Familiar and surreptitious ways to war

Nov 5, 2022
World Map Colour - Asia in Center.

We have recently learned that Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton secretly installed senior US military officers in Australia’s Defence Department, at taxpayers’ vast expense, and it appears that the present Government is complicit in perpetuating this arrangement.

If they had nothing to be ashamed of, why did they all hide it? These reports add a new and alarming element to the way Australia covertly goes to war.

Many Australians are disturbed by the latest revelations about what ADF ‘interchangeability’ with the US may mean. The Defence Minister, Richard Marles, has provided no details. Of even more concern is the announcement that six American B52 nuclear-capable bombers will be stationed at Tindal Air Base in the Northern Territory. If they are ever armed, this could contravene our undertaking in the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty of 1985 not to station nuclear explosive devices in Australia.

The B52s’ presence makes Australia a target for attack. It also increases the likelihood pf their missions flown from an Australian base involving Australia in conflict. If there is a hostile exchange between one of the bombers and a Chinese plane, ship or missile, the ANZUS Treaty could be invoked and we could be at war.

ANZUS only commits its parties to ‘consult’ in accordance with their constitutional processes, but in 2001 John Howard set a precedent by invoking the Treaty to commit Australian forces to the US ‘war on terror’ anywhere in the world. Something like this could happen again, and if it involved an attack on an Australian or American asset, that would be claimed as emergency.

China has expressed its concern about a regional arms race resulting from the US military build-up in Australia. The best way to reduce it would be for Australia and our neighbours to meet and agree to prevent such provocative actions. All they would need to do is remind each other of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, which obliges all parties, including the US and China, to refrain from the threat or use of force. We are doing just the opposite.

In October, Australia and Japan signed a joint declaration on security cooperation. It apparently commits Australia and Japan to consult each other about reacting to regional crises. The details have not been disclosed, but now all three nations are apparently obliged to respond to a threat or attack on any of their territories, ships or aircraft, in our region.

Mission creeps – or deployment sequences – in the past led to Australia making full commitments to war. We all remember Australia offering or our allies requesting such missions, which then crept to war.

In Ukraine, the Morrison government at first sent military and humanitarian assistance.

Now, Prime Minister Albanese and Defence Minister Marles have foreshadowed the deployment of ADF personnel to train members of the Ukrainian forces, possibly in the UK. Yet Ukraine’s Ambassador in Australia says his government has made no request for trainers. So did Australia volunteer to send them, or were we told to by the US or UK?

Australia is also doing just the opposite of seeking peace in Ukraine, which can only be achieved by diplomatic agreement between Russia and NATO. That is what a responsible ally would advise. But the Russia-Ukraine war is clearly a pre-planned precursor to US efforts to contain China, with Taiwan as the proxy.

They will not succeed. Hoping to force the PRC, after its ‘century of humiliation’, to abort its ‘peaceful rise’ and allow American hegemony to rule the Pacific up to the coast of the Chinese mainland, is dangerous folly.

Under both the UN Charter and the ASEAN Treaty, Australia has undertaken not to threaten or use force against other countries, except in self-defence. It’s repeated in the ANZUS Treaty. Our obligations under the Rome Statute make aggression a crime for which our Ministers and military personnel could be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court. Our American allies don’t acknowledge the ICC, but Australia does. The US-invented ‘international rules-based order’ has no standing, which is why Russia and China cite the ‘international law-based order’.

There’s a stand-off on this between Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Defence Minister Marles. An even wider chasm yawns between the Government and a growing number of Australians who don’t like the way we go repeatedly to war, on the losing side. Many of those who are supposed to represent the views of their constituencies gave ‘no comment’ or ‘no change’ responses to Michael West Media’s survey in 2021-22.

Greens were the exception, and Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John is a late addition to the sub-committee considering the need to change how Australia goes to war. Public responses to the growing danger facing Australia will be heard in Canberra, including by politicians, at a conference of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network on 22-24 November.

If their minds change, we won’t know until the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade reports, probably in February 2023. Then in March we can expect the report of the Defence Strategic Review and the result of the 18-month consultation period on AUKUS.

March also marks twenty years since we and our American allies invaded Iraq, on a false pretext, with disastrous results. Learning from that experience, Australia should warn the US military officers embedded in Defence, and the US Ambassador, that we don’t want to repeat the experience. We should make it clear well before there’s a crisis that Australia is no more interested in joining a US war against China than Menzies was in 1958.

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