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Weekend catch-up: Anzac Day, neocons, the EU and Ukraine, digital diplomacy and more

Weekend catch-up: Anzac Day, neocons, the EU and Ukraine, digital diplomacy and more
Published 25 Apr 2015   Follow @BrendanTN_

Today is Anzac Day in Australia. Each year the national commemoration prompts a substantial amount of public reflection both on its meaning for Australians today, its place in Australia's national identity and whether it should hold a place of such prominence. The Interpreter hosted two pieces on those topics this week, the first from historian James Curran:

The real risk for Australia's wartime commemorative culture is not the proliferation of military histories weighing down the shelves of bookshops. Rather it is the danger that the rhetoric of Anzac becomes so caricatured and hackneyed that the occasion becomes little more than a national sedative, an annual Anzac dosage which dulls the mind and skates over the challenge of understanding the history of Australia's participation in global conflicts. 

The risk is that we lose sight of the national interest that propelled Australia into the Great War. We must resist the parochialism of the present which so often says that those who joined up in 1914 were little more than duped patriots, and that Australia followed blindly its British imperial masters with no thought as to its own interests. 

Jenny Hayward-Jones, who worked as a diplomat at the Australian embassy in Turkey for several years, wrote on her memories of the Anzac Cove ceremony she attended in 2005 and other visits to the area:

The last thing Kenan showed us was a simple stone monument with no names of the dead or details of the battle inscribed. It marked a site where thousands of soldiers (mostly Turkish) were buried as they were killed (because the battle had to continue). It was mid-afternoon and we were beginning to lose the winter sun. I had spent a day walking among graves of young men and gazing at monuments to important stages in the battle. Yet although I had long been taught that this event defined my nation, I was struggling to create my own relationship with the place. It was only at this last, most unfamiliar of sites that I could hear the souls of the dead and I understood.

Robert Kelly warned the US Congress that tactics like its recent Iran letter would not work in Asia:

One of my greatest concerns for US foreign policy in the coming decades is that this neocon 'omnidirectional belligerence' will, in time, come to the Asia Pacific. Neocon belligerence and recklessness are not feasible in Asia as they are in the Middle East, in Cuba or Venezuela, or even in responding to Putin. John McCain brought this type of thinking to Europe when he famously said 'we are all Georgians now' after the 2008 Russian invasion. Russia's stagnant GDP and population made such talk more feasible.

How the EU contributed to the crisis in Ukraine, from Matthew Dal Santo: [fold]

In other words, because Brussels was in denial about not only the geopolitical consequences of the ENP but also, even more damningly, its aims, it believed it could afford to ignore Moscow. Indeed, Menon and Rumer imply that Brussels simply found Russia – an old-fashioned power pursuing hard interests rather than values – impossible to fit within its model of the world. The gap was filled by the hope (famously 'not a policy', as the authors remind us) that Russia would see the world as Brussels saw it.

Not for the first time, this hope got the better of prudence. 

Julia Gillard's speech writer, Michael Cooney, wrote on the relationship between the former prime minister and President Barack Obama, as well as comparisons between US and Australian politics:

Australian conservatives are fond of arguing that Australia is better served by Republican presidents. Putting aside the disastrous black swan of George W Bush, there's been some logic to the argument that the free traders, internationalists, Asia hands and realists of the old Republican mainstream served Australia's interests well. But Australian public opinion appears to favour Democratic presidents, and in turn the US, and the alliance, seem to rise in popularity during Democratic presidencies. This is not a small advantage in an alliance between democracies.

Two posts this week in our Digital Disruption series. The first from Fergus Hanson on ways to combat ISIS online:

In June last year, TIME dubbed Australia 'the biggest per capita contributor of foreign jihadists to ISIS'. Given this, and the fact ISIS and its members continue to exploit the internet almost unchallenged, it makes sense for Australia to make a modest investment in an ICT offensive to complement other efforts. The Government's announcement of $18 million to do just this is right on point. It is critical that it be implemented effectively, that it draws on top tier technical and area expertise, and that it leverages existing resources, including the emerging efforts of other countries.

The second was from Danielle Cave on ways Australian diplomacy could be augmented by digital means:

Our diplomats have developed an online passivity that is disconnected from the reality of Australian diplomacy. Given that Australia is located in the most digitally dynamic region of the world (45% of the world's internet users live in Asia), and that our ability to reach and influence the populations that live in our region has diminished following the Government's divestment in international broadcasting; Australia can no longer afford to remain ineffectual in this area.

How Indonesia is positioning itself between Japan and China, by Catriona Croft-Cusworth:

This is a stance Jokowi has maintained during his first six months as president. Despite suggestions that his party's preference is for loyalty to China over Japan, Jokowi has given a studious impression of neutrality, courting both countries for investment in a trip to Tokyo and Beijing last month. While China responded more generously than Japan — with an offering of around $63 billion in investment from Chinese companies compared to $8.9 billion from Japanese companies — Jokowi has refused to pick sides.

The next Non-proliferation Treaty review conference starts latter this month. John Tilemann gave us an update on the NPT and the politics of nuclear disarmament in the lead-up to conference:

However, the real test of success is the extent to which parties remain convinced that despite its weaknesses, the NPT serves their national and global security interests. This might be hard to read amid the acrimony of unmet expectations and regional conflict. But the global condemnation of North Korea's proliferation and the serious effort invested in a deal with Iran give cause for optimism. The way countries respond to these challenges to the NPT is the litmus test of its continuing relevance.

Is economic history back in vogue? Hannah Wurf thinks so:

At their worst, economists pursue ahistorical models that are supposed to hold eternally across time and place, whereas historians tell us 'history never repeats itself' and present past events as contextually bounded and therefore without comparison. Since the 1970s the social sciences have been fragmented, with post-modernism and post-structuralism producing a shift in history towards cultural and micro-history, while economics has moved in the opposite direction towards neoliberal orthodoxy and imitating the rigour of the hard sciences. The self-imposed exile of economics from the other social sciences has led to the criticism that economists reject interdisciplinary approaches. 

Marie McAuliffe on the importance of data in stopping migrant smuggling:

Greater monitoring of smuggling can only benefit migrants. It can help inform responses designed to prevent the deaths of migrants planning perilous journeys in the upcoming European summer. But just as importantly, it can inform the development of sustainable responses aimed at sparing future generations of would-be migrants from the lure of smugglers' hollow promises.

Government-sponsored 'vigilante' groups have made a return in Burma, writes Andrew Selth:

Indeed, it was hoped that, with the advent of a new and reformist government in 2011, the use of groups like the SAS would cease. Naypyidaw emphasised the management of internal security through an expanded and modernised civil police force which publicly embraced modern doctrines such as community policing. The role of the armed forces was reduced and greater emphasis given to 'the rule of law'. 

Such hopes, however, have been dashed.

Photo courtesy of Australian Defence Image Library.

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