China in Australian Defense
lian Strategic Policy Institute, March 2010, p. 41, Strategy.” Lowy Institute for International Policy,
retrievable at www.aspi.org.au/publications/publi- April 2009, available online at www.lowyinstitute.
cation_details.aspx?...248 org/Publication.asp?pid=1023
21 
Ibid. 30 
Ibid.
See Rory Medcalf, “Australia and India: How to
22  31 
Jack McCaffrie and Chris Rahman, “Australia’s
Advance.” Lowy Institute for International Policy, 2009 Defense White Paper: A Maritime Focus
May 2010, available online at www.lowyinstitute. for Uncertain Times,” Naval War College Review,
org/Publication.asp?pid=1293 Winter 2010, Vol.63, n.1, pp. 61-76.
See Iskander Rehman, “Keeping the Dragon at
23 
In 2009, Stern Hu, a China-based Australian
32 

Bay: India’s Counter-Containment of China in executive of Rio Tinto, one of the worlds largest
Asia.” in Asian Security Journal, Vol.5, Issue 2, mining companies was arrested for having alleg-
May-June 2009. edly “stolen state secrets.” His detention, which
Frank Boeze, “Maritime Australia: Integrating the
24  occurred at a time of rising anxiety in Australia
Sea into our National History,” Maritime Studies, over its growing economic dependence on a
May-June 1995, pp. 9-16. resource-starved China and under the backdrop
of large-scale corruption and shadowy business
Former Chief of the Australian Army Lt. Gen
25 
deals, severely frayed diplomatic ties between
Frank Hickling, quoted by Michael Evans in
Beijing and Canberra.
“The Tyranny of Dissonance: Australia’s Strategic
Culture and Way of War, 1901-2005,” Australian Julian S Corbett, Some Principles of Maritime
33 

Land Warfare Studies Centre, 2005, p. 29. Avail- Strategy, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis,
able online at www.defence.gov.au/army/LWSC/ 1988,
p. 15.
Publications/SP/SP_306.pdf Commonwealth of Australia, “Defending
34 

Michael Evans, “The Tyranny of Dissonance:


26 
Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030”
Australia’s Strategic Culture and Way of War, (Canberra: May 2009), p. 22, retrievable at www.
1901-2005,” Australian Land Warfare Studies defence.gov.au/whitepaper/.
Centre, 2005, p. 29. Available online at www. It will be argued later, however, that this may
35 

defence.gov.au/army/LWSC/Publications/SP/ prove to be only a stop-gap measure in a secu-


SP_306.pdf rity arena where heightened long-range strike
See Alan Bloomfield and Kim Richard Nossal,
27 
capabilities will become the norm and absolute
“Towards an Explicative Understanding of Stra- prerequisite.
tegic Culture: The Cases of Australia and Canada.” Cameron Stuart, “Military Ambitions,” The
36 

Contemporary Security Policy, Vol.28, n°2, August Australian, 2 May 2009 edition.
2007, pp. 286-307.
Trevor J. Thomas, “2010-2011 Australian Defence
37 

Commonwealth of Australia, “Defending


28 
Budget Analysis,” Australian Defence Business
Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force Review, ADBR & ASRC: Defence & National
2030 ” (Canberra: May 2009), retrievable at www. Security Budget Briefing Vol.29, No.03, retriev-
defence.gov.au/whitepaper/. able at http://www.adbr.com.au/download/2010/
ADBR_2010-11_Defence_Budget_Analysis.pdf

22 Transatlantic Academy
John Arnaut & Brendan Nicholson, “Defense
38 
Greg Sheridan, “Best Place for a Larger U.S.
50 

plan ruffles the Chinese,” The Age, 2 May 2009. Base,” The Australian, August 19th 2010 edition.
39 
See Grame Doebell, “Rip off a Chinese Arm,” 51 
Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes, Red Star
7 February 2011, retrievable at http://www. Over the Pacific, China’s Rise and the Challenge
lowyinterpreter.org/post/2011/02/07/Rip-off-a- to U.S. Maritime Strategy, Naval Institute Press,
Chinese-arm.aspx Annapolis, 2010, p. 115
40 
Seth Cropsey, “The U.S. Navy in Distress,” Stra- See LI Jie, “Why are AEGIS Ships Gathering in
52 

tegic Analysis, Vol.34, n°1, January 2010, p. 35-45. the Asia-Pacific?,” Modern Navy, November 2007,
41 
See: Alastair Iain Johnston, “Toward Contextual- p. 26; Ren Dexin, “AEGIS ships encircle China,”
izing the Concept of a Shashoujian (Assassin’s Naval and Merchant Ships, September 2007, p. 12
Mace),” retrievable at http://www.people.fas. Captain Sea Sovereign Thomas, “Engaging
53 

harvard.edu/~johnston/shashoujian.pdf Oceania,” Naval War College Review, Winter 2010,


See: Andrew S.Erickson and David D.Yang,
42  Vol.63, n.1, pp. 97-106.
“Using the Land to Control the Sea? Chinese The Evolved F-111 would have undergone
54 

Analysts Consider the Anti-ship Ballistic Missile,” significant upgrades, most notably through the
Naval War College Review, Autumn 2009, Vol.62, provision of a phased array AESA radar, super-
n°4, pp. 53-86. sonic cruise propulsion, and a radar cross section
See: Andrew F.Krepinevich Jr , “The Pentagon’s
43  reduction.
Wasting Assets: The Eroding Foundations of See: Car lo Kopp and Peter A Goon, Strategic
55 

American Power,” Foreign Affairs, July/August Needs and Force Structure Analysis: The Thinking
2009, and James Kraska, “How the U.S. lost the Behind the F-22 A and Evolved F-111 Force Mix
Naval War of 2015,” Orbis, Winter 2009. Option, Air Power Australia Discussion Paper
AirSea Battle: A Point-of-Departure Operational
44  (Issue V), 10 February 2008, retrievable at http://
Concept, Center for Strategic and Budgetary www.ausairpower.net/Evolved-F-111-DP-V.5-S.
Assessments, officially released on 18 May pdf
2010, retrievable at http://www.csbaonline. 56 
Ibid.
org/4Publications/PubLibrary/ Alberto Palazzo, Antony Trentini, Lt. Col Jona-
57 
45 
Ibid than Hawkins, and Captain Malcolm Brailey,
AirSea Battle: A Point-of-Departure Operational
46  “Projecting Force: The Australian Army and
Concept, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Maritime Strategy,” Australian Land Warfare
Assessments, officially released on 18 May 2010, Studies Centre, 2010. Available online at www.
p. 51, retrievable at http://www.csbaonline. army.gov.au/lwsc/docs/sp317.pdf
org/4Publications/PubLibrary/ 58 
Ibid, p. 32.
47 
Ibid, p. 93 59 
For more on China’s String of Pearls, see:
Ross Babbage, “Australia’s Strategic Edge in 2030,”
48  Iskander Rehman, “China’s String of Pearls
Kokoda Foundation, Paper n.15, February 2011, and India’s Enduring Tactical Advantage.”
available online at www.kokodafoundation.org/ IDSA Strategic Comments, June 2010, retriev-
Resources/Documents/KP15StrategicEdge.pdf able at http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/
ChinasStringofPearlsandIndiasEnduringTactica-
49 
Ibid, Executive Summary.
lAdvantage_irehman_080610

From Down Under to Top Center 23


Philip Dorling, “Timor Rejected Chinese Spy
60 

Offer,” The Age, 10 May 2011, retrievable at http://


www.theage.com.au/world/timor-rejected-
chinese-spy-offer-20110509-1efv1.html
For a good, concise overview of Australia’s
61 

exceedingly complex relationship with its Indone-


sian neighbor over the years, see: Dale Stephens,
Stefan Gruber “Cooperation, Friction and Safe-
guarding: Australia and Indonesia’s Security
Relationship,” Sydney Law School Legal Sudies
Research Paper No.10/84, August 2010, retriev-
able at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1666661

24 Transatlantic Academy
6 Bibliography

Reference Books Richard A Higgot and Kim Richard Nossul, “The


Geoffrey Blainey, The Tyranny of Distance-How International Politics of Liminality: Relocating
Distance Shaped Australia’s History, Macmillan Australia in the Asia-Pacific,” Australian Journal
2nd Edition, London, 1975. of Political Sciences, n.2, Vol.32, 1997.

Geoffrey Blainey, Sea of Dangers: Captain Cook and LI Jie, “Why are AEGIS Ships Gathering in the
his European Rivals, Viking, Melbourne, 2008. Asia-Pacific?” Modern Navy, November 2007.

Julian S Corbett, Some Principles of Maritime Andrew F. Krepinevich J. “The Pentagon’s Wasting
Strategy, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1988. Assets: The Eroding Foundations of American
Power,” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2009.
Jeffrey Gray, A Military History of Australia,
Cambridge University Press, 2008. James Kraska, “How the U.S. lost the Naval War of
2015,” Orbis, Winter 2009.
Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations
and the Remaking of World Order, Simon and Jack McCaffrie and Chris Rahman, “Australia’s
Schuster, New York, 1996. 2009 Defense White Paper: A Maritime Focus
for Uncertain Times,” Naval War College Review,
Bernard Ringrose Wise, The Making of the Vol.63, Winter 2010.
Australian Commonwealth 1899-1900, A Stage in
the Growth of the Empire, Longmans, Green and Iskander Rehman, “Keeping the Dragon at Bay:
Co. London, 1913. India’s Counter-Containment of China in Asia.”
in Asian Security Journal, Vol.5, Issue 2, May-
Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes, Red Star June 2009.
Over the Pacific, China’s Rise and the Challenge
to U.S. Maritime Strategy, Naval Institute Press, Dale Stephens and Stefan Gruber “Cooperation,
Annapolis, 2010. Friction and Safeguarding: Australia and
Indonesia’s Security Relationship,” Sydney Law
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Frank Boeze, “Maritime Australia: Integrating the August 2010, retrievable at http://ssrn.com/
Sea into our National History,” Maritime Studies, abstract=1666661
May-June 1995.
Captain Sea Sovereign Thomas, “Engaging
Seth Cropsey, “The U.S. Navy in Distress,” Strategic Oceania,” Naval War College Review, Vol.63, n.1,
Analysis, Vol.34, n°1, January 2010. Winter 2010.

Ren Dexin, “AEGIS ships encircle China,” Naval Government Publications


and Merchant Ships, September 2007. Commonwealth of Australia, “Defending Australia
Andrew S.Erickson and David D.Yang, “Using in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030”
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From Down Under to Top Center 25


Quadriennal Defense Review Report, U.S. Trevor J. Thomas, “2010-2011 Australian
Department of Defense, February 2010. Defence Budget Analysis,” Australian Defence
Retrievable at http://www.defense.gov/qdr/ Business Review, ADBR & ASRC: Defence
qdr percent20as percent20of percent2029jan10 & National Security Budget Briefing Vol.29,
percent201600.pdf No.03, retrievable at http://www.adbr.com.au/
download/2010/ADBR_2010-11_Defence_
A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, Budget_Analysis.pdf
U.S. Department of Defense, October 2007.
Retrievable at http://www.navy.mil/maritime/ Car lo Kopp and Peter A Goon, Strategic Needs and
Maritimestrategy.pdf Force Structure Analysis: The Thinking Behind
the F-22 A and Evolved F-111 Force Mix Option,
Reports/Monographs Air Power Australia Discussion Paper (Issue
AirSea Battle: A Point-of-Departure Operational V), 10 February 2008, retrievable at http://www.
Concept, Center for Strategic and Budgetary ausairpower.net/Evolved-F-111-DP-V.5-S.pdf
Assessments, officially released on 18 May 2010,
Rory Medcalf, “Australia and India: How to
p. 51, retrievable at http://www.csbaonline.
Advance.” Lowy Institute for International
org/4Publications/PubLibrary/
Policy, May 2010, available online at www.
Ross Babbage, “Australia’s Strategic Edge in 2030,” lowyinstitute.org/Publication.asp?pid=1293
Kokoda Foundation, Paper n.15, February 2011,
Alberto Palazzo, Antony Trentini, Lt. Col Jonathan
available online at www.kokodafoundation.org/
Hawkins, and Captain Malcolm Brailey,
Resources/Documents/KP15StrategicEdge.pdf
“Projecting Force: The Australian Army and
Sam Bateman and Antony Bergin, “Our western Maritime Strategy,” Australian Land Warfare
front: Australia and the Indian Ocean,” Studies Centre, 2010. Available online at www.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute, March army.gov.au/lwsc/docs/sp317.pdf
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Iskander Rehman, “China’s String of Pearls and
publications/publication_details.aspx?...248
India’s Enduring Tactical Advantage,” IDSA
Michael Evans, “The Tyranny of Dissonance: Strategic Comments, June 2010, retriev-
Australia’s Strategic Culture and Way of War, able at http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/
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Centre, 2005. Available online at www.defence. lAdvantage_irehman_080610
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Richard Smith, “The Long Rise of China in
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retrievable at http://www.people.fas.harvard. online at www.lowyinstitute.org/Publication.
edu/~johnston/shashoujian.pdf asp?pid=1023

26 Transatlantic Academy
Press Articles
John Arnaut & Brendan Nicholson, “Defense plan
ruffles the Chinese,” The Age, 2 May 2009.

John Birmingham, “Looking West: Australia and


the Indian Ocean,” The Monthly, August 2009,
available online at http://www.themonthly.com.
au/monthly-essays-john-birmingham-looking-
west-australia-and-indian-ocean-1852?page=0
percent2C1

Grame Doebell, “Rip off a Chinese Arm,” 7


February 2011, retrievable at http://www.
lowyinterpreter.org/post/2011/02/07/Rip-off-a-
Chinese-arm.aspx

Philip Dorling, “Timor Rejected Chinese Spy


Offer,” The Age, 10 May 2011, retrievable
at http://www.theage.com.au/world/timor-
rejected-chinese-spy-offer-20110509-1efv1.html

Ryan Lizza, “The Consequentialist: How the Arab


Spring Remade Obama’s Foreign Policy,” The
New Yorker, May 2nd 2011 Edition.

Greg Sheridan, “Best Place for a Larger U.S. Base,”


The Australian, August 19th 2010 edition.

Cameron Stuart, “Military Ambitions,” The


Australian, 2 May 2009 edition.

From Down Under to Top Center 27


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