Australia’s role in the ongoing war on terror and its legacy of getting involved in U.S. led military ventures have come at a cost of numerous of its citizens and also a loss of international goodwill. This pattern can be traced back to the years of the Boer war and the Boxer Rebellion. As many as six hundred Australian soldiers (under British command) lost their lives in the Boer initiative, not for democracy or liberty but for natural riches of South Africa in the form of gold and diamond mines. The subsequent Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the century was founded on protecting the interests of Christian missionaries, so much for the separation of Church and State. The continent-nation was also the prime aggressor in the Maori wars which nearly wiped out the community of native New Zealanders. Later, Australian participation in war against Sudan led to several deaths on both sides.
By citing some key statistics pertaining to Australia’s previous military operations, I hope to strengthen my case for a neutral foreign policy position. Coming to the twentieth century, the very fact that Australia had participated in more wars in this period than the United States and Britain quite telling. This suggests us something about the militaristic tendency of the Australian governments in the past and which continues in the present. During the First World War, 60,000 Australian soldiers lost their lives, for what is essentially an European conflict. Time and again this ethnic connection between the Europeans and the Australian settlers has proved stronger than other diplomatic considerations, especially with regard to neighbouring nations. As many as 60,000 Australian soldiers lost their lives and several more were wounded or taken prisoner in this war. The Second World War could be excepted for Hitler’s ambitions were a real threat for all free peoples. This pattern of siding with its colonial masters, first British and then the Americans had resulted in damaging economic conditions at home and the nation’s image abroad, to go with the thousands of human casualties (New Statesman, 2004, p.6). This is particularly true with respect to the Korean and Vietnam wars. The latest episode of this pattern is Australia’s participation in the War on Terror. Unlike previous cases, the Bali bombings were targeted at Australian civilians, which is unprecedented in Australian history. To quote, “The largest group among the killed was from Australia, leading to the day often being called Australia’s September 11. It was a shocking and unexpected event for most Australians and raised many questions about Australia’s international and domestic security policies” (Snyder, 2006, p.336).
Hence, I will conclude this essay by stating that the Australian foreign policy framework needs a rethinking. Maintaining strategic military associations with American and European nations is no longer beneficial for the nation. As the War on Terror and its ongoing aftermath proves, any unjustified or hypocritical aggression on part of Australian government will only lead to terrorist retaliation, as the Bali bombings indicate. Improving relations with Asian neighbours such as India and China, which are touted to be the next economic superpowers, makes better sense. Australia also has a responsibility toward South East Asian nations and it needs to recompense for its earlier mistakes such as the Korean and Vietnam wars. Australia had also tacitly supported Indonesian atrocities in East Timor; so it has a role to play in the healthy development of both these countries. Thus, a policy of neutrality that would break away from imperialist and colonial hangovers is the correct choice going forward. This is applicable to the ongoing War on Terror and beyond.