Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 09:30 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 09:30 | SYDNEY

Locking in for the ride?


Andrew Carr


15 November 2011 09:50

For most Australians, the announcement of a US Marine base in Darwin will be minor news. After all, with a strong ANZUS alliance and regular troop interactions, this doesn't seem out of the ordinary. Yet, I wonder if future historians will see this as the moment where Australia fundamentally cast its lot in with the US.

Of course that unity could also be pegged to 1951 when signing the alliance, or 2001 when it was first invoked. But this announcement in 2011 makes it that much harder for Australia to get distance from the US, if it was ever needed.

There's obviously no need now, but what if Australian leaders wanted to take the path championed by Hugh White and sought to become a middle-power facilitator between the US and China? It is one thing to have a defensive agreement with one of the players, it's quite another to also host their offensive capacity.

Less likely, but more worryingly, what if one of the fringe GOP candidates became president (either now or in 2016 or 2020) and started advocating trade sanctions (or worse) against China. Would Australia be happy being so closely associated with the US? 

Like most Australians, I see nothing objectionable in the decision to have a US Marine base in Darwin. Indeed, I think the range of choice for Australia's strategic options is sometimes overstated. But I do wonder if this is the kind of event future historians will highlight, labeling it the moment the door finally closed and Australia decided to hold on for the ride.

Photo by Flickr user Intamin10.