AUKUS and militarism, not China, is our greatest threat
Unsurprisingly, most think wars are a bad thing to be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
Consequently, no area of government spending is more shrouded in deliberate obfuscation and weasel words than the so-called defence policy. Before 1946, the British Minister for Defence was more aptly known as the “War Secretary”. At least it had the advantage of being honest.
Following in this tradition is the recently-released Defence Strategic Review. It doesn’t contain any surprises, but rather confirms the reality.
It abandons any pretence that military expenditure has anything to do with defence, conceding that there is no serious threat of invasion. Instead, it’s all about helping the United States project its military power into Asia at any cost.
As the executive summary of the document explained: “Our Alliance partner, the United States, is no longer the unipolar leader of the Indo-Pacific. The region has seen the return of major power strategic competition, the intensity of which should be seen as the defining feature of our region and time.
“As a consequence, for the first time in 80 years, we must go back to fundamentals, to take a first-principles approach as to how we manage and seek to avoid the highest level of strategic risk we now face as a nation: the prospect of major conflict in the region that directly threatens our national interest.”
In everyday language, this means the US is determined to hold on to its position as the pre-eminent military power in the Pacific and is prepared to use force to block China’s growth and influence.
Australia is bound to follow the US down this path because this accords with a mythical “national interest” that all Australians — billionaires and workers alike — share.
This policy direction was set by the 2012 Force Posture Review, and followed up by the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue 2017 and, most recently, AUKUS.
Collectively, these policies mean Australia will be further militarised and turned into a US garrison. Alarmingly, Canberra has signed off on the regular rotation of US and British nuclear-powered and -armed submarines at Garden Island in Western Australia and stationing B-52s, US long-range strategic bombers, in Darwin.
Canberra has signed off on four new military bases — two for the militarisation of space and greater support for combined military operations in the region. Labor is also proposing greater co-operation in hypersonic weapons and cyber warfare, underwater systems, artificial intelligence and long-range strike capabilities.
With no foreign power having the capacity, or cause, to invade Australia, the fear mongering about China has increasingly turned on the supposed need to protect trade routes.
Given that China is Australia’s largest trading partner, exactly why China would want to block them is not obvious.
Faced with this logical conundrum, defence minister Richard Marles has simply taken to lying, falsely claiming that Australia’s trade with Japan and South Korea also passes through the South China Sea.
This poses a bigger question: why doesn’t a wealthy mid-sized power, facing no threat to its trade routes let alone invasion, pursue a more independent policy to get the most out of business with China and the US without tying itself to either?
Clearly, a section of the corporate elite thinks this way, as evidenced by former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s savage attack on AUKUS.
His intervention opened the door to a range of other criticism from people close to power, or who share Keating’s vision for a more independent Australian capitalism on the world stage.
An interesting example was author and journalist Geraldine Brooks’ opinion piece in the March 21 Sydney Morning Herald, titled “AUKUS is a dud deal. We’re safer on our own”.
“I can’t think of a worse time to be further entangling Australian defence policy with that of the US,” Brooks said, before raising the very real possibility that President Donald Trump, or someone equally unhinged from the Republican Party, could return to the White House.
It seems a dominant section of Australian capitalism, with Labor and Liberal in tow, are, for the time being, wedded to the Anglosphere imperialist alliance and its effort to block China’s further economic development, even at the risk of a catastrophic war.
This is horrific enough. Equally worrying is that this massive commitment to military spending blows away any possibility that Canberra might mobilise to confront the real existential threat to our survival — climate change.
There’s no time to lose. Anyone who wants to keep alive the possibility of a liveable planet for future generations must throw their shoulder to the wheel and stop the AUKUS madness before it’s too late.
In doing so, we need to emphasise our common humanity and our shared fate. There are many legitimate criticisms we can make of the Chinese government, but the working people of China are not our enemy and never have been.
Equally, the greatest threat to the wellbeing and dignity of us all here does not come from across the seas: it’s to be found in the boardrooms of Australia’s largest corporations and their loyal servants in parliament.
[Sam Wainwright is a national co-convenor of the Socialist Alliance.]