Australia and ASEAN

Milblogging on Australian defence policy is being dominated by discussions about military procurement and budgeting according to my personal observation.

A procurement "strategy" is no real strategy, though. It's merely an execution of a strategy (or it's aimless drifting).

Looking at Australia, I've always been confused by how it seemed to be fixated on distant Caucasian people countries for alliances. They even participated in Mediterranean WW2 an later they participated in the Vietnam War.

The current situation does not offer any major block conflict such as Allies-Axis or NATO-WP any more. Maybe it's about time Australia takes distant places less serious in its defence policy?

A good starting point for a reset would be to look at the only conceivable threat in the vicinity; Indonesia.

Australia and Indonesia, image creator: "Gunkarta"
Indonesia has about the same economic output in nominal terms, and more in purchasing power parity. Indonesia has a twice as high share of goods in its economic output (I don't think that the service sector's output is a good economic power indicator) as Australia. It's growing more rapidly and is a less mature state/economy, potentially able to mobilise a much greater share of its economic output for national projects. In short; Australia looks inferior in the long term.

This offers an opportunity to emulate Europe's recipe for national security; ally with your neighbours till all of 'em are either allies or stern neutrals.

Maybe it would be a better national security policy if Australia tries to ally with Indonesia, maybe even join ASEAN, than to be fixated on traditional alliances with distant anglophone countries?

Maybe not, but I deem this at least to be a better question than the 1000th debate about twelve submarine fantasies or the F-35 procurement.



 edit: This topic had comments, but somehow Blogger messed it up and they appear to be lost.


  1. recovered comment (from e-mail) by Maximilian Mary:

    " this is true.

    while australia will want to keep her historical and cultural affinities with europe, particularly with the UK, i think you are correct in thinking that it would be better for australia to ally with her regional partners more closely."

  2. recovered comment(from e-mail) from MTBradley:

    "Even South Africa would seem a more natural ally than European or North American nations."

  3. Australia did initially fight in the Mediterranean theatre in WW2 - and then, after the fall of Singapore, they redeployed herforces (some of the highest quality units in the war at that time, judging by their exploits) into Australia and the Pacific. NZ, on the other hand, kept her Expeditionary Force (Div) in the European-ish region, as the US provided assurances of regional security rather than sidetracking logistics and planning just to bring those men home.

    As to the course of Australian policy, you make some obvious and oft-noted points. However, culture counts for a lot, and Australia as a developed, liberal economy no doubt feels more affinity to like-minded nations. This includes everything from the import and export of luxury goods, travel, relocation and family connections (she is an outpost of the British empire, remember, and a lot of families are interconnected still).

    Further, the pre-eminent naval power is the US and Australia requires freedom of the oceans to maintain her prosperity. Being allied with a nation that ensures goods can flow freely and, importantly, cheaply to and from Australian shores is a strategic imperative.
    From my position she (Australia) is not blase about SE Asian relations, and has strong and enduring links with Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. However regional security is still less important than access to the global commons. Thus, Australia retains her main strategic orientation to the Pax Americana.

  4. That sounds fragile, for the U.S: does not depend on Australia; neither on its few auxiliary forces for U.S. operations nor for UNSC vote or for bases.