Australia’s foreign policy has traditionally been interlinked with the Anglo-Saxon origins of its first inhabitants. In other words,Australia almost always stood alongside Britain and the United States on many contentious international issues, the latest of which is the War on Terror. In the eight years since its inception, it has become clear that further participation in the War on Terror would only worsen the security situation in and around Australia. An indication of what is in store can be learnt from the Bali bombing of October 2002, which took the lives of several innocent Australian citizens. This was interpreted by some commentators as the Jihadists’ way of warning Australia and deterring it in collaborating with the United States. But unfortunately, the message was ignored by the Australian government, putting its citizens at ever greater risk. Bali might not be officially Australian soil, but with the organization and skill with which the Islamic militants operate, it might not be long before Australia is made to pay for its ill advised alliance with imperialists further north (Abuza, 2003, p.170).
With the apparent failure of its participation in the War of Terror campaign, the policy makers in Canberra should also remind themselves of the real causes of Bali bombings. The Establishment press, most of it owned or controlled by Rupert Murdoch and keen on promoting its own interests had presented a blanket view in its Bali reports. For example, the Australian mainstream media wants its citizens to believe that the terror attack in the Indonesian island was a sequel to the campaign of hatred against western way of life that was kick-started with September 11 attacks. But this view-point is not accurate. The South East Asia region has a large Muslim population. Indonesia is a thriving centre for Islamic scholarship and practice. But unfortunately,Australia had in the past sided with the oppressive Suharto regime (with the tacit support of the United States and Britain) and had indirectly aided injustice in the past. The Muslims in the region have every reason to feel aggrieved. What Australia needs to do is to keep its intelligence gathering efforts to a minimum and focus its energies on reaching out to its neighbours. A real change in the threat of terror will only come about when economic opportunism and imperialist ambition is replaced with humanitarian concern and noble statesmanship. It is becoming obvious that the best way forward for policy makers in Canberra is to sever strategic alliance with the United States and focus its energies on mending ties with its South East Asian neighbours (Bellamy, 2004, p.154).
As the Australian government draws up plans to redress the threat of terror, it should also keep in mind that the electorate is increasingly gaining a broader awareness of geo-political situations. It can no longer hope that conventional policy frameworks (that were essentially based on imperialist lines) will get electoral approval. Australian authorities should remember a crucial distinction, if they are to succeed in their attempts to prevent Islamist militancy, namely that the role of leaders of terror networks is secondary to their message. For instance, even when Al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was assassinated, there was no cessation in the local insurgency. Similarly, there is no conclusive evidence that Osama bin Laden is alive, yet the numbers of terror attacks targeted at western interests have seen an unprecedented rise since the events of September 11. Also, the Southeast Asian region is populated by numerous militant Islamist outfits, whose ideologies are nearly the same. The threat posed to Australian interests in Southeast Asia comes from small and marginalized groups who are spread all across the region. Alongside Jemaah Islamiah (JI) in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia; “we have the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia; and al-Maunah in Malaysia; the Abu Sayaff in the southern Philippines; Pattani United Liberation Organization in southern Thailand; and Laskar Jihad, Majlis Mujahideen, and Islamic Defenders’ Front in Indonesia.” (Chehab, 2006, p.38) Hence the security measures taken so far by the Australian government is inadequate as it discounts the broader phenomenon of global Jihad. Given this backdrop, the best way forward is for Australia to rethink its responsibility toward its neighbours. Attempts at providing its citizens with travel warnings and probability of terror attacks are short sighted and ineffective in bringing peace and harmony to the region in particular and the world in general (Chehab, 2006, p.37).