JOHN MENADUE. The dangerous and erratic ally that offers us ‘protection’! An updated repost. Part 1 of 2

Apart from brief isolationist periods, the US has been almost perpetually at war. The greatest military risk we run is being led by the nose into a US war with China. The record is clear. We have allowed ourselves to be drawn into the wars of the UK and the US time and time again. We have forfeited our strategic autonomy while parroting on about our sovereignty

 The US has subverted and overthrown numerous governments over two centuries. It has a military and business complex that depends on war for influence and enrichment. It believes in its ‘manifest destiny’ which brings with it an assumed moral superiority which it denies to others. The problems did not start with Trump. They are long-standing and deep-rooted.

We are running great risks in committing so much of our future to the US. We must build our security in our own region and not depend so exclusively on a foreign protector.

Unfortunately, many of our political, bureaucratic, business and media elites have been so long on an American drip feed that they find it hard to think of the world without an American focus… We had a similar and dependant view of the UK in the past. That ended in tears in Singapore.  

 In this blog  (Is war in the American DNA?), I have drawn attention many times to the risks we run in being ‘joined at the hip’ to a country that is almost always at war. The facts are not disputed. The US has never had a decade without war. Since its founding in 1776, the US has been at war 93% of the time. These wars have extended from its own hemisphere to the Pacific, to Europe and most recently to the Middle East. The US has launched 201 out of 248 armed conflicts since the end of WWII. In recent decades most of these wars have been unsuccessful. The US maintains 700 military bases or sites around the world including in Australia. In our own region, mainly to contain China and North Korea, it has a massive deployment of hardware and troops in Japan, the ROK and Guam.

Just think of the US  frenzy if China had a string of similar bases in the Caribbean or had ships patrolling the Florida Keys.

The US-led illegal invasion of Iraq has resulted, directly and indirectly in the death of a million people and the displacement of millions of people. How can we deny that the US is the most aggressive and dangerous country on our planet?

The US has been extensively meddling in other countries’ affairs and elections for a century. It tried to change other countries’ governments 72 times during the cold war. Many foreign leaders were assassinated. In the piece reproduced in this blog (The fatal expense of US Imperialism), Professor Jeffrey Sachs said

The scale of US military operations is remarkable. … The US has a long history of using covert and overt means to overthrow governments deemed to be unfriendly to the US. … Historian John Coatsworth counts 41 cases of successful US-led regime change for an average of one government overthrow by the US every 28 months for centuries”.

The overthrow or interference in foreign governments is diverse, including Honduras, Guatemala, Iran, Haiti, Congo, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq, Afghanistan and most recently, Syria.

And this interference continued with the undermining of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine by the US-backed Maidan coup in 2014. Gorbachev and Regan agreed that in allowing the reunification of Germany, NATO would not extend eastwards. But with US encouragement, NATO has now provocatively extended right up to the borders of Russia. Not surprisingly Russia is resisting.

Despite all the evidence of wars and meddling in other countries’ affairs, the American Imperium continues without serious check or query in America or Australia.

I suggest there are several reasons why the American record of war and interference has not been challenged.

The first is what is often described as America’s “manifest destiny”; the God-given right to interfere in other countries’ affairs. This right is not given to others because many Americans see themselves as more virtuous and their system of government better than others.

Professor Tom Nichols reported in this blog (How America lost its faith in expertise, and why that matters) Public Policy Polling that revealed that 43% of Republicans and 55% of Democrats supported bombing a place called ‘Agrabah’ which turned out to be a fictional place in a cartoon. Only an ignorant people could presume that their country should bomb a city that did not exist! To this day 70% of registered Republicans doubt that Obama is an American citizen.

The US has invaded countries it knew about and in many cases, cultures and people it knew nothing about, who were assumed to be less virtuous and wise than the US. In examining the failure in Vietnam General Walter T Kerwin Jr observed that ‘we never understood the Vietnamese. We think we know best. We tried to force on them what they should do…’ The ignorance of ordinary America and its politicians, of other countries, is legendary but possibly just as important is their resistance to any relief of that ignorance. That may not seem unusual – but it is dangerous for a country with overwhelming military power employed around the globe.

The second reason why the American Imperium continues largely unchecked is the power of what President Eisenhower once called the “military and industrial complex” in the US. In 2020 I would add “politicians” to that complex who depend heavily on funding from powerful arms manufacturers across the country and military and civilian personnel in over 4,000 military facilities. The intelligence community and many universities and think-tanks also have a vested interest in the American Imperium.

This complex co-opts institutions and individuals around the globe. It has enormous influence. No US president nor for that matter any Australian prime minister would likely challenge it.

Australia has locked itself into this complex. Our military and defence leaders are heavily dependent on the US Departments of Defence and State, the CIA and the FBI for advice. We act as branch offices of this complex.

But it goes beyond advice. We willingly respond and join the US in disasters like Iraq and the Middle East. While the UN General Assembly votes with large majorities to curb nuclear proliferation, we remain locked into the position of the US and other nuclear powers.

Our autonomy and independence are also at great risk because our defence/security elites in Canberra have as their holy grail the concept of “interoperability” with the US. This is mirrored in US official and think-tank commentary on the role they see for us in our region.   So powerful is US influence and our willing cooperation with it that our foreign policies have been largely emasculated and sidelined by the defence and security views of both the US and their acolytes in Australia.

The concept of interoperability does not only mean equipment. It also means personnel where increasingly large numbers of Australian military personnel are embedded in the US military and defence establishments, especially in the Pacific Command in Hawaii.

The US military and industrial complex and its associates have a vested interest in America being at war and our defence establishment, Department of Defence, ADF, Australian Strategic Policy Institute and others are locked-in American loyalists.

The third reason for the continuing dominance of the American Imperium is the way the US expects others to abide by a “rules-based international order” which was largely determined at Bretton Woods after WWII and embedded in various UN agencies. That ‘order’ reflects the power and views of the dominant countries in the 1940s. It does not recognize the legitimate interests of newly-emerging countries like China who now insist on playing a part in an international rules-based order.

The US only follows an international rules-based order when it suits its own interests. It pushes for a rules-based system in the South China Sea while refusing to endorse UNCLOS (Law of the Sea) or accept ICJ decisions. The invasion of Iraq was a classic case of breaking the rules. It was illegal. The resultant death and destruction in Iraq met the criteria for war crimes. But the culprits have gone scot-free. Only Tony Blair has suffered reputational damage.

In his petulance and ignorance, Donald Trump is hell-bent on destroying the WTO and the WHO, both key institutions in a global rules-based order

Some may regard the above critique as over-stated. I don’t think so. It is obviously discomforting but it is based on the facts.  It restates the obvious. I am also encouraged that many of the harshest and most accurate critics of US policies are Americans who believe that their country should behave more honourably. The problem is that decision-makers and powerful interests in the US, just as in Australia, don’t listen.

In Part 2 tomorrow I will be dealing with the domestic US sickness-a failing democracy,inequality, racism and violence.


John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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24 Responses to JOHN MENADUE. The dangerous and erratic ally that offers us ‘protection’! An updated repost. Part 1 of 2

  1. Avatar Michael Flynn says:

    Thank you John Menadue for your continuing presentation of the truth that we need to take very seriously if Australia is to survive. We have to transform our military traditions so we require professional direction from the Australian Government on foreign policy. We need more than messaging to the voters so they feel safe. War will be worse than COVID 19. We could recall that ANZUS starts with the UN charter to resolve disputes. It is time we all say UN not US. We can start with the TPNW that was supported in the UN Assembly.

  2. Avatar Anthony Pun says:

    Look no further in why US loves to go to war The cultural drip into the veins of those born after WW2 starting from Hollywood movies: Westerns – Cary Cooper -Davy Crockett, Alamo with the blue US Calvary; Comics – Kit Carson (cowboys & Indians), Captain Marvel, Superman; War movies (WW2, Korean, Vietnam, Afghan) with icons Richard Widmark (sea warfare) & John Wayne – Sylvester Stallone (land warfare) movies. All these materials glorify war and generally give the audience a moral reason for doing so. It took me 50 years to wean off this American culture which I was infected with as a kid going to see these movies at least once a week at a nearby cinema.

  3. Avatar Kien Choong says:

    Well written articles are worth reading over and over again, and it is especially right to repeat arguments that address important matters.

    That said, might I suggest that when articles are updated, make the updates transparent by: (a) underlining additions, and (b) crossing deletions? Just a suggestion.

  4. Avatar Richard England says:

    Corporate America, through its stooges in Congress and the Administration, is bent on crushing any government in the world that will not serve it. Whether, at some stage of its decline, it will use the nuclear option on China, is not clear.

  5. Avatar Wayne McMillan says:

    Thank you John. A sad but truthful history of the USA and our involvement in their military games. Humanity is at at a crossroads in many ways, the path we take now will determine our future.

  6. Avatar Dennis Hutchison says:

    I agree with a lot of what you’ve written, John, but seriously this: “These wars have extended from its own hemisphere to the Pacific, to Europe and most recently to the Middle East.” Europe? I think we were lucky they got involved.

    Have one question for you though, do you think if China had been given the opportunity to take a more fitting position that it would have behaved differently with regards its behaviour in the SSC and in west / northwestern China?

    I doubt there’s been a country that hasn’t used its economic and military power to its maximum advantage and while I have no trust in the US, I have as little trust in China.

    • Avatar Kien Choong says:

      Perhaps you have good reason not to trust China. But I would argue that an objective comparison of China’s and American behaviour shows that one has steadily moved towards supporting multi-laterialism, while the other has steadily moved away from supporting multi-lateralism.

      • Avatar Dennis Hutchison says:

        I’m sorry, but I would have to disagree with that claim. I don’t believe any objective analysis would support it, especially if your reference point for that is US behaviour under Trump.

  7. Avatar Neil hauxwell says:

    Thanks for the reminder John. We are so immersed in the fictional USA that it creeps up the nostrils when we sleep and immobilises the brain

  8. Avatar Anthony Pun says:

    To an Asian, modern gunboat diplomacy begins with the Viking conquest of England in 763AD, followed by similar diplomacy from Portugal, Spain, Holland and Britain. In the end, the British became the world hegemon with the British Empire lead by the leading race the Anglo-Saxons. The US imperium is the 2nd generation “British Empire” together with the English speaking world (Australia, NZ, Canada) runs the world. Australia is a part of the Anglo-Saxon legacy , despite her Asian location, Following mother England to war is so natural that no one question why. ditto for US. With multiculturalism in Australia, Europeans and Asian is now starting to question this “natural” alliance. US has truly inherited all the British Empire characteristics.

  9. Avatar Bruce Haighl says:

    Well said. Thank you.

  10. Avatar Andrew Glikson says:

    A US-China war is more than likely to be a nuclear one, with world-wide radiation effects, including in Australia, as people forget Albert Einstein’s warning: “The splitting of the atom has changed everything, except for man’s way of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophes”. With a global warheads inventory of some 13,410 warheads (, the immense power of the atom, which appears to have held back the possibility of a WWIII for nearly 70 years, is only rarely mentioned in the global media. The historic laws of growing Empire remain and are likely to be repeated as the world in caught between forces each of which possess the power to destroy us all.

  11. Avatar Ted Trainer says:

    John, There is a mountain of documentation confirming your analysis, but you do not deal with the underlying causal factor. You make it look like America is just a bully an Australia is just dumb to comply with the wishes of our great and powerful friend. Yet you know as well as any of us that America has established and runs the empire that delivers most of the world’s wealth to the rich including to you and me. How are we going to go on enjoying our high “living standards”, our jet away holidays, our world’s biggest houses etc if we don’t secure far more than our fair share of the world’s dwindling resources. And how are we going to do that if we don’t force poor countries to comply with a “rules based’ order that enshrines the rules that suit us (like insisting that the market should determine who gets resources), support dictators who will rule in our interests, and resort to military force when they won’t? If resources were shared equally we would have to get by on under one-fifth of present rich country average per capita consumption. If you want to maintain these levels then you would be wise to stop criticising the leader of the empire that delivers them to you. If on the other hand you would like to live in a just world then recognise that this is not achievable unless countries like Australia accept massive degrowth to far simpler ways.

    • Avatar George Wendell says:

      You start out well and then demonstrate that you are still part of the business as usual neo-imperialist pro-Western elite. Exploiting every other country in the world to keep up the West’s high use of resources and energy is over, finished, kaput. Many of us are aware that exploitation of other countries, and particularly brown skinned people, is now coming home to us, as we see in the US, for the exploitation is now happening domestically in all Western countries now for both black and white. The protests in the US are cast as only about about black lives mattering, but it is far more than that which is on display. It is fueled by a process that has been going on since the 1980s where many of the the rich elites have been siphoning off the wealth leaving much of the population struggling to pay their bills. Leaders like Trump who walk roughshod over everyone in their elitist way are symptomatic of a state of political decay and the worst sides of greedy forms of capitalism. Republicans are right behind him for they represent the greedy. Liberals do the same here.

      Global warming catastrophes, and further events like Covid-19 will simply make the situation worse, we cannot continue to play the game that the Earth will sustain the West’s opulent lifestyles based on uncontrolled consumerism and massive waste. We have to learn to share this Earth without exploitation of both people and resources, and the only chance of survival is if the West leads the way in transition to new economies based on genuine biological sustainability. Consumerism for the sake of consumerism will have to go. Countries like China a will no longer submit to Western dominant views, and despite being the world’s largest manufacturer, they still use only a third of the energy we do per capita.

      Western imperialism is over, that was the past. Developing nations know full well how they were abused in the process.

    • Avatar Andrew Glikson says:

      Dear Ted, Agree, but in principle and in practice not much would be achieved if “sapiens” continues to multiply and pursue open-ended growth – the psychology of a cancer cell.

    • Avatar Kien Choong says:

      Is America’s own long-term interest best served by “allies” that do nothing to oppose American tendency to bully other countries? We ought not be so pessimistic about the capacity of America’s allies to influence change in America for the better.

      I would also question the claim that we must “force poor countries to comply with a ‘rules based’ order that enshrines the rules that suit us”. Surely ‘rules based’ order ought to suit all nations, not just “us”. And why so pessimistic about the power of good reasoning to persuade poor countries support a rules-based order that benefits exactly those countries (as well as “us”)? Why resort to “force”?

      Global democracy works best through public discussion and good reasoning, not through force or bullying.

  12. Avatar Lorraine Osborn says:

    Thanks John. Looking forward to part 2.

  13. Avatar Geoff Upton says:

    A thoughtful and disturbing analysis. I would substitute the word “ratify” for “endorse” regarding UNCLOS (Law of the Sea). The US Senate has always resisted signing multilateral agreements on the basis that they erode US sovereignty. Both Australia and China have signed and ratified UNCLOS. Adherence is another matter.

  14. Avatar Jim KABLE says:

    I’ve been wondering how it is that the US Ambassador in Canberra has not yet been carpeted and told that unless his country gets itself in order and implements a democratic system to care for ALL its citizens that we will be forced to implement economic sanctions until the desired regime change has been effected.

    Thanks for this review of a bellicose nation – both inside and outside its borders. It is beyond time that we severed our links and closed all US bases on our soil – spying and drone-directing installations and the Marine base in Darwin. I would also suggest closing the propaganda and misinformation US Studies Centre at Sydney University too as well as any other media organisation controlled from the US!

  15. Avatar Eugenie Lumbers says:

    What a terrifying but brilliant article. Terrifying because we are so embedded in American military activity and so dependent on American management of our defense equipment.
    Is there anything that can be done to give us independence?

  16. Avatar George Wendell says:

    One problem in Australia is that so many Australians are easily hoodwinked by the US because they have never spent any time informing themselves about the USA’s dark side. And what a shocking record that is, as you correctly point out.

    For many Australians it is pro-US culture movies, sitcoms, TV series, reality TV, fuel guzzler cars, music, daytime TV marketing, US technology (much made in China), etc etc. Many also believe that the US cavalry of heroes will always come to save Australia, and successive governments hope Australians will still believe in that myth. The governments propel the myth regularly

    Growing up in Australia in the 1960s I remember seeing so many WWII war films where the Americans were always the heroes who won the war, comedy TV shows where the US’s enemies where always painted as idiots, and killing American Indians in cowboy movies was just the thing to do to get rid of their pesky reluctance to cede their land.

    Many Americans themselves (with apologies to those Americans who know this) are exceedingly unaware (or uninterested in informing themselves) of any other culture around the world, and so think wherever they go that it should be like America and conform to US views. So it’s very easy to influence American minds and invent another war out of pure ignorance, hate and prejudice. Black and white, good and evil – but the US is always the good guy saving the day. Winner: military industrial complex promoted by Fox News.

    It appears to be falling apart now, and under Trump is more dangerous and rogue than ever before. Australia seriously needs to rethink it’s mindless support for anything the US does.

    • Avatar Andrew Glikson says:

      Yes George,
      Empires follow certain principles, just as termite nests do.
      Can you name to me an Empire through history, and recently, which has been governed by ethical/moral principles?

      • Avatar George Wendell says:

        @Andrew Glikson

        “Empires follow certain principles, just as termite nests do.”

        What sort of attempt at Social Darwinism is that?

        Even the analogy doesn’t hold, since termites bear no resemblance to human beings and their empires. I have never seen any termite mound trying to take over all the termite mounds so it can to gain exploitative power and wealth over an entire ecosystem. In fact the only real enemies of termites are human beings, a few predators, and ants. And with ants attacking, even termites always come off second best.

        As for the second part, if you say empires are justified because they’ve never followed ethical principles then you are sadly mistaken. It is not just black and white either, some empires have been far more cruel and exploitative than others. You only have to look at a good part of the history of the Qing Dynasty empire in China (I suggest you look up the map), when there were long periods of good interrelations extended towards all people including Tibetans who were part of that empire. Read up on the history. The accent was on stability and harmony which benefited many, not just one group of foreigners.

        Besides, every Christian-based Western Empire justified it’s greed and exploitation by promulgating views to the people back home such that they were morally superior because they were bringing Christianity to the pagans as well as the ‘greatness’ of Western understanding. They forgot to tell them about the murderous campaigns and horror experienced in the trade practices and within the colonies. The Opium Wars are a very good example.

        I would discuss this far more, what you claim is a false argument on many levels, but space limits me here.

  17. Great John. I always enjoy reading your independent and incisive analysis with facts and evidence based opinion pieces. This one stands out and I am sure will be more to come. The dominant leadership in USA is very good at preaching all the virtues of democracy, equalities, human rights, justice and fairness etc with their propaganda machines. However their behaviour as you outlined is shockingly deceitful. Over last two centuries, it caused so much misery, suffering, inequalities, violations of human rights, co-mobilities and mortalities to humankind in various places in the world and shamefully their own people too in America. There are no doubt some very good people in its leadership if and only if they can extract themselves out of their war machines and stand up for what their founders the like of Lincoln and Jefferson have preached and put into good practices and treat other nations as brothers and sisters, the world will be a much, much better and peaceful place for everybody and not just some of us.

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