Australia and the United States: Navigating strategic uncertainty

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (3rd R) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (3rd L) prepare to sign a joint force posture agreement between the United States and Australia with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Australian Defence Minister David Johnston at the AUSMIN meeting at Admiralty House in Sydney, August 12, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed (AUSTRALIA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) - RTR42248
Editor's note:

The following paper is part of the Brookings Order from Chaos series Alliances & partnerships: U.S. commitments in the Asia-Pacific, in which contributing scholars offer their analyses of the various U.S. alliances and security partnerships, along with the diverse economic, diplomatic, and security challenges that impact those critical commitments.

In these times of growing uncertainty in the global and Asian strategic environments, the U.S.-Australian security alliance seems a pillar of stability. Even so, it requires a reality check if it is to stay resilient and durable in the difficult times ahead.  Taking an Australian perspective, this brief report sheds some light on these key questions. The great affinities between Australians and Americans should not be allowed to obscure the differences in their national outlooks.

Australians’ comfort levels with U.S. foreign and security policy have been shaken by developments in the United States itself, most notably by the blunders of the Iraq invasion and more recently by the way Donald Trump’s rhetoric depicts America and the world. Perhaps the only thing that is certain is that governments in Canberra and Washington can no longer assume that the Australian public will go along with whatever policy decisions officials and political leaders reach when it comes to the shape of the alliance or the way it operates in an increasingly contested Asia.

The Australia-U.S. strategy in Asia needs to be a shared one. Responsibility for ensuring the sustained strength of the alliance rests squarely with the political leadership in both countries. If the Australian alliance matters to America, then the next few years will be no time for complacency.