Jun 17, 2019

Before entering any alliance, it’s better to be certain you have worked out what you hope to gain from it.

Ramesh Thakur stated (P&I, 02.05.19):

….of course it is true that the US has been Australia’s primary and irreplaceable security guarantor. It is equally true that the alliance has brought many practical benefits to Australia in terms of access to hardware and intelligence sharing. More broadly still, the US presence in the Pacific since 1945, both residual through bases and over-the-horizon through the unrivalled US capacity to project power, has been mainly benign and largely beneficial in underwriting Asia–Pacific security and enabling unprecedented regional prosperity.

In 1827, King George Sound, now Albany, WA, was settled to keep the French away. Thirty years later, Fort Denison on Sydney’s Pinchgut Island was built to keep the Russians away. Albany’s Princess Royal Forts were built in about 1895 to keep the Germans away. We joined ANZUS and despatched troops to Korea to keep the Chinese away; allowed foreign bases at Pine Gap and NW Cape to keep the Soviets away; bought F-111s and Adams class destroyers to keep the Indonesians away; took our elegant but otherwise idle F-18s to the Middle East to keep the Muslims at bay; ordered French non-submarines to keep the Chinese terrified; and are cheerfully spending an unknown fortune on the most useless “fighter platform” ever devised to separate the gullible from their treasure, although it isn’t clear what an air superiority fighter is for when there’s nothing in the entire region to be superior to. All of this raises an important question: Regarding defence of the nation, do we actually know what we’re doing?

Let’s look at each of Dr Thakur’s claims in more detail:

…of course it is true that the US has been Australia’s primary and irreplaceable security guarantor.

Not true. There was never a threat to our security. Not even in 1942, as we learned post-war: the Japanese knew they could not invade this country and had never planned to do so. Even if there had been a threat, if we hadn’t been playing sucker-fish to the prolwing American shark, we would have been able to dispose of it by a touch of diplomacy. But anybody who thinks for one moment that the US would put itself out for Australia shows a sublime ignorance of their history. If it suited Trump, he would trample us in the dirt as easily as he did the Iranian, Paris and INF treaties. Great powers, as they say, don’t have friends, they have interests.

It is equally true that the alliance has brought many practical benefits to Australia in terms of access to hardware….

Hardware: Nothing we couldn’t have made ourselves or bought more cheaply elsewhere, especially when the only times we have used the hardware have been in wars of America’s making and choosing. American military material is offensive in nature, not defensive. It is exactly the opposite of what we need, but it suits the Americans admirably because our hardware is only useful when integrated into their systems. There is only one country in the world with the proven capacity, and the record, and the possible motive, to attack this country, and that’s the USA. But if they did, and we tried to defend ourselves, they’d switch off their GPS and we would be blind. It is certain that they can disable F-35s on the runway.

…and intelligence sharing.

Of the deluge of stolen and otherwise illegal information that flows through Pine Gap and other bases, the Americans dole out precisely what they think we need to know, in doses large enough to fool us into thinking we are “partners” in their Five Eyes system, and small enough to keep us in the dark as to everything they are actually doing. Did they tell us they were fomenting a revolution in Indonesia in 1965? They did not.

…the US presence in the Pacific since 1945… has been mainly benign…

Try telling that to the Vietnamese, and Cambodians, and Lao, and Philippinos, and the half million Indonesians who were murdered in 1965-66, and the East Timorese… On and on. That’s while the US was setting up the killing fields in Afghanistan since 2001, in Iraq since 2003, and in the other Arab countries they have all but wrecked since the US first financed and armed Al Qaeda forty years ago.

…and largely beneficial in underwriting Asia–Pacific security and enabling unprecedented regional prosperity.

This is preposterous. It was the US that caused much of post-WWII trouble in SE Asia by actively assisting the European colonial powers, the UK, France, Netherlands and Portugal, to return and reclaim their former station, against the wishes of the subject nations and in breach of the UN Charter they had just signed. Without US aid, the Dutch could not have fought their colonial war. Dutch troops in Indonesia were entirely supported by Americans but, by 1953, US aircraft were flying Ambonese guerillas to revolt against the new Indonesian government. The French relied on American material and financial aid throughout; while Portugal was a sick joke whose opera bouffe empire was humoured only because the US wanted access to the home country’s Atlantic ports. If the Americans hadn’t blocked Vietnam’s plebiscite in 1953, Ho Chi Minh would have won, installing a moderate leftist nationalist government that would never have allowed the Chinese to dominate them, even if the Chinese had tried, which they probably wouldn’t. As for the regional prosperity, it would have happened anyway: Asians are not “dumb gooks” but are very enterprising people. Japan didn’t rise from the ashes because the US held its hand, it happened regardless, just as it had happened post-1862. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

The US imperium is now reaching its final stages, of Byzantine levels of intrigue and corruption. Their war machine is bleeding the country white while their infrastructure collapses, wealth flees the country, police are transformed into a military occupation force, and fissures open among the groaning population. When the US collapses, it would be in our interest not to be associated too closely with them. When it comes to treachery, Asians have very long memories.

Niall McLaren is an Australian psychiatrist, author and critic, although not necessarily in that order.

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