Tuesday, 28 April 2015
Carr - Hillary C on OBAMA .. much left out
omic matters, but also in relation to the vital issues of peace and war.
This was a pre-echo of Australia’s post-war commitment to Asia.
The darkest day in Australian history was February 15, 1942, the fall of Singapore, a day when a land army of 20,000 Australians was marched into captivity. Wartime Prime Minister John Curtin had already said on December 27, 1941, “Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.” It was with touching gratitude that Australia received General Douglas MacArthur in March 1942. The renowned warrior brought with him not a US commitment to Australian security but simply the news that he would be based in Australia until America recovered the Philippines and rolled the Japanese back. He was treated as a hero.
Support for the American alliance is deposited in Australian DNA. It’s reinforced by common values.
On September 25, 2012 I sat in the General Assembly and listened to the address by President Obama. The President wrestled with Muslim resentment of attacks on Islam, specifically the YouTube video clip mocking the religion, and how this could be reconciled with the American value – no, he insisted, the universal value – of freedom of speech:
[W]e believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values.
He then said:
I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our constitution protects the right to practise free speech.
Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offence. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs…
We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practise their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.
The writing was masterful, a riveting sequence of short, declarative sentences marching in rhythm. Here again was what I’ve taken to calling the charm – the pulling power, the appeal – of American values. That is, American values at their most generous and noble, as opposed to quirks like universal gun ownership or religiosity. One Australian businessman once told me, in simple summation, that there would never be a question here: “Australians will always prefer American values.” That is, he implied, over Chinese values. When I raised the Obama speech with Henry Kissinger he reminded me that universal values – freedom of speech, for example – don’t exist in the Chinese world view. Chinese civilisation enunciates codes of behaviour, not principles for spreading democracy. One only has to look at the recently published survey of American foreign policy from Truman to Obama – it’s in a book called Maximalist by Stephen Sestanovich – to be reminded of the audacious uniqueness of the post-World War II American mission.
Or as Hillary Clinton herself wrote in a recent review of Henry Kissinger’s latest book World Order:
…what comes through clearly…is a conviction that we, and President Obama, share: a belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.
There really is no viable alternative. No other nation can bring together the necessary coalitions and provide the necessary capabilities to meet today’s complex global threats. But this leadership is not a birthright; it is a responsibility that must be assumed with
Posted by Geoff Seidner at 10:52 am