NICK DEANE. Unravelling the fabric of the Australia/US alliance.

Jan 22, 2019

John Menadue has articulated the problems with the Australia/US alliance very clearly. Those who are concerned to change its nature need a weak point at which to challenge it. To unravel the fabric of the alliance, start by opposing the presence of US marines in Darwin!  In his excellent article of 15 January (, John Menadue has given us an array of arguments that justify calling into question Australia’s alliance with the USA.

Amongst other things, he mentions the USA’s reputation as a warfaring nation; its track record for meddling in the internal affairs of other nations; the idea of American ‘manifest destiny’; the USA’s domestic problems of poverty and gun-violence; the power of the military industrial complex (and its corruption of democratic processes) and the role of the US-dominated mainstream press. He asks how long Australia will continue to be in denial of US policies, and of its association with this dangerous ally. He asks when Australians will wake up and stand up.

I would add to Menadue’s list of issues the fact that each sequential ‘AUSMIN’ conference only ever seeks ways to make the alliance even closer. In the terms of their annual communiques they are always finding ways to ‘enhance’ it. This means that the situation Menadue describes is constantly deteriorating – so that the idea of ‘standing up’ becomes more urgent with each passing year.

None of what Menadue writes is especially new or confronting to those of us who regularly read his blog or follow current affairs, but he raises  issues that are crying out to be addressed. Within the cohort of reasonably well-informed citizens, I would conjecture that that there is a broad consensus – that the closeness of Australia’s alliance with the USA is a cause for deep concern.

Actually, it is more than a matter of deep concern. It is time people got together to do something about it. It is time to note the intricate nature of the alliance relationship, which has, over the years, developed into a closely knit fabric. It is time to scheme ways to cause that fabric to unravel.

Confronting the entirety of the Australia/US alliance head-on would, of course, be a monumental task. A better and more strategic path is to find weak points in the fabric of the relationship and focus on them. And, in answer to Menadue’s questions, some of us have already woken up and stood up and we have made a start in this process. Our focus is on the most recent, local manifestation of the ever-enhancing alliance, which is the stationing of US marines in Darwin.

The Australian parliament never discussed the arrival of these foreign forces on Australian territory. Neither the people nor their representatives were consulted. Yet this was a development of great significance (as it would be for any nation). Hosting foreign forces on domestic territory in peacetime is a radical departure from the norm. Normally, the government of any nation, almost by definition, has control of all military activity within its borders. With foreign forces present, that control is no longer complete. Their presence indicates either that the host nation needs assistance (because it is under direct threat from a third party) – or that it is a subservient power.

In a speech in 2013, ex-PM Malcolm Fraser (author of ‘Dangerous Allies’) asked his audience to consider the possibility that the US marines might engage in some sort of military action on orders from Washington, from their base in Australia. He said: “They’ll do it and we’ll read about it in the newspapers. Our prime minister will be told about it after the attack is made. Because that’s the way these things work. That, for me, is a total denial of Australian sovereignty and if we were ever independent, it’s a denial of Australian independence.”

With the numbers of the US marines growing each year, and with tensions in the South China Sea likely to worsen, the chances of the scenario Fraser discussed taking place must be increasing. Peace activists have repeatedly sought the Australian government’s assurance that it could not happen – but no such assurance has been forthcoming. The reality is that Canberra has no over-arching control over the actions of the US marines.

The US marines have no business being in Darwin (their business being that of invasion). The reasons for their presence, in so far as they have been explained, are weak and poorly presented. The fact that they could conceivably be used by the USA in conducting some aggressive action, compromises Australian sovereignty and contributes to instability in our region.

As a first step in the process of unravelling the fabric of the Australia/US alliance,  oppose the presence of US marines in Australia! This is offered as an obvious course of action for all who are alarmed at the current situation.

The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network is campaigning against the presence of the marines. It will be holding its fifth national conference in Darwin in August. People serious about questioning the alliance should take note of this opportunity to act.

Nick Deane has a degree in Sociology. He is now retired. He has had a patchwork career, culminating with 17 years in the Australian Public Service. He is convenor of the Marrickville Peace Group and one of two NSW members of the national committee of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network.

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