Relocating Middle Powers: Australia and Canada in a Changing World Order

By Andrew F. Cooper; Richard A. Higgott et al. | Go to book overview

5
The Security Agenda: Coalition-building and the Gulf Conflict

Introduction

A distinctive characteristic of the foreign policy behaviour of middle powers, it is commonly said, is their embrace of multilateralism as the preferred means of advancing their foreign policy interests. Indeed, as the case studies of the Cairns Group and APEC in the previous chapters demonstrate, middle powers tend to seek out like-minded and comparably placed states in the international hierarchy; they tend to forge like-minded coalitions in order to encourage the growth and health of international institutions; they embrace notions of the 'general interest' and 'good international citizenship' in order to guide their diplomacy. 1 Multilateralism is favoured, we have argued, for reasons of enlightened self-interest: in order to maximize parochial national interests that could not be advanced alone. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that, in some situations, multilateralism affords smaller or middle-sized states the greater safety that comes with numbers -- not so much against the predations of enemies as against the overweening embrace and dominance of great power friends. 2

In the years immediately following the end of the Second World War, this multilateral impulse could be seen at work most clearly in the security issue area, when middle powers such as Australia and Canada sought not only to increase their own security by encouraging the development of multilateral alliances but sought to encourage world order by strengthening international institutions such as the United Nations and the United States-led alliance systems that were created in the late 1940s and early 1950s. 3

We have argued above that the concept of middle power, as it emerged in the immediate postwar period, tended to be linked to the military- security issue area. However, as we have noted above, middle power

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