Thursday, September 12, 2002

Steven den Beste is now a part of my daily reading, and as soon as I sober up I'll plonk him in the links column.

One of the great themes of Australia is "mateship". You don't let your mates down. Some writers say this originated at Gallipoli. Former Director of the Australian Museum, Dr Tim Flannery, has argued that the tradition is actually a continuation of aboriginal tradition, that is a response to our strange weather. The source is unimportant. What matters is that the ideal of mateship runs very, very deep in Australia.

Steve has done a creditable job of understanding this ethos, from the US perspective. He gets why we will stand with the USA.
Australia does stand by us. But it doesn't do so because it feels that it would perish if it lost our friendship (which is part, but not all, of Israel's motivation). Australia stands by us in part because of gratitude. America made great sacrifices in World War II for Australia and they know it. Partly it's a sense of honor: they've said they are our allies, and their word is good.
I think that more than anything else, however, it's due to a genuinely strong feeling of affection, comradeship, what amounts to true loyalty. The United States and Australia have a surprisingly large amount in common in terms of history and culture and attitude.

The man gets it, again and again.
In most of the reading I've done about WWII, I've never seen any indication that American commitment to preserving Australia was utilitarian, cold and calculating. It was more just a matter of, "Of course we'll fight there. Australia is a friend; you don't let your friends down." New Zealand fought on behalf of Australia, too, even though New Zealand was never plausibly in mortal peril from Japan.
Australia has that same attitude of "of course" towards us. I don't think that in the world today that Australia would really be hurt very much if our relationship with them became more distant. They're not keeping the faith for utilitarian reasons.
They're doing it because they are our friends, and to someone from the frontier tradition, you don't let your true friends down. It just isn't done. It's a matter of personal honor.
That's not to say that they automatically agree with everything we say; it's not like that. They've criticized us, we've criticized them. But in times of crisis we pull together. They'll be there for us; we'll be there for them. It's happened many times before on both sides, and it ain't gonna end now. I trust Australia like I trust no other nation.

And we will be there. You just don't let your mates down. Period.

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