Aaron Connelly’s 17 May 2016 paper The problem with American assumptions about Australia
links to a paywalled 2010 paper by Hugh White. So to further the discussion (quotes are from various of Hugh’s writings last month) …
Hugh White expects war by accident unless there is a transitioned power rebalancing. “Turnbull’s “rules-based global order” is just a coy way to say we would prefer the US remains in charge”. Turnbull told China it should follow the rules because it’s in China’s own interest. Rubbish says Hugh. Chinese “aims are clearly to display their growing power and replace the current order with ‘a new model of great power relations’. Hugh says Australia’s interest lies in facilitating this in order to avoid war. “Asia can peacefully create a new order” via compromise.
And on the media, Hugh says “Commentators assessed [Turnbull’s] diplomacy on the South China Sea solely as a test of his diplomatic mettle: would he show strength by speaking his mind, or chicken out and soften his message? No one asked what real difference it would make whether he did or not.”
I don’t fully support Hugh either in his apparent understanding of diplomacy as compromise or in his sanguine acceptance of real politic.
I think Australian diplomacy fails because it does not focus on force reduction (the bases in the Northern Territory are the exact opposite), has picked sides and consequently is happy to continue the arms build up. Weapons dealers will be pleased as they love to see their latest toys field tested. As Hugh White infers, when push comes to shove the men with fingers on the buttons decide. These men, and they are mostly men, will push the buttons in the heat of the moment or with aforethought. This is where the focus must be.