We don’t need subs or war with ChinaMar 14, 2023
The pussies in Labor are reluctant to differ by a millimetre from the coalition on defence, foreign affairs and national security lest they be accused of treason.
The AUKUS submarine deal, about which we were given more clues on Thursday is a thoroughly bad bargain for Australia. It significantly increases the prospects of a war with China – one where we might find ourselves singled out for special punishment for being so dumb, and being so offensive even as we were demonstrably the smallest kid in our team. With or without that special attention, any war it brings will be one we cannot win – with or without the submarines, and may, if it goes nuclear, fundamentally change Australia’s future in the modern world. Whether it goes nuclear will, of course, be something entirely out of our control, but the factors which would restrain China – if the conflict went beyond one in the South China Sea — are nowhere near as powerful as those which inhibit Russia in its war with Ukraine.
It’s one with the sickening performance of Anthony Albanese with the Indian prime minister this week. There may be merit in having better relations – even a loose alliance — with India. It’s a country with which we share much history and tradition. But its prime minister, Modi runs a government every bit as authoritarian as China, and as much given to persecuting its minorities, particularly its Muslims. India was a secular state, but is becoming, under Modi, a confessional Hindu state. The Modi cult is increasingly anti-democratic and thuggish. It suppresses criticism and beats its critics. Organs of the state bully and intimidate Modi’s opponents. The government is becoming more corrupt. We deserve more from our prime minister than participation in a Modi election rally disguised as cricket. It was as unworthy of an Australian leader as Scott Morrison’s love-in with a campaigning Donald Trump.
Expect more self-abasement in San Diego as Albanese outlines details of the subs deal. It’s being sold as bipartisan, although Morrison did not consult Labor while he negotiated AUKUS in 2021. Labor has done nothing to naturalise it, or to make it better for Australian interests.
Down the track it will bankrupt us. This is not because Australia cannot afford a mere $200 billion or two – and the deal will cost us all of that. It’s because our nation won’t be able to sustain the nuclear industry and workforce that having the submarines will require. Attempting to do so will seriously distort and deform the Australian workforce, education system and armed forces, and massively reduce the nation’s economically competitive position. That may not much trouble our AUKUS allies, who may even benefit economically by contracting to us the expertise and the capacity, though, alas, at the cost to Australia of the sovereignty and control that the prime minister and minister for Defence, both complete dills in the national security arena, insist will be enhanced.
It’s a complete dud from a strategic point of view, neither enhancing our defensive or offensive potential in any actual war, nor our clout while at peace. It makes us more, not less, vulnerable in a large-scale confrontation with China, or any other major potential future enemy, such as, say, India or Japan. With or without the US as a potential ally in case of attack, our risk of being separated from the herd and attacked alone is almost as great as of Australia being the major casualty in an outright confrontation with a nuclear-armed power. It could be over Taiwan, some push by China into the Pacific, or Japan-style into a Greater South China Sea Co-Prosperity Sphere.
They increase the risk of a conflict going nuclear – in which case everyone loses. But even in conventional war, China retains great advantages of mass, shortness of communications, supplies, armed forces, and we now know, ammunition and munitions. Duels with particular missile types, breeds of aircraft or secret super-weapons may determine some local outcomes, but victory most often goes to the strongest with the greatest reserves of power. With or without our allies, we are outgunned.
Having Britain to the mix, either through AUKUS, NATO or the western alliance, is unlikely to make a difference. For them it’s on the other side of the world. For them, for the first time in more than 70 years it would mean being against a power militarily and economically (and socially) stronger than it. A “war” would probably be over before the British might arrive on the scene.
Spoiling for a war for younger folk to fight
As we have seen again in the past week, any number of Australian commentators and advisers are awfully keen to promote a confrontation with China. That’s why the Australian government seems so keen to conclude the AUKUS subs’ deal, which provides the illusion that there will be, at least some years away, a greater amount of Australian defensive – maybe offensive – power to throw into a brawl.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age promoted the idea that war was inevitable, possibly desirable. It might happen in the next three years, in which case, they said, we are woefully unprepared. Journalist Peter Hartcher gathered the usual suspects, mostly from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, to agree with him that the outlook was grim. China was becoming more and more aggressive, assertive and angry at us and the US. Australia would be greatly damaged if it got to blows now, so we must re-arm at an even more frantic pace, search desperately and with fewer and fewer inhibitions for allies, and, in particular, bind ourselves even more uncritically to the US.
The major source of much of the verbal hostility manifested by China has been relentless abuse and provocations from Australian statesmen, journalists and two-bit bureaucrats. Some of it has even come from Albanese, to show he’s no patsy. The noise from Australia has been encouraged by the US, which is engaged in a trade war (one it seems to be losing) with China. Australian subservience to American defence interests is such that we are always pathetically grateful at being assigned the role of pig in the minefield, seemingly unaware that this is so that the return fire mostly comes in our direction. We know our staunchest friend will help us if China does us wrong. They will too. When we annoyed China to the point where it cancelled its barley imports from Australia, our loyal ally stepped up and sold its barley to China instead.
Some Australians think that the deal, even before a single sub has been delivered, puts us in the big leagues – one of only one of six nations with nuclear subs. But it reduces rather than enlarges us, even if one could imagine as true, as Albanese asserts, the Albanese illusion that Australia would have absolute sovereign power over our subs we get. Their value, as against China could come only from a common organised deployment, probably close to China’s shores. The more that is so, the less they are a casual deterrent to anyone else. The enormous cost diminishes our capacity for a more balanced defence. And one day, which may be sooner rather than later, the stealth capacity of submarines will disappear in the face of modern detection technology.
The captured intellects of the intelligence and defence experts who dominate the debate.
The defence debate is dominated by a military-intelligence-industrial complex steeped in the common beliefs of players in the western alliance. Spiritually, intellectually, and sometimes morally, these call Washington home. You must be an indoctrinated believer to play. Our players see most issues from the perspectives and feelings of its guardians. It is not that they have rejected their own nation. But they see Australia’s interests and fortunes as so intrinsically bound up with the interests and fortunes of the US that it is unthinkable that we should do anything against them. Indeed they worry that the US might be a fair-weather friend only unless we indulge it. It might abandon and betray us in a tough spot, as John F Kennedy did over Indonesia and Irian Jaya in 1963.
Our preferred role, thus, is to always seem more tough and resolute on western alliance issues than almost anyone else. The first to volunteer to put troops alongside Americans, whatever the strength of their cause and however little it affects our own interests. It is better to be seen as America’s poodle than to be naked and alone. We had no quarrel with Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria worth going to war over in our own right. We went to war only to please America.
High priests of western alliance theology dominate our intelligence establishment. Indeed the ones currently advising Albanese are precisely the same ones, then regarded as partisans with strong right-wing views advising Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton. They are not apolitical. The head of the intelligence system, Andrew Shearer, is an ideological warrior from all the right think tanks. Labor said as much when he was appointed to his present position and they were in opposition. Now he’s ever at Albanese’s elbow. A good many from ASPI have views closely aligned with the Americans they have worked alongside all of their professional lives. They instinctively see, and usually promote, the American point of view. A small number are rather more eccentric, but whatever their chumminess with current Labor ministers, their views are usually right wing, formed from a lifetime of western alliance considerations, and dismissive of local considerations, particularly about human rights. It really is time that Labor got itself some new advisers. Even ones from the middle of the road would be a vast improvement.
But aggravating everything – perhaps our greatest national security scandal – is a political rather than a strategic problem. It is the moral cowardice of the Labor Party and its leaders going back to Kim Beasley in 2001. Labor fears accusations from the Liberal Party that it is “soft”, “weak” or “unsound” on national security matters, in part because it lacks the ticker to make “hard decisions.” It’s macho stuff. The pussies in Labor are thus reluctant to differ by a millimetre from the coalition on defence, foreign affairs and national security lest they be accused of treason. They duck every debate on national security. They are scared of having views of their own. Australian views. Even more scared of debating them in the open. The most reactionary and closed-minded advisers, demagogues and commentators, and, in most media, journalists well briefed by insiders are dominating the debate. No one from Labor ever contradicts them.