Subcontracting war

Jun 17, 2022
USA Russia Ukraine Europe
Image: Pixabay

In the year since last July, the Morrison Government spent almost $3.8 billion on consultancies. This paid to the big end of consulting town for more than 8400 contracts with Accenture, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC. Other consultancies are small but aspirational, often run by recently retired public servants. Where is the accountability, we ask? Hire a consultant to find out. When the Albanese government promised to cut consultancies back, the Murdoch media howled with outrage.

ASPI, originally a Defence think tank, claims to be independent and non-partisan. But it operates like a consultancy to government, advising on everything from weapons purchases to national security. Funded partly by the Department of Defence, the big foreign weapons manufacturers, and the US State Department, it now has an office in Washington. Not only has defence and foreign policy advice been subcontracted in this way, so have military operations. Before 2001, but increasingly since, Australia has operated like a military contractor to the US, supplying the forces for its wars of choice, and buying the weaponry to do so from the US itself. The most recent example is AUKUS.

When deploying our own troops becomes politically unsustainable, the US and Australia subcontract that out too. The war in Vietnam was subcontracted to South Vietnam’s ARVN; in Afghanistan the US contractors for the war against the USSR were the Mujahideen; the next invasion of Afghanistan, ostensibly against bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorists, was fought against the Taliban by NATO’s proxies, the Afghanistan armed forces; in Libya, the CIA funded proxy fighters to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi, drawing some of them from the Libyan diaspora in the West, but deploying its own and allies’ air power as well; and in Israel, Turkey, and Syria, IS and other groups were the proxy fighters in the US effort to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. In Yemen, the US ostensibly held back, supplying Saudi Arabia with weapons to suppress the Houthi.

Australians saw an opportunity in proxy wars. Many individual Australians, not all of them Muslim, joined as ‘foreign fighters’ in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and ADF members did too. After serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, dozens of them retired and followed Major-General Michael Hindmarsh into lucrative, tax-free employment in the UAE. Hindmarsh became Commander of the Presidential Guard in Dubai, joining local militia, mercenaries, and troops in their efforts to colonise Yemen. (Richard Tanter, ‘Yemen’, Arena 155, August 2018). When our enemies do this they are called mercenaries.

Ukraine is the latest and most blatant US proxy war. If the debacle in Afghanistan encouraged Moscow to see its chance to strike back against the US-backed government in Kiev, Russia by seizing Crimea and acting on behalf of the long-suffering Russian-speaking communities in Donetsk and Luhansk, also used proxies. The Wagner Group’s originator Dmitri Utkin is a former Russian intelligence officer. Its operations have been effective in Mali against France, and are a match for Ukraine’s own Azov Regiment, a group founded by neo-Nazi Andriy Biletsky.

NATO has no wish for Ukraine to join it, since one member under attack is entitled to the defence of all. The US does not intend to deploy American forces to Ukraine, not only because the conflict could become another Vietnam or Afghanistan, but also because Biden’s repeated and denied, but certainly implied intention is to reduce Russia to the same collapse as its Soviet predecessor. Ukraine is the proxy in the war for hegemony between the US and Russia.

Those who identify with Ukraine, a dispensable US ally, should consider its similarity with Australia.

President Zelenskiy warned the Federal Parliament on 31 March of threats facing Australia, implicitly from China. He knows that NATO’s founding purpose was to oppose the USSR. He evidently understands that Ukraine is collateral damage in the long-range strategy of Britain and the United States to see Putin overthrown. His message was that we cannot not rely on the United States to send troops or aircraft to defend Australia from invasion, any more than Ukraine can.

What happens in Ukraine will show Australia how reliable our American allies are. It should make Australian opinion leaders who expect a war with China think about who will defend us and who will win it.

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