Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un: There’s More to Foreign Policy Than The Art of the Deal

Much of the success of US foreign policy in the period following the end of the Second World War can be attributed to the transformational approach taken by Washington, which put in place an institutional architecture that enabled the era of globalization that has defined the modern period. But the world is now saddled with a US president whose transactional approach to diplomacy — honed by years of doing real-estate deals — combined with a temperament that often puts himself at the centre of all things, holds serious risks in dealing with threats such as those posed by North Korea, …

Australian complicity in civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria: A matter of time

An RAAF FA-18 refuelling over Iraq in March 2017. Image courtesy of US Air Force via Wikimedia Commons

As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made it clear that he will be no less aggressive than his predecessor Tony Abbott. “Our job is to protect Australia from all threats,” Mr Turnbull has said. “Right now, as you know, our Air Force is operating in the Middle East killing terrorists.” Back in September 2016 Mr Turnbull announced that Australian laws would be overhauled to allow the Australian Defence Force to target more Islamic State (IS) fighters in Iraq and Syria. The …

Parliament split on going to war: Remember 2003?

As calls increase for reform of the flawed process by which Australian troops can be sent to war, and in particular for parliamentary debate and vote before ADF deployments to armed conflict, some standard arguments against such decision-making by parliament continue to be offered. They remain unconvincing. The latest articulation of these arguments was made on 30 June 2017 by Dr Anthony Bergin during his lecture entitled “Parliament and national security: Challenges and opportunities,” in the Senate Occasional Lecture Series.

Pleasingly, Dr Bergin acknowledged that parliamentarians are under-utilised in matters of national security, and he contributed useful ideas, especially …

Howard’s War: a continuation of politics by other means

Paul Barratt AO

President, Australians for War Powers Reform

Notes for Public Seminar at Southern Cross University, Lismore Campus, 26 April 2017

In March 2003 Prime Minister John Howard triggered Australian participation in the US-led invasion of Iraq. The invasion was illegal under international law, and Australian participation in it was not authorised by the Governor-General as required by the Australian Constitution. There was no strategy, no end-state that the Australian Government wished the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to achieve: the Government’s reasons for participating were political, not military. This presentation will argue that we must reform the way we …

What are we doing in Syria?

The alacrity with which the Prime Minister came out in support of the Trump Administration’s launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles against an air force base in Syria is a sharp reminder, for those who have been paying attention, of how easily we slide into international armed conflict, with no adequate statement of strategic intent, and no informed debate in Parliament.

Australia is once more embarked upon a military adventure in the Middle East, again at the behest of the United States, again without a clear definition of what the aims are or what we might hope to achieve, and as …

The hideous Syrian tragedy

Our armed forces have been deployed abroad opportunistically, even cynically, for decades. This must be avoided in future if they are to serve Australia’s true defence interests in future.  

With the hideous Syrian conflict now entering its 7th year, and the Iraqi conflict very much longer, it is more than time to question the role of the ADF in these conflicts. There is a large measure of cynicism in the government’s approach to the deployments of the armed forces and security generally. The problem with this approach is that deceit catches up. Going back to the Vietnam War, and since …

Australia’s unprecedented decision to snub nuclear talks is irresponsible

Australia is about to do something unprecedented in the conduct of our international relations.

We are about to boycott major UN multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. On March 27 in New York, negotiations will commence on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, following a strongly supported resolution passed in the General Assembly last December – with 123 nations in favour, 38 against and 16 abstentions – for “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

The UN resolution and the forthcoming negotiations are the result of intense government and civil society action in recent years that …

Freedom of Information Request: deployments 2014-2017

FOI Coordinator, GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001

Dear Coordinator,

On behalf of Australians for War Powers Reform (AWPR) I hereby submit a request for documents and for information held in electronic form by the Department of Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. This is an application for the purposes of the FOI Act 1982.

I request access to documents relating to deployments of Australian troops, military assistance or any other form of military support in Iraq in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and in Syria in 2015, 2016, …

Our Foreign Policy White Paper Submission

Our submission to the Minister for Foreign Affairs

The members of Australians for War Powers Reform (AWPR) are Australian citizens with an interest in how, why, and with what results Australia goes to war. Our members have long experience in government, defence, higher education, law, and medicine, and the group has produced several publications in consultation with the public, provided them to MPs and Senators, and briefed them on the contents.

Originating as the Iraq War Inquiry Group in 2012, we became the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry in 2014, and have continued our work as AWPR from 2015. …

Hans Blix: from Iraq to a new Cold War

London School of Economics, December 2016

During the old Cold War, when there were more than 50,000 nuclear weapons we feared human civilization could be wiped out in a quick suicide.

Today ,we fear we might be moving toward a slow suicide through global warming.

I shall not talk about Climate Change, but I want to note that an exit from the renewed Cold War could help us reduce the world’s military expenditures  that are now some 1.600 billlion dollars/year. Savings on military defense could provide a good part of the means needed for climate defense. Regrettably, what we are …