DENNIS ARGALL. In a changing world, who are we, where are our eyes and minds?

Jul 20, 2018

In what is perhaps a fantasy endeavour – to find Trump’s objectives in recent travel and assess outcomes – I suggest three. And in this essay, I look further into global and perceptual actions and needs… and the lack of decent vision in Australia.

Of Trump:

First, the need to live as a king, not a king of the Netherlands who rides a bike and stands with the mob on a city train, not like the Queen of England who is there just as height measure comparison with her absurd decency. Not some kind of unbridled European power-figure in the past, except as presented on TV. Perhaps the most serious model is Dr Seuss’s King Looie Katz, though Dr Seuss, with his somewhat socialist, equalitarian and environmentalist persuasions may not have been main meat in D J Trump’s upbringing. But the world seems to live in hope that in Washington’s Katzenstein kingdom, a Zooie Katzen-bein can reverse the nonsense. What other hope?

Second, the objective of exporting more defence industry products and oil, broad objective of which getting allies to spend more on defence is the loud-spoken subset. The European NATO members seem likely now to spend more on defence because of what Trump has done in making their borders less secure against Russia, rather than what Trump has asked of them. Trump is right about European dependence on Russian oil (40% of consumption, 12 existing pipelines with apprehension about a new pipeline undersea from Russia to Germany, unlike half the existing supply lines that must pass through the Ukraine. Potentially degree of detachment from Ukraine. And not enough to force EU countries to buy more expensive oil from the US, pressure for which began with Reagan.

Third and most important, with his sniping at Angela Merkel about dependence on Russia and then the Circus of Helsinki, creating a tsunami to tear the ships of state in many places, he seeks to sink the Mueller investigation in Washington, loosing it from its place in the framework of issues. His own ship is caught up in his tsunami of course and there may be problems in the mid-term elections. But unlike any sitting president before him, he has amassed USD88 million election funding already, two years before the campaign. Many love him and love the Circus. This is reality.

Speculation as to whether there is a darker thing under the surface, whether in particular, the Russians “have got something on Trump” is for the moment fiction that does not bear upon the future which Putin, in Helsinki, said was more important than the past. 

Amid all this our Prime Minister has been steadfast and the media focused on perceived global issues with support for Minister Dutton and the Victorian Liberal Party in attacks on Melbourne ‘African gangs’ and the Victorian Labor Government. A minor mimicking of D J Trump in rejection of governmental advice. Meanwhile Labor in Victoria return to their days of factional glory and the task of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The criminal treatment of refugees and illegal defence force activity in the Middle East will not be discussed at breakfast, lunch or dinner, thank you.

The EU on 17 July signed a free trade agreement with Japan (covering one third of the world economy), negotiations for which Japan hastened in 2017 as Trump’s threats and actions grew. 

The EU has just concluded its annual summit with China, in Beijing, European Commission President Juncker commenting:

I have always been a strong believer in the potential of the EU-China partnership. And in today’s world that partnership is more important than ever before. Our cooperation simply makes sense.

The reaction of the world now is to seek new structures. In the Korean peninsula step by step détente continues: The South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on July 17 that direct inter-Korean military communication lines in the West Sea region have been reconnected.

…Head down and do the practical while mud and lava fall. Out of the corner eye see the disorder created by American interventions in the Middle East and American forceful domination of the western hemisphere. An admiring nod to new Mexican president Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador and think how unlikely his success will be.

We continue to attach ourselves, a nation obsessed with budget balancing, to a country, the United States, addicted to budget deficit and unsustainable spending on defence, allied to the appalling sequelae of its military actions. Our vocabulary for dealing with the world is locked inside notions and profession and political mantras arising from heady days of resource driven unshared riches and drumbeats of the national security industry since 11 September 2001. 

Role models of decency within Australia are hard to find, not least because of the tyranny of viciousness in the media.

It is easy to despair of the daily news and it is difficult, from it, to erect understanding of what is right and what is wrong. As the Neapolitan writer Elena Ferrante wrote on 14 July 2018:

I have the impression that today’s network of information, in both its print and digital manifestations, forces citizens into a sort of chaos, a condition in which the more informed you are, the more confused you are.

Imagine a parliament in which a conservative party member is able to stand up and speak thus to her own party colleagues: Anna Soubry MP, House of Commons 16 July 2018. Imagine an Australian Labor Party preselection going like that of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York… and imagine it being reported as here, by the editor of the New Yorker, in the context of the future of the Democratic Party. 

Australia continues to roll forward with little forward vision, mainly designs and options based on past attachments. And ensuring the re-election of the Hon Christopher Pyne, Minister for Defence Industry, surely Australia’s most coherent strategic plan.

Dennis Argall, a former Australian ambassador to China, seeks fresh perspectives on current issues. Fact based. 

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