Diplomatic compliance

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  • Published 20030902
  • ISBN: 9780733313318
  • Extent: 160 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

IN SEPTEMBER 2000, the cadaver of Australia’s great foreign policy tragedy of the past quarter century was laid out in the Mural Hall, at the centre of the Australian Parliament. The 724-page book of diplomatic cables told the story of a strong prime minister imposing his will and a foreign affairs department that both agonised and argued in the fateful months before Indonesia invaded East Timor.

The chronological collection of government documents covering 1974-76 reads as the Greek chorus to tragedy. In passionate prose, Australia’s ambassador in Jakarta, Richard Woolcott, wrote that Canberra had to decide between ‘Wilsonian idealism and Kissingerian realism’. The ambassador in Portugal, Frank Cooper, agonised over the damage to moral principles posed by East Timor: ‘The question many people will ask is not whether we can live with it but whether we can live with ourselves.’

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