Australia’s new defence minister has warned the region is facing a dangerous military build-up. His solution? Let’s arm to the teeth with America’s help.
Asia-Pacific is on the cusp of a Cold War-style arms race. Maybe it can still avert one, but judging from the latest Australian defence posture, the Western alliance really wants to have a go at it. I have always thought arms races are expensive and dangerous; they could prove economically crippling and self-destructive if a hot war breaks out. But then, wise leaders of the Western world have decided that Asians need one in their own neighbourhood – for their own good, of course!
On his first visit to Washington, Australia’s new Defence Minister Richard Marles has warned the region is facing a military build-up “at a rate unseen since World War II” and is part of an “intensification of major power competition”.
What to do when we see a dangerous escalation? Well, escalate some more! Bring in as much military hardware as you can! Arm to the teeth, that’s what I take Marles to say. Not only does the United States need to commit even more military resources to the region, he urges, Australia itself must take “greater responsibility for its own security,” including enlarging its defence capabilities. “This will include capabilities such as longer-range strike weapons, cyber capabilities and area denial systems tailored to a broader range of threats.”
All this is, of course, because of the China threat. China is attempting, he warns, to “shape the world around it in a way that we’ve not seen before”. It’s very unclear if that’s really the case. But if you are determined to make someone your enemy, they will become one.
For the rest of the region, though, an arms race is not a solution, but potentially an existential threat.