“Template for peace is inclusion” by Paul Keating

Template for peace is inclusion (Many thanks to Enlightened for bringing this to our attention)
Paul Keating – Former Australian Prime Minister
August 25, 2008, smh.com.au

We are living through one of those rare yet transforming events in history, a shift in the power in the world from West to East. For 500 years Europe dominated the world; now for all its wealth and population it is drifting into relative decline.

Will our understanding of this transformation, and our acceptance of its equity for the greater reaches of mankind, lead us to a position of general preparedness of its inevitability, or will we cavil at it in much the same way as Europe resisted the rise of Bismarck's creation at the end of the 19th century?

We can see, with this the 29th Olympiad, the questioning of China and the resentment at its pretensions about being one of us. Even becoming one of us!

The Western liberal press featured, generally in critical terms, the world-long torch relay, juxtaposing all that it represents and is good about it with what it sees as China's democratic defects, viewing it almost exclusively through the prism of Tibet.

Saying, almost, that the aspirations of this massive nation, a quarter of humanity, a legatee of a century of misery, dragging itself from poverty, is somehow of questionable legitimacy, because its Government's attitude to political freedoms and in specific instances, human rights, are not up to scratch. Ignoring the massive leaps in progress, of income growth, of shelter, of the alleviation of poverty, of dwindling infant mortality, of education, of, by any measure, the much better life now being experienced by the great majority of Chinese.

The Western critic feeling the epicentre of the world changing but not at all liking it, seeks to put down these vast societies on the basis that their political and value systems don't match up to theirs.

Henry Kissinger made the point recently when he said, "We cannot do in China in the 21st century what others thought to do in the 19th – prescribe their institutions for them and seek to organise Asia."

And he went on to pose the question: do we split the world into a union of democracies and non-democracies, or must there be another approach key to regional and historic circumstance?

There is a view that should China become a democracy, a real one, many tensions in the global system would go; that democracies find peace with other democracies; that the former political-military state first turns itself into a trading state and as wealth and opportunity rise so, too, do democratic values.

But what we must remember is that even if all the states of the world became democratic, the structure of the international system would remain anarchic.

The greatest challenge we face, whether for managing incidents or easing the new economic tectonic plates into place, will be to construct a truly representative structure of world governance which reflects global realities, but which is also equitable and fair.

For two Clinton presidential terms and two George Bush terms, the world has been left without such a structure; certainly one able to accommodate Russia and the great states such as China and India.

Instead Clinton and Bush left us with the template of 1947; the template cut by the victorious powers of World War II, the one where Germany and Japan were left on the outside, and still are 60 years later, and in which China and India are tolerated and palely humoured.

Sixteen critical years have already been lost. And it is not as if we are dealing with a world where things are the same now as they were 16 years ago. The world is dynamic: 16 years ago China was not a world power; today it is. Sixteen years ago, Russia was collapsing; today it is growing and strongly.

We are now sitting through, witnessing, the eclipse of American power. Yet for those 16 critical years, two American presidents did nothing to better shape the institutions of world governance.

And there has been no help from the old powers; Tony Blair's Britain and Jacques Chirac's France. After all, they had box seats to the event, courtesy of being on top in 1947.

But Blair's contribution was not anything new or free-thinking, rather he thought being an American acolyte was all that was required. Chirac was simply incapable of adding any strategic value to the equation.

The fact is we are again heading towards a bipolar world. Not one shaped by a balance of terror like the old one, but certainly not a multipolar one – in fact, one heavily influenced by two countries; the United States and China.

Russia's economy, while growing in strength from the burnt-out wreck it was in 1990, will not be in the league of that of the US or of China.

But Russia will still be wealthy; wealthy enough to continue to field its massive arsenal of nuclear weapons. So whether you attribute to Russia full "pole" status or not, you can certainly attribute to it huge strategic standing.

It is more the pity then, that following that unexpected epiphany in 1989, the Clinton administration rashly decided to ring-fence Russia by inviting the former Warsaw Treaty states of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to join NATO.

By doing so, the US failed to learn one of the lessons of history: that the victor should be magnanimous with the vanquished.

At some time the US will be obliged to treat Russia as a great sovereign power replete with a range of national interests of the kind that other major powers possess.

In the meantime, the great risk of this sort of adventurism is that with NATO's border now right up to western Ukraine, the Russians will take the less costly military option of counter-weighing NATO's power by keeping their nuclear arsenal on full operational alert.

This posture automatically carries with it the possibility of a Russian nuclear attack by mistake. The years of Russia's economic poverty, certainly since the collapse of its economy in the first half of the 1990s, has meant the Russians have allowed their surveillance and early warning systems to ossify. To compensate, they are keeping their nuclear arsenal on full operational alert.

This leaves the rest of the world relying more on the generals, the battlefield commanders and intelligence assessors to restrain a nuclear response than it does the Russian President or his Government. This means that while the Cold War is over, the risk of a mistaken pre-emptory response has increased.

Many people will think and some will say that with communications and the globalisation of economic wealth being what it is, an outbreak of a major conflict seems more and more remote. That global interdependence and the shrinking of the world makes war a decidedly unproductive way of resolving foreign policy differences.

People should be reminded that that was said at the time of the last great intensification of trade between Britain, France and Germany along with the growing US economy before 1914.

The lesson is that when the strategic bits go wrong, the economic bits soon follow. Certainly not the obverse: when the trade goes well, the strategic wrinkles get ironed out.

The structure of the international system is anarchic. Was anarchic; remains anarchic. This condition cannot be remedied but structures to mitigate its most violent manifestations can be put into place.

Against this backdrop remains the open question about "the West" and its fibre. The question that was resoundingly answered by that generation who suffered the Depression and the Second World War and who delivered us into a new era of peace and prosperity.

Is our culture a culture made compliant by too much coming too easily; producing a state of intellectual and spiritual lassitude which can only be shaken by the gravest threats, be they economic, environmental or indeed, strategic?

As that pendulum swings from West to East, are the motivations for the West's former primacy swinging with it? Has the bounty of science and industrialisation with its cornucopia of production and wealth encouraged us too far away from simpler requirements and concern for the needs of all?

As societies, have we taken our eye off public affairs for way too long?

Can we, all of us, assimilate, adjust ourselves to a constancy of peace and prosperity without lessening our regard for those enlivening impulses of truth and goodness.

A new international order based on truth and justice founded in the recognition of the rights of each of us to live out our lives in peace and harmony, can, I believe, provide the only plausible long-term template.

The old order of victorious powers, of a compromised United Nations, a moribund G8 with major powers hanging on to weapons of mass destruction, is a remnant of the violent 20th century. It cannot provide the basis for an equitable and effective system of world governance.

Just as world community concern has been ahead of the political system on issues such as global warming so, too, world community concern needs to galvanise international action to find a new template for a lasting peace, one embracing all the major powers and regions.

The philosopher Immanuel Kant said some day there will be a universal peace; the only question, he said, is will this come about by human insight or by catastrophe, leaving no other outcome possible.

Humankind demands that that proposition be settled in the former and not the latter.

Paul Keating was prime minister from 1991 to 1996. This is an edited extract of a speech delivered to the Melbourne Writers' Festival on Saturday.

Comments (6)

Akbar Palace said:


Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen threads about Syrians in the Olympics, the Peace Process, Biden’s influence in the peace process with Syria, Obama, etc, etc.

Why hasn’t there been a thread detailing the new push for mutual Syrian/Lebanese recognition?

Isn’t this BIG news?

August 25th, 2008, 12:40 pm


Observer said:

This is a good posting. It is truly interestting to see former officials say what everyone is saying in private. Humble pie is being served.
Several points need to be made regarding this post and the events that prompted it:
1. The West has tried to return to 19th century colonial adventurism by invading Iraq and prompting Israel to attack Lebanon in a massive way, diregarding the UN and the order built after WWII to insure that the powers to be do not go about destroying each other as they conquer and divide the world. The chikens have come home to roost as the same attitude and arguments were made by Russia to defend its interests in Georgia. Now the West is trying to back track and revive the world institutions to prevent the kind of bloody 20th century that was the product of the 19th greed and stupidity.

2. The West has two strategic challenges: the Islamic world with its myriad of failed or near failed states that sits in the most sensitive geostrategic location an on top of significant resources; and China and its neighbourhood. The Europeans have essentially refused to allow their security to be subserviant to the US action. They are weary of antangonizing the Islamic world at this time of declining demographics and significant illegal people migration. China took advantage of 16 years of strategic drift between the Clinton and Bush administrations to pursue a policy of accelerated development and stabilization of South East Asia. Now the US in particular and the West in general have seen the financial and economic weight of the world shift to the East. It is not a huge shift, for both India and China still have each 500 million people living on $2 per day and they still need to lift them out of poverty. Meanwhile the fixation on the war with Islamic extremism resulted in the US cornering itself into an impass. The US has either to put in much more effort to topple many more regimes in the Muslim world or to withdraw from Iraq and see the religious parties take over. Remember that the players there are called Dawa, Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, Mahdi Army, and Sadr movement, and the even the Sunnis have their Islamic Front. There are no more Arabism or Iraqi nationalism.

3. The crisis in Georgia and the defeat of Israel by HA as well as the emergence in Iraq of a leadership that is not entirely pliant to the West means that the age of no compromise that the West thought it could impose on the rest of the world like the 19th century colonical powers is gone for ever. Therefore the 21st century will see the consolidation and the emergence of more independendce of the former colonies and dependencies. China rising means more than independence from the West: it means tha tprogress and indepdendence do not mean a strict adherence to the Western concept of democracy as the sine qua none for the only way to progress and to joining the “civilized world”. Likewise, the authoritarian democracy of Russia is posing as an alternative to many in the world of an answer to the dictatorship of ” free market economics” that was so ruinous in the 90’s.

4. The myth of democracies not waging war on each other is also shattered now as Georgia tried to conquer a democratically run South Ossetia and Russia did wage war to prevent it being absorbed by force into Georgia. This is again a weakening of the concept of democracy as a guarantor of peace and stability.

In conclusion the challneges are enormous for the US in particular and the West in general:

Will the US economy remain a militarized one, and if so, it will be so dependent on foreign money as to make it meaningless. Moreover, it is now clear that the militarized economy has resulted in significant erosion of the society itself in the US.

Will the US insist that the European security needs be subservient to the US global reach when Europe does not want to be dragged into a confrontation with the Southern Mediterranean Islamic world that the US is insisting on

Will the US continue to pursue a contradictory policy of supporring Israel unconditionally when its attempt to subdue the ME with shock and awe has failed miserably ( every one is in shock of the failure in Iraq and in awe of Iran rising ).

Will the US continue to hammer China with human rights issues when the Chinese have uplifted their people from dire poverty and famine throught a centralized bureaucracy.

Will the West choose to direct its energies against Russia rather than remain focused on the failed and failign states in the Islamic world and the East rising inexorably.

Will the West choose to refashion the world institutions to reflect the new world or insist for the sake of power to remain attached to an obsolete UN.

Will Israel trump all the cards and cut its nose despite its face and continue to refuse integration into the region (through a bi-national state) and remain an exclusive aberration of the original Zionist project.

August 25th, 2008, 3:00 pm


Enlightened said:

HMM: Joshua

Where was my thanks or acknowledgement for posting this very important article?

Prime Minister Keating always ruffled feathers and told it as it was, just for interest sakes to let the SC community know, his constituency and electorate took in a very large section of the Arab diaspora in Australia.

August 25th, 2008, 11:51 pm


Joshua said:

Dear Enlightened – forgive me for not thanking you publicly. I will rectify that forthwith. It is a great article indeed – You did us all a service by bringing it here.

Best, Joshua

August 26th, 2008, 12:17 am


Enlightened said:

LOL Abu Kendall.

I thought it was one of the most interesting articles that I have read for a long time, and especially coming from a “Western Leader”

Prime Minister Keating brings up some very interesting points that merit some further discussion.

Under his stewardship, he saw the eventual rise of China and the East, long before any other Western leader or nation. He positioned Australia and its policies to fit in more and align it it into Asia.
Australia was traditionally seen as the (forgive the pun) the white trash of Asia (and having to use racist terms).

We are now here reaping the benefits in terms of trade, the governments intake from the mining industry here alone will be close to 20 billion in taxes.

August 26th, 2008, 12:32 am


George Y. Krikorian said:

Josh, this is indeed a very interesting contribution from Paul Keating. It remains to see whether “electoral purposes” are behind such a writing.

However, people (and today’s world leaders) forget that SPHERES OF INFLUENCE have always been, all along history, the alma mater of any political or geopolitical interests in this world.

The Russian Empire had its own Sphere of Influence on the whole neighboring nations for centuries. Same with the Ottomans. We can go back in history.

Iran has definitely its own sphere of influence. China has the same.

If we are not willing to find that harmonious formula, redefining every now and then the power and influence (or limitation of power and influence) between neighboring states, just like what is happening between Lebanon and Syria, we better go back to the jungle!

To be able to do so needs elightened, clairvoyant and very able leaders, especially in today’s Superpower (America), having a vision, and willing to cleverly compromise.

Hopefully, this “Game of Nations” would materialize with the coming new democratic administration in the U.S. with the OBAMA-BIDEN tandem.

August 26th, 2008, 10:53 am


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