Courtesy Reuters

Toward a New Balance in Asia


AUSTRALIA'S decision to keep forces in Malaysia and Singapore after Britain leaves in 1971 was taken in an election year, after the most searching public debate on defense and foreign policy in Australia's history and after a substantial official review. It represents, therefore, one country's practical assessment of Southeast Asia "after Viet Nam." In this sense, the decision may have significance outside Australia, for the light it throws on the development of Australian thinking, for the contribution it is intended to make to the security of the immediate subregional neighborhood and for the assumptions it appears to make about the broader question of stability in Asia, especially the role of the United States.

The reason for the public debate on defense was not only the imminent loss of the British connection in Southeast Asia, a symbolic moment which had been anticipated by Australian strategists and thinkers, if not by many Australian politicians. There was also uncertainty over the outcome in Viet Nam and American reaction to that outcome-a general suspicion that, just as the old policy covering relations with Britain had run out, so had the old policy covering relations with the United States. For the crude but central core of this Australian policy was to keep the United States engaged in Asia, especially Southeast Asia, at all costs, even if it meant military engagement-which the more ardent Australian supporters of the alliance with the United States in any case favored. This view was clearly put by Mr. B. A. Santamaria, a Catholic publicist, in an address to the National Press Club in Canberra on July 27, 1964. The alliance with the United States, he said, "should be regarded as so fundamental to Australian security that no Australian Government would ever equivocate about the alliance or the obligations which flow from it. Furthermore, it should be an incontrovertible end of Australian policy to do everything practical to keep the Americans actually engaged in Southeast Asia. Operations in hand are a better

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