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

Yesterday I discussed US ‘exceptionalism’ and that the US is almost always at war. Today I discuss the US domestic sickness- a failing democracy,inequality, racism and violence.

It is a myth that democracies like America will behave internationally at a higher level of morality. Countries act in their own interests as they perceive them. We need to discount the noble ideas espoused by Americans on how they run their own country on the domestic front and look instead at how they consistently treat other countries. Consider how the Kurds are being treated. They led the fight against ISIS but are now largely abandoned by the US and other ‘allies’. The scrapping of the alliance with them is made the more dishonourable by the US/Saudi alliance with the resulting tragedy in Yemen.

The US claims about how well they run their own country are challenged on so many fronts. Alongside great wealth and privilege, 43 million US citizens live in poverty, they have a massive prison population with its indelible racist connotations, guns are ubiquitous and they refuse to address the issue. Violence is as American as cherry pie. It is embedded in US behaviour both at home and abroad.

The founding documents of the US inspire Americans and many people throughout the world. “The land of the free and the home of the brave” still has a clarion call. Unfortunately, those core values have often been denied to others. For example, when the Philippines sought US support it was invaded instead. Ho Chi Minh wanted US support for independence but Vietnam was invaded.

Like many democracies, including our own, money and vested interests are corrupting public life.   As some have described it, ‘Democracy’ in the US has been replaced by ‘Donocracy’, with practically no restrictions on funding of elections and political lobbying for decades.  House of Representatives electorates are gerrymandered and poor and minority group voters are often excluded from the rolls. The powerful Jewish lobby, supported by fundamentalist Christians, has run US policy off the rails on Israel and the Middle East. The powerful private health insurance industry has mired the US in the most expensive and inefficient health services in the world

The US has slipped to number 21 as a ‘flawed democracy’ in the Economist’s Intelligence 2016 Democracy Index. (NZ was ranked 4 and Australia 10). It noted that ‘public confidence in government has slumped to historic lows in the US.’  Trump is pushing the US into becoming a failed state. His executive power is largely unchecked by a crippled Congress. The Supreme Court is stacked

Many democracies are in trouble. US democracy is in more trouble than most. With over 40% of Americans still prepared to vote for Donald Trump it tells us a great deal about the pervasive sickness.

But our risky dependence on the US cannot be avoided or excused by laying problems at the door of Donald Trump alone. Malcolm Fraser warned us about a dangerous ally long before Donald Trump came on the scene. US obsession with war and with overthrowing or undermining foreign governments goes back over a century. So does domestic gun violence,inequality and racism.

Donald Trump excesses are not likely to significantly move American policies from what has become the norm over two centuries.

Hugh White has pointed out, the US has in effect now given up looking after anyone but itself – “America first” – which makes it very dangerous for a country to be joined at the hip with the US, with or without Donald Trump. It could, of course, be argued that Trump is just being honest and saying what US presidents have always done, looking after their own interests even if they refuse to admit it.

A major voice in articulating American extremism and the American Imperium is Fox News and Rupert Murdoch who exert their influence not just in America but also in the UK and Australia.  Fox News supported the invasion of Iraq and is mindless of the terrible consequences. Rupert Murdoch applauded the invasion of Iraq because it would reduce oil prices. Fox and News Corp are leading sceptics on climate change which threatens our planet. News Corp underpins American imperialist intentions. The New York Times tells us that outside the White House, Rupert Murdoch is Trump’s chief adviser. God help us!

In the past as in the Vietnam war, the good sense of the American people turned the tide. It is now a moot point whether the US can turn the tide again. The sickness is now more entrenched by Fox News and other moneyed extremists.

But it is not just the destructive role of News Corp in the US, UK and Australia. Our media, including the ABC and even SBS, is so derivative. Our media seems to regard Australia as an island parked off New York. We are saturated with news, views, entertainment and sit-coms from the US. It is so pervasive and extensive, we don’t recognize it for its very nature. The last thing a fish recognizes is water. We really do have a ‘white man’ media’. We see it most obviously today in its paranoia over China.

One outcome of the declining comparative US economic power is that the US will ask its allies to do more. We saw the influence of US budgetary pressures in its launch of the pivot to the Pacific. It was designed in part to help the US extricate itself from the Middle East, but also to reduce defence expenses in the budget.

Despite continual wars, often unsuccessful, the overthrow or subversion of foreign governments and declining US economic influence, US hegemony and domination of Australian thinking continues. Despite all the evidence, why do we continue in denial?

One reason is that as a small, isolated and white community in Asia we have historically sought an outside protector, first the UK and when that failed, the US.

We are often told that we have shared values and common institutions first with the UK and now with the US. But counties will always act first in their own interests as Australian farmers are finding as a result of Trump’s dealing with China.

We continue to seek security from our region through a US protector rather than, as Paul Keating put it, security within our own region. Our long-term future depends on relations in our region and not reliance on a dangerous and distant ally.

Another reason why we are in denial about the American Imperium, is, as I have described, the saturation of our media with US news, views and entertainment. We do not have an independent media. Whatever the US media says about tax cuts for the wealthy, defence or climate change it inevitably gets a good run in our derivative media.

A further reason for the continuing US hegemony in Australian attitudes is the seduction of  Australian opinion leaders over decades who have benefitted from American largesse and support – in the media, politics, bureaucracy, business, trade unions, universities and think-tanks. Thousands of influential Australians have been co-opted by US money and support in travel, ‘dialogues’, study centres and think tanks.

China is a beginner in this soft power game.

How long will Australian denial of US policies continue? When will some of us stand up? Are our political leaders right in their assessment that any questioning of the threats posed by our interpretation of the benefits and obligations of the US alliance will lose them an election?

In so far as China is any sort of distant threat it would be much less so if we were not so subservient to the US.

What will we do if the US decides to follow the advice of some of its senior generals and use tactical nuclear weapons in North Korea? Their use would engage the US/Australian facilities in Central Australia a fact that would not escape the notice of China

There is also a great risk that we could be drawn into a US-led attack on China without our knowledge or agreement.

We are a nation in denial that we are ‘joined at the hip’ to a dangerous ,erratic and risky ally. 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.

Our 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


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

  1. Avatar Allan Kessing says:

    As this article points out Trump, the apotheosis of his country, is not the cause of this problem.
    He is simply the Id of a deranged country, psychically damaged by myths such as Manifest Destiny, Exceptionalism.
    Unfortunately such overweening self obsession precludes self awareness so that it lacks the ability to control its aberrant behaviour.
    For this reason, I see no hope in change, whatever the result of the November (s)election.If there is one.
    In 2016, candidate Trump was asked if he would accept losing and he said “I’ll keep that as a surprise”.
    Now he has the power to declare martial law & state of emergency.

  2. Avatar Con Karavas says:

    Catching up with some reading- just read and reread this good article.

    Sad news from the Institute for Economics and Peace based in Australia. The results of it’s latest survey of 163 countries are listed in the World’s Most Peaceful Countries report.

    Unsurprisingly in the list the USA is 123 out of 163, NZ is at 2, and sadly in our bid to emulate the US we have slipped down to 13.

    Since the list was published our politicians have decided that bad mouthing our major customer is a good idea: I doubt our position will improve on next year’s list.

  3. Avatar Fredy James says:

    An old saying is “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. In history we’ve seen many great powers arose and demise. The only common character is the absolute power they wielded during their time. Be it the Egyptians, the Romans, the Zhous, the British and now the Americans. However, the difference is the time those powers hold on to has been in a declining in time,

    Sadly we’re witnessing another dying star in our life time. According to Rand’s analysis, China will be in economic and military parity with the US in perhaps 20-30years. As in the case before in history, we’ve witnessed great wars during transition of powers. And I hope that we won’t see another one in our and children’s lifetime.

    Like during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we’re transitioning through another great technological advancements. But this time, we’re also facing the greatest climate shift that humanity has ever faced. Along with the American dimension that John has disposed, I believe that humanity will face the greatest challenge yet in 30-40 years.
    I’m also not in delusion that tomorrow’s China’s world won’t be no better than the Americans. Perhaps worse than now. How they promote corruption in countries such as in Sri Lanka in the BRI projects,how colonising Tibet and Uyghurs etc. are current cases. For that matter, any countries wanting to have the absolute power will be no difference either – inevitably they will gain power at the expense of others.

    The solution of course lies in recognition of sovereignty of every individual of this planet earth and of the humanity as a whole. Very soon, I like to believe, that we’ll come to the realisation that actions of individual countries can have adversarial impact on another. Let’s say scientists made a link between deforestation of the Amazon and the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. We can’t, of course tell the Brazilians to stop. Here in lies unmaking the sovereignty of nations. Sooner we realise that better for humanity.

  4. Avatar Malthus Anderson says:

    Thank you John, a timely essay. The continuing collapse of the US as a World Order and the rise of China wanting to replace it has created another layer of turmoil onto that of climate collapse and the equally long threat of nuclear annihilation.
    But it also has created an unusual opportunity for another type of world order to be started – one based on altruism and empathy instead of subjugation by military might or cunning ‘development’ loans.
    Instead of subjugating other peoples a new world alliance would give most of its money and effort to spread equality, love, and kindness. Helping one another, no strings attached.
    For example Robert Patman, on Global Insight, suggests that New Zealand should begin to look further than its traditional world partners (USA, UK, even Australia) and forge partnerships and associations with countries which have similar values to become a minor global power.
    There are a score of other countries with similar values that could form the kernel of a new order. Australia could be one too, if we wanted.
    We can do much better than world hegemony of any sort.
    Let’s do something sensible and constructive for a change.

  5. Avatar Roslyn Ross says:

    You make some excellent points and ones which are too easily forgotten. However, I am curious as to why the Kurds rate a mention when the worst weeping sore funded, supported and enabled by the Americans, and the one doing most harm, the occupation and colonisation of Palestine by the State of Israel, which is in essence and American satrapy.

    Not only does Palestine represent the worst of religious bigotry, i.e. Israel has no issue with Palestinians or even Arabs but only with non-Jews and there are around 6 million of them in Occupied Palestine which Israel would like to remove one way or another so it can annexe the entire country of Palestine, which was the original and remains the only goal.

    The egregious injustice of the treatment of Palestinians, mostly Muslims, but also Christians is a powder-keg in the Middle East in particular and for the world in general. This war in the making is the responsibility of the Americans who fund Israel to the tune of billions every year and who are the only ones with any power to bring the Israelis to their senses, and into a civilized, democratic and just solution – one State shared equally by the indigenous Palestinians and their European colonisers.

    The Kurds lost their country centuries ago. The Palestinians had their country stolen barely 70 years ago. The latter represents a far greater betrayal of justice and human rights than does the mythical Kurdistan.

    • Avatar Jim KABLE says:

      Thanks Roslyn – I checked your profile and your reference there to Miko PELED – I read his outstanding book some years but did not know his blogsite! Now linked!

    • Avatar Kien Choong says:

      “[O]ne State shared equally by the indigenous Palestinians and their European colonisers” would be wonderful and seems feasible (in my view). The “two State solution” seems an inferior alternative. That said, all sides need to overcome whatever ethnic prejudice they have towards others.

  6. Avatar Michael Flynn says:

    Thank you John Menadue for speaking the present truth with wisdom and enabling publication to us. I agree yet know many of us are in denial and give up the fight. I start my fight back with the single issue of nuclear disarmament where we could help as we did when Richard Butler was our Ambassador for Disarmament. We can work in New York in 2021 at the NPT review. Our statement there online is OK although NZ is better and both China and Russia have good statements. The US is a no show. The Arms Control Association now says the US may resume nuclear tests soon to help push the arms race and so a bigger spend. We could close Pine Gap and welcome US withdrawal now. We should sign up to the TPNW and implement.

  7. Avatar Don Macrae says:

    I was impressed by Fraser’s book (Dangerous Allies), and I read both parts of this piece and it all seems true, sort of, as far as it goes. Certainly it is difficult to see positives in the US today, where a significant part of the country seems to want to re-contest the civil war. But it misses out the positive contributions of the US, like saving Europe twice and Australia once, like underwriting the creation of the UN, like the Marshall plan, and like being the country expected to respond to major problems, like Ebola. And while Australia’s position is bankrupt and less than helpful, the correct position must accommodate our position as a minor power in world of great powers. Does anyone thing China won’t repeat Tibet in Hong Kong, or that it would shrink from a takeover of Australia if it thought expedient?

    Thoughts from a non-expert..

    • Avatar Richard Ure says:

      Past successes are, no doubt, true. But that makes current failures all the sadder. Especially as you say, there are indications of reverting to one of the greatest failures: the Civil War.

      • Avatar Don Macrae says:

        Richard, of course I agree. And while the hubris and exceptionalism of the US have resulted in many bad outcomes, the scale of their contribution to the democratic order has been massive, and is now being sorely missed. If the US is vacating the space, maybe for good, we surely need to evolve a new basis for world order. Of course we want Australia to relate to the nations of the world and our region as an independent, having our own influence, but importantly, do we think we can avoid some bias in our relationship with the great powers? That is a question!

    • Avatar Simon Warriner says:

      Don, your understanding of China’s likelyhood of invading Australia would be greatly enhanced if you got hold of a copy of “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu and studied it.

      Actually, everyone’s understanding of geo-political actions and military matters where the exercise of power is concerned would be greatly enhanced by the exercise, and it is arguable that anyone who has not read it is far less than adequately informed, especially where the Chinese are concerned.

      • Avatar Don Macrae says:

        Simon, I’d need more of an inducement to embark on such study than a bald recommendation from someone I don’t know. Does ‘The Art of War’ provide a rationale for Tibet and does it help us anticipate the outcome in Hong Kong, or Taiwan for that matter?

        • Avatar Con Karavas says:

          Yes it does, however the tactics being used are quite different. As the mighty general Sun Tzu said, “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle. ”
          Allowing them to buy our infrastructure is taking us down that path.

    • Avatar Jim KABLE says:

      The US did NOT save Australia – we saved MacArthur and the troops which managed to escape up there from The Philippines – looked after the US troops while here – till the push back against the Imperial Japanese forces took place (during which time MacArthur cleverly foxed Australia into mopping up operations while the US dropped two terrible bombs on Japan (to demonstrate to the Soviets the capability of the bomb they possessed – most Japanese had no idea of those bombs and the terror/destruction unleashed till quite a time afterwards – the Japanese leadership already effectively surrendered). And ever after allowed a “grateful” Australia to believe that the US had “saved” us from a Japanese invasion never actually planned – bombing of the north/Subs to Sydney & Newcastle more to keep attacks against their occupation of the Dutch East Indies – and attempted takeover of New Guinea etc – to protect their petroleum sources. Humphrey McQueen wrote on these things around three decades ago – but like most zombie myths – this one refuses to lie down and die…

      • Avatar Don Macrae says:

        I wouldn’t call the US saving Australia a zombie myth because it’s the dominant view, and certainly it’s always been mine. Is there a particular reference you can share?

  8. Avatar Marcello Milani says:

    Thanks for the updated article, John. You have reminded me of being told, while studying law, that unlike civil law, international law is basically “the law of the playground”. The US is the biggest, most violent, and most unpredictable bully in the playground. The UK previously held the title. And now the Trump administration is bringing the same approach to its own citizens.

    To our shame, we in Australia have always been that kid in the playground who ingratiates themselves with the “toughest guy” in order to avoid being victimised by them. Regardless of our own actual interests. When the US superceded the UK we swapped allegiance. We love to bask in the aura of reflected power.

    But at what cost? As you have rightly pointed out, we merely parrot whatever is required by our gang leader and adopt the customs of the gang. It is unlikely to end well.

    • Avatar Richard England says:

      Australia’s foreign policy is consistent with the fact that we have almost always been governed by the greedy and fearful, who always crawl to the powerful. That is why the greedy and fearful of Australia went running to greater powers in the world, to wrest the Government of Australia from the hands of a great and benevolent man who never hid his contempt for them.

  9. Avatar Richard Ure says:

    To sum up: while so much of the electorate that is still permitted to vote keep voting against their own interest, what is needed to turn the decline around? Can it happen?

    When inequality reaches a certain point, the need for security for the haves to keep their gains from the have nots defeats the purpose of exploiting them in the first place.

  10. Another solemn exposition of truth for our political leaders and decision makers to wake up to. No matter how unsavoury it is, Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition and their good team members have to learn to stand up and be counted for Australian people before it is too late. Discard the rubbishes in their teams. Otherwise we may be dragged into the deep abbey and suffer from severe recession and depression. Learn to be friends with our Asian neighbours in particular China. Chinese has a wise saying : ” With fires in our backyard, far away water will not save us!” e,g. USA and UK. Think about it.

  11. Avatar Simon Warriner says:

    Interesting though this is it fails through its neglect of the Zionist influence dimension in all US policy and politics.

    That influence is well cemented in Australia as well.

    But we won’t discuss it openly because Voltaire was spot on the mark about not being able to talk about one’s rulers

    • Avatar Roslyn Ross says:

      Well, full credit that your comment and mine regarding the omission of the Palestine/Zionist issue was published.

      One wonders how the Zionist/Israel/Jewish lobby has so much influence and power unless Mossad has a very interesting collection of photos for various politicians worldwide.

      The United States and its actions cannot be understood without a broad and deep understanding of the influence and power ZIJ wields in that country through the entire political and Government system. The meddling in Australia is less although it has steadily grown in strength in recent decades and to Australia’s cost.

      • Avatar Jim KABLE says:

        One has merely to count up the Australian politicians/functionaries given free trips to Israel – carefully guided and feted around – free to the extent of course that they feel the obligation…(And also to note how quiet they remain about those trips in the standard press or other forums!)

  12. Avatar Sam Lee says:

    Hi John,

    Three Chinese sayings keep popping up in my head these days when I consider the predicament into which we (Australians) dug ourselves. I offer these sayings here for consideration along with your efficient dissection of our crazy politics (the original Chinese is given so readers can look them up if needed).

    螳螂捕蟬,黃雀在後 describes a praying mantis focused on catching a cicada, failing to see the goldfinch readying to swoop in for its own meal. We may want to look up from our Chinese cicada once in a while and see about the goldfinches waiting on the sidelines.

    鳥盡弓藏,兔死狗烹 is a more cautionary version of the English phrase, “turning swords to ploughshares”, presaging that when there is nothing left to hunt the bows are locked away and, when all the game are gone the hunting dogs are the next meal. Notwithstanding the relevance of this saying to the Merchants’ of Death fear that peace in the world may collapse the military-industrial complex (or simply stop its expansion into international markets), this saying may help crystalise one’s thoughts about American barley replacing Australian barley in the PRC market.

    There is an additional dimension to the moral behind this saying, that a military general who won the war becomes an unacceptable threat to the king in the ensuing peace. If the US and the PRC ever come to a live-and-let-live balance, our confronting stance may become an unacceptable affronting thorn-in-the-side that needs removing. As a small country and a middle power we need to be more Scott Morrison and less Tony Abbott.

    鷸蚌相爭,漁人得利 – when the snipe and clam fight, it is the fisherman who benefits. This translation is a little esoteric so I will just briefly explain it. The story goes something like this: a clam was sunning on the beach when a snipe came across it and tried to eat it; the clam snapped shut on the snipe’s bill and neither will let go; a fisherman walked by and netted both with thanks. This is the glass-half-full version of the African saying, “when elephants fight, the grass gets trampled”. Whether it is us leading the fight in the US-West containment of the PRC or us joining at the hips with the US in a pyrrhic war (cold or hot) with the PRC, there is an opportunity cost to being the snipe or the clam vs being the fisherman; and also, there are many others with greater cause for conflict and lesser profit from peace with the PRC who are waiting to ‘fish’ while happily sitting back and watching us fight.

    Trumping these strategic considerations of Australia’s (real) national interest are of course the ‘national’ interest in establishing (or defending) a racially defined empire or civilisation in a Clash of Civilisations, and the primal fight-or-flight response mired in the fear of the Yellow Peril. If we are able to overcome both of these seemingly insurmountable barriers we may yet carve out an era-defining Australian civilisation for the history books.

  13. Avatar Tom Smyth says:

    You have clearly articulated the concerns I have had for a very long time. Since the end of WWII the US’s prosperity has been dependent on the Industrial Military complex. The influence and power of the military is all pervasive and is reflected in Trump’s choice of cabinet members. While his call to make “America Great Again” has seen him act like a playground bully on the world stage, Americans should be focussing inward to find answers to its decline. With the disastrous happenings at home, an external show of force is all that Trump has to secure his position, and to “Make America Great” whatever that means. Inevitably the US struggles will become ours whether we like it or not.

  14. Avatar George Wendell says:

    I can’t agree more John, we are following a leader and country that can’t even cope with its own domestic problems. Exploitation of other countries through US imperialism and military dominance (with its frequent failures) is now coming home to roost, the same methods are now being used on its own people with the continued domestic unease arising from increased inequality and exploitation at many levels. Bring out the military thinks Trump, suppress those unruly US masses in the same way the US’s elite has done all over the world.

    It horrifies me to see Trump associating with the statue of Abraham Lincoln, and be also cutting access to the Lincoln Memorial using the US military. Lincoln was not only against slavery, but also totally opposed to any form of US imperialism. Going back more than a 100 years ago William McKinley, a confirmed imperialist, was voted in as President, while Eugene Debbs (Social Democrat) was smashed. William Randolph Hearst’s “yellow journalism” used opportunistic fake news to trigger the Spanish American War. A Century of imperialist warfare and shocking covert CIA operations followed.

    Has much changed since then? During the same time Australia has shown every time that it is blindly willing to follow either the UK or the US into any phony war or invasion based of false pretenses.

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