Opposing US-led wars: can Australia become independent and peaceful?Sep 6, 2023
The narrative about the inevitability of a war with China began to dominate US strategic thinking in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
The extraordinary growth of the Chinese economy in the first decade of this century deeply worried the neocons who control US foreign policy. As the size of the Chinese economy threatened to surpass the US economy, the neocons became ever more concerned. The rapidly growing China was emerging as a rival to US hegemony in Asia and in Africa. Under the Wolfowitz doctrine, the US could not allow the rise of a rival power. As the neocons strategised for the coming war, they concluded that Australia needed to be bound more tightly into the US war machine as a suitable piece of real estate in the coming war.
The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network, commonly known by its acronym, IPAN, was established in 2012. IPAN chairperson Annette Brownlie recalls that IPAN began shortly after then U.S. President Barack Obama announced the Pivot to Asia. Along with this came the announcement that Australia would host regular turnover of U.S. marines in the Northern Territory, supposedly for training and interoperability.
IPAN evolved with the growing threat of war with China in the background. When they thought about what title they would adopt, they came up with the words independent and peaceful. Their thinking was that Australia had been strategically tied up and pushed into endless wars through the US-Australia alliance. If we wanted to avoid our destiny as a key staging ground for the coming war with China that the US neocons were plotting, Australia needed an independent and peaceful foreign policy.
IPAN began a people’s inquiry into the cost and consequences of Australia’s involvement in US-led wars in 2018. Since World War 2, Australia has been repeatedly involved in US wars in Asia, in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, countries which posed no conceivable threat to Australia. These US-led wars were appalling exercises in futility: poor Asian countries were ravaged and degraded; many Australians died, and an enormous number of Asians – millions – perished, while tens-of millions more became refugees.
Although they ended in defeat, no inquiries ever followed these losses. No lessons were learned by the government or the military. Whistle-blowers found themselves threatened with prison, critics went unheard and unpromoted, while yes-people effortlessly ascended into the highest ranks of the departments of Foreign Affairs and Defence.
IPAN’s people’s inquiry, Exploring the case for an Independent and Peaceful Australia, ran for two years, becoming a mechanism to reach out and connect with over 10,000 people during the process of inviting submissions. Eventually over 200 people and organisation put in submissions. These submissions were synthesised by eight community leaders (Terry Mason, Dr Vince Scappatura, Dr Alison Broinowski, Greg Barns, Jeannie Rea, Professor Ian Lowe, the Very Reverend Peter Catt and Dr Chad Satterlee) for the document, Charting our own Course: Questioning Australia’s involvement in US-led wars and the Australia United States alliance.
“We do need a military for defence,” says Annette Brownlie, “but our military has become an offensive force at the bidding of the United States, and with the AUKUS announcement, the United Kingdom has joined them to maintain the hegemony in the region of these two big white colonial relics of the past.
“That is something that we don’t want,” says Annette Brownlie, “and we don’t see this as an alternative. We’re actively working with people to lobby hard to see the AUKUS decision reversed.”
IPAN’s AUKUS alternative foreign policy stresses the importance of diplomacy and the need to work cooperatively towards a regional peace alliance, not only at a government level, but by building relations between peoples in our local region, which takes in the Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia, Papua and all of the Pacific countries. To that end, IPAN have been working to build an active Pacific peace network.
IPAN was a member of the coalition that organised the anti-AUKUS rally outside the recent ALP National Conference in Brisbane on August the 18th. The protest was photogenic and well attended, with its own prop AUKUS submarine, which controversially was painted grey, not yellow! The Australian Citizens Party turned up with the largest Julian Assange banner, I have ever seen. It was four meters high! Three union leaders spoke, led by Peter Ong of the ETU. David McBride delivered a passionate and fiery speech about his Afghan war crimes prosecution/persecution, and then posed for a series of selfies with almost the entire crowd under a colourful banner – a Grahame Dunstan and companions’ masterpiece, suspended between two three-metre-high bamboo poles.
Inside the conference, the opposition to the AUKUS deal was quashed. Annette Brownlie found herself disgusted, but not surprised, to hear Left faction boss Pat Conroy level the charge of appeasement against the AUKUS protesters outside the conference.
“That was straight out of the mouths of the previous government, targeting any opposition as appeasement. It’s pretty clear that China is not posing any military threat to Australia or Australians for Pat Conroy to make the claim, and it was actually made inside the conference against those who voted against the AUKUS agreement.”
While Labor’s adaption of “the worst deal ever” exposed the hold that the United States has on Australia, it also exposed the lack of competence that exists in the two major Australian political parties, who seem incapable of planning an independent defence policy for a continent protected by the world’s greatest moat.
“It’s also incredibly stupid, you’ve got to say, haven’t you?” asks Annette Brownlie. “The fact that we would take this stance when we are so dependent on China for our economic position is astonishing. I heard today that the United States has agreed for the first time to deliver military equipment to Taiwan on the basis that it is a sovereign state. This is just another little provocation to China and that’s sort of happening bit by bit, one provocation after another. There are many, many people that think that the United States is arming up and preparing to go to war with China as its economic position continues to be more threatened by China’s rise.”
Certainly, over the past few years, the newspapers and the coalition have been loudly beating the drums for war with China in a startingly irresponsible manner. It seems the US have assigned us a special place – front-row seats! – for this coming war, while our mainstream media enthusiastically cheer.
I asked Annette Brownlie, what she saw as the costs and benefits of the coming war with China.
“We can forget about the benefits. There are only costs and consequences, and they are devastating. Even if there was a not a full-out war, you can expect economic consequences and there could be a very harsh economic downturn in our country, but that’s minor compared to the potential for any conflict to escalate and turn into a full-blown war. And the consequences of that are, of course, horrific particularly for the people in Guam, in Okinawa, in Japan, and China. These are people we’re talking about; families, mothers and kids, just like us.
“And on top of that, Australia are hosting United States facilities here. They have bases in the Northern Territory, in Catherine where the B-52s are stationed, in Pine Gap, where the intelligence gathering as well as coordination of military attack is based. All of those sites in Australia would become a target.
“No benefits. It’s only costs.”