We are a nation in denial that we are ‘joined at the hip’ to a dangerous ally. Apart from brief isolationist periods, the US has been almost perpetually at war, wars that we have often foolishly been drawn into. The US has subverted and overthrown numerous governments over two centuries. It has a military and business complex, almost a ‘hidden state,’ that depends on war for influence and enrichment. It believes in its ‘manifest destiny’ which brings with it an assumed moral superiority denied to others. As the US goes into relative economic decline, it will ask allies such as Australia for more help and support. We are running great risks in committing so much of our future to the US. We must build our security in our own region and not depend so exclusively on a foreign protector.
In Part 1 yesterday I outlined the facts and reasons for the US being almost always at war. Today I highlight that the risks pre date Trump and discuss the role of the media and others in keeping us in denial about the risks in our dependence on the US.
What about Trump?
Our risky dependence on the US cannot be avoided or excused by laying problems at the door of Donald Trump. Malcolm Fraser warned us about a dangerous ally long before Donald Trump came on the scene. US obsession with war and with overthrowing or undermining foreign governments goes back over a century. So does domestic gun violence.
Donald Trump excesses are not likely to move American policies from what has become the norm over two centuries.
Hugh White has pointed out, the US has in effect now given up looking after anyone but itself – “America first” – which makes it very dangerous for a country to be joined at the hip with the US, with or without Donald Trump. It could of course be argued that Trump is just being honest and saying what US presidents have always done, looking after their own interests even if they refused to admit it.
American and Australian media
A major voice in articulating American extremism and the American Imperium is Fox News and Rupert Murdoch who exert their influence not just in America but also in the UK and Australia. In the media, Fox News supported the invasion of Iraq and is mindless of the terrible consequences. Rupert Murdoch applauded the invasion of Iraq because it would reduce oil prices. Fox and News Corp are leading skeptics on climate change which threatens our planet. News Corp underpins American imperialist intentions. In April last year the New York Times told us that outside the White House, Rupert Murdoch is Trump’s chief adviser.
But it is not just the destructive role of News Corp in US, UK and Australia. Our media, including the ABC and even SBS, is so derivative. Our media seems to regard Australia as an island parked off New York. We are saturated with news, views, entertainment and sit-coms from the US. It is so pervasive and extensive, we don’t recognize it for its very nature. The last thing a fish recognizes is water.
Leigh Sayles on 7.30 recently interviewed Michael Wolff on his book “Fire and Fury”. The book drew attention to the personal absurdities and eccentricities of President Trump. Leigh Sayles did not bother to ask the obvious question “What are the implications for Australia of this strange President?” Amazing! She followed that up more recently with a public relations gush by Greg Norman on his golfing friend Donald Trump.
We will be asked to do more to help a declining US.
In this blog recently, Michael Keating “Who will pay for Trump’s wars?” highlighted that America will have to curb defence spending, despite all the rhetoric about confronting China. Mike Keating described (as Hugh White pointed out) that, based on Australian Treasury figures, by 2030 Chinese GDP is projected to be 70% larger than US GDP. It is already 15 % larger. The US has record debt which the recent tax cuts, like those of Regan and Bush, will only worsen. Current US debt is largely financed by China. Michael Keating asks the obvious question, “Why should China be prepared to finance the US to enter into an arms race with it?” in other words “What country seeks to go to war with its own banker?”
One outcome of the declining comparative US economic power is that the US will ask its allies to do more. We saw the influence of US budgetary pressures in its launch of the pivot to the Pacific. It was designed in part to help the US extricate itself from the Middle East, but also to reduce defence expenses in the budget.
Alternatively, the US may return to its brief periods of isolationism and leave its allies to their own devices. Maybe they will do us a favour!
Why do we remain in denial?
Despite continual wars, often unsuccessful, the overthrow or subversion of foreign governments and declining US economic influence, US hegemony and domination of Australian thinking continues. Despite all the evidence, why do we continue in denial?
One reason is that as a small, isolated and white community in Asia we have historically sought an outside protector, first the UK and when that failed, the US. We should not bury in Anzackery and its derivatives the enormous price we paid for British ‘protection’. We have not shaken off that dependence and subservience to the UK.
We continue to seek security from our region through a US protector rather than, as Paul Keating put it, security within our own region. Our long-term future depends on cooperation in our region and not reliance on a dangerous and distant ally.
Another reason why we are in denial about the American Imperium, is, as I have described, saturation of our media with US news, views and entertainment. We do not have an independent media worth the name. Whatever the US media says about tax cuts for the wealthy, defence or climate change it inevitably gets a good run in our derivative media.
A further reason for the continuing US hegemony in Australian attitudes is the galaxy of Australian opinion leaders who have benefitted from American largesse and support – in the media, politics, bureaucracy, business, trade unions, universities and think-tanks. Thousands of influential Australians have been co-opted by US money and support in ‘dialogues’, study centers and think tanks. Sam Dastyari is small beer compared with the agents of influence that the US has nourished in Australia for decades.
How long will Australian denial of US policies continue? When will some of us stand up? Are our political leaders right in their assessment that any questioning of the threats posed by our interpretation of the benefits and obligations of the US alliance will lose them an election?
In so far as China is any sort of distant threat it would be much less so if we were not so subservient to the US.
What will we do if the US decides to follow the advice of some of its senior generals and use tactical nuclear weapons in North Korea? Their use would engage the US/Australian facilities in Australia a fact that would not escape the notice of China
An American decision to take such military action in North Korea could expose us to great danger. We would likely know about it only after the attack!
A dangerous ally indeed.
The recent statements by Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop that they do not see China and Russia as a threat is encouraging but there is no sign that they plan any changes.
In a post in this blog Andrew Bacevich asked “When will American wars have their Harvey Weinstein moment?” He went on “it took a succession of high-profile scandals before America truly woke up to the plague of sexual harassment and assault. How long will it take before the public concludes that they have had enough of wars that don’t work? Here’s hoping it is before our President in a moment of ill temper, unleashes ‘fire and fury’ on the world”.
We remain a country in denial about our dangerous alliance.