mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Game of Thrones: Pacific Island Edition


Andrew Pickford wrote an interesting piece on Australia’s changing neighborhood for today’s Diplomat. Nations like the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor are small, sparsely populated, and marginal in Asian geopolitics (akin to the Caribbean, perhaps, in the western hemisphere). At the same time, however, they’re mostly poor and poorly governed, and unrest and instability there has the potential to be dangerous for the entire region. Consider:

The South West Pacific is dotted with small and micro states, with many only recently winning independence and still facing varying degrees of internal instability. These countries range from tiny islands to artificial amalgamations of diverse cultures. The largest, Papua New Guinea, has over 800 different languages, a tough proposition for any national government, quite apart from its other challenges. The region is marked by weak governance and poor, fast-growing populations….

None of the Melanesian states has had a long history as a cohesive, viable political unit…. By 2003, the Solomon Island’s government had become virtually unworkable and it was only the invitation and deployment of a regional force, led by Australia and New Zealand, which helped stabilize the nation and avoid collapse.

Pickford’s is an interesting take on an Australian view of the world. Because these islands are so remote and usually considered tourist destinations and nothing more, we sometimes forget they could impact regional geopolitics. That’s a mistake.

In the coming years, US interests would seem to call for closely coordinating our regional aid and development efforts as well as our diplomatic stance toward them with those of Australia and New Zealand. In Papua New Guinea and East Timor, there is a history of violent separatist conflict and guerrilla war that still simmers today. And the US, as any veteran of the Pacific theater will tell you, had a lot of headaches there in World War II. With China still bullying its neighbors and a naval arms race gathering steam in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Australia and New Zealand have very good reasons of their own to promote stability and development in these islands.

[Image of Australian forces attacking Japanese positions during the Battle of Buna–Gona, January 1943; courtesy Wikimedia]

Features Icon
show comments
© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service