Australia preparing for war- can it stop the rot?

Jun 15, 2023
Australasia Punch. Man fist with Earth map. Planet Earth image credit NASA -

As the new Australian Labor government took power following the 2022 election, its China policy barely changed and the “China threat” narrative continued unabated. I did not vote for the Labor party to see Australia’s government channelling the ousted Morrison Government!

The very worst outcome for Australia would be to engage in a war against China, but the thrust of Australia’s Defence Strategic Review (DSR) is to beat the drums of war.

In 1992, Francis Fukuyama published The End of History claiming that humanity had reached the “End” of history because the only way for humanity to progress was to copy the Western liberal democratic model. However, instead of seeing the end of history, humanity was experiencing the return of history – the return of the two most populous societies in the world, China and India. The West failed to see that the world had reached the end of Western domination, and it also failed to recognise the return of Asia.

A national security conversation

Australia’s security strategy must be underpinned by real and meaningful public consultation, but that has not happened. Instead, the government has proceeded to accelerate a defence strategy to support the US in its containment of China. Australia dares NOT take sides and should instead be calling for restraint. Taiwan is not a vital national security interest for Australia and Australia is not faced by a military threat from China.

American influence over Australia’s thinking has become so pervasive that it erodes Australia’s independence and its sovereignty leaving this nation as a US appendage. The DSR claims that China’s military build-up is the largest and most ambitious of any country since the end of World War II. The review is misleading and it deliberately ignores the United States’ military expenditure in 2022 of US$877 billion compared to China’s spend of US$292 billion. The US outspent the next nine countries combined. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese proclaimed (or was he just babbling) that the DSR was “making Australia more self-reliant, more prepared and more secure in the years ahead.”

AUKUS was negotiated in secret. It draws Australia closer to America at a time when the contest between America and China could easily lead to war and in the words of former Defence Minister Dutton, it is “inconceivable” that Australia would not go to war against China alongside America! That is what AUKUS means for Australia. Such a war would be like no other and would be much bigger, more intense and more destructive than any war since 1945, potentially leading to a nuclear conflict.

Meanwhile, the Australian government ignores calls to reform Australian war powers, particularly calls from Australian War Powers Reform (AWPR). Now may be the time for a major, peaceful Australian protest movement.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Only a few years ago, Australia lived by the mantra “We do not have to choose” between China and the USA. This changed under the Morrison government when Australia threw down the gauntlet, calling out China while cleaving ever closer to America. China hit back and quickly earned the moniker “Wolf Warrior”. Then, in May 2022 Australia’s new Labor Government arrived led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and supported by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Richard Marles, and Foreign Minister, Penny Wong.

Australia set out under the guidance of Penny Wong, not to “reset” the relationship with China, but to “stabilise” that relationship. She seemed to be saying we can’t become buddies but we can do business with you as long as you toe the line. The Labor Party soundly defeated the Morrison government, but then slipped into its AUKUS shoes without a murmur. Richard Marles has claimed, somewhat bizarrely, that a commitment to AUKUS and support for the US in its war drive against China “strengthens” our sovereignty. He also said that the planned nuclear powered submarines were intended, not to be used for attack, but rather to enhance Australia’s “safety”. “Nuclear” and “safety” sound like very strange bedfellows!

At the recent Shangri-La dialogue Mr Albanese laid out his vision for Australia’s challenge of “managing the rise of China” (but Australia cannot manage the rise of China!). Australia would adopt a middle path which would require ongoing engagement with China and constant reminders that Australia and its strategic partners were not seeking to contain China’s economic ambitions (But that is false – and China is not stupid!). It all sounds like Alice in Wonderland.

The “CHINA THREAT” is a myth

Make up your own mind. The US spent US$877 billion (3.5% of GDP) on its military in 2022 as compared to China which spent one third of that amount at 1.7% of its GDP. The US has 800 external military bases (half of which are directed at China) while China has one such base, located in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. China has 300 nuclear missiles against 6,000 US nuclear missiles. In the 21st century, the US has conducted wars of choice beyond its borders against Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine. China has not conducted a single such war since 1979 when it engaged in a three-week war against Vietnam. Since its founding in 1776, the US has been at war 93% of the time. Can there be any doubt that the US is rightly referred to as the “most aggressive and violent country” in the world. And yet, China is the threat!

Recalibrating Australia’s relationship with the United States

The key purpose of Australia’s nuclear powered submarines is to join the US Navy in American operations against China. Australian leaders pretend that these boats are to defend Australia’s 59,000 kilometre coastline. That is nonsense!

By participating in US conflicts in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Australia has paid a heavy price in human capital for little or no benefit. With AUKUS and the increasing American military presence in Australia, it is obvious that Australia’s aim is to support the US in containing China. As Kevin Rudd has written in his book, The Avoidable War, a war between China and the United States would be catastrophic, deadly, and destructive while Australia’s involvement would have negligible impact on the outcome (but would cost Australian lives and would damage Australia’ economy irreparably). No government in their right mind would contemplate such folly – except Australia’s government.

Australia must change course and it must focus on its own national security priorities, not those of America. That is exactly what the US always does. It puts its own national interests front and centre.

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