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Weekend catch-up: The Foreign Policy White Paper, Flynn binned, the ADB and more

Ths week the Interprerer launched its debate series on Australia's Foreign Policy White paper.

Canberra, 2015 (Photo: Flickr/Jerry Skinner)
Canberra, 2015 (Photo: Flickr/Jerry Skinner)
Published 18 Feb 2017 

By John Gooding, Digital Editor at the Lowy Institute and Associate Editor at The Interpreter.

Ths week The Interpreter launched its debate series on Australia's Foreign Policy White paper (and hosted former Department of Foriegn Affairs and Trade Secretrary Peter Varghese for a panel event on the subject). Michael Fullilove argued for finding a way to balance coherence and ambition in guiding Australia's international engagement:

Governments that try to do too many things at once do few of them well. Governments that are too timid are quickly forgotten. We need to align our ends and means, and engage in practical, tough-minded diplomacy directed at making a difference.

Stephen Grenville focused on how the White Paper could turn global economic advertisty in Australia's economic opportunity:

Our best chance of coherent ambition lies in Asia, the source of 70% of global growth. This would, however, require a dramatic lifting of our game. Our American-centred foreign policy has led us to emphasise APEC over ASEAN, always with the priority of trying to increase American involvement in Asia. 

And Geoff Miller argued for the merits of multilateralism in Australia's foreign policy (among other issues):

A country of moderate size and weight such as Australia should put a high priority on multilateral diplomacy as a ‘force-multiplier’. We have a lot of achievements to our credit in this field, and have even initiated very successful institutions such as APEC and the Cairns Group. Hopefully future developments

On Monday the Institute launched the a landmark report on the Asian Development Bank. The authors (Annmaree O'Keeffe, Jonathan Pryke and Hannah Wurf) summarised the importance of the bank and the challenges it faces:

Despite the criticisms of some members and frustrations of some partners, the ADB has delivered good outcomes throughout its lifetime, contributing to the remarkable economic and social change across the region. But it cannot be idle and must have confidence in its role as a facilitator of good development across the region.

This week also saw the downfall of Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor to US President Donald Trump. James Bowen on the role played by the CIA in particular:

While it might be overshadowed by future revelations on the extent of Russian-American collusion in the rise and rule of President Donald Trump, this week’s departure of the President’s national security advisor Michael Flynn is now most notable for the roles played by US intelligence agencies and news media.

Critics of Trump should be careful what the cheer for, argued Sam Roggeveen:

The job of the intelligence agencies is to serve the elected president and his team, not act like a secretive shadow government that briefs against the president to foreigners, and withholds information from the White House. If the US intelligence community is not meeting that standard, then I would hope that news organisations committed to the principles of representative democracy might also be troubled.

Barbara Slavin on the mess that is the Trump Administration so far:

it is clear that the process of building coherent strategies to deal with domestic and foreign policy concerns is going to take longer than many have hoped. Trump is fulfilling campaign promises to be a great disrupter but whether he can serve American interests better than his predecessor remains very much in question.

But remarkable as it may seem, the conditions in the US may just be ripe for some form of carbon tax. Stephen Grenville:

With the Trump presidency now underway, this would seem to be a singularly unpropitious moment to revive the idea of a carbon tax to address global warming. Yet this seemingly spitting-into-the-wind proposal has been put forward by a high-powered group of Republicans, including James Baker, George Shultz, economic heavyweight Martin Feldstein and top academic Greg Mankiw.

The New York Times put out a scoop this week that detailed Russian infringment on a missile treaty bannng intermediate-range cruise missiles - Crispin Rovere speculated as to the potential motivations:

Without access to classified documents it's impossible to do more than speculate, but there is one clear imperative for the Russians to field a new GLCM: intermediate-range cruise missiles are going to be essential for Russia in any showdown with NATO involving the Baltic states.

Despite support for the Australia-US alliance among both Republican senators and Republican-voting members of the public, House Republicans have been nowhere to be seen, wrote Dougal Robinson

In this era of deep polarisation in Washington, seemingly anodyne foreign policy topics such as expressions of Congressional support for one of the United States' closest allies are now hostage to domestic politics.

Christopher Zinn travelled to Pakistan and reported on the week's AMAN-17 exercises

Formally, the AMAN (Urdu for peace) international naval exercises that ran this week are about practicing responses to maritime threats such as piracy, terrorism and the smuggling of arms, drugs and people.

But swirling not far beneath the surface of the Arabian Sea manoeuvres and the Karachi portside mateship between the 37 participating nations, including Australia, have been two distinct issues.

Elaine Pearson urged Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to lobby Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to properly address victims of the civil war and their families:

Foreign judges and prosecutors can play a significant role in ensuring independence and impartiality in accountability mechanisms for wartime abuses. Turnbull would do well to offer Sri Lanka help in this regard and, given Australia’s long friendly relations and Commonwealth status, Wickremesinghe might just accept it.

Jong Kun Choi, a participant in this month's inaugural Australia-Republic of Korea (ROK) Emerging Leaders International Security Forum, argued the case for engaging North Korea: 

South Korea and the United States have long sought to resolve North Korea’s nuclear ventures through a set of tortuous negotiations and audacious sanctions. All these efforts have essentially turned out to be futile.

Finally, Marie-Alice McLean-Dreyfus reviewed a Chinese soft power exercise gone terribly wrong - the China-India coproduction Kung-Fu Yoga:

The film is pitched as an Indiana Jones-esque Sino-Indian cross-cultural romp. But while it has been well received in China, Indian film critics have widely panned the movie, with reviews calling it a 'mangled mess' and a 'snoozefest masquerading as a film'.

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