This piece is an imagined email correspondence between three renowned international relations scholars, E. H. Carr, Hedley Bull and Coral Bell, who are discussing the Australian 2016 Defence White Paper. The purpose of such an exercise is to reflect on the 'big-picture' international relations questions posed by what might otherwise be thought of as a relatively technical defence policy document. In particular, the correspondence between the three focuses on the central importance of the White Paper's assumptions of a 'rules-based global order' and the relationship between this order and US power. In their time, all three authors spoke directly to questions of power, law and order in their scholarly work, which had been deeply influenced, in all three cases, by periods spent working at the 'coalface' of these issues in government in Britain and Australia. As such, Carr, Bull and Bell have much to say about how Australia is positioning itself for a post-unipolar world.