In the debate on Australia’s strategic options regarding a rising China and an uncertain United States, Michael Wesley’s “The Pivot to Chaos” is a welcome intervention. There is much in his argument to agree with. With Trump in the White House, Wesley urges Australia to, like many Asian countries, adopt a less sentimental and moralistic view on US power. He rightly points out the limits of American commitment to the region, and argues that the United States’ habitual display of military force has done little to deter rivals in the region; instead, it often helps motivate them to catch up.
Given the changing strategic environment of the Asia-Pacific, Wesley issues a daring and timely call for reimagining Australia’s place in the region and recalibrating its foreign policy. Such reimagining is indeed long overdue. Yet his essay is short on detail as to how the reimagining may take shape, beyond an emphasis on moderating China’s behaviour and convincing the United States to shift to a balancing role in the region. These are reasonable goals, but it remains unclear to me what policy adjustments Australia should make to achieve them.