Release date: 3rd July 2024
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The Odd Couple: Re-configuring the America-Australia relationship
About the Book:
America matters. Australia matters. They matter to each other. They matter to the world. Their institutional and structural alignments are deep and powerful. Americans believe in themselves. Australians believe in each other. They are mates. They are gregarious. Americans are single-minded and ambitious. Success is the reward for effort. Australians are happy-go-lucky. They do not push themselves too hard. Americans honour success. Australians cut down tall poppies. Both are brash.
There are also many contrasts. America is religious. Australia is secular. Curiously, their differences help to explain why they are so close – and why their relationship is so superficial.
They share interests: they like winning and being in charge; they like wealth, and they like being liked. They like condescension, and excluding people they do not like. ‘National security’ is a major shared interest. So is racism. America’s (and Australia’s) recent wars have all been against non-whites. Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are worse off for the wars we fought. So are we.
Despite the political rhetoric, America and Australians do not share values. They do not share the values of equality, inclusion, respect, tolerance and trust. They do share a pervasive sense of insecurity. America supports a gun and war culture regardless of the costs, and Australia supports American adventurism unconditionally. Their focus on security emphasises war, not peace.
America is floundering and appears to have lost its way. It needs friends that advise and encourage. As rich and powerful first-world nations, America and Australia share a problem: how to recalibrate their relationship to deliver peace and prosperity rather than conflict and disharmony. In The Odd Couple, Allan Behm suggests ways that America and Australia can transcend military glitz to strengthen well-being and human security worldwide. America needs a friend, not a flunkey, and Australia may become its best ally.
About the Author:
Allan Behm specialises in international and security policy development, political and security risk evaluation, policy analysis and development, and negotiating the policy/politics interface.
Following a career spanning nearly thirty years in the Australian Public Service, he was Chief of Staff to Minister for Climate Change and Industry Greg Combet (2009 to 2013) and senior advisor to the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Penny Wong (2017–19).
He has a significant publishing record and is a respected commentator in both the electronic and print media. His book No, Minister – an insider’s account of what happens behind the scenes in Parliament House – was published by Melbourne University Publishing in 2015. It remains a “go to” text for those who are interested in leadership, political management, policy development and reform. In March 2022, Upswell published No Enemies No Friends, a critical examination of what limits Australia as an actor on the international stage.