What are the origins of the United States alliance with Australia and New Zealand, and what do they reveal about the trade-offs of bilateral and multilateral alliance designs? International Relations scholarship has almost exclusively focussed on European alliances prior to 1945 and Washington’s alliances with its NATO allies, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan since then. The literature on the ANZUS alliance is very atheoretical and consists of either diplomatic histories or contemporary policy prognostications that tend to neglect alliance design. Literature that puzzles at multilateralism in Europe and bilateralism in Asia is either inconclusive or cannot explain why Truman ultimately wanted Japan and most of its wartime adversaries in a multilateral arrangement. This paper makes two contributions. First, it contributes to debates about threat perception by showing that Australian threat perceptions in the early Cold War were mostly directed not at the Soviet Union or China but Australia’s then vanquished wartime adversary Japan. Second, it argues that bilateralism may offer greater insurance against entrapment but carries additional assurance costs. Truman ultimately wanted a multilateral alliance in Asia but could not achieve it because Australian and regional consent to his Japan settlement required additional security commitments that excluded Japan.
Michael Cohenis a Senior Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the National Security College, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. His first book, When Proliferation Causes Peace: The Psychology of Nuclear Crises, was published by Georgetown University Press in 2017 and explains how nuclear proliferation influences state foreign policy. He has also co-edited North Korea and Nuclear Weapons: Entering the New Era of Deterrence, also with Georgetown University Press in 2017. His research has appeared in scholarly journals such as The Journal of Global Security Studies, Foreign Policy Analysis, International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, The Non-Proliferation Review and the Australian Journal of International Affairs. His research and teaching focusses on the causes of interstate conflict and cooperation and foreign policy decision-making with an empirical focus on the Indo-Pacific. He received his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in 2012, was Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Southern Denmark from 2012-2015 and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Security Studies and Criminology at Macquarie University from 2016-2017.