Statement to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

J. Thomas Schieffer
U.S. Ambassador to Australia

June 21, 2004

From time to time over the years, the Defence Sub-committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has held hearings on the health and relevance of the ANZUS Treaty. You have graciously asked American Ambassadors to give testimony and comment. In 1997 the American Ambassador, Genta Hawkins Holmes said to this committee: "Among the treaty's positive features are its brevity ... its flexibility and its adaptability. Like the American constitution, the treaty's focus on principles rather than details has stood the test of time."

It is an honor for me to follow in the tradition of those other American Ambassadors in reaffirming to this Committee that the United States still believes the principles of the ANZUS Treaty are as relevant to our time as to any time in our history.

The Australian American alliance is a story of two great democracies brought together out of necessity who came to understand that their shared values gave them a shared hope for a better more peaceful world.

The real genesis for the alliance came from a shared experience in World War II. We both looked into the abyss and realized that our chances for survival were far greater together than apart.

Last month we celebrated the 62nd anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. It was from that moment that both of us realized our futures were inexorably linked together. As we look back now, it all seems so simple. The Allies would win. Democracy would triumph. Freedom would flourish.

But in May of 1942 it did not seem so inevitable. In fact the odds seemed quite long that it would end as it did. The Nazis controlled all of Europe. The militarists in Japan controlled most of Asia. France had fallen, Pearl Harbor was in ruins and the great bastion of British power in the Far East - Singapore - had surrendered. Thousands of Australians were in Prisoner of War Camps. Americans had been defeated across Asia. Mac Arthur had barely escaped the Philippines. Darwin and Broome and Townsville were regularly bombed. In that time of mutual despair it must have occurred to many that the war might be lost, that the democracy we had known and the way of life we enjoyed might not survive.

Then a glimmer of hope came to both of us out of the Coral Sea. The Japanese advance had been halted. A month later the decisive blow was struck at Midway. We know now the consequences of victory. Thankfully, we only speculate on the consequences of defeat.

What would have happened if we had lost the Battle of the Coral Sea? What would have happened if the American aircraft carriers had been sunk at Midway instead of the Japanese?

Some argue that the Japanese had no intention of invading Australia and that might have been so in the short run but would it have been so in the long run? At the very least Japan was prepared to impose a strangling blockade on Australia that would have knocked it out of the war and forced upon it a humiliating peace. Can anyone seriously argue that a triumphant, expansionist Japan was prepared to tolerate a long functioning, healthy democracy like Australia on its doorstep?

When Mac Arthur came to Australia he brought with him the realization that America had no other place to go. It was here from Australia that the tide would have to be turned or the war lost in Asia.

Australians knew that the might of the British Empire, the linchpin of their liberty for so long had already been defeated in the Pacific. If Australia was to survive as Australians had come to know it, then the power of America had to be mobilized in her behalf.

No wonder that the generation of Americans and Australians who experienced that time together have such a special affection for one another. They know that at that moment without the friendship of one for the other, the world we now know would never have come to be.

The international order that emerged from that terrible conflict made our predecessors look at their security in a totally different way. Americans forever abandoned the notion that isolationism would protect them from the risks of overseas conflict. Australians realized that they would have to look beyond the United Kingdom for the strategic defence of the Commonwealth. Both of us looked for new ways to protect the way of life we had come so perilously close to losing.

The answer we came up with almost simultaneously was the concept of alliance. But while the answer was the same, how we came to it was quite different. The United States believed that the strategic defence of Asia and eventually the whole world was dependent upon the resurgence of Japan. A non-communist, non-aggressive, prosperous Japan was seen by us as a bulwark against an expansive Communist world led by the Soviet Union. The United States promoted the idea of a "soft peace" with Japan - low on reparations and strong on democracy that would get the country up and running again as soon as possible.

Many Australians had real reservations about that strategy. They feared a resurgent Japan would risk the reemergence of militarism. They argued that a soft peace would only hasten the day when the dogs of war would be loose again in Asia. To them an alliance with the United States offered as much insurance against an expansionist Japan as it did against an expansionist Soviet Union.

Some Americans questioned the wisdom of formal alliances outside the scope of Europe. Our own Joint Chiefs of Staff were initially fearful that the ANZUS Treaty would spread America's resources too thin. They were persuaded finally to support it when it became obvious that Australia was not prepared to make peace with Japan without a guarantee from America to remain in the region. The Joint Chiefs came to understand that the defence of America was directly linked to the defence of Australia.

In the end each of us came to understand that we could not defend ourselves without defending each other. Each of us came to see an alliance as a means of securing our future. Each of us came to see an alliance as a means of securing our values. Each of us came to see an alliance as a means of furthering peace in the world. But each of us knew that we came to the alliance from a different perspective. Our success since has proved that each of us was right. Together we have achieved more than either of us could have achieved alone.

In May of 1942 - at the time of the Battle of the Coral Sea - only twelve democracies still existed in the world - only twelve. Six - the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland traced their roots to Magna Carta. And of those six - five were under mortal attack from the Axis powers and they were losing. Four democracies existed in Latin America. Only two - Switzerland and Sweden - still survived in Europe and they were under the severest pressure from the Nazis. Not one existed across the whole face of Asia.

Today, almost 150 governments are elected in some fashion by their citizens. That did not just happen. It happened because Australia and the United States and free men and women everywhere were willing to lend a hand to make it happen. Our alliance worked not only for us but for others.

The threats that brought us together in alliance in 1951 have long since passed. Soviet Communism is no more. The fear of a resurgent Japan bent on revenge like the Nazis of Germany has been replaced by the realization that a democratic, prosperous Japan offers us both a friendship that even the most optimistic could not have imagined at the end of World War II.

The march of democracy and prosperity across Asia has been hastened not halted by our alliance. The stability of our friendship has given us both an opportunity to make stable friends in other places.

The alliance we have today is far different than the alliance we first contemplated in 1951. No one could have foreseen then that we would share the kind of intelligence that we do today. Together we each have a window to the world that would not exist if we were apart. Our militaries exercise, plan and deploy together around the world. Each of us is able to enhance our security by leveraging our individual assets with the assets of our ally for the mutual benefit of us both.

We know more, talk more, consult more and trade more because we know each other more as the result of this alliance.

Now, we look out on an emerging world order very different than the one Percy Spender and John Foster Dulles contemplated in 1951. The Great Power conflict that the ANZUS Treaty was originally meant to deter has largely gone away. But our earlier success at making a safer world must not lull us into thinking we have made a safe world.

In this new world our enemies will not always wear uniforms or fly national flags. We may see them crossing the street before we realize they have crossed our borders. We may be sure, however, that their purpose can be every bit as deadly to the future of our citizens as any threat we have ever faced in the past.

Terrorism is the bane of our time. It can strike at home or abroad. Whether it is a center of finance like the World Trade Center or a center of recreation like Bali - the lives of our citizens can be snuffed out in a moment of irrationality.

Terrorism will be at the center of our alliance for many years to come.

The focus of our efforts cannot be limited to the region of our neighborhoods. The terrorists of our day are transnational. They plan their attacks in one country, prepare for their execution in another and carry them out wherever the innocent may gather.

The threat of terrorism means that we will have to look at our security in different ways than we have in the past. We must quarantine the terrorists from weapons of mass destruction and we must quarantine those who would provide them such weapons from the rest of the world. The safety of all of us depends on the safety of each of us.

In his last State of the Union message before the United States was plunged into the Second World War, Franklin Roosevelt said that we sought a world in which four freedoms could flourish - the Freedom of Speech, the Freedom of Religion, the Freedom from Want and the Freedom from Fear. Those freedoms are still at issue around the world. What we do in their behalf still matters. We can still make a difference in the world just as those who forged this original alliance made a difference. This is not a time for us to pull apart. This is a time to pull together.

The stakes are too high; the risks are too great for us to be comfortable in going our separate ways. The world may still be a dangerous place but surely we are safer in facing it together than apart.

We celebrate the foresight and courage of those who gave us this alliance 53 years ago this September. May we have the wisdom to maintain it.