Originally published in Australian Foreign Affairs Issue 18 on July 1, 2023

As the anniversary of the Jan 6 insurrection approaches, what are the implications of the crisis of American democracy, or a more successful coup attempt, for the rest of us? With a few important exceptions, there is startlingly little written – in Australia, internationally and even within the United States – on the “what if” question.

On January 6, the mob went after Vice President Mike Pence. If that had gone differently, what would such a colossal security breach mean for Australia, given this nation’s deep integration into US military structures?

We sit in a rare historical moment, marked by a willingness among Australians to rethink or reshape the relationship with the United States. It is a moment that should be seized before it disappears again.

While polling consistently shows broad support for the alliance, a recent United States Study Centre study shows that there is room to move. Many Australians are hoping for the “articulation of a positive, more aspirational vision” of the relationship.

With the United States embroiled in continuing crisis, developing and articulating such a vision becomes ever more urgent. Doing so might help to ensure that the alliance (and the rest of the world) minimises the fallout from the worst-case scenarios of US democratic decline or collapse. For the current Australian government, it also offers an opportunity to seize the likely narrow window of opportunity to rethink other less extreme but no less uncomfortable realities: the ever-present risk of bad American decision-making and the violent exercise of US power in service of such decisions.

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