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Peering behind the alliance curtain: what lessons should we draw from the Turnbull-Trump phone call?

6 Feb 2017

For cheerleaders of the ANZUS alliance, the statements released after ministerial meetings and leadership phone calls are manna from heaven. The soothing and predictable words are almost like religious recitations: the alliance continues to grow stronger, deeper, wider and more intimate, the interests of Australia and the United States will never diverge, and no problems will ever arise in our alliance.

Academics have long argued that trusting such statements is folly. Stephen Walt, a Professor at Harvard, wrote that the ‘litmus test’ of an alliance does not come at summit meetings, or phone call readouts, because these stage-managed events are ‘designed for the ritual incantation of unifying rhetoric’. Leaders use a façade of flowery language to conceal any issues that might, in reality, be slowly damaging the alliance.

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