The Australia-U.S. Security RelationshipJohn Hillen, Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs
Address to the Kokoda Dialogue Dinner
November 2, 2006
I'm here to discuss future challenges for the Australia-U.S. security relationship and I've chosen to interpret this externally. In other words, this is not a challenge for our relationship in and of itself -- with the relationship itself as the object -- as the end for you Aristotileans. Rather, it is a recognition that the relationship itself, resting as it does on very strong bonds, shared interests, and principles, must be the means to a series of greater ends. There is work we must do together and that work is the challenge for this relationship.
We'll have time this weekend for some self-absorption -- a kind of voluntary couples therapy -- which is necessary and important. But tonight let me take my few minutes to take the relationship a bit for granted and talk about what this relationship should do in a larger context.
Our security challenge can be simply expressed. The fundamental characteristic of the security environment today is that, to paraphrase Churchill, the world is producing more history than we can consume. A world both coming together under the rubric of globalization and falling apart under the pressures of modernity has produced an environment in which there is much more demand for competent security forces and tools than there is supply.
Just this past summer, we wrestled with fulfilling NATO commitments to Afghanistan, scraping for peacekeepers for Lebanon, and in the U.S. dealing with the strain on our own forces deployed in well over 100 countries around the globe in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan. In the meantime forces for Darfur and other missions go begging and numerous other opportunity costs are incurred because we are not proactively tending to the incipient security challenges around the globe.
Demand exceeds supply. And a task for this alliance should be to redress that imbalance in SE Asia and the Asia Pacific in general.
We must recognize in facing this challenge that old collective security models may not apply. Politically generated, top-down oriented, heavily institutionalized and bureaucratized security structures do not suit this region. Moreover, in the past many collective security structures were based on shared interests that were ultimately rooted in geography -- and the defense of territory especially.
Today, while we'd never seek to divorce security from geopolitics, we must recognize that the shared interests of security partners are based more on the defense of systems -- rather than territory. For our own peace and prosperity, we must together defend the systems that ensure the very same: economic systems, political systems, energy systems, security systems, and the like. Prime Minister Howard alluded to this at ASPI a few weeks ago when he spoke of the Australian national security interest in "a framework of international norms conducive to individual freedom, economic development, and liberal democracy."
In order to effectively defend and uphold the systems that undergird our peace and prosperity in Asia, we must aggressively get into the business of capacity building for almost all our neighbors in the region.
Now, we do this as a matter of course, naturally. What I am calling for tonight is not simply more of the same. I am saying that capacity building in key areas of security must be the central feature, if not the central organizing principle of the Australian-U.S. security relationship.
For those of you hardliners, like myself, who are starting to feel slightly seasick at the mention of soft terms such as collective security and capacity building rather than traditional expressions of power and strategic advantage -- take heart. In this security environment, an uncommon, almost maniacal focus on capacity building in the Asia-Pacific is the surest way to provide strategic depth for the alliance, and maximum flexibility to deal swiftly, perhaps roughly, with challenges ranging from proliferation, to states behaving in a way that destabilizes regions, to terrorism.
Some parts of the Asia-Pacific region lend themselves to a more traditional model of top-down security cooperation, and in this regard we should not only continue, but greatly accelerate the trilateral security arrangement with Japan. Indeed, we're moving too slowly there and we should work with the Japanese to help put operational meat on the bones of that structure in key areas of cooperation.
But for the rest of the region, we must try a bottom-up, operationally oriented approach to capacity building -- and thereby the creation of a more robust security community in the region.
The vehicle here is bilateral cooperation and security assistance. The effect, however, is multilateral capabilities in critical areas that the region has not previously enjoyed.
By rapidly accelerating security assistance and capacity building programs with countries in the region in key areas we gain multilateral tools. Indeed, it is almost impossible to be effective in certain areas when operating in a bilateral or unilateral context, which is the inclination of so many countries in the Asia-Pacific.
In key security areas such as maritime security, counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing, counter-proliferation, disaster relief and emergency response, counter-insurgency and governance capabilities, missile and air defense, and energy security -- a program of accelerated bilateral capacity building leads to multilateral muscle for the region. Granted, the new military muscle is not centrally controlled in the style of the NAC in Brussels, and we have to be Taoists and not Cartesians in this regard, but it will make the region as a whole eminently more well equipped to deal with the collective security concerns that it faces.
Moreover, the increased regional capacity gained in these areas will be tied to the U.S., Australia, and other partners (perhaps India down the road) due to the commonality of kit, training, exercises, command and control systems, and overall an emphasis on standard operating procedures and joint development. For those worried about control measures on such means, we should note that this phenomenon of commonality is powerful. Moreover, the fact that the security capacity that is to be built is in means that do not lend themselves to offensive action against other states should put some fears to rest.
Such a program, undertaken by both Australia and the U.S. with the countries with whom they have or are forming security assistance relationships, greatly increases the tools we have in the region to deal with a number of problems and builds the supply side of collective security (you see, there are still a few supply siders left in Republican ranks) while also tamping down the demand. As I noted, both countries are already in this business in the region in their own ways, but to date it has not featured as a central task of the alliance. Tonight I propose that it should be -- and accelerated dramatically.
This weekend we'll talk in great depth about those things that bind our two countries together strategically and those areas where our perspectives diverge. In this area, capacity building for key security tasks that animate threats to the Asia-Pacific region, our interests are perfectly aligned. I fear we will fight a rearguard action against many threats to the region if we don't take up the task as one of the defining purpose of our alliance.
Released on December 5, 2006