Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:53 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:53 | SYDNEY

The rise of societies


Andrew Carr


4 April 2011 11:03

The debate over Libya has settled into some comfortable trenches, most notably between 'interests' and 'values'. I've already argued its irrelevance for Australia in this case, but Anne-Marie Slaughter thinks the debate is really about something else:

...In this debate, the disagreement is really between those who define American interests only with respect to a world of states, or with respect to a world of both states and societies.

...This is a much more complex definition of interests, and a much more complex game—so complex that it is hardly surprising that many foreign policy advisers would rather stick to the world of great power chess. Yet here is what it means in practice. It means that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was probably not arguing for a No Fly Zone because the people of Libya were tugging at her heart-strings or because of a patriotic commitment to American values, but because she had just returned from a trip to Egypt during which a number of members of the Egyptian youth movement refused to meet with her because of the perception that the US had sided with Mubarak—and young people now make up 60 percent of the population of the Middle East.

Just as 9/11 reminded us of the power of individuals, the Arab uprisings and social media are making us more aware of the power of societies. Given the West's history and experience with democracy, we should be well placed to appeal to (and benefit from) the rise of societies. Unfortunately, Australia isn't putting in the resources needed to take advantage of the new opportunities.