Did “History” and “Geography” Collide?

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  • Title: Did “History” and “Geography” Collide?: Examining Australia’s Allegiance toward the USA-Led “War on Terror” and Its Implications for Regional Engagement under the Liberal–National Coalition of John Howard
  • Author(s): Biplab Debnath
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Global Studies
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Global Studies
  • Keywords: Australia, Foreign Policy, Southeast Asia, John Howard, US Alliance, Regional Engagement, Preemption, War on Terror
  • Volume: 19
  • Issue: 2
  • Date: March 12, 2024
  • ISSN: 2324-755X (Print)
  • ISSN: 2324-7568 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2324-755X/CGP/v19i02/1-20
  • Citation: Debnath, Biplab. 2024. "Did “History” and “Geography” Collide?: Examining Australia’s Allegiance toward the USA-Led “War on Terror” and Its Implications for Regional Engagement under the Liberal–National Coalition of John Howard." The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Global Studies 19 (2): 1-20. doi:10.18848/2324-755X/CGP/v19i02/1-20.
  • Extent: 20 pages

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Abstract

A major aspect of Australia’s foreign policy is balancing its alliance with the USA and its regional engagement diplomacy. While both are significant foreign policy agendas, they have often been an issue of contestation. In no period was this contestation more glaring than under the Liberal–National coalition government of John Howard, which ignited debates on Australia’s Western identity located in an Asian neighborhood. The coalition under Howard repeatedly claimed that both these foreign policy objectives are not zero-sum games, in a popular phrase that the country does not face a choice between its “history” and “geography.” This article disputes this claim by analyzing the Southeast Asian states’ response to Australia’s allegiance to the US-led “War on Terror.” Instead, by highlighting the friction between Australia’s reinvigoration of the US alliance and pursuit of regional engagement, the article underscores the dilemma the coalition had to encounter in adhering to the US strategic objectives, such as preemption and military intervention, and in implementing the same in the region. The article also places the contradictions in the larger context of competing visions of regionalism as adhered to by Australia and the Southeast Asian states. The article argues that while there was practical cooperation between Australia and Southeast Asia under Howard, his tenure was also testimony to the fact that this cooperation does not necessarily lead to a genuine harmony between Australia’s “history” and “geography” and that narrowing down the divide depends on the country’s accommodation toward regional norms and sentiments.