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Australian War Hunger

Friday, 24 September 2021  | Paul Tyson


About two decades ago Australia linked arms with the UK as the coalition of the willing, eager to stand with the USA and pre-emptively strike Saddam Hussein. We were willing, whatever the UN Security Council decided, regardless of the principles of just war, and even though Saudi Arabia and not Iraq was the home of the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Building. And of course, we embraced the US war plans to liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban, which the CIA had formerly trained and supported in order to push the Soviets out. Now we have AUKUS and the spontaneous appearance of a fleet of nuclear subs in the South Pacific, whatever our contract with France was and however much we will pay to void it (which is a business-in-confidence secret, even though we are paying).

Scotty From Marketing wishes everyone to know that this sudden appearance of an unprecedented class of weaponry in our region is a peaceful gesture with no other aim than to maintain regional stability and the protection of Australian national sovereignty. But even political spin has its limits. AUKUS nuclear subs for Australia are not about peace. These subs display our typical Australian side-kick enthusiasm for meddling in other people’s wars. We never miss an opportunity to stand by our Big Brother, the USA, and get our own war practice in by their side.

Nuclear subs in the South Pacific are part of the USA’s new cold war against China, and, hot on the heels of the catastrophic disaster of Afghanistan, we can’t get embroiled in the next American war enterprise fast enough. Yet this war might not stay in other people’s countries and could well turn out to be apocalyptic for us. Mr Morrison has put us in the middle of the US bid to remain the world’s only global military superpower. We are betting our future national life on the US winning as we power ahead with our uncompromising war enthusiasm for any US plan. This enthusiasm has been characteristic of Australian foreign policy since the demise of the British Empire.

Should we at least have some sort of national discussion about whether we want to be a US vassal state in the South Pacific, or whether we would rather be an isolated and non-aligned power, or whether we would rather be a centre for Pacific and South Asian regional interests in a manner as non-aligned as possible with the big global powers from beyond our region? We seem to be pretending to be all three, even though each stance is exclusive of the other stances, and, in fact, we are a US vassal state when it comes to US military objectives and cooperation. Why does this aggressive move of switching to US aligned nuclear subs simply happen; why is it simply made on our behalf by Mr Morrison?

Looking down the other end of the telescope, we are of vital strategic importance to the US global military machine. Perhaps we are in too deep to back out? Perhaps the Biden Administration is simply telling us to get on board with their plan for our region? Perhaps we don’t have any choice?

The last book Malcolm Fraser wrote was titled Dangerous Allies (2014). Mr Fraser candidly explored our only international policy setting since our colonial birth: strategic dependence. But he argued that the times had changed so radically since imperial times and the first Cold War that we really should consider re-thinking this stance of strategic dependence on great and powerful friends. We should, he argued, distance ourselves from the USA.

‘Peace and safety.’[1] Are we going to get it by snubbing the French and the use of conventional subs; by AUKUS and an Australian fleet of nuclear subs? What do you think?

Paul Tyson is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland.

[1] ‘While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:3, New International Version)

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