U.S. Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked an audience in Australia: Why are we allies?
“The answer transcends narrow materialism,” he said. “The animating purpose of our alliance is that we are free societies, founded by immigrants and pioneers, who put our faith in the rule of law and who believe that our destinies are inseparable from the character of the broader world order.
“We believe that when the strong trample the rights and independence of the weak with impunity, then our liberty and our sovereignty are at risk.
“We believe that when all peoples cannot sail the seas, and fly the skies, and engage in commerce freely, then our prosperity will suffer.
“We believe that when the balance of power in the world favors those bent on injustice, and aggression, and conquest, then the peace we cherish will not last.
“These are values that time does not diminish. These are ideas that truly are worth the fighting for. This is why we are allies—and why we must remain so.”
McCain was speaking at the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia on Tuesday at the invitation of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
He said he understood that many are questioning whether America is still committed to these values. “Other American allies have similar doubts these days. And this is understandable.
“I realize that some of President Trump’s actions and statements have unsettled America’s friends. They have unsettled many Americans as well. There is a real debate underway now in my country about what kind of role America should play in the world. And frankly, I do not know how this debate will play out.
“What I do believe, and I do not think I am exaggerating here, is that the future of the world will turn, to a large extent, on how this debate in America is resolved.”
McCain called on Australia for help. “I know there is a belief that Americans have turned isolationist and protectionist. But recent public opinion polls consistently tell the opposite story... Put simply, my friends: I believe bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-alliances, pro-trade, pro-investment, pro-military, pro-globalization, in favor of an internationalist foreign policy, and supportive of our alliance with Australia.”
Yes, America has its problems, he says. “But even on our worst day, far more people and far more money are trying to get into America than out of it. No one has ever gotten rich betting against America, my friends, and now is not a good time to start.”
McCain has called for an Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative. The goal would be, working in concert with allies, to deter aggression and maintain a balance of power in the region. This would be achieved by enhancing the presence, resilience, and credibility of U.S. forces in the Pacific. “This is especially necessary now, as North Korea gets closer and closer to developing a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile,” he says.
Recognizing that Australia is concerned about becoming entangled in a strategic competition between America and China, he says that the real choice is whether Australia and America are better off dealing with China’s strategic and economic challenges together or by themselves.
“The challenge is that as China has grown wealthier and stronger, it seems to be acting more and more like a bully. It is refusing to open more of its economy so that foreign businesses can compete fairly. It is stealing other peoples’ intellectual property. It is asserting vast territorial claims that have no basis in international law. And it is using its trade and investment as tools to coerce its neighbors,” he said.
“It is certainly true that the return of China will shape the future of Asia, hopefully for the best. But I would submit to you that the rise of Asia - a community of peaceful, prosperous, law-abiding, rights-respecting and increasingly democratic nations - this Asia can and should do just as much, or more, to shape the future of China. We need to stick together, as allies, and seize this tremendous opportunity.”
He made the call: “America needs Australia and our other allies now more than ever. We need your strength. We need your steady leadership. We need your wise counsel. We need your patience and your understanding. We need your commitment to our common interests and ideals. We need you to have faith in America and in the enduring value of our alliance.”
The full speech is available here.