John Menadue. Is war in the American DNA?

Jun 15, 2015

Current Affairs

In his book ‘Dangerous Allies’ Malcolm Fraser warned us how we can be drawn into US conflicts that are of no immediate concern to us. We have seen that in recent decades in following the US into wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. He spoke of ‘dangerous strategic dependence’

The US has a long history of involvement in wars. In the in May 2014, and which was carried by the SMH, it showed the number of wars that the US had been involved in since its independence in 1776. The data was well documented. According to this report, the US has been at war 93% of the time since 1776. It adds –

  • The US has never had a decade without war.
  • The only time the US went five years without war (1935-40) was during the isolationist period of the Great Depression.
  • The US has launched 201 out of 248 armed conflicts since the end of WWII.
  • The US is responsible for 41% of the world’s total military spending. The next largest spenders as a proportion of GDP are China 8.2%, Russia 4.1% and the UK and France 3.6%.
  • The US maintains over 700 military bases or sites around the world in more than 100 countries.

Take two examples. In 1953 the US ,with British collaboration overthrew the democratically elected Mosadeq government in Iran in the cause of oil interests. Just think how the region might be now if that had not happened. A year later the US engineered the fall of the Guatamalan government in the interests of the United Fruit Company

The US  has espoused anti colonialism but  the Philippine American War 1898-1903 was a classic attack on a republic that was turned into a US  colony.As American Indians tell us ,Americans speak with forked tongues when it comes to honouring treaties.

And the same war story goes on today. The US has spent over $3 t in Iraq,made the situation worse and destabilised the whole region.

In 1961 President Dwight Eisenhower warned the US about the threat to democratic government posed by the military-industrial complex, a union of defence contractors and armed forces. He said ‘In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.’

The result is that profits and jobs depend heavily on America being at war.

In 2010, speaking at the Eisenhower Library, the former Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, a Republican, said ‘Does the number of warships we have and are building, really put America at risk when the US battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined – 11 of which are our partners and allies? Is it a dire threat that by 2020 the US will have only twenty times more advanced stealth fighters than China? What it takes is the political will and willingness, as Eisenhower possessed, to make hard choices – choices that will displease powerful people both inside the Pentagon and out.’

Add the powerful domestic gun lobby to the powerful military-industrial complex spread across the country and it is not surprising that the US, even with its many admirable qualities, is geared to almost perpetual war and violence. We should stop pretending otherwise.

It is even more worrying that the belief is widespread in the US that American  actions in the world represent Gods’s will  in pursuit of it’s ‘manifest destiny’.

The US is a dangerous ally as Malcolm Fraser warned us. Too often we get caught in its slipstream as appears to be happening in the US relationship with China.

And it is not just politicians who join the US cheer squad. I fear that senior Australian officials and advisers  ,who should know better are also doing so.


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