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Sunday 18 Feb 2018 | 14:22 | SYDNEY
Sunday 18 Feb 2018 | 14:22 | SYDNEY

Libya and Australia\'s interests



23 March 2011 15:58

The most common complaint you hear about the Libya intervention is that it is not in the 'interests' of the nations participating. This is true so long as we accept a very limited conception of interests, as defined by realists (generally, direct security and access to valuable material resources).

Yet, in the real world, few use this conception. The Australian Government's conception of its national interest — even with realists such as John Howard involved — has always been far wider than this narrow definition.

While Australia has no security or resource interests in Libya, we do have a strong 'interest' in strengthening norms such as R2P and humanitarian intervention. We are a nation which strongly supports such ideas (East Timor, Solomon Islands) in a region which is still very hesitant about them. Strengthening these norms globally gives Australia cover for both our past, and likely future, military activity in the Asia Pacific.

As a stable, prosperous, democratic state, Australia has much to gain and little to fear from an active UN Security Council and the proliferation of ideas such as R2P. Especially when we can encourage these principles without having to pay anything — as Rudd has achieved — Australia is serving its interests by supporting the Libyan intervention. This is of course a highly self-interested analysis, but realists rarely have a problem with that.

Photo by Flickr user Julian Rotela Rostow. 

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