NICK DEANE. My fear – a US led war with China?

My fear is that Australia’s warring mind-set and its entanglement in its alliance with the USA will eventually lead the country into a US-led war with China. The possibility of stimulating defence industries to assist with the post pandemic recovery only adds to my trepidation.

Arriving in Australia just before ANZAC Day in 1970, I was immediately struck by Australia’s preoccupation with war and sensed its entrenched bellicosity. Despite my grandfather’s involvement in the Gallipoli campaign, I couldn’t identify with ANZAC Day and, trivial though it may seem, I was taken aback to see that the bronze servicemen guarding the Cenotaph in Martin Place (Sydney) have fixed bayonets – indicating their readiness to kill.

However, the decade of the 70’s, with the withdrawal from the war in Vietnam and the reforms brought in by the Whitlam government, gave a sense that this was a nation heading in a progressive and peaceful direction. Tolerance and multi-culturalism, key components of peaceful co-existence, flourished for a time.

Sadly, though, the spectre of militarism is now back to haunt the nation.

Following “9/11” (as we now call it), I could not believe the pointlessness of Australia involving itself in war in Afghanistan. Nearly 20 years later, I still wonder at that decision. Within two years of it, our country joined the invasion of Iraq – an adventure best described as a debacle, with no observable end-point and confusion about the desired outcome from the start.

My disillusionment deepened – although by this time I had become an Australian citizen and I knew that this was the country where the rest of my life would be spent.

The frustrating thing is that the nation appears to have learnt nothing from its various military misadventures. On the contrary, there has been a growth in the scale of the celebration of disastrous military events – like the Gallipoli campaign. We spent vastly more than any comparable nation in commemorating the First World War. The idea that the national character was formed through fighting pointless campaigns in distant lands that were never any threat to us is an absurdity that, evidently, has very deep, social roots.

For sure the nation suffered enormously from its involvement in WW1 – but Australia was never under threat. In WW2, the New Guinea campaign can legitimately be claimed to have been in Australia’s defence. But even then, there was no actual threat of Australia being invaded by Japan – despite that idea maintaining inertia to this day.

I await the day when serious strategists within the defence establishment acknowledge the enormous difficulty that presents itself to any party thinking to invade or take over Australia by military means. The country is under no military threat, and that situation is never likely to change. We are an island continent. That simple, geographical fact makes invasion exceedingly difficult, if not downright impossible. We have an entire continent, with all its resources, united under a single government. We are in an extraordinarily safe situation, that makes our pre-occupation with militarism slightly absurd. The British Conquest took about 100 years before it was complete, and it was only possible because the invaders had extraordinary technological advantage.

What drives Australia’s militaristic inclinations is beyond my power of understanding. Perhaps it is a product of of the fear that the earliest colonisers may have felt. They were, after all, far from ‘home’ in Britain, and Britain at the time was both warlike and vulnerable. Whatever the reasons, I have come to accept that fear and miltarism are features of the Australian national psyche. The nation could be said to be suffering an inferiority complex, that drives it to violence under the flimsiest provocation.

The important question is where do these features lead us? And it is this question that fills me with trepidation.

For out of our history of fear, we have aligned ourselves with the most outrageously violent nation in the history of the Earth (the USA) – as though we can only feel safe when standing just behind the biggest bully in the playground. As Brian Toohey has pointed out, the situation has now been reached in which the USA has a de facto veto over Australia’s weaponry and its military decisions. Furthermore, there is an underlying assumption (on both sides of the Pacific) that Australia will automatically join the USA in whatever military adventure it might choose.

There is growing economic and military competition between the USA and China, and, in recent months, an increasingly spiteful propaganda war being waged by both nations, with Australia an eager fan of the USA. The frightening aspect is that the rivalry between the USA and China, and Australia’s unwillingness to make a rational assessment of its subservience to the USA, take us on a path that has another war as its destination. The chances of war between the USA and China are rising, and the chances of Australia taking part (needlessly) rise in parallel.

Plans for economic recovery, following the Covid-19 pandemic, simply add to my trepidation. For one can observe a willingness to give government expenditure on defence industries special priority, in the mistaken belief that this industry will create jobs – suggesting that it might even assist the recovery. If the recovery is lead by the defence industry, this turns a blind eye to what happened in Europe between the World Wars, when German re-armament was a deliberate, economic stimulus. The Australian government continues to increase its military expenditure, completely ignoring the UN Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire. Meanwhile in the USA, work in defence exports is considered ‘essential’ during and despite the pandemic.

There is no need for Australians to live in fear of being over-run by any other power, so no need for the nation to be as bellicose as it is.

There is no benefit to the Australian people in the country taking the militaristic stance it constantly adopts; no benefit from enormous amounts of money being spent on high-end weaponry.

There is great danger in encouraging any defence-lead, post-pandemic recovery.

Above all, there is no need for Australia to follow the USA into armed conflict with China.

Yet I remain extremely fearful that that is exactly the path we are on. Defence ‘experts’ do not deny this possibility – and do nothing to avert it.

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Nick Deane is an ex-public servant with a degree in Sociology. He is a member of the co-ordinating committee of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) and convenor of the Marrickville Peace Group.

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9 Responses to NICK DEANE. My fear – a US led war with China?

  1. I think that it’s hard for someone born in Britain to understand Australia as a colony. There is extraordinary pretense that we own independent nation something we almost achieved under Whitlam. It’s clear now that Whitlam was undermined by the USA fearful of the expulsion of the CIA from Australia and the loss of Pinegap North West Cape. There is a simple answer to why Australia has become so subservient. Both liberal and Labour are fearful of a coup. Regime change. Interference in independent government. Interference of US capital via bought and sold corporate influence. It will take an enormous movement and consensus between all three major parties for this to shift. Writing about it will not help. We need to challenge corporate power And its links to the US government. Why are we in extension of the US? Pinegap North West Cape the Darwin Military Base and ultimately fear of a coup. We are at risk of invasion and it’s by the US itself.

  2. Avatar Jo Vallentine says:

    thanks Nick Deane for your expression of trepidation, which I share.

    SIPRI (Swedish International Peace Research Institute) which publishes an annual account of global military expenditure, recently listed Australia as #13 in the world for 2019.

    That’s extraordinary, when our international scores on things like literacy and numeracy, gender parity in wages,and indigenous incaceration are rated very differently.

    Our huge amounts of military hardware purchases suit the U.S. “interoperability” requirements, but are not necessarily useful for the defence of this nation. As an island nation with no enemies of our own making, we don’t need 75 F35 fighter-jets of dubious quality, nor a dozen submarines which will probably be obsolete before they hit the water.

    In the re-calibration of everything which COVID 19 affords us, surely we should be evaluating the worth of the “dangerous alliance” as Malcolm Fraser called it.

  3. Avatar Fredy James says:

    According to below analysis, for a military and economic parity, it may take China another 20+ years. With declining quality and disposition of US younger generations, that 20+ years gap can become quicker than the analyst think.

    Australia still has ground and time play smarter.
    https://www.rand.org/paf/projects/us-china-scorecard.html
    https://media.defense.gov/2018/Aug/16/2001955282/-1/-1/1/2018-CHINA-MILITARY-POWER-REPORT.PDF
    https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/china-army-navy/

  4. ‘I await the day when serious strategists within the defence establishment acknowledge the enormous difficulty that presents itself to any party thinking to invade or take over Australia by military means.’

    This won’t happen. The myth of a threat to Australia has been the backbone of arguments for Defence funding even when there quite clearly were no credible threats. A host of empty concepts – sea air gap, capability gap, etc. Never forget, the primary purpose of imaginary enemies is getting real funding!

  5. Avatar Bruce Cameron says:

    It’s interesting to see the colonisation of Australia classed as a “conquest [which] took about 100 years”. Makes one wonder why the first defenders of our nation’s sovereignty and its people’s families, possessions and land, are not able to recognised in the AWM. (A simple stroke of a pen to amend the charter could reverse this.) Can it never happen again? Can we really retrain the ADF to solely aid in natural defence emergencies? Australia is dependent of sea-borne imports. Another nation that wishes to impose its will on Australia, simply has to interdict these supply routes.

  6. Avatar Niall McLaren says:

    “What drives Australia’s militaristic inclinations is beyond my power of understanding.”
    I think it has something to do with being seen as part of the master race, and not like, say Argentines. We don’t want to accept our rightful place at the end of the world. Too big for our boots, you could say.

  7. Avatar Michael Thomson says:

    Agree.

  8. Avatar Michael Thomson says:

    For the most part I agree with the sentiments expressed in this article about the folly in following the USA down its path of militarism and its inevitable war with China.
    The parts I take exception to are the observations of our national character deriving from the experience of WW1.

    My grandfather was a veteran of that war as was the author’s. He fought on the western front for nearly three years. He returned to Australia disillusioned with Britain, Churchill, politicians in general and was very much a pacifist – like most of his mates who returned from that war.

    Australia lost 60,000 dead from a population of just 5 million. It was a devastating loss much mourned by a population that was at once both naive and misled by its leaders. WW1 and Gallipoli was a tragedy that ANZAC Day sought to remember that is in NO way a celebration of war but a reminder of the pointless sacrifice of our youth to an imperialist war and to never forget that fact. Every town in Australia has a centotaph with the inscription “LEST WE FORGET”.

    I attended ANZAC Day services every year for 12 years at school. It had a very profound affect upon me. I am tearful every ANZAC Day because of it.

    The true Australian character, of those who have been here for more than one generation at least, is to have an abhorrence of war but also an understanding of the need for the defence of our country. Historically the British have been paranoid about Russia for centuries. Until well after WW2 Australia thought of herself as utterly British. An almost amusing legacy of what now seems to be an irrational fear of Russia can be seen in the wreckage of HMVS Cerberus at Half Moon Bay, Black Rock in Melbourne. The Cerberus served in (was) the Victorian Navy from 1871 to 1924 and was built to protect the then colony of Victoria from a Russian invasion. It may seem ridiculous now, but when you reflect that the Russian Navy was cruising both the East and West coasts of the USA in support of the Union in the American Civil War in the 1860s perhaps not quite so ridiculous.

    While 20/20 hindsight might tell us that in WW2 Australia was not in danger of invasion from Japan, that was not known at the time, and the Battle of the Coral Sea and the struggles on the Kokoda Track served to instil a healthy respect of the need for a meaningful defense. The efforts with the Americans in the Pacific War forged strong bonds with the USA that have endured. The USA has changed for the worse since that time. Most Australians I know are horrified by what we see happening in the USA (and that goes for the last 40 years) and for the most part have no desire either to go there or to emulate them in any way.

    As a nation we have always thought that we needed a big brother to protect us. Malcolm Fraser’s 2014 book “Dangerous Allies” points out that fact and highlights that our alliance with the USA is now more of a danger to us than a protection.

    The Australian political, security, diplomatic and defense classes have been so embedded in the 5 Eyes security arrangements for so long that they have lost perspective but cannot see it and, contrary to the true character of the Australian people which I believe is still essentially peaceful, we are now locked into a toxic relationship with a belligerent security partner that is the source of perpetual conflict rather than a solution to it.

    The author rightly points out that we are swimming in propaganda that is pro-US and anti Chinese. We as a country are not well served by our politicians or media in this regard. The US arms industry has served to impoverish the USA and its middle class. They will do their best to impoverish us as well.

  9. Avatar George Wendell says:

    Most Australian newspapers and even the ABC are running a constant fear campaigns directed at China – often several stories a day for about three years now. They follow blindly the government’s anti-Chinese pro-American push. Never do they say a positive word about the country, it is projected as if it is an evil state and the lines are blurred between whether it is CCP or the 1.4 billion Chinese people within the country that are the ‘evil-doers’. Axis of evil stuff again. Goodies and baddies, black and white thinking.

    Noam Chomsky told us about “manufacturing consent” (for wars) and that is what we witness here every day.

    Herman Göring said:

    “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

    That is exactly what I see happening, and our US sycophant leaders are once again “all the way with LBJ”. Seen it all before. It’s even easier because although Australians know much about the US view and US culture, the Chinese view is given no traction whatsoever, unless it can be used to vilify China once again.

    I share your fears over where this can take Australia, and I also know that the military industrial complex also needs another round of human sacrifices.

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