Wednesday 05 Aug 2020 | 03:12 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 05 Aug 2020 | 03:12 | SYDNEY

Australian vulcans


Sam Roggeveen


27 March 2008 10:17

Over Easter I belatedly started reading James Mann's Rise of the Vulcans, about George W Bush's senior foreign policy cadre and what they have in common: (i) a focus on the military as a tool of foreign policy; (ii) a rejection of the America-in-decline thesis and a re-assertion of American greatness; and (iii) a belief in democracy promotion as a foreign policy aim. According to Mann, this group — Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Armitage and Wolfowitz — called themselves the Vulcans after the Roman god of fire.

Then this morning I noticed that my colleague Michael Fullilove was quoted in the Washington Post describing the Bush-Howard relationship as a 'Vulcan mind meld'. When I previously heard Michael use this description, I took it solely as a geekish Star Trek reference. But with Mann's book fresh in my mind, I wondered if there was more to it, and Michael confirmed via email that, yes, he did intend a double meaning.

So did the Howard Government's foreign policy have the three Vulcan traits? Certainly the rate of our military deployments increased under the Howard Government. And you can find a good example of 'Australian greatness' promotion in Alexander Downer's Myth of 'Little' Australia speech. It also advocates the promotion of Australian values abroad.

These are just some examples plucked from memory, so hardly a watertight case, but I do think that Downer in particular was influenced by the American neo-conservative movement. Howard's foreign policy thinking struck me as more leavened with realism, though his recent remarks to the American Enterprise Institute are a pretty full-throated defence of the Vulcan project.