Niall McLaren. A case for ‘armed neutrality’

In its short history, Australia has been among the most aggressive nations on earth, regularly engaging in wars that, on any objective basis, have nothing to do with us. These military adventures cost us dearly in men, material and credibility without ever showing the slightest evidence that they improve our security. Malcolm Fraser argued that we graft ourselves to foreign military powers in the hope that they will come to our aid in an emergency but that this has never benefited us. At present, our military is fully enmeshed with the American war machine at all levels, to the extent that Australian officers serve in command posts in US sectors. However, there is no reason to believe that the US would ever go against its interests in order to rush to our defence.

Most scenarios envisage that, in future conflicts, our most likely enemies would be either Indonesia or China. Bearing in mind that, by its control of the Strait of Malacca, Indonesia has us and the huge economies of North Asia in a stranglehold, picking a fight with them seems the height of folly, especially as everything says the US would not endanger its relationship with Indonesia in order to help us. China is now our biggest market and supplier so squabbling with them would take especial folly. But there is another problem to bear in mind: with the looming Trans-Pacific Partnership, Australia’s industrial capacity will be further downgraded. Very soon, we will be unable to manufacture any of the most basic requirements for fighting any sort of war. That is, we will be rendered essentially defenceless. I don’t believe this is in our interest.

My case is that we should immediately begin to move to the defence stance known as “armed neutrality,” meaning we would build our defence capacity to the point where we would be “too prickly” to attack but would have very limited offensive capacity. There is very little reason to believe our northern hemisphere “allies” would be happy with this, because at present, they have the best of all possible worlds. We don’t, and it could easily get very much worse, meaning we would be on our own.

Niall (Jock) McLaren is a psychiatrist with extensive experience in remote area, military and post-traumatic psychiatry. His politics and interests are humanist, rationalist, socialist and poking fun at the self-righteous.

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