Times change, and people who refuse to change with them will be left behind.
In its attitude toward the US, Allan Patience said, Australia is living in a fool’s paradise:
“Deeply ingrained into Australia’s collective psyche is the naïve conviction that the United States is the country’s most important, entirely reliable, and utterly benevolent ally. This obsequious sentimentalism was embarrassingly expressed in the words of former Prime Minister John Howard: ‘The relationship we have with the United States is the most important we have with any single country. This is not only because of the strategic, economic, and diplomatic power of the United States. But of equal, if not more significance, are the values and aspirations we share.'”
A fool’s paradise is defined as “a state of happiness based on a person’s not knowing about or denying the existence of potential trouble.” That is, we think our relationship with the US gives us a free pass to safety, security and a chance to rub shoulders with the big kids. In reality, it gives us none of these things.
All sorts of people live in the fool’s paradise but one of the better known is Old Fool, the wheezy old soul who hasn’t woken up to the fact that the world has changed. For example, John Howard and friends don’t seem to have realised that the US of D-Day 1944 is not the same country as today’s version. Let’s look more closely at the “strategic, economic, and diplomatic power of the United States, (its) values and aspirations….”
Strategic power means military, as in Macht hat Recht. We should now allow the undoubted capacity of the US to destroy the world a dozen times over to pull us into their conga line. What do we have in common with Saudi Arabia?
Economic power? China is by far our biggest customer and there is zero chance that, in a conflict, the US would indemnify us for any losses incurred by hewing to the American side. In any event, most of the American “economic power” comes from their “exorbitant privilege” of being the international reserve currency. This means they can throttle anybody they like (currently Russia, Cuba, Iran and Venezuela) for whatever reason they like, with impunity. Darius Rejali said nothing predicts future behavior as much as past impunity. Well, until Russia, China, Iran and lots of other countries finally tire of being dragged hither and thither as hostages to American domestic politics, and launch their own gold-backed cryptocurrency.
Soon China will be the world’s biggest economy: will we run after them, begging privileges? Most likely, because that’s what client states do but, as a major gold producer, we should look with great interest on a gold e-yuan. And as a matter of economic rationality, Iran would be a much better customer for us than the Saudis, except the US decides our trade policies.
Whatever diplomatic heft the US may once have had has been destroyed by its bizarre and chaotic actions under the Trump administration, such as unilaterally trashing the Iran nuclear deal, and then demanding Tehran adhere to its provisions. It walked away from the Paris agreement on climate change. It impugned the INF treaty and NAFTA. It has imposed sanctions, an act of war, on a dozen nations, including a head of state. It uses tariff wars, often for frank political purposes. It supports some truly ghastly autocracies, such as Saudi Arabia, while pounding democracies; breached UNSC resolutions by moving its embassy to Jerusalem; and supports the illegal annexation of Golan Heights while damning Russia’s resumption of its former province of Crimea. And, of course, we have the ultimate hypocrisy: the hysterical outrage over alleged Russian “interference” in the 2016 election even while Pompeo issued twelve demands to Iran which amount to regime change.
Diplomatic power is surely based in honesty and integrity. In these late imperial days, with Trump, whom even The Economist (June 8th) sees as a “weapon of mass disruption,” concocting US diplomacy on Twitter at 4.00am from his boudoir, these qualities are in short supply.
However, let’s focus on our “shared values and aspirations.” Internationally, the major, unwavering aspiration of the US is to control the world in every respect, full stop. They have even built a vast repository in Utah where they can record every electronic datum, from all people, for all time. Consider this: the Stasi in former East Germany had the most comprehensive records on its 17million population of any country. Shelves for their records covered 0.3sq km, or 30 hectares (75ac). The Utah disc space, if converted into shelves, would cover 17million sq km. That is insane, and this country should have nothing to do with it. Except everything we do on the internet is already stored in Utah for all time.
In its actions, the US is far and away the most aggressive nation on earth. Its endless wars of aggression, mostly fomented on a tissue of lies, betray the concept of the supreme international crime (“…differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”). It has been directly responsible for the deaths of at least 20million people since WWII, the overwhelming majority of them civilians in their own countries. They abduct people for torture, slaughter them with drones, supply weapons to some of the world’s most heinous governments, embrace dictators, overthrow governments (too numerous to mention) and interfere mercilessly in other nations’ political affairs.
But there is one “international value” above all others which is so distinctively American, yet we don’t share: Americans hate. They hate with an incandescent and unreasoning passion alien to our way of thinking. But today’s hate object becomes tomorrow’s bosom buddy (and vice versa), all depending on whether the object does as it is told.
What domestic values do we share? The US holds the record on gerrymandering, where people’s votes are negated by guile. Their Supreme Court has just decided that it won’t interfere in this practice. If that doesn’t work, they have a nifty scheme called CrossCheck, which led to the disenfranchisement of over a million people in November 2016, most of them poor and black. It was a little more subtle than the infamous “hanging chads” but much more effective, because it was silent.
As for social welfare, any day, in any city, you can see veterans sitting in the streets, among the many other homeless, begging. Part of the reason is that, in order to court the votes of virulent racists like Sen. James Eastland (D, MI), FDR had to exclude African and Native Americans from most New Deal social provisions. We needn’t reprise the ghastly history of race relations in The Exceptional Nation.
Despite spending twice as much per capita than any other country, their health services are a disgrace: drug companies have created an epidemic of opioid addiction which kills 50,000 people a year. Private health insurers make in excess of $100billion profits a year, creamed off the “health consumers.” Some 32c in every dollar paid to health insurers is spent on administration, compared with 8c in this country. By 2043, US health costs will consume 34% or GDP and the country will be bankrupt. They have the world’s largest prison population and regularly imprison or even execute people later found innocent, even after decades on death row. They signed the Convention Against Torture but routinely break it, at home and overseas. The current head of the CIA, Gina Haspel, personally supervised several torture centres. In case there is any doubt where they stand on crimes against humanity, they are trying to dismantle the International Criminal Court.
I suggest that none of these are values shared by fair-minded Australians.
Howard and his ilk are totally out of date. The facts have changed, but their opinions haven’t. On every measure, militarily, economically, politically, socially, we are tramping dutifully behind the US – but we shouldn’t be. They’ve changed, but Australia is led by lotus eaters. I challenge Howard to name one “value” we have in common which the US applies consistently and impartially. There isn’t one. In The Lucky Country, Donald Horne pointed out that we are governed by second rate racketeers of the mediocre, who are so lacking in curiosity that they can’t tell when we are being gulled.
“…the USA marines stationed in Darwin could drag Australia into war. The claim follows lengthy correspondence between IPAN and a succession of Prime Ministers and Ministers of Defence. The network is concerned that Australia would have no control over the situation, if it suited the interests of the USA to attack some country in our region.”
Why do we have a foreign, extraterritorial military base in our country? Beside pumping $100million a year into Darwin’s economy, what possible role can 2,500 troops achieve? It isn’t for their training; they do that at home. There aren’t enough of them to invade another country but why bother building a base if only to leave it? Malcolm Fraser said of this base:
“They (could attack another country) and we’ll read about it in the newspapers. Our prime minister will be told about it after the attack is made. Because that’s the way these things work.” (The Guardian, June 3, 2013.)
The US marines are not in Darwin to impose on our northern neighbours, they are there to keep an eye on us. They are there specifically to secure Pine Gap, which is the single most important spy and communications installation of any type outside contiguous USA. Despite the flim-flam about a “joint defence facility,” it is owned, lock stock and barrel, by the US, and runs for their interests, not ours. Without it, they are blind. US marines will not be used to attack another country, not least because they don’t have any long-range air or sea transports. Instead, they have lots of heavy helicopters and Ospreys which could quickly be deployed to take control of Alice Springs airport, then it’s all over bar the recriminations.
If we turned from being their toady to acting as a scrupulous, fair-minded and independent nation, our “special relationship” with the US would be over as soon as Trump could reach his Twitter machine. Only a person in “a state of ignorant bliss, based on not knowing about or denying the existence of potential trouble,” i.e. a fool, could fall for the propaganda.
Niall McLaren is an Australian psychiatrist, author and critic, although not necessarily in that order.