The Gulf War: Australia's role and Asian-Pacific responses

Author/s (editor/s):

Mohan J. Malik

Publication year:

1992

Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 90

This study examines the responses of Asian-Pacific countries to Australia's role in the Gulf crisis and other related issues (such as the role of the United Nations in the post-Cold War era, the New World Order, and the prospects for collective security in the Asia-Pacific Region) in order to again an understanding of regional perceptions of Australia's present and future role in the global and regional security regimes. It demonstrates that the response of Asian-Pacific countries to Australian military commitment in the Gulf War ranged from outright opposition (North Korea and Vietnam) to understanding (Indonesia, Malaysia, China and India) and wholehearted support (Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, the south Pacific Forum states, South Korea, Japan and Sri Lanka).

In the initial stages of the crisis, Canberra's hasty dispatch of warships following the US and British lead had the potential to undermine Australian attempts to project itself as an independent actor in the Asia-Pacific region. But the formation of a broad anti-Iraqi international coalition and prompt conclusion of the war seemed to vindicate the Australian position and rather enhanced its image in some Asian capitals. It can be argued that a long-drawn-out war or Israeli participation in the conflict would have exacerbated latent tensions and highlighted differences between Australian and Indonesian/Malaysian attitudes.

Though Australia's role in the Gulf did not cause any rift between Australia and other Asian-Pacific countries, it once again highlighted their different perceptions. Most Asian-Pacific countries do not share the Bush-Hawke perception of the New World Order and are critical of the role of the United Nations during the Gulf crisis. Many Asian states do not believe that Gulf-style conflict management should serve as a model for coping with future regional conflicts.

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