China war pornography and hypoxia: Anticipating the Defence Strategic Review

Feb 24, 2023
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., administers the Oath of Office to U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan, Air Mobility Command commander, during his promotion to general at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, Oct. 5, 2021.

Many government reviews or reports are leaked in part for reasons of bureaucratic politics and the Defence Strategic Review (DSR) is no exception.

Given the probability that these emanations are accurate, two reactions are also highly likely. The first is that knowledgeable and engaged citizens are likely to suffer from hypoxia in the realisation that such a document has overpowered the intellectual ventilation systems of government policymaking; the second, a cause of the first, is the realisation that the DSR is most appropriately classified as a work of fiction, so extensive will be its foundations, inventions, and fabrications.

Why hypoxia? Because the evident anxiety, identity-confusion, China war pornography, and low level of national sovereign consciousness are breathtaking and deadening. They are, moreover, inconsistent with the shared empirically verifiable reality of global politics based on knowledge and understanding by engaged, informed citizens capable of reaching conclusions and justifying them without recourse to non-disclosures, evasions and obfuscations based on the exigencies of ‘national security.’

Why fiction? Because even though the nation’s analytical intelligence agencies, acting in concert, would have constituted a private orchestra playing for the benefit of the DSR’s two authors, Sir Angus Houston, and the Hon. Stephen Smith, there will be a radical disjunction between its interwoven myths and fables and the reality of the observable and comprehensible physical world.

The questions which arise, then, are whether, and to what extent these agencies are complicit in the production of fiction, and what is to be made of the report itself which, inevitably, will commit Australia to courses of action which far from the objective of national defence.

Fiction also because what purports to be a review of matters going to the heart of the country’s defence based on institutional and professional objectivity is, by the light of the leaks, a narrative of blurred, magical thinking. And it is unlikely that the release of the full document will clarify matters.

The reason for justifying this charge is straightforward. There is no evidence that the foundations upon which the DSR is based – most especially the declared objective of becoming an ever-closer subordinate strategic partner of the United States – have been rigorously interrogated.

Indeed, the contrary is the case: where the abundance of evidence renders this objective prejudicial to Australia’s national interest – and it is a substantial corpus – there is, in official documents, only deliberate omission and deliberately withheld information. This is mendacity masquerading as administrative policy and practice.

Consider just two enduring habits of mind and strategy which mark the United States as a global actor. The first, ever more obvious and disturbing every day because it is accelerating, is the chaotic and dysfunctional state of politics, governance, society, the economy, and the justice system (especially the Supreme Court) in the United States.

If just two themes relevant to the Australian Government’s determination to forge an intimate relationship with the US are abstracted from the above constellation, and which should inhibit its realisation it these: the refusal of the US to fully comprehend the requirements of diplomacy and is predisposition to “solve” its domestic and global security problematics with what it perceives to be its preponderant force.

The spectrum comprises a narrow band from Ignorance to violence via intolerance and impatience.

One of the more astute chroniclers of this condition is the former distinguished US diplomat-turned-Scholar, Chas Freeman. In several articles over recent years, buttressed with a sober understanding of history to which he has been both a witness and a participant, he has brought to light the habitual failures of the US to infuse its diplomacy with empathy – the willingness to suspend Washington’s own preoccupations and enter the mind of others for the sake of reaching accommodations and cooperation.

Of great significance is the US conceit that others, especially those who might challenge US primacy, will follow the US neo-imperial template regardless of whether their history is in anyway comparable.

The result is an arrogant projection of America’s vulgar concepts of international relations onto rivals and competitors that makes collaboration on planet-threatening challenges impossible. One immediate consequence is that the allies of the US become casualties of hubris if they remain passive.

That force and violence is a logical consequence is readily confirmed by official US sources. According to the Congressional Research Service, an organisation that compiles information on behalf of the US Congress, the US has launched 469 military interventions since 1798, 251 of them of them since the end of the Cold War (1991).

The countries targeted include most of those in Latin America and the Caribbean, and most of those on the African continent. Other data bases indicate the CRS’s catalogue is on the conservative side.

The future is to be seen a linear extension of the past, or worse. In two documents published last October totaling some 70 pages and detailing the latest versions of the National Security Strategy, and the National Defence Strategy, the 20 or so references to “diplomacy” and “diplomatic” in relation to the challenges that the US faces are not only extremely brief and sparse but mentioned as though in formal fulfillment of an obligatory but certainly not enthusiastic undertaking.

The preference, in the US, and by extension in official circles, is the talk of war against China and perhaps soon. The commander of the US Air Force Air Mobility Command, General Michael Minihan, is but another senior officer in the post-democratic military to announce that his “gut” foresees the failure of deterrence and war with China in 2025.

His often-delivered communications to those he commands include references emphasising “unrepentant lethality,” and to “aim for the head” because, “lethality matters most” . . . and “When you can kill your enemy, every part of your life is better. Your food tastes better. Your marriage is stronger.” He concludes with the admission that “I’m untethered as of now . . . I’m finally that (sic) rank.”

Closing, observations:

1. In the realm of lunatic pronouncements by senior US officers since 1991, this is on a par.

2. General Minihan has not been removed from his post.

3. He and the matters raised in the forgoing are palpable and conspicuous.

4. It’s time to recover and understand Orwell, who was so concerned about the prohibition of the obvious that he wrote, “during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

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