Will you believe me if I say that I picked it up The Handbook late last night after I had finished readiThis is a fantastic book! Get yourself a copy!
Will you believe me if I say that I picked it up The Handbook late last night after I had finished reading Patricia Grace’s Cousins just to have a look at the introduction before turning out the light, and found myself reading the entire book instead? It’s true. I couldn’t stop reading it…
I did already know I was going to be interested, I had heard the authors discuss the book with Patricia Karvelas in The Drawing Room on Radio National. I knew it wasn’t yet another book about the science of climate change so that you can have arguments with climate change deniers, it was, as the title implies, a book about what to do to make life bearable now that climate change is upon us. How to make your life better in the 2° rise-in-temperature scenario, which is now inescapable. How to prepare for that, because it’s happening in your lifetime, in your own little house in the suburbs or wherever. Yes, present tense, not future tense. Noticeable changes now, and only going to get worse even if a miracle happened and our witless politicians started doing something to prevent it getting to the 4° rise-in-temperature scenario. But, well, I admit it, I was expecting The Handbook to be a bit worthy. I was expecting it to be a bit dull.
It was when I was reading Simon Mawer’s Tightrope (see my review) and came across the part about the American betrayal of its allies in the late stageIt was when I was reading Simon Mawer’s Tightrope (see my review) and came across the part about the American betrayal of its allies in the late stages of WW2, that I remembered that I wanted to read Dangerous Allies by Malcolm Fraser in which he argues that Australia should be more independent of the US in its foreign policy. The notable point about this opinion being that Fraser was a Defence Minister who acquiesced to the Americans, sending men too young to vote to fight and die in the Vietnam War (which the Vietnamese call the American War). Fraser was also the Liberal Prime Minister who went to his grave with unanswered questions about any external involvement in the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in 1975 (thus disappointing any conspiracy theorists who naïvely thought he might one day ‘fess up). So this book is not predictable Leftie anti-American stuff; this is a book by a conservative…
(No, I don’t believe that leopards change their spots.)
Well, the book came in from the library (no way I was going to add to the Fraser coffers by buying it!) and I have just finished reading it. It’s a bit repetitive here and there, and a lot of it is clunky. I admit to skimming over the chapter about the history of Australia’s transition to a fully independent nation as distinct from one which relied on the Brits for defence and foreign policy and which had no ambition to change that.
(I’m not slack, it’s just that I already know all that from doing Constitutional Law at Queensland University, but also because I was paying attention to Gough when he talked about the remnant bits of dependence that lurk in our systems of law and governance. But if you weren’t paying attention when someone interesting like Gough was talking about it with such eloquence and passion, you’re not very likely to find it interesting at all in this somewhat plodding book. )
Anyway, (leaving aside that there might not be anybody left to care after a nuclear war) Fraser’s message is that Australia’s alliance with the US makes us vulnerable in the event of a stoush between China and the US, probably triggered by Japan and the issue of those islands with a hybrid name (Diaoyu/Senkaku). (He says) the US would probably lose since they’ve already lost three wars because they don’t have the domestic fortitude to win (Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan). If the US retreated to the western hemisphere to resume an isolationist position, that would leave us friendless and adrift in Asia… [LH Goodness knows how we would get on if they refused to trade with us, now that we have jettisoned most of our manufacturing industry, including the food processing and car industries].