In this installment of his "The State of the World" series George Friedman discusses Australia. He points out that although Australia is wealthy and isolated, it still involves itself in many wars, many of which were peripheral to its strategic imperatives.
He points out that a major portion of Australia's economy is exports, and it relies on secure sea lanes to be able to do business. For this reason Australia has historically multiplied its value as an ally by providing first England, and then the U.S., with troops because they are the major powers that can, or could in the case of England, guarantee open sea lanes.
The beginning of the article is excerpted below, with a link to the full article at the end of the excerpt.
For the Hot Stratfor Babe I diligently scoured the ranks of Australian actresses and decided that Isabel Lucas, for reasons I will explain shortly, was the perfect, or perhaps an infamous, choice for the article's Hot Stratfor Babe.
Since the article deals with open sea lanes, it is slightly ironic that Ms Lucas has an active Japanese arrest warrant for doing exactly the opposite. In 2007 she joined a group called Surfers for Cetaceans that tried to block a Dolphin hunt. They paddled out to try to prevent the hunt, but a Japanese fishing boat drove them off and they ended up high-tailing it out of Japan before cuffs could be slapped on them.
As one expects of a young actress, she's a vegetarian and frequently yammers on about one trendy liberal cause or another.
As for her career, she started on some Australian soap called Home and Away. Starting with a tooth paste commercial, she's worked her way into Hollywood where she's had roles in Spielberg's Pacific as well as one of the Transformer movies. She also has a part in the much delayed remake of Red Dawn.
By George Friedman, May 22, 2012
Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, ranked in the top 10 in gross domestic product per capita. It is one of the most isolated major countries in the world; it occupies an entire united continent, is difficult to invade and rarely is threatened. Normally, we would not expect a relatively well-off and isolated country to have been involved in many wars. This has not been the case for Australia and, more interesting, it has persistently not been the case, even under a variety of governments. Ideology does not explain the phenomenon in this instance.
Since 1900, Australia has engaged in several wars and other military or security interventions (including the Boer War, World War I, World War II and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq) lasting about 40 years total. Put another way, Australia has been at war for more than one-third of the time since the Commonwealth of Australia was established in 1901. In only one of these wars, World War II, was its national security directly threatened, and even then a great deal of its fighting was done in places such as Greece and North Africa rather than in direct defense of Australia. This leaves us to wonder why a country as wealthy and seemingly secure as Australia would have participated in so many conflicts.
Importance of Sea-Lanes
To understand Australia, we must begin by noting that its isolation does not necessarily make it secure. Exports, particularly of primary commodities, have been essential to Australia. From wool exported to Britain in 1901 to iron ore exported to China today, Australia has had to export commodities to finance the import of industrial products and services in excess of what its population could produce for itself. Without this trade, Australia could not have sustained its economic development and reached the extraordinarily high standard of living that it has.
This leads to Australia's strategic problem. In order to sustain its economy it must trade, and given its location, its trade must go by sea. Australia is not in a position, by itself, to guarantee the security of its sea-lanes, due to its population size and geographic location. Australia therefore encounters two obstacles. First, it must remain competitive in world markets for its exports. Second, it must guarantee that its goods will reach those markets. If its sea-lanes are cut or disrupted, the foundations of Australia's economy are at risk.
Think of Australia as a creature whose primary circulatory system is outside of its body. Such a creature would be extraordinarily vulnerable and would have to develop unique defense mechanisms. This challenge has guided Australian strategy.
First, Australia must be aligned with -- or at least not hostile to -- the leading global maritime power. In the first part of Australia's history, this was Britain. More recently, it has been the United States. Australia's dependence on maritime trade means that it can never simply oppose countries that control or guarantee the sea-lanes upon which it depends; Australia cannot afford to give the global maritime power any reason to interfere with its access to sea-lanes.
Second, and more difficult, Australia needs to induce the major maritime powers to protect Australia's interests more actively. For example, assume that the particular route Australia depends on to deliver goods to a customer has choke points far outside Australia's ability to influence. Assume further that the major power has no direct interest in that choke point. Australia must be able to convince the major power of the need to keep that route open. Merely having amiable relations will not achieve that. Australia must make the major power dependent upon it so that Australia has something to offer or withdraw in order to shape the major power's behavior.
Global maritime powers are continually involved in conflict -- frequently regional and at times global. Global interests increase the probability of friction, and global power spawns fear. There is always a country somewhere that has an interest in reshaping the regional balance of power, whether to protect itself or to exact concessions from the global power.
Another characteristic of global powers is that they always seek allies. This is partly for political reasons, in order to create frameworks for managing their interests peacefully. This is also for military reasons. Given the propensity for major powers to engage in war, they are always in need of additional forces, bases and resources. A nation that is in a position to contribute to the global power's wars is in a position to secure concessions and guarantees. For a country such as Australia that is dependent on sea-lanes for its survival, the ability to have commitments from a major power to protect its interests is vital.
Read more: Australia's Strategy | Stratfor