29 March 2005

scary eagles and friendly dragons

Our new nightmare: the United States of America

Australians are as just as concerned about United States foreign policy as Islamic extremism and regard the US as more dangerous than a rising China, according to a new poll.

The Australians Speak: 2005 survey, commissioned by the Lowy Institute for International Policy, found 57 per cent of Australians were 'very worried' or 'fairly worried' about the external threat posed by both US foreign policy and Islamic extremism.

'We asked about a series of threats from the outside,' said the institute's executive director, Allan Gyngell. 'Most startling of all was the precise equivalence of Islamic fundamentalism and US foreign policy as a source of concern.

'The question is whether this is a response to a particular administration or a broader cultural drifting apart.'

More than two-thirds - 68 per cent - said Australia took too much notice of the US in its foreign policy deliberations.

The findings would not be welcomed by the Howard Government, which has railed against perceived anti-Americanism and emphasised the importance of the alliance as the US takes a more unilateralist and activist posture in world affairs.

The Lowy Institute found that 72 per cent regarded the US alliance as very important or fairly important. But in another finding, the survey of 1000 people found respondents were strongly opposed to siding with the US over Taiwan should conflict flare between Taipei and Beijing.

Mr Gyngell said he was also very surprised that China rated so positively. Only 35 per cent of respondents had concerns about China's growing power.

I suspect the US figures would be much more positive if the Australian government was more truthful in discussing the alliance and less supine in its response to US requests. The Australian government has constistently defended the US military tribunals, even in the face of cases like that of Murat Kurnaz.

The full report is available for download.

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