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Seen from the US

Ross Terrill writes about the election at WeeklyStandard.com: 

Aussies Vote: And why Americans should care 

As President Obama’s support wanes, midterm elections loom, and economic troubles persist, he barely heeds East Asia and the Pacific. Flourishing Australia is neglected because it causes Washington few problems. Twice this year Obama canceled a visit to Australia.

But this nation of 22 million—which has its own election August 21 — copes with a junior-partner role out of long experience and for good reason. The United States, despite being 8,000 miles away, is of the first importance to Aussies. They fought alongside the United States in all its major wars, from World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Australia changed prime ministers in June when Julia Gillard overthrew Kevin Rudd in an internal Labor party struggle. Rudd had become Labor leader in 2006 not because the party liked him but because he was their best chance to win. In 2007 he did beat John Howard, handsomely, ending an 11-year conservative reign. But Rudd was aloof from his own Labor party; its backroom figures, fearing defeat in the 2010 vote, knifed him and chose Gillard, a leftist trying to edge to the center. As happens under a Westminster-style parliamentary system, she became prime minister on the spot.

Gillard faces a thoughtful conservative, Tony Abbott of the Liberal-National party, in a close tussle, and the result is important to U.S. interests. Gillard would support Obama’s worst foreign policy instincts, while Abbott would resist them.

Howard resolved the warring currents of history (Western) and geography (Asian) that define Australia. The eight-year Bush-Howard axis was a golden age for relations between the United States and Australia; yet Howard also brought Japan, China, and Indonesia closer to Australia than ever before. So much for the Australian intellectual left’s cry that “we must choose between America and Asia” (they would choose Asia).

The Canberra-Washington connection has always been strong under the Liberal-Nationals. But Labor, especially since the Vietnam war, dislikes foreign entanglements and calls for “exit” from a war before victory is in sight.

In 1972, Henry Kissinger, as I entered his White House office for a chat about China, angrily waved a cable from Gough Whitlam, just elected Labor prime minister of Australia, protesting President Nixon’s “Christmas bombing” of Hanoi. “It’s unforgivable for this Australian government to put us on the same moral footing as North Vietnam!” said Kissinger. “You can’t apply ANZUS [a tripartite security pact also including New Zealand] on some points and not on others.” I crept out to phone Whitlam. It was a low point in relations between Washington and Canberra. 

Source: WeeklyStandard.com

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