Republican presidential candidate John McCain, whose family has military links to Australia stretching back to the 1908 arrival in Sydney of President Roosevelt's Great White Fleet, pledged to strengthen the alliance in an opinion piece featured in The Australian.
A little more than 100 years ago, president Theodore Roosevelt's Great White Fleet steamed into Sydney Harbour. Hundreds of thousands of Australians cheered the 16 battleships that would circumnavigate the globe as a demonstration that America was now a Pacific and a world power. On board the gunboat Panay, patrolling the Philippine archipelago, a young midshipman named John Sidney McCain - my grandfather - shared in the navy's pride at Roosevelt's audacious gesture. Only two years out of the naval academy, my grandfather would shortly be promoted to ensign and assigned to the flagship USS Connecticut for the fleet's triumphant return to the US.
In the middle of 1908, Australians and Americans recognized immediately the kindred spirit of two rugged and energetic peoples separated by half the globe but united by shared hopes for mankind. That initial friendship would be forged into an inseparable bond through many struggles in the years to come. Ten years after the Great White Fleet left Sydney Harbor, American soldiers would serve under Australian general John Monash at the decisive Battle of Hamel on the Western Front. My father and grandfather would both serve side by side with the Royal Australian Navy in the Pacific theatre, turning back the Japanese tide and then building a post-war network of alliances that would usher in a new era of peace and prosperity in Asia.
From Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, I have seen first-hand how succeeding generations of young Americans and Australians have been ready to step forward together to defeat aggression and provide relief and recovery for the stricken.
Firm commitments to our allies will set the stage for an American engagement of China that builds on the many areas of common interest we share with Beijing and encourages candour and progress in those areas where China has not fulfilled its responsibilities as a global power.U.S. leadership and bilateral trade
American leadership is also necessary on trade. For six decades, Democratic and Republican presidents have consistently stood for free trade, but in this presidential election the Democratic candidate has broken with that tradition. I believe that free trade agreements, such as those we have entered into with Australia and Singapore and have negotiated with South Korea, are critical building blocks for an open and inclusive economic order in the Asia-Pacific region. They create billions of dollars' worth of new exports and set a higher standard for trade liberalization that ultimately helps all the nations in the region.
Today the American and Australian people face unprecedented challenges in the area of proliferation. Australia is a key partner in our efforts to reverse the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs. The US and Australia can also do more to reinforce the broader non-proliferation regime. My administration would lead by example by pushing for a fissile materials cut-off agreement and by reducing the US nuclear stockpile while maintaining a deterrent against attacks on our homeland and allies. I will also work with Australia and other allies to make the International Atomic Energy Agency more effective.
The war on terror
I am mindful that Australians, like Americans, have suffered terrible terrorist attacks. But we can also take pride in our successful co-operation with other nations in Southeast Asia to interrupt terrorist networks and prevent further attacks. In forums such as the Association of South-East Asian Nations and Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation, states have moved from initial shock to mutual co-operation in the fight against terror. It reminds us that while our alliances remain the foundation of peace and stability in Asia, we have new opportunities to build patterns of multilateral co-operation.
Our successes in the war on terror also result directly from our determination to take the fight to the enemy. Some have argued that American or Australian security would be better served if we abandon the mission in Iraq, but in fact the result would be just the opposite. A precipitous US withdrawal would only embolden our adversaries, risk regional instability, and demoralise our friends. After mismanaging the aftermath of the war, we have now established a more secure Iraq with the surge strategy and we are seeing the results in the steady process of political reconciliation and economic recovery. By bringing our troops home in victory, rather than defeat, we can ensure that they stay home once and for all.
McCain is fond of Australia. He was courted by former Australian Prime Minister John Howard and has formed a cordial relationship with new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. For me in particular, it was pleasing to note Senator McCain’s calls for a re-invigoration of the US – Australia alliance.
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