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Category Archives: AIM Extra

Disinviting Jordan Peterson: The Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge and Approved Ideas

He has sent so many cliques and groups into titters of anger, and the indignant have attempted to turn on him. The university environment should be the last place where dangerous ideas, and views, are stifled and stomped upon. In actual fact, we are seeing the reverse; from students’ unions to middle and upper-managerial parasites and administrators, the contrarian idea must be boxed, the controversial speaker silenced and sent beyond the pale. Dissent and disagreement are lethal toxin to such affected notions as “diversity” and “inclusiveness”.

It should be very clear that meaningless terms such as diversity and inclusiveness do very little to the content of actual intellectual conversation. Ideas are there to be debated, not accepted by high caste strictures. The modern academic environment suggests something quite opposite: a policing rationale, an insistence on thought control that is insidious and all too common in managed structures. When incorporated into the university structure, the bureaucrat takes precedence over the intellectual, the mindless cherry picker over the polymath. The more ideas you have, the more of a threat you will be, requiring regulation and the occasional ostracising. In broader public spaces, this may even require you losing a platform altogether.

Which leads us, then, to Jordan Peterson, agent provocateur and psychology professor at University of Toronto who was led to believe that he would be taking up residence for two months at the Faculty of Divinity in Cambridge University in Michaelmas Term. In a statement to the Cambridge student newspaper, Varsity, a University spokesperson confirmed “that Jordan Peterson requested a visiting fellowship, and an initial offer has been rescinded after a further review.”

In a bitter irony that should have been apparent, the Canadian academic had his invitation rescinded in the name of “inclusiveness”, a baffling justification given its very opposite interpretation. In a statement to the Guardian, the University spokesman proclaimed Cambridge “an inclusive environment and we expect all our staff and visitors to uphold our principles. There is no place here for anyone who cannot”. Now there speaks the virtue of an intolerant tolerance.

Left hanging with menacing dullness is the entire lack of precision as to what those politburo designated principles are. Even more to the point, the Faculty of Divinity is left looking buffoonish having first extended an invitation in the first place, presumably because it was in the spirit of the University’s values. Those values, in turn, must have been flipped in an act of feeble mind changing.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s guide on Freedom of Expression for higher education providers and students’ unions in England and Wales is instructive here. It notes section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986, which places a legal duty on universities and Higher Education Providers more broadly to take “reasonably practicable” steps to protect freedom of speech within the law for their members, students, employees and visiting speakers.

There is no “right” for any group or speaker to speak to students at Student Unions or HEP premises. But once a speaker has been invited to speak at any meeting or event, he or she “should not be stopped from doing so unless they are likely to express unlawful speech or their attendance would lead the host organisation to breach other legal obligations and no reasonably practicable steps can be taken to reduce these risks.”

As Peterson tetchily noted, he not only requested a visiting fellowship at the Faculty of Divinity but been extended an invitation. “You bloody virtue-signalling cowards,” he tweeted. He also deemed the Faculty of Divinity’s publicity on the issue misrepresentative, having “not equally” publicised “the initial agreement/invitation” while giving the impression that he had gone “cap-in-hand to the school for the fellowship.”

So what is it about Peterson that could possibly fall within those extreme instances?  Causing offense, perhaps, but certainly nothing illegal or criminal. He had, after all, visited Cambridge last November during the course of a book tour. He spoke at the Corn Exchange. He met faculty staff members. He also recorded videos and podcasts with the noted philosopher and Cambridge don Sir Roger Scruton, presented at the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Platonism and Stephen Blackwood, founding President of Ralston College. But perhaps most importantly, he was invited to address the venerable, and student-run Cambridge Union to a packed house.

The Cambridge University Student Union had a different take. They were “relieved” at the rescinding of the offer. “It is a political act to associate the University with an academic’s work through offers which legitimise figures such as Peterson. His work and views are not representative of the student body and as such we do not see his visit as a valuable contribution to the University, but as one that works in opposition to the principles of the University.”

The statement is riddled with daft, anti-intellectual claptrap. It is stingingly parochial.  It is also dangerous. The only “political act” in this entire affair is one affirming that a speaker with certain views associated or otherwise with the student body cannot take up residence to discuss views that are not approved by prior screening. The CUSU has taken it upon itself to deliberate over what a “valuable contribution” from an academic might look like, suggesting that it already has a set of acceptable, stock ideas that are beyond challenge. The statement is also vacuous on one fundamental point: to merely allow someone to debate a position is to legitimise him (note – not even the idea, but the person), a position presuming that an attempt at understanding is the same as approval.

Varsity has gone through the supposedly precarious resume that is Peterson’s: his opposition to an anti-discrimination bill adding gender identity to the Canadian Human Rights Code in 2016 as an infringement of free speech; his refusal to use any gender neutral pronoun; his claimed defence of white privilege and masculinity. Even this laundry list is hardly a credible basis for denying him a place to engage in debate; if anything, those card carrying CUSU members, not to mention Faculty staff, might wish to engage and confront Peterson in gladiatorial bouts of the mind. But not so; far easier to pull the platform away, and simply claim to know the whole truth.

Instead of showing the very resilience that should be encouraged in thinking, the opposite is being fostered by such decisions. An enfeebled student and academic community is being encouraged, because it is free of controversy and packed with acceptable behavioural norms. The latter is distinctly geared towards a beastly toadyism at universities, where students prefer to attack certain contrarian ideas rather than the very class that detests them: university management.

When brands are being advertised, names promoted, thoughts only count in a bland, inoffensive sense. The sweet is preferred over the bitter; the discomforting eschewed in favour of Aldous Huxley’s pneumatic chair. Any complement of controversial ideas must be approved of in advance. Given that Peterson has no interest in complying with this diktat, he has become, inadvertently to many, a torch for intellectual freedom. Attempting to shut, and shutdown the man, is mere confirmation of many of his claims, even if you disagree with a good number of them.

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Society’s spooked with sacred superstitions

By Brian Morris   

There’s a critical element missing from the whole debate on ‘Religious Freedom’ — and it’s one that must be addressed when Scott Morrison’s ‘Religious Discrimination Act’ is finally rolled out during the May election campaign.

Why is it — as a secular nation — we have become spooked on the topic of religion? We don’t communicate beyond our own sphere of beliefs! How is it that basic questions about religious faith are seen as “offensive”? For what reason do media outlets maintain a strict taboo — avoiding discussions which probe the provenance and foundational fallibilities that underpin all religions?

It’s time to confront religion as a man-made concept.

Currently, it’s a minefield. No pun. Discuss Palestine and you’re condemned as either pro-Israel or anti-Semitic; for Syria it’s pro/anti Shiite or Sunni; in Ireland (still) you’re for/against Catholics or Protestants; for Kashmir it’s Hindus vs Muslims; in Surabaya ISIS attack Christians; in Thailand, Buddhists persecute Rohingyas; and in Jerusalem — all three Abrahamic religions claim it as their own.  Visualise every current conflict and almost all are internecine or involve two historically combative religions.

Religion is a ‘choice’ — it is not determined by skin colour or gender. And the ‘cultural’ argument just doesn’t wash. Children from every country on Earth are born without any religious DNA — all doctrines are learned, and at some stage in their lives, individuals can choose another faith; or none at all. True; with some faiths, that decision can be hazardous, but it does not change the fact. This is one illustration of how religion divides us.

Religious origins and dogmas remain incomprehensible to the public majority, including many who claim a specific belief. This confusion about religion and its various manifestations — of being “out of touch with the real world” — is just one psychological marker for schizophrenia. And it does seem insane that we cannot openly discuss the fundamental flaws of religion in today’s evidence-based society — four centuries on from “the enlightenment”.

At the core is “Religion” itself; its questionable histories, myths, and man-made dogmas.  

God is not the issue here! There is no scientific evidence either way, ‘tho mounting material and circumstantial evidence would suggest no deity. But for Australia, where Christianity is predominant, there are highly relevant questions of provenance surrounding all Christian denominations. Contemporary historians and biblical scholars point to a faith that is built on highly unstable foundations in a Middle-Eastern desert.

Christianity dominates politics, education, and social administration in this country. It is the non-religious voice that has been silenced in the “public square” — not the privileged and well-financed Christian denominations. Token secular views are rarely heard on voluntary euthanasia, pro-choice, and a score of current issues — the loudest media voice comes from archbishops, devout politicians, and a plethora of Christian Lobbies.

A shrewd conservative strategy — promoting a myth of religion being “silenced” — began when the 2011 Census showed ‘No Religion’ had reached 22.3 per cent, pushing out Anglicanism, and falling just 3 per cent short of the Catholic vote. By 2016, ‘No Religion’ ranked highest, at 30.1 per cent (with Catholics at 22.6 and Anglicans 13.3) — and that secular figure will top 50 per cent when the Census question on Religious Affiliation is finally revised.

“Freedom of Religion” became a mantra following the Religious Round Table in 2015 — the meetings of church leaders in 2015, run by the then Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson. Regrettably, belated meetings for secular groups were cancelled at the last minute when Wilson resigned prematurely to prepare for his Liberal Party campaign for the federal seat of Goldstein, which he won in June 2016.

This mantra has run consistently, through to Philip Ruddock’s ‘Religious Freedom Review’ — a last-ditch strategy by (then PM) Malcolm Turnbull to placate his conservative party room, and squeeze through the vote to legalise same sex marriage in December 2017. Ruddock’s Review fielded more than 16,000 submissions — the vast majority coming as proforma emails from church congregations, organised by Christian lobbyists.

Detailed submissions from secular groups — calling for the winding back of religious privileges that provide legal means to discriminate against the non-religious — were swamped by the flood of Christian emails. Religion has this inherent advantage to effectively lobby all governments — even with their diminishing congregations. The secular public do not ‘congregate’ and ultimately lose an effective voice on all progressive social policy. It’s not surprising, too, that Australian parliaments are among the most Christianised in the Western world.

Recommendations from the Ruddock Review have been drafted by the Morrison government which will codify existing discriminatory privileges for all religious institutions. This Religious Discrimination Act will be a significant plank in the Liberal Party’s election platform. And for Scott Morrison, himself a devout Pentecostal Christian, his voice has echoed on the floor of parliament that we need a crusade to save Christianity.

So, will a reduction of religio-political influence come anytime soon?

A turning point could well be the 2021 Census. For decades, Question 19 on Religious Affiliation, has read; “What is the person’s religion?”. That is a ‘closed’ question which assumes every citizen has one!  The Australian Bureau of Statistics has been urged for years to adopt an ‘open’ question, similar to other OECD nations — “Does the person have a religion?”. The ‘No Religion’ figure will then run closer to Europe, which is well over 50 per cent.

Meantime, secular and atheist organisations look to the media to be more even-handed and provide equal time to the Christian churches — whose voice has not been silenced, as their leaders claim. Religion does remain divisive; it has lost its moral authority, and it is long overdue that its flawed foundations are openly discussed.

With 40 per cent of secondary students now attending private religious schools, mostly Catholic, it is essential that these students think rationally about the religious doctrines and historical myths they are being taught through 12 years of education. Are we simply creating a new generation with schizoid perceptions of religion?

Philosophical ethics and critical thinking provide the moral and ethical foundations that allow for a rational and compassionate approach to facing the challenges of life. It is long overdue that public education bureaucracies (in every state) provide these essential life-skills to all public school students. But we can expect the mythical Hell to freeze over long before private religious schools deign to teach PE and CT in place of religion! Will mainstream media ever step up and join the debate?

Brian Morris is a former Journalist and Public Relations professional and the author of Sacred to Secular, a critically acclaimed analysis of Christianity, its origins and the harm that it does. You can read more about him here.


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Responding to Red-Baiting on Marxism

A common argument on the Left is that ‘Socialism’ is not ‘Communism’ ; and this is intended to ‘deflect’ associations with Stalinist big ‘C’ Communism as it was known in the former USSR and Eastern Bloc.

Indeed, socialism is not ‘Communism with a big ‘C” – in the Stalinist sense: with unending Terror and Cult of Personality.  In the authentic Marxist sense socialism  refers to a stage of economic development under which ownership of the means of production was progressively centralised under the state ; and with ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’ whereby the democratic working class majority had exercised state power.  This is the ‘first stage’ of communism. (also known as ‘socialism’)  And thereafter – with abundance and the end of social antagonisms – ‘the state withers away’. This is ‘the higher stage of communism’.  There are  many (non-Marxist) definitions of socialism as well.

Many people – including self-identifying Marxists –  also argue for a ‘democratic mixed economy’ including a mix of markets and planning ; and of public, co-operative and other collective ownership.  And this is also seen as a kind of socialism.  (even if not strictly conforming to the original Marxist definition) These people can still sympathise with the goal of ‘the higher stage of communism’ ; but many (the author included) have come to seriously doubt the likelihood of its being realised.

But many of those who actually have a grasp of Marxism (most people don’t) know there’s nothing wrong with his notion of communism in theory. As opposed to stifling oppression, Marx’s notion of ‘communism’ envisaged a world of plenty; of cultural and social opportunity ; governed by the principle of ‘from each according to ability, to each according to need’ ;  and where humanity transcended past conflicts: where again, as opposed to becoming ‘all encompassing’ – the state (in Marx’s words) ‘withered away’.

But remember also that communism in the Marxist sense was deemed by Marxists themselves as impossible without the prerequisite of economic Abundance – with the development of the means of production first by workers under capitalism, and then furthered under socialism.

The Bolsheviks attempted a Revolution in Russia before the economic development had reached the level many other Marxists had seen as a prerequisite. In name they were pursuing communism – but the system they implemented certainly was not communist in Marx’s sense.

Many Marxists understood the risks. Effectively, the Russian Revolution could get stuck in a particularly repressive variation from ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’. Many interpret that as meaning ‘dictatorship’ in the literal sense.  But in the authentic Marxist sense it was to be understood as a manner of applying democracy ; ie: the democratic rule of the working class majority. (But where the revolution’s class enemies were contained or suppressed where necessary; though some Marxists such as Karl Kautsky also ended up insisting on a regime of universal liberal rights).

But the Bolsheviks attempted a Revolution in an industrially-backward nation ; dependant on an alliance of workers and peasants. That is why a lot of Marxists thought the Bolsheviks went too far – attempting to overcome their disadvantages through sheer voluntarist will and strategy. What we ended up with was centralisation and Terror. And decades of forced industrialisation: a ‘forced march’ to achieve the economic preconditions of socialism. In the process, Terror, Cult-of-Personality and over-centralisation saw the corruption of the Revolution and the onset of what came to be known as ‘Stalinism’. This was not ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’ in  Marx’s true sense ; though certainly it was a kind of dictatorship. Most critics of Marxism do not understand the difference.

On the other hand ; some critics of Bolshevism such as Rosa Luxemburg did not condemn the Bolsheviks for trying. For Luxemburg specifically her criticism centred on the issue of workers’ liberties and workers’ democracy.  But by contrast, Left-Menshevist, Julius Martov also insisted on ‘mass democracy’ as opposed to ultra-centralism ; and questioned the Bolshevist path to power. For Martov Russia’s semi-feudal conditions were not a sufficient base on which to build socialism. And this was bound to result in complications later down the track. Economic development had to come first ; though in the interim he supported an alliance of socialist parties.

Importantly: ‘Abundance’ itself has also proven in some senses relative ; and ‘coercive laws of competition’ (a concept found in Capital Vol I) can be applied to states arguably as well as to businesses. Practically this means that both businesses and states need to promote competitiveness in order to survive. This also makes (the higher stage of) communism in Marx’s sense a difficult prospect. And it makes socialism in the strict Marxist sense a difficult prospect for the same reasons (coercive laws of competition). Hence we need internationalism in theory and practice – and to reject arguments on globalisation to the effect that ‘everything is hopeless’.

There’s also the concern that class struggle is not the sole source of conflict ; hence the state may never ‘wither away’. Maoism in China saw the peasants as having the leading role. Only in the past couple of decades or so the Chinese have attempted to emulate capitalist development in order to modernise. And in terms of the scale of their economic development they have succeeded remarkably. But there’s the risk that their capitalists will one day become an effective ruling class. And then the last remnants of Chinese Communism would be over.  There’s no reason to suppose that would necessarily involve ‘democratisation’ either.

On the other hand Swedish Socialism was not clearly Marxist. Theorists like Walter Korpi wrote of a ‘democratic class struggle’. Marxism held significant influence. But key socialist theorists like Ernst Wigforss did not identify as Marxist and had original ideas distinct from those provided by the broad Marxist framework. Though fear of Bolshevism had helped to press the Swedish monarchy into supporting the Suffrage (as with many other countries).

The rise of a ‘Communism’ clearly distinct from social democracy had originally began in 1914 with the formation of Communist parties in response to the World War (and the failure of most social democrats to effectively oppose it). This was a watershed moment. The ‘Twenty-One Conditions’ (1920) of the Third International (developed after the 1917 Russian Revolution) imposed a single organisational and ideological framework for all Communist Parties ; that is, of Vanguard Parties in the Leninist sense (parties of ‘the advanced working class’). And in the process this ruled out flexibility and adaptation to local circumstance.

The author’s personal sympathies are with the ‘Left Social Democrats’ – such as the Austro-Marxists. Who were definitely Marxists – and definitely not Bolsheviks or Stalinists. The key point here is that the Schism was not entirely ‘against Marxism’ ; it was also to various degrees ‘within Marxism’. In this sense there is not necessarily any logical contradiction between communism in the strict Marxist sense – and Revolutionary Social Democracy. Importantly therefore, the Bolsheviks could never claim a monopoly on Marxist thought. Marxists retained crucial influence on the Left of Social Democratic parties. In some cases (eg: Austria during the inter-war period) Marxism remained the dominant outlook.

Again: the word ‘Communism’ is deployed widely to scare people ; and many socialists (even Marxist-influenced) will not enter into any debate concerning it for fear of the impact of red-baiting, and association with the ‘once-really-existing Stalinist’ regimes of the 20th Century.

Tactically, social democratic leaders may be advised not to proclaim to the world that they are Communists. And in all honestly, there is doubt that ‘real communism’ as Marx truly intended – is even possible. Or at least certainly not for a very long time into the future.

But if we can’t debate these issues internally even, eventually we will be led to abandon socialism entirely. Kind of like how ‘liberalism became a dirty word’ for a very long time within the United States. That way we find ourselves perpetually on the back foot in response to red-baiting.

But now there’s actually a resurgence of socialism in the US. DSA – Democratic Socialists of America – has been expanding rapidly. Demands are growing for improvement of wages, action on climate change, and for socialised medicine. These are taken for granted in many parts of the world ; but progress on these fronts is remarkable in the American instance. The question is how far this trend can be furthered (and tactical compromises will be necessary) without forsaking substance over the long term.

In the Australian context, there was once a much stronger culture of internal debate around the issue of Democratic Socialism in previous decades – and it didn’t cost the Australian Labor Party elections (say in the 70s and 80s). Though since the 50s split the ALP had been undermined by right-wing Catholic organisations such as the Democratic Labor Party and the National Civic Council. Those tendencies have now largely redeployed within the Liberal Party (Australia’s party of Conservatism). In the process they have abandoned ‘traditional Catholic centrism’. They have abandoned all pretence to economic social justice in order to cement their place on the Liberal-Conservative Right in the current political milieu. That means internalising neo-liberal thinking on the economy, say as opposed to the premises of Rerum Novarum. (The Roman Catholic Church’s original 19th Century response to capitalism and industrialisation).

Parliamentary parties are always tempted by opportunism. Though it’s true that ALP Leader Herbert Vere ‘Doc’ Evatt did the right thing defending liberties when Liberal Prime Minister, Robert Menzies tried banning the Communist Party in the 1950s. With Evatt championing liberal rights, Menzies lost the associated referendum. Liberal rights in Australia were preserved. Evatt’s principles may have cost parliamentary votes ; but who of any principle  would say that he did the wrong thing? Though he did not win a Parliamentary election as Leader, he will always be remembered for his stand.

Right-wing public intellectuals like Jordan Peterson are alarmed by arguments that ‘Real communism has never really been tried.’ Although the achievements for a while of kibbutzim in Israel give some idea what might be possible. If you used Kibbutzim as an example I don’t think many people would be shocked.

And it’s possible to establish that you’re influenced by Marxism without saying you’re a Stalinist, a Bolshevik, a Maoist, or even a Trotskyist. A mainstream Australian economist like John Quiggin is clear that he’s influenced by Marxism – though he’s not a revolutionary.

Personally, I sometimes call myself a Left Social Democrat. And that’s completely sincere as I’ve already explained earlier. The terms ‘revolutionary social democrat’ and ‘democratic socialist’ also sincerely apply.

On the Left we cannot (and should not) airbrush history because that’s more politically opportune. But neither can our leadership always ‘put on their most radical faces’ when contesting elections. Still: here among the grassroots I think we have more freedom. We should use it. It may well bear fruit into the future ; so we are intellectually prepared in the event of future crises. And that is only a matter of time.

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Saving the Planet One Child at a Time: Children, School Strikes and Global Climate Action

Children’s crusades do not necessarily end well. During the years of armed missions to the Holy Land, when Jerusalem meant something to the sacredly inclined in Europe, children were encouraged to take to the rough and dangerous road as it wound its way towards Palestine. In 1212, a boy of 12 is said to have begun preaching at Saint-Denis in France. God had supposedly taken some time to communicate a pressing wish: Christian children were to head to the Holy Land and liberate it from the Infidel. How they would do so was not clear.

They subsequently starved, suffered deprivation, were killed and enslaved en route to their destination. The modern student movement against climate change stresses another Jerusalem, that there will be nothing to salvage if nothing is done now. We are all, in short, for the chop if climate change is not arrested. As an Oakland high-schooler by the name of Bruke told Wired, “My GPA isn’t going to matter if I’m dead.”  And much else besides.

To such movements can also be added other acts of striking in peaceful protest. Tens of thousands of US students did so in 2018 swathed in the grief and despair of gun shootings, the most immediate being the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. The National School Walkout of March 14 and the March for Our Lives ten days later had a biting clarity of purpose: students and staff were entitled to feel secure in the teaching and learning environment. The movement was characterised by much eloquence wreathed in anger and tears, not least of all Emma Gonzalez, who chided those political representatives “who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been ever done to prevent this”.

Criticism of such movements emphasises helplessness and delusion; they are children and so are vulnerable, idiotic and irrelevant. They are to be taught and have nothing to teach the adult world. Leave it to the big boys and girls to stuff up matters. The critics, often estranged from the very political processes they have been complicit in corrupting, see embryos in need of a constructive voice, expressed constructively without inconvenience, not coherent agents keen to affect change. There is, as Kari Marie Norgaard observed in 2012, a lag between the accumulating evidence of doom on the one hand, and the absence of public urgency, even interest, in response. “Although not inherently unproblematic,” surmised Norgaard, “local efforts may provide a key for breaking through climate avoidance from the ground up.”

Greta Thunberg

The global climate change strike movement by children, blown and swept along by the efforts of Swedish student Greta Thunberg, have suggested the possible short-circuiting of this dilemma: to combat the global by being stridently engaged in the local. (Such statements can become feeble mantras but do operate to galvanise interest).

For Thunberg, the issue of change is unavoidable. In her COP24 Climate Change Conference speech in December, the plucky youth did not believe that begging world leaders “to care for our future” would make much of a difference. “They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again.” What mattered was letting “them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.”

Protests were registered on March 15 across 2,052 venues in 123 countries. There were 50 in Australia; and protests in every state in the United States. Often forgotten in these movements is the role played by children themselves in the organisational side of things, often clear, fathomable and inherently coherent. In the United States were such figures as 12-year-old Haven Coleman of Denver, Colorado, Alexandria Villasenor of New York City, and 16-year-old Israr Hirsi of Minnesota.

Squirrel scholars suggest that these actions represented a “transformation” at play. Associate lecturer Blanche Verlie claimed that her research revealed how “young people’s sense of self, identity, and existence is being fundamentally altered by climate change.” It can be tempting to read too much into matters, to see flowers grow in fields initially thought barren. But there is little doubting climate change as a catalyst of active and noisy encouragement amongst youth, one akin to the anti-war movements of the Vietnam War period.

There has been much finger-wagging against the children from, for instance, politicians who just cannot understand how a striking student could ever get employment. How dare they take time off learning in a classroom while taking to the classroom of the streets? The spokesman for UK Prime Minister Theresa May, for instance, argued that such protests increased “teachers’ workloads” and wasted lesson time. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, in contrast, signalled his preference for the marchers and strikers: “Climate change is the greatest threat that we all face but it is the school kids of today whose futures are most on the line.”

In Australia, New South Wales Education Minister Rob Stokes preferred to brandish the rod of punitive action: both students and teachers would be punished for participating in the March 15 rally. By all means, find your “voice”, suggested the threatening minister, but avoid doing so during school hours. For such scolding types, climate change and injustice have strict timetables and schedules, to be dealt with in good, extra-curricular time.

Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan’s views on the youth climate action movement are childishly simple and representative, suggesting that Thunberg is correct in her harsh assessment. Recorded in November last year, the minister sees education as an instrumental affair. “The best thing you’ll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue. Because that’s what your future life will look like […] not actually taking charge of your life and getting a real job.” Forget the environment’s durability; drill it, excavate it, mine it, drain it and burn it to a cinder. Australia, and the world, do not need environmentally conscious citizens, merely automata consuming and feeding the commodity markets. For the likes of Canavan, it is too late. For the children, the battle to change the beastly status quo is urgent, pressing and inevitable.

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Getting the word out

A couple of weeks ago a reader asked why AIM wasn’t being more proactive in spreading the word in what we do.

It was a flattering question. Said reader clearly considered our contribution to the political debate important enough to deserve a wider audience.

A number of readers responded with ideas for us.

Two that were prominent were that we come up with car stickers and pamphlets (that could be dropped in letter boxes).

That got the ball rolling.

The first thing we had to do was have a logo designed that would catch the eye. Check. ☑️

Number two – in regards to the pamphlets – was to purchase a quality printer and pamphlet paper. Check. ☑️

Next was to have a pamphlet designed. Check. ☑️

Lastly, design and have car stickers printed. This is still a work in progress. They are designed, but we’re having difficulty finding a local printer. We may have to look online, but we will find one.

Back to the pamphlets …

Eventually we will have a link/button on the site where people can print these off themselves. In the meantime if anybody would like some pamphlets please email us at letting us know how many you would like and we will send them to you.

As we don’t have a web version of the pamphlet yet – and knowing that you’re keen to see what you’re ordering – we hope this photo will do:

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Morrison Tells Us That We’re Doing 23% In A Canter, But 45% Would Be Armageddon!

Typical ABC! I was listening to Jon Faine the other day and he openly admitted that he did something which will greatly benefit the Labor Party. Scott Morrison was his losing voice and Faine admitted that he gave ScoMo’s minders advice that would help get it back! It’s almost as if Faine realises that a silent Scott would be a great boon to the Labor Party so he felt the need to do all he could to help restore Morrison’s speech.

Just recently our fill-in PM was getting all hot under the collar and telling us that a 45% target was impossible…

Now I feel that I need to point out that he was talking about a renewable energy 45% target and not the two-party preferred vote for the Coalition in the coming election. The way ScoMo’s going, he looks like he may achieve that.

Of course, nothing seems to be working for the Coalition at the moment. Whether it’s their Barnaby Joyce saying he really should be leader, or calls for coal-fired power stations, everything they touch seems to turn to excrement. They even lacked the ability to simply say, “Look, we understand that these kids are upset and we are doing all we can to reduce climate change, so it’d be better if they just went to school and prepared themselves to be educated enough to seek the solutions when their time comes”, which have been far better than belittling the protesters and suggesting that they’d been “brainwashed” by all these Trotskyite teachers who have such appalling communist leanings as thinking that scientists who had studied the situation might be worth listening to. Or at least, have a more informed opinion than radio personalities who grow confused about which penis is theirs in public toilets.

The government seem to have a simple strategy for making us forget all about their latest stuff-up: they make an even bigger one so that we quickly move on and don’t dwell on that minister who did something inappropriate and would have resigned straight away in those days when ministerial integrity meant something…

You know the funny part is that I’ll bet you could try to name all the ministers I’ve just described, and someone could probably come up with another one.

But in some ways, this is an effective strategy. It means that we don’t dwell on the absurdity of Morrison’s statements about the renewable energy targets. For months, we’ve been told that we’ll easily meet our Paris targets and there’s no need for any further action. And the 23.5% renewable energy target is like Baby Bear’s bed. It’s just right and we can go to sleep.

Now let’s think about this for a second. If this was anything else would we say that we’re going to meet the target easily so there’s no need for a higher/lower target figure? For example, does this make sense? “We aimed to cut the road toll by ten percent, and it looks like we’ll do it easily so we’ll be taking booze buses off the road for the rest of the year.”? Or “We planned to save $300 million with target efficiencies, and it looks like we’ll do it easily so we’re going to ease up and just let people waste a few dollars here and there.”

While we’re able to reach 23.5% renewables without a worry, the slightly higher figure of 45% will destroy the economy, according to Prophet Scott. There will be great winds and a terrible shaking and the temple of Mammon will be split in two and your neighbour will take your job and then loseth his own because…

Because we had more renewables in the system.

Of course, nobody is asking Scott the Bewildered to explain exactly how the greater reliance on renewables would ruin our economic health. We’re just meant to accept it as a given because even the most basic questioning tears it to shreds.

  1. Cost? Renewables are now cheaper than coal.
  2. Reliability? Battery storage is pretty well advanced and by 2030, there should be more efficiencies. Compare the mobile phones of today with those of eleven years ago. Yes, we did have the first iPhone, but it didn’t do half what today’s will do. Besides, it’s only 45%. There’ll still be 55% relying on fossil fuels which should be enough to provide that mythical baseload power that renewables supposedly can’t supply.
  3. People in the mining industry losing their jobs? Well, mining only employs a fraction of our workforce and coal is only a small part of that. How many jobs will renewables create?
  4. People in the coal-fired power station becoming redundant. Again, will this be balanced by jobs in the renewable sector?

Now, maybe there’s some other reason that I haven’t mentioned. Perhaps Scott knows something that I don’t. If so, I think that it’s incumbent on him to share how and why he sees Labor’s target as the wrecker that he promises it’ll be.

Whatever, we shouldn’t dwell too much on this. With this government, you know that everything changes. Take Milo Yiannopoulos. First, he was banned, then our Immigration Minister personally approved his visa, but now Milo has been banned again. So, I’m sure that there’ll be something in the coming days to focus our attention away from climate change and terrorism and Barnaby.

Another poor Newspoll and a challenge from Dutton? But before you decide that’s too ridiculous to even consider, let me remind you, these are the people who didn’t see a problem with voting for the “It’s Ok to be White” legislation, and then defended it by arguing they weren’t even aware of what they were voting for.

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Uncivil War

By Robert Stygall  

This week the UK was plunged into chaos as a second civil war took place.

After weeks of humiliating rejections by Parliament and a refusal by the EU to extend the Brexit exit date; the opposition called for a new election. Theresa May rejected the call and suspended parliament, knowing she would lose a vote of ‘No Confidence’ in her government.

Some hours later, the Queen announced she was intervening in the constitutional crisis. ‘I thought the year Charles separated from Diana, was my worst year, but this year is truly my ‘annus horribillis’, given the events of recent weeks I have decided to suspend the authority of the British Parliament and appoint Prince Charles as Regent and ruler of the UK – effective immediately.’

Subsequently Prince Charles broadcast to the nation, ‘We have watched events over the last two years deteriorate and we are not amused. Our family has an extensive European hereditary and I therefore feel I am ideally qualified to negotiate with Michel Barnier of the EU. I will be exploring the concept of an absolute monarchy within the EU.’

President Macron when asked to comment on the Prince’s proposal said, ‘This Royal coup d’état has as much chance of being accepted by the EU, as the last Emperor of Europe had of escaping St Helena.’

Shortly after the Queen’s announcement, Jeremy Corbyn fled and formed a militia, known as the New Roundheads, with the help of defecting members of the military forces. ‘We will fight them (the Royalists) on the beaches, we shall fight in the fields and streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender,’ he later tweeted.

When a BBC correspondent later accused Corbyn of plagiarism, he replied ‘I have no intention of using biological warfare, including the release of the plague.’

A number of prominent politicians including Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have already been arrested and taken to the Tower. Ironically they have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights regarding their imprisonment.

Scotland has also declared it will secede from the UK, Billy Connolly and Mel Gibson have both been rumoured as strong candidates to be President.

President Trump tweeted ‘Those Europeans really are Anus Painus, it’s about time those Limey’s put the Great back in Britain. The concept of an absolute ruler, is a really, really good idea – worth exploring further.’

Tiffany’s denied rumours that they had been called to the White House, for the purpose of designing a set of Coronets.

Whilst the Australian Government so far officially remains silent on events taking place in the UK, Tony Abbott said he supported the Royal intervention but denied rumours he was putting himself forward as the next Governor General.

He also subsequently denied he had been talking to constitutional experts regarding the power of the Governor General to dismiss a government and become the effective leader of the country.

Bill Shorten said he would avoid any constitutional crisis with the UK by declaring Australia a republic immediately upon being elected. Malcolm Turnbull confirmed he would be a candidate running for President.

Scott Morrison refused to answer question on rumours that British Cruise ships were heading to Australia seeking refugee status.

Scott Morrison instead said he was focused on the forthcoming election and had no comment regards the civil war in the UK and potential implications for Australia. ‘I have appointed Barnaby as special envoy to the Royal Household at this time and his priorities are clear, Lamb and Coal exports.’

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Dear Tony

Dear Tony,

It’s time. Don’t humiliate yourself any further; gather the tattered remnants of what remains of your dignity and go. Whatever vestige of credibility you may have ever had is long gone. You’re a figure of fun, a delusional buffoon with an introspection-free self-regard that has been resistant to public derision, your serial failures or any wise counsel. You embarrass yourself, and far worse, you embarrass our country. Your time, the mid 1800s, has gone to never return and so should you.

Frightened by a girl you’ve surrendered your archaic signature doctrine of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change in a pathetically transparent dodge to rescue your unhinged ambition of a return to the big, green swivel chair. You’ve been shirt-fronted by Zali Steggall and you pissed your pants. Is it your narcissism that prevents you from considering a return to the limbo of your pre-infamy days as a nobody? Is that a scarier prospect than the ignominy of being taken down by a woman? Is that worse than the very real prospect of further humiliation – a Howard-scale rejection by a rusted-on Liberal Party base in your Tory heartland electorate?

Pause for a moment, Tones and reflect upon your résumé.

Your only achievements have been ones of destruction and wreckage. Free of imagination, ideas or insight you have sought to level the playing field by bringing down the accomplishments of others. Negativism is your forté, capriciousness is your modus operandi, slander and bullying are your tools of trade. Hamstrung by religious conceits and weighed down by insecurity you seek validation from your antiquated certainties  – the unquestionable authority of a medieval belief system and its dogma, the hereditary supremacy of born-to-rule elites, the worship of privilege, power and wealth. You’re lost in a world of ritualised voo-doo and dog-eat-dog Randesque ideology where we serfs know our place and democratic institutions are an inconvenience to be sabotaged or manipulated.

Jonathan Swift wrote in 1721: Reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired.

Reasoning is not one of your strong points, Tones. You’re a man of flexible principles but rigid opinions. You sought affirmation from a convicted child rapist yet dismissed the expertise of scientists. For you the mysticism of be-jewelled, robed necromancers swathed in incense and claiming to have the ear of an omnipotent yet vindictive deity always trumped proof, evidence and facts.

You were always widely loathed and so it remains. The evidence supports popular opinion: you are a leering, winking, creepy sexist, you are a self-confessed homophobe, a mendacious, cowardly bully, a crank and a weirdo with a propensity for licking the faces of babies and kissing the back of women’s heads.

Despite your image management – the macho man in red sluggos, the lycra-clad warrior, the hero with a hose, it is obvious to all except the gormless and callow that you are phoney, Tony. The staccato cackle, the clammy, tight-skinned visage of a carp wrapped in cling film, the sleazy smile, the ludicrous bow-legged affectation bringing to mind a rodeo cowboy leaving a port-a-loo; it’s all counter-productive Chuckle Head and subliminally reminds us of your ape-like swaggering approach to unsuspecting victims – the lunatic grin and manic chuckle, the far-too-close, double-handed deathgrip cutting off easy escape. We could read the minds of the hapless recipients of this faux chuminess, Tones, we could see it in their eyes – “Fuck, I want to turn away but if I do he may kiss the back of my head. But if I don’t he may go for the mouth.”

You’re King Midas in reverse, Tones – everything you touch turns to shit. For your own self-respect, it’s not too late, give it away.

Gratuitously yours

Grumpy Geezer

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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Lobbies and Belated Groundings: Boeing’s 737 Max 8

Lobbies, powerful interests and financial matters are usually the first things that come to mind when the aircraft industry is considered. Safety, while deemed of foremost importance, is a superficial formality, sometimes observed in the breach. To see the camera footage of the wreckage from the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 was to be shocked by a certain irony: cameras was found lingering over an inflight safety cards on what to do in the event of an emergency. For those on board that doomed flight, it was irrelevant.

The deaths of all 157 individuals on board the flight en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa on Sunday might have caused a flurry of panicked responses. There had been a similar disaster in Indonesia last year when Lion Air’s flight JT610 crashed killing 189 people. Two is too many, but the response to the disasters was initially lethargic.

Concern seemed to centre on the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), deemed vital to prevent the aircraft from stalling.  Sensors within the MCAS might, according to accident investigator Geoffrey Dell, have sent “spurious signals to the flight management computers and resulting in the autopilot automatically pushing the nose of the aircraft down”. If so, then the ability to manually counter those actions, a safety design feature of previous aircraft autopilots, would have to be questioned. Troubling Dell was another question: why did the pilots fail to disconnect the autopilot when it played up? Ditto the auto throttle system itself.

When it comes to safety in the aviation industry, powerful players tend to monetise rather than humanise their passengers. A company like Boeing is seen as much as a patriot of the US defence industry as a producer of passenger aircraft. The company’s presence in Washington is multiple and vast, characterised by the buzzing activity of some two dozen in-house lobbyists and twenty lobbying firms. Lobbyists such as John Keast, a former principal at Cornerstone Government Affairs, have links with lawmakers such as Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi nurtured since the days he was chief of staff. Wicker spokeswoman Brianna Manzelli was, however, keen to narrow that influence supposedly wielded by Keast in a statement made to CNN. “While at Cornerstone Government Affairs, John Keast lobbied for a variety of clients including Boeing on defence issues only.”

Such combined lobbying efforts cost $15 million last year alone, which makes Boeing’s contribution relatively small to trade groups, but significant in terms of outdoing such competitors as Lockheed Martin. Added to the fact that CEO Dennis Muilenburg has an open channel to the White House, the campaign favouring the Max 8’s continued, and unmolested operation, was hitting gear. A Tuesday call made by the executive to Trump after the president’s tweet on the dangers posed by complex systems suggested some serious pull.

For a time, it seemed that the lobby was doing its customary black magic, and winning, attempting to douse fires being made by the likes of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Union calling for a temporary grounding of the Max 8. Certain pilots had noticed control issues while operating the Max 8 over US airspace.

Boeing initially convinced the Federal Aviation Administration, which failed to note in a surly statement from Acting FAA administrator Daniel K. Elwell any “systematic performance issues” worthy of grounding the model. “Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action. In the course of our urgent review of data on the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, if any issues affecting the continued airworthiness of the aircraft are identified, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”

This statement stood in stark contrast to that of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand.  “Currently, there is no clear indication for the actual cause of accidents in Indonesia & Ethiopia, and no evident risk management measures or any mechanism to ensure the safety of 737 Max 9 aircraft from the aircraft manufacturer.”

The lobby’s traction has gradually slowed on the Hill, and its tittering has, at least for the moment, started to lose conviction. Calls started to come from lawmakers that the 737 model needed to be looked at. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) suggested grounding the aircraft as a “prudent” measure. “Further investigation may reveal that mechanical issues were not the cause, but until that time, our first priority must be the safety of the flying public.” Democratic senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) were also itching to convince the FAA to ground the Max 8 “until the agency can conclusively determine that the aircraft be operated safely.”

Other lawmakers, ever mindful of Boeing’s influence in their states, preferred to leave the regulators to their task. Till then, the planes would be permitted to continue taking to the skies. “Right now,” cautioned Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), chair of the subcommittee overseeing aviation and a political voice for a state hosting an important Boeing facility, “the important thing is that relevant agencies are allowed to conduct a thorough and careful investigation.”

It was President Donald Trump who ultimately decided to reverse the earlier decision by regulators permitting the aircraft to continue flying. The emergency order put the US in step with safety regulators in 42 other countries. “I didn’t want to take any chances,” explained Trump. But ever mindful of Boeing’s shadowy hold, the president added a qualifying note. “We could have delayed it. We maybe didn’t have to make it at all. But I felt it was important both psychologically and in a lot of other ways.”

The FAA’s continued “data gathering”, previously deemed insufficient to warrant a grounding despite the quick response in other countries, had led to the opposite conclusion. This included “newly refined satellite data available to the FAA”. But Elwell was unwilling to eat anything resembling humble pie. “Since this accident occurred we were resolute that we would not take action until we had data. That data coalesced today.” A coalescence demonstrating, in more concrete terms, how safety, while important, tends to lag in the broader considerations of profit and operation in the aviation industry.

Image from

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Grand Jury Efforts: Jailing Chelsea Manning

“I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury.” So explained Chelsea Manning in justifying her refusal to answer questions and comply with a grand jury subpoena compelling her to testify on her knowledge of WikiLeaks. “Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly stated ethical obligations to the grand jury system.”

Manning, whose 35-year sentence was commuted by the Obama administration in an act of seeming leniency, is indivisibly linked to the WikiLeaks legacy of disclosure. She was the source, and the bridge, indispensable for giving Julian Assange and his publishing outfit the gold dust that made names and despoiled others.

The sense of dredging and re-dredging in efforts to ensnare Manning is palpable. She insists that she had shared all that she knew at her court-martial, a point made clear by the extensive if convoluted nature of the prosecution’s effort to build a case. “The grand jury’s questions pertained to disclosures from nine years ago, and took place six years after an in-depth computer forensics case, in which I tesified [sic] for almost a full day about these events. I stand by my previous testimony.” Before Friday’s hearing, she also reiterated that she had invoked the First, Fourth and Sixth Amendment protections.

Grand juries have gone musty. Conceived in 12th century England as a feudalistic guardian against unfair prosecution, they became bodies of self-regulating and policing freemen (often barons with a gripe) charged with investigating alleged wrongdoing. Doing so provided a preliminary step in recommending whether the accused needed to go court. The US Constitution retains this element with the Fifth Amendment: that no “person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.”

The independence of that body of peers has been clipped, modified and fundamentally influenced by the prosecutor’s guiding hand. The federal grand jury has essentially become a body easily wooed by the prosecutor in closed settings where grooming and convincing are easy matters. The prosecutor can also be comforted by that level of procedural secrecy that keeps the process beyond prying eyes; Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) makes the point that the jurors and government attorneys “must not disclose a matter occurring before the grand jury.” Sealed and confined, the participants accordingly forge a narrative that tends to encourage, rather than dissuade a finding, of guilt.

That influence is hard to deny, leading to reluctance on the part of any empaneled grand jury to reject the plausibility of a prosecutor’s claims. The US Bureau of Statistics, looking at 2010 figures on the prosecution of 162,000 federal cases, found that grand juries only failed to return an indictment in 11 cases. As Gordon Griller of the National Centre for State Courts reasoned, “The problem with the grand jury system is the jury. The prosecutor has complete control over what is presented to the grand jury and expects the grand jurors to just rubber stamp every case brought before it.”

Manning’s other relevant point is that the grand jury process has, invariably, been given the weaponry to target dissenters and corner contrarians. “I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.”

Manning explained to US District Judge Claude Hilton that she would (think Socrates, hemlock, the like) “accept whatever you bring upon me”. When her defence team insisted that she be confined to home, given specific needs of gender-affirming healthcare, the judge was unconvinced.  US marshals were more than up to the task (how is never stated), though certain “details about Ms Manning’s confinement,” claim Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, “will not be made public due to security and privacy concerns.”

She will be confined till the conclusion of the investigation, or till she feels ready to comply with the subpoena. Manning’s defence counsel Moira Meltzer-Cohen is convinced that the very act of jailing Manning is one of state-sanctioned cruelty.

There is a distinct note of the sinister in this resumption of hounding a whistle-blower; yet again, Manning must show that the virtues of a cause and the merits of an open system demand a level of cruel sacrifice. “This ain’t my first rodeo,” she told her lawyer with some reflection.

This rodeo is one dogged by problems. Manning’s original conviction was a shot across the bow, the prelude to something fundamental. Journalists long protected for using leaked material under the First Amendment were going to become future targets of prosecution. Such instincts have seeped into the US governing class like stubborn damp rot; consider, for instance, the remarks of Senator Dianne Feinstein in 2012 on the issue of leaks discussed in The New York Times. Having published details of the Obama administration’s “Kill List” and US-orchestrated cyber-attacks against Iran, the paper had “caused serious harm to US national security and… should be prosecuted accordingly.” While The Grey Lady might prefer to distance itself from WikiLeaks in journalistic company, prosecuting authorities see little difference.

This latest rotten business also demonstrates the unequivocal determination of US authorities to fetter, if not totally neutralise, the reach of WikiLeaks in the modern information wars. Having been either tongue-tired or reticent, US officials, notably those in the Alexandria office, have revealed what WikiLeaks regarded as obvious some years ago: that a grand jury is keen to soften the road to prosecution.

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A Fancy Hypocrisy: China, Australia and Coal Mania

Fear them for their technology; fear them for their ideology and their authoritarianism. But embrace interference and involvement in the economy if it involves coal. This is the fancy hypocrisy of Australian politics, one driven to lunacy and inconsistency by that dark and dirty love.

The contrast between fear of Huawei, on the one hand, and an eager opening for a Chinese state-owned enterprise barging its way into the Australian market suggests that those in Canberra have finally twisted themselves into knots. The latter is particularly striking – the China Energy Engineering Cooperation (CEEC), the designated monster behind what promises to be 2000 megawatt of coal generation in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney. Two plants billed as users of efficient coal-fired technology will supposedly take root in the “failed industrial zone” and give it life. The cost would be in the order of $8 billion and generate over $17 billion worth of carbon liabilities.

Australia’s dinosaur political class is delighted at the latest foray into environmental spoliation. “This is exactly what the market needs,” chuffed Coalition backbencher Craig Kelly. Furthermore, to show that the conservative wing of politics is happy to forfeit any laissez-faire credentials regarding the economy when needed, Kelly is keen for generous taxpayers’ support. “If the Government needs to underwrite it, if it needs a little help, then that’s what we should be doing.”

Gone from the conversational babble was China’s February announcement through the Dalian Port authorities restricting Australian coal imports. “The goals are to better safeguard the legal rights and interests of Chinese importers and to protect the environment,” explained Geng Shuang of the Chinese foreign ministry. The point is worth reiterating, since similar bans were not applied to the coal from other states. The indefinite ban was the bitter icing on that particular issue, confirming prolonged clearing times for Australian coal since the start of February.

The announcement of the mining venture had its predictable reaction in the environmental movement in Australia. The Greens federal member for Melbourne was aghast, and as is his wont, got into the realms of hyperbole. Protests would ensue; mass disaffection would take to the streets. These latest coal plans, according to Adam Bandt, “will make the Franklin Dam campaign look like a Sunday picnic.” What of, he said, any acknowledgment of the recent climate shocks gripping the continent? “We just had our hottest summer on record. If Labor and Liberal [parties] give this project the tick of approval then you will see civil disobedience in Australia on a scale never seen before.”

Interference by China in Australian matters is enchanting printing presses and stalking the corridors of power in Canberra. Like other obsessions, it is clear that this one is inconsistent and variable, manifesting in various forms like an inconsistent fever. James Laurenceson’s Do the Claims Stack Up, Australia Talks China, concludes that “in each case, the evidence base [on interference] is shown to be divorced from the claims found in headlines, news reports and opinion pieces, revealing just how widespread has become the discourse of the China Threat, China Angst and China Panic”. When it comes to coal, the threat transforms; China Blessing, or China Grovelling come to the fore. (The Yellow Peril becomes the Yellow Salvation.)

The divorce in terms of reality is also evident in the finance side of things; the mining projects being proposed have yet to find the necessary capital, a point that is proving increasingly difficult for any such concerns. Kaisun Holdings, the other company involved in the enterprise and also noted for being a “Belt and Road” company, is still on the hunt for “potential investors”. As with the Indian mining giant Adani, such companies will have to convince those who finance them that coal is good in an increasingly hostile environment. No money, no project; the equation is uncomplicated. On paper, Kaisun has a market capitalisation of $33 million. The Australian joint-venture partner has a mere $25,000 on paper.

The Australian Financial Review has also pointed out that the scheme, inspired by Parramatta’s Frank Cavasinni, is being “driven by a small businessman from Western Sydney with no experience in the energy industry.” Ignorance can be golden, but not in certain areas of economic planning. Such a plant has already received reproach from EnergyAustralia’s executive Mark Collette, who claims that the plant will not provide the flexible capacity in the grid required as users move to the use of low-cost wind and solar power. “Coal as an investment works best as baseload but the market signal is calling for something different, which is flexible capacity.”

Australian politicians, when it comes to mining, prove fickle. Their views are changeable, climactically variable and their principles are always up for purchase. They are in office to be bought by the commodities industry, but the New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, is firm: there are no plans in the pipeline to approve any coal-fired power stations. “We are the most resilient state when it comes to our own energy needs.” But given that the Australian federal government lacks a coherent, sustainable energy policy, coal lovers feel they are still in with a chance.

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How will it end?


Notwithstanding all of the aforementioned factors, it should be assumed that China will revert to the use of maximum force and the complete subjugation of Taiwan—beyond the war of rivalry that is already taking place—should its resistance to the unification process be seen as taking ‘too long.’ Conclusively and from an historical perspective, there is no evidence-base within this thesis that a nation-state which has undergone an industrial revolution, has a (relatively) harmonious domestic populace, has sought peace in the pursuit of their irredentist policies. All have expanded beyond their borders and used violence when and where necessary. China is currently displaying normative behaviours and strategies from those that have gone before and moreover, Taiwan needs to accept the historical reality of hostile actions being part of irredentist policies with the intention of follow up kinetic action being a common occurrence. The evidence on which this is historically premised and with the absolute power in the first instance being followed by the subjugated in the second (and in no particular order) is inherent in the following examples of conquest through violence,

  • Japan – China, Korea and Southeast Asia;
  • Spain – South Americas;
  • Portugal – West Africa and Timor-Leste;
  • England – Africa, Afghanistan, Australia, China, Ireland and India;
  • France – Indochina and Oceania;
  • Germany – Western Europe, Russia and the Mediterranean region;
  • US – Philippines, Central Americas, Diego Garcia, Hawaii, Indochina, Japan;
  • Netherlands – Indonesia; and
  • USSR – East Berlin, Hungary and Yugoslavia.[1]

The qualified danger and from a war-making perspective it should be noted and comprehensively understood by the Taiwanese government that throughout the build-up and eventual use of deliberate violent actions China will consider its engagement against Taiwan to comprise a regional mid-intensity conflict, although it will have a ‘total war attitude’ to the outcome. This attitude and military stance will be due to the aforementioned commitments to a total war and are present in the evidence and reality that as the war ‘drags on’ the stakes for the CCP will become higher. This perspective should be emphatically understood. For Taiwan, a war of this type will comprise a slog-of-attrition in a fortress environment. The destruction that will be wrought will be dependent upon whether China upgrades or retards its steel-to-target consistencies and over time whether there is dedicated and persistent politico or military interventions of others and moreover, the level of destruction will also remain dependent upon the politico-parameters—to what extent they will get involved and the subsequent ceasefire demands—of others. In simpler terms, as the kinetic actions of the war continue any diminishing of ferocity will have to involve other actors or institutional representatives. This may include but not be limited to the presence of a navy (or navies) under ASEAN, EU, NATO, or UN guidance—there will be some US presence although the evidence that has been presented suggests that it will not be a major actor as increasing isolationism will become a mainstay of US foreign policy.

Whilst the engagement of other actors will temper China’s ambition to take Taiwan they will not deter China and only be instrumental in moderating the ferocity of the war. China will ‘stay the course.’ Although the presence of another capable force or forces will cause friction with China, as it will observe the presence of other actors as tantamount to deterring its inherent Treaty rights and responsibilities, it will however, only be through such a prism that a ‘shooting war’ will be moderated. The problem for Taiwan will be that upon an act of war taking place there will not be immediate intervention on the part of other actors. It is a germane yet necessary point to make that in a globalised world, nation-states must take all other relevant actors and their concomitant power-stakes into account, and in a much more substantive way as the competitive environment is much more robust and potentially conflictual than when a single hegemon ruled.[2]

To be certain, Taiwan will not be able to sustain the high-functioning and robust country that it is in 2018, under the constraints of a blockade; or when faced with the reality and actuality of intermittent high-intensity raids—Japan during WWII is testament to this practice and its dire outcomes, as is the Palestinian territories under Israeli dominance in the post-WWII era, and in more contemporary times Syria in its war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria exogenous militia. Whilst the intensity and magnitude of any kinetic action may ebb and flow depending on politico-negotiations and military ramifications, the persistence and necessity to take Taiwan by China will remain omnipresent, and will not diminish over time. Should the situation drag out until the end of the third decade of the twenty-first century the CCP will, without doubt, exercise a tactical invasion by the PLA; as at this point in time the politico-irenic solutions will have been removed; Taiwan will have the majority of its infrastructure disabled; and the ROC military will be exhausted. Albeit this scenario is unlikely to eventuate as there would be pressures from within ASEAN, EU, the NATO and the UNSC which would instigate a renewed negotiations the part of the CCP. There would if the notion of an invasion were to become truly manifest, be a last-resort compulsion to bring the kinetic phase of a Taiwan-China war to an end. The possibility of an invasion would become dominant in the UNGA as the escalation of a broader regional conflict would have become a near-happening reality.

Notwithstanding the above-mentioned, and due to the structure of Taiwanese society there would also have been political ramifications in its domestic environment. An end to the war would be sought from within. The end to a war would have evolved and as the society is highly-educated and cosmopolitan, and as this status is a comprehensive inculcation, an end to the war would have become paramount as it took its collective toll on Taiwanese society. Ultimately it is a germane yet necessary point to make that due to the political structural functionalism of Taiwan—that of being a liberal-democracy—it is dependent upon each voting individual and the collectives therein. The normative assembly of voters’ would, as time went on, either expand upon or diminish its independence-orientation and as the war continued the dedication to independence would be at the behest of the voting public. Notwithstanding, this factor small groups are generated in societies that go to war—as per the Russian example—and Taiwan would be no different, although such an occurrence would be magnified in their liberal-democracy. In simpler terms, there would be societal disruption as those that did not want the war would form protest movements which would have to be contended with by the government. Nevertheless, China is unwavering in its determination to unify its territories and this should be thoroughly understood by Taiwan. To wit, the notion that for the CCP the bringing of Taiwan into the fold of rejuvenating the Middle Kingdom to its former grand status is the ultimate aim and moreover, it is the generational and doctrinal veracity that drives the motivation. To be sure, this thesis is premised on the ‘nascent phase’ of pax-Sino and within the normative structures of ‘rising’ which have been alluded to, the premise of China as a nation-state continually partaking in the process will remain a continuum. In simpler term, China will persist with unification to whatever point that mainstay requires, up to, and including the destruction of Taiwan.

Therefore, China will continue its ascendancy as those before it have done and whilst there may be degrees of plateauing in the process, they will eventually be usurped by further growth. This is the very ‘nature’ of ascendancy and the underpinning of ‘pax. Thus, whether it be a series of skirmishes, a conflict, a limited war or a total war in China’s pursuant retrocession of Taiwan, and although problems will be posed for China in the process of launching and sustaining a war, China will remain from the outset determined the process will take place as a pivotal point in its movement toward pax-Sino. If it takes a war for China to retake Taiwan, the Taiwanese people should be under no illusion that war will become a reality through the prism of the ‘pause an effect’ programme and strategy that has been alluded to in the thesis. The war, this thesis argues and the ‘pause’ phases will be launched in 2031 as all of the aforementioned necessary categories will be in place, and should Taiwan show no sign of engaging in a unification-driven dialogue, a kinetic ‘shooting war’ exchange will commence at the latest chronological point of 2035. This will be due to the approaching of another election phase in Taiwan; of 2049 being chronologically closer; and of the window of opportunity offered having stalled or been ignored.

There have been many nuanced applications reviewed and examined in this thesis and whilst the numerous cogent arguments have been analysed, the fact remains in the inexact science of preponderance-forecasting in contemporary times—the twentieth century and beyond—there is approximately 25 years before a nation-state extends beyond its ‘nascent phase’[3] of preponderance. The end result is the placement of irredentism comes to the fore; and the nation-state acts upon its historic antecedents and thus, exercises its claims with more vigorous politico-platforms which are inevitably linked to suasion-through-force. As stipulated, by 2031 China will have been in its ‘nascent phase’ for approximately 35 years and will be about to enter a greater sphere-of-influence and extend its preponderance tendencies from that of incremental to exponential. Taiwan should not be distracted by any pretence that it will not be at the forefront of China’s politico-aggrandisement; and military forthrightness. Due to these two factors, the government of Taiwan should, by 2031, adjust its policies accordingly and align its parameters to advantageous negotiations, or prepare for a long-term war-of-attrition, and a blockade that is accompanied by a punishment phase strategy of operations. The prescribed action of the window of opportunity will be delivered on or about 2031, and whilst there is a chance that it will be elevated into a series of kinetic actions immediately, or after only a chronologically short phase, it remains the contention of this thesis that it is unlikely as China will want the ‘window’ to produce favourable results toward peaceful reunification. This stipulated, between 2031 and 2035, China’s attitude to unification will become progressively more sclerotic. Should there be no progress toward unification having been made, the ‘pause’ factor in the ascribed ‘pause and effect’ analogy will be discarded, and according to the evidence-base presented a kinetic exchange cum shooting war will take place at the latest date of 2035.

Previous instalment … China and its approach to war


[1] The countries mentioned are by no means a comprehensive list of the aggressor and the subdued and are only used in order to highlight the point of expansionism and of directly linking the concept to the reality of violent actions extramural to the dominant entity (cum monarchy, dictator or nation-state). A more extensive extrapolation could include the micro-states of Italy, the Crusades, Roman Empire and numerous other republics, institutions and feudal estates. It should be understood that the industrial revolution referred to is driven by inventiveness and science and technology, particularly those of war-making—the manufacture and distribution of weapons and the support infrastructure. Other factors that may be included in the peripheral though necessary part of advancement should be the allegiance components of organised militias and other loyal forces.

[2] What is meant by this statement for instance is, Vietnam, Malaysia and Japan and Russia, (to mention only four) have to take into account the strategic positions of each other as part of the A-P region in a more nuanced way, whereas in the 1990s – (early) twenty-first century, a US-focus would have been paramount as it was the hegemon.

[3] Nation-states reverting to war in order to apply their irredentist policies through war can be loosely traced to approximately 25 – 30 years after an industrial revolution. Japan after winning the Japan-Russo War would invade Manchuria approximately 30 years later, the US after the winning of the Korean War would venture in earnest into Vietnam 20 – through 25 years later, France after being decimated in WWI would venture into Indochina 30 years later. There are many more examples that can be attributed and measured in this way. This thesis merely recognises a loose pattern and the evidence has been used to supplement the argument, and acknowledges only that whilst a pattern does exist much more erudite analysis is needed.

Strobe Driver completed his PhD in war studies in 2011 and since then has written extensively on war, terrorism, Asia-Pacific security, the ‘rise of China,’ and issues within Australian domestic politics. Strobe is a recipient of Taiwan Fellowship 2018, MOFA, Taiwan, ROC, and is an adjunct researcher at Federation University.


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China and its approach to war

China and its approach to war: Why waiting is necessary

There is always an approval factor in engaging in war, although it is often within a time-frame, and within this is the element of waiting and a specific approach to war being able to be acted upon. Taiwan is a vibrant, fiscally-wealthy, independent, liberal-democratic self-ruled country with free and fair elections. These are the realities that need to be expressed and with an astute level of management will be introduced to other actors with the merit of keeping other components as a bulwark against the CCP’s ambition. Persistent advocating of these components will impact upon the EU and NATO and inevitably force a response, and if it happens there will be some activity within the UN that China will not be able to ignore. The EU and NATO will invariably not go to war with China over the retrocession of Taiwan however, they are the best chance of a war not escalating to involve an immense death toll of the population; and a wholesale destruction of civilian and military assets. Based on this principle another decade will generate a more robust and cohesive EU, and it will as an organisation, have been involved in many politico and strategic machinations and moreover, will be concerned to elevate its presence in a globalised world, or in simpler terms, to be of greater relevance. This factor will be of more trenchant concern to the EU if (as alluded to) the US has become exponentially absorbed in isolationist cum latent-xenophobic policies; or is suffering exponentially from migration and immigrant issues. There is also a likelihood that NATO will be creating opportunities to become a force for the growth of good governance rather than being a singular-oriented ‘defence of Europe’ platform that it currently holds. As Russia is unlikely to go to war with Europe as that will decrease in part due to a decrease in its chances of monitoring China’s ascending power; and of having a regional preponderance and presence in the A-P (Asia-Pacific). Taiwan could advocate for the presence of NATO forces in the Taiwan Strait and then eventually in Taiwan proper, as a moderating and transitioning force (with some EU input also), and this would relieve China-US frictions; and reduce the chance of a China-US war—a war which has a high chance of becoming a total war.

As can be observed in numerous ongoing conflicts about territory and territories there are points which the war of rivalry involves an extant of military force: India – Pakistan (Jammu and Kashmir), China – India (Arunachal Prudesh), China – Japan (the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands), Russia – Ukraine (Crimea), England –Spain (Gibraltar), Israel –Syria (Golan Heights) the list is long and borne of historic disputes. China will reach a breaking point in its claims as there is no evidence-base to suggest that this will not happen unless the war of rivalry is moderated—as per Gibraltar. Peaceful restitution without a level of military intervention is an aberration, not the norm. China, therefore, has to play a ‘waiting game’ which has been addressed to some considerable extent although it must have the Taiwan issue settled by 2049. This is due to cultural inculcations associated with the hundred year anniversary of the revolution coming ‘full circle.’ China at the present time and as has been alluded to, does not have the military capacity to extend its preponderance beyond an immediate action. The problem for China’s military strategists is that a single action will not overwhelm Taiwan’s military forces and moreover, Taiwan is currently able to adequately defend its territories with its military resources for months. There has to be other strategies implemented and a significant and one of most value is chronological. China must wait. It is the contention of this thesis that China will in the twenty-first century, wait until 2031. At this point in time, it will set in place a decree: China has the right to forcefully retrocede Taiwan. The declaration will be, however, at the behest and outcome of the following major happenings which are labelled ‘necessities and placement.’

China: Geo-Strategic necessities and placement
  • Its military will be highly-disciplined and -professional and able to undertake two mid-intensity conflicts simultaneously if needed;
  • The nine-digit line will be firmly geo-strategically understood and more established;
  • US isolationism will have increased;
  • For the US, Mexico, and the Central and South Americas will have overtaken or be a more dominant focal point of foreign policy;
  • Russia’s navy will be stronger in the A-P and will have the propensity to act as a bulwark to the US in the region;
  • India will be a mid-level power in the region and will be forcing it’s A-P economic-and strategic-policies which will act as another deterrent to the US;
  • Japan will have been threatened with annexation by China and Russia;
  • The US presence in Okinawa will have diminished considerably;
  • The US will have established it will not come to Taiwan’s aid with a naval presence in the Taiwan Strait, or a boots-on-the-ground presence on Taiwan; and
  • Taiwan’s military will have less personnel per capita than 2018.

To be sure, the above reasons are tenuous when taken literally and as linear events.  Nonetheless, there is an evidence-base for these reasons to be given and whilst admitting there are many more interweaving and intermingling factors they throw up the enormity of the challenges with which Taiwan will have to come to terms with.

Broadly speaking China’s military is building up its professionalism and its regional intent is reflected in the nine-digit line and moreover, the bombastic irredentist claim it represents has not been disrupted in the region. Furthermore and as has been alluded to, China and Russia have an active friendship and unique suspicion of Japan and thus, are essentially enemies of Japan. Russia continues to build its naval forces and have a sustained presence in the A-P and it is continuing to challenge the US with brinkmanship. Both countries understand the domestic and military challenges Japan will have to come to terms within the third decade of the twenty-first century—an ageing population, lack of immigration, a shrinking military and the recalcitrance of Okinawans regarding the US  presence on their home-island. Focusing on the core of the issue for Taiwan is to state that its ties to the US cannot be ignored and moreover, the central issue of the US having been ‘bled dry’ fighting wars of other people’s making and the South Americas and Mexico at the time of writing is much more of a dynamic and problematic for the US.  Should ‘Americanism not Globalism’ take hold the non-entry of a war with China looms large and the probability will expand. To wit, as US foreign policy objectives are changed to those of non-sacrifice toward and for others will translate to, unless China directly threatens the US there will be no direct support for Taiwan. Notwithstanding this, the material support will remain strong. An extrapolation of the above-mentioned can now be made.

China and war: From waiting to when

The timeline of 2031 being the disruptor will be used by China as a stimulus to Taiwan’s 2032 elections, which will allow it to monitor the status of the ‘independence vote’ through the prism of the possibility, of a war having manifested into a reality. And moreover, it will create division in Taiwanese society; force politicians’ to declare their position and standing about the China threat; and generate the concerns of allies and potential allies. Notwithstanding these factors, it remains unlikely that the stance regarding independence will remain relatively strong due to the sociological underpinnings of the voting-blocs that wield power and which will in 2032 still have considerable influence—which in a liberal-democracy demands recognition. To be sure, ten years beyond the 2032 Taiwan elections would probably yield a different result as per the voting-bloc as many would be deceased, and from this perspective, it is safe to argue, the younger demographic would have a less-strong independence stance when faced with such the consequences of it producing a war. Therein lies a problem for Taiwan as paradoxically even though the politico-momentum would change in a decade there is within this construct a problem for China that must be confronted: China cannot wait too long in its retrocession and unification ambitions and therefore deferring beyond the early 2030s would mean that it could be at war in the lead up to its 2049 anniversary—this is not a position the CCP would be able to tolerate as all of China must be unified by this time. Based on these principles—albeit, having some prediction elements within them—the CCP must act upon its irredentist policies and its unification intent and bring them to fruition; and within this process, it will attempt to establish its future through increasingly focused anti-independence policies toward Taiwan. China will, therefore, reserve the right at any time from the declaration in 2031 to sink any Taiwanese vessel in the Strait; will demand that all ROC Navy vessels be restricted to harbour and that any and all ROC Air Force aircraft be confined to only overfly its terrestrial territory; will adopt a ‘shoot first’ policy for all aircraft that stray beyond said boundaries; and will reserve the right to seize any and all Taiwanese fiscal, and physical assets on its mainland territories.

These above-mentioned will offer China a ‘space’ to observe how Taiwan will react to the intimidation it delivers and as the catastrophic changes in the political arena come into play it will involve other nation-states which will, in turn, bring pressure to bear on Taiwan—in order to avoid a war breaking out. Paradoxically, and as has been used in other instances such as the Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) one belligerent’s hostile overtones are needed to be diminished by a potential adversary. In simpler terms, Taiwan will be expected to deter war by succumbing to China’s mantra. An end result of this type of quasi-gunboat diplomacy is Taiwan will be pushed by others to cede to China’s demands and in turn, the CCP will be commended for not resorting to war, of respecting the Treaty of Westphalia, and of ‘giving Taiwan a chance.’ Whilst China’s presence in the Taiwan Strait and its activities will become more numerous and while a shoot-down accident that engulfs each country in an immediate kinetic and tumultuous exchange cannot be ruled out, the aforementioned actions will nonetheless be designed to exhaust ROC forces—the first phase of a limited-war-of-exhaustion taking place.

To be sure, the PLAN and the PLAAF will attempt to avoid war until a breaking point is reached and should none of the above-mentioned machinations achieve the desired retrocession China will be compelled to initiate a kinetic phase of operations—which will take place after the 2032 elections and before the 2036 elections. The breaking point established and announced in the UNGA, China will then embark upon its ‘indirect strategy’ of having the permission to command a ‘shooting war’ although it will not attack immediately. The threat-of-force will be enough to cause politico-pandemonium in the UNGA and the UNSC as the probability of a limited war—which will have the potential to spiral into a total war—begins to be treated as a certainty in UN forums.  Taiwan will, by this time be in a complete and utter panic as the second phase of the strategy evolves as per the ‘attacks on the enemy’s economy and peripheral areas to erode its capacity to resist,’[1] and aside from a mass exodus of the elite and the upper-middle classes which will have diminished its population somewhat, China will remain present, unrepentant and will consistently retain the unification mantra whilst which will incrementally be backed by increasing threat.

Should Taiwan not put into place a forum that will discuss ceding to China, whether it be through the auspices of the UN or another setting such as ASEAN or the EU, an attack will take place before the 2036 elections. China will not tolerate another election with the possibility of more independence dialogue and unification to keep being stalled. The initial attack will be a shock and awe attack which will destroy vital infrastructure, many bridges and some places of symbolic ‘independence-driven’ importance, such as the presidential palace and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial. The PLAN and the PLAAF will take up a blockading presence in the Taiwan Strait and cut off sea-lane trade routes. Ships of innocent passage will be permitted which will be in keeping with China’s tolerance-driven dialogues however, few will take up the opportunity and very few will access the Strait and in keeping with previous positions all ships will have to agree to being inspected by the PLAN should it so desire. A blockade will ensue accompanied by more, although intermittent strikes which will be designed to subjugate the population and allow for elections to take place, in the possibility that candidates will establish platforms of negotiation with China. To be sure and a position that should not be overlooked is that China wants Taiwan intact (as it did Hong Kong) due to its tax-raising and other beneficial fiscal elements it possesses; and as many Taiwanese live on mainland China, the CCP is mindful of the ‘ex-pat’ population becoming belligerent. The aforementioned firmly in place and understood the overall parameters of Taiwan-China cross-Strait machinations can now be addressed in a direct manner.

Continued tomorrow (conclusion) … How will it end?

Previous instalment … Learning from history


[1] Omaha Beach: A Flawed Victory, 34-35.

Strobe Driver completed his PhD in war studies in 2011 and since then has written extensively on war, terrorism, Asia-Pacific security, the ‘rise of China,’ and issues within Australian domestic politics. Strobe is a recipient of Taiwan Fellowship 2018, MOFA, Taiwan, ROC, and is an adjunct researcher at Federation University.


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Learning from history

War as a dynamic and preparation: Learning from history

Whilst the factors mentioned will not always be in place with the same stringency as currently and it is presupposed that the CCP will actively address and moderate the problems that are thrown up by its transition and ongoing utilisation of globalisation as a tour de force in the twenty-first century. The CCP will become more adept over time per se and therefore, become more inclined to actually reinforce its preponderance with threat-of-force and direct force when and where necessary. Within the paradigm ascribed, it will subsequently be able to adequately handle domestic ructions should they occur, and (eventually) be able to accommodate more than one mid-intensity conflict in terms of capabilities. The question that is thrown up by this acknowledgement is how will Taiwan be impacted? The CCP will, after issuing a decree and through the auspices of the duty of all Chinese ‘to accept that the welfare of the motherland comes above all other concerns ’[1]—which is an edict that has been in place since the 1980s—and it will be at the core of creating an outright conflict with Taiwan with the backing of the Chinese people. The war of rivalry that is in place will extend to a kinetic war or as specified, a ‘shooting war.’ China however, will not confront Taiwanese forces directly as the CCP remains interested in expansionism and empire-building whilst it has declared war on Taiwan—one is not therefore, mutually exclusive of the other. As stipulated there may be some war-at-a-distance exchanges (missile attacks) and without doubt vastly increased air and nautical-placements which will involve losses on both sides. China however, will deliberately step back from significant and ongoing confrontations and revert to what the British accomplished in their quest to rule the world as Taiwan represents a target that is incredibly vulnerable to this tactic and strategy. An historical perspective of what China will attempt to utilise is summed up in the British ‘model’ of using an ‘indirect strategy,’[2] followed by a ‘limited war exhaustion strategy.’[3] Thus

The British practice of warfare from the sixteenth century to World War 1 was to employ … [a] way of war [which] de-emphasised direct confrontation, concentration, mass, and battle and emphasised surprise, mobility, manoeuvre, peripheral attacks on the enemy weaknesses, dispersion, conversion of resources, and negotiated settlements. War was to be conducted in a “businesslike” manner and was to be profitable. The British used sea power primarily to achieve their limited strategic objectives. They traditionally fought low-expenditure, high-gain wars that took advantage of Britain’s geographic circumstances that exploited those of its enemy. The British way of war was to destroy when possible the enemy’s fleet; attack enemy trade; block the enemy’s coast and conduct raids on the enemy’s ports, coastal towns and colonies; seize, when possible, the enemy’s colonies; subsidise allies on the Continent; wait for the attacks on the enemy’s economy and peripheral areas to erode its capacity to resist; exploit opportunities through the use of surprise made possible by the superior mobility of the fleet; deploy limited expeditionary forces on the Continent to fight alongside the larger forces of the allies; and finally, to manoeuvre the enemy into an untenable position in which it had no other option but to conclude a peace agreement on terms set by the British and their allies.[4]

With the aforementioned in place the deterrent for China is ensconced within the Taiwanese population. To date, an unmovable cultural inculcation of being an independent country—regardless of the Treaty parameters—is one that will be defended by the Taiwanese people; and will at some point in the future have to be confronted by threat-of-force followed by direct force should the threat not decrease the independence stance. China will have to come to terms with this and employ a war with the strictures mentioned intact, and allow the timeline to be exploited. It is within this time—possibly over a year in duration—that principal- and peripheral-allies will be exposed. It is at this point that the US can be reintroduced into the milieu of the A-P (Asia-Pacific). There is within the argument of allies that offers a minor advantage for Taiwan—whether the overt support that was granted by Bush in 2001 remains robust, or has been downgraded. To understand why Taiwan was given such momentous support during this time needs a brief analysis in order to extrapolate upon the current and future dilemma for Taiwan

The strategic place that Taiwan held in the early-twenty-first century and the reason President George W. Bush exclaimed the US would do ‘whatever it took’ to help defend Taiwan[5] was for several poignant reasons above and beyond the regional strategic ‘worth’ of Taiwan per se. The relevant reasons comprise although are not limited to an understanding that China had begun to build up its military; stymieing the Russian Federation’s newfound A-P ambitions in the post-Cold War environment; the US’ recent failings in Somalia attempting to retard the warlord Aideed’s[6] activities; an inability to disentangle from the Balkans Conflict; and of critical importance, an attempt to purge the Clinton administration’s failings and of reinvigorating US posturing through the praxis of The Project for a New American Century (PNAC).[7] These are some of the major reasons for the US focusing on Taiwan; and its relevance to US-Taiwan relations.

The discontent of others and the impact on the Asia-Pacific

Since 2001 however, there has not been the same level of commitment as other politico-issues have begun to percolate through the US’ view of the world and its commitments toward Taiwan began to falter. For a myriad of reasons, trade wars, Afghanistan, immigration and NATO disputes, and fragile EU-US relations—the US domestic population began to embrace ‘Americanism not Globalism’[8] which is most vibrant in the current Trump administration. The ‘Americanism’ referred to, which is essentially ‘isolationism’ has its roots in US history and especially when international ventures receive military or economic ‘pushback’ from other actors—and this should be duly noted; and taken into account in Taiwan-China relations as the previously stipulated ‘knock-on’ effect does not augur well for Taiwan per se. There is an historical precedence for this actuality and because it has relevance in contemporary times it needs mentioning in order to align the argument. The evidence for a reverting to isolationism resides in what was and the power of the US’ transition

[The US’] [e]xceptional geographic bounty enabled, even mandated, a grand strategy of isolationism from other quarters. The United States did experiment with a broader imperialism in 1898, colonizing the Philippines and taking hold of Hawaii and a number of other Pacific islands, and it intervened in Europe in World War 1. But these episodes provoked a sharp backlash and consolidated the stubborn isolationism of the interwar decades.[9]

The immediate effects of the policies alluded to should they continue down the current pathway must result in a downgrading of support for Taiwan. There is a strong possibility of the continued support of its independence status, becoming more neutral as US xenophobia increases; and this will be made worse should the US have to contend with Central and South American disputes[10] which will invariably have an impact on domestic voting blocs  and drive a stronger move toward isolationism. The US focus on the A-P must diminish if the immense issues collide and cause internal frictions (as has been the case in Europe[11]), albeit Europe in general not having the option of single border closure as a reaction. To be sure, Taiwan should not expect a forthright announcement of complete and absolute support—there will be no ‘whatever it takes’ pledge in the globalised twenty-first century.  Future attempts associated with US’ support will be veiled in more general terms, which has been proffered recently as

“The aim of U.S. policy is to ensure that Taiwan’s people can continue along their chosen path, free from coercion,” the official, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alex Wong, said at the banquet in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, as President Tsai Ing-wen looked on. Speaking to 700 people, including representatives of top American companies and senior Taiwanese officials, at an American Chamber of Commerce function, Mr. Wong said the United States wanted “to strengthen our ties with the Taiwan people and to bolster Taiwan’s ability to defend its democracy.”[12]

Herein there is an adjustment of policy which any liberal-democratic nation-state is free to undertake as sovereignty allows for the populace’s freedom of opinion. From the perspective of the US the key is in the wording which essentially prescribes increasing ‘Taiwan’s ability to protect its country.’ This statement effectively excludes US’ involvement beyond the parameters it sets, and can be further interpreted as a pending quasi-isolationist pronouncement—one that does not mirror the ‘pivot to Asia’ of the Obama administration and reflects the ‘Americanism’ alluded to, and that it has ‘done enough’ for an ‘unappreciative world.’ What Taiwan faces from 2018 onwards is a complex triad: the rise of China, a withdrawing cum isolationist US; and a paradoxical situation of losing allies which makes it more reliant on the US.[13]  Acknowledging this will be a process dependent upon the subsequent rate of the ‘rise’ of China, and the rate of disinclination to be involved in A-P machinations between Taiwan-China relations however it will become more critical for Taiwan as the twenty-first century enters the third decade. Where should Taiwan focus its efforts to reflect the peoples autonomy; prevent a war happening and should kinetic action take place how to moderate that action? As has been stipulated, this thesis is predicated on a war taking place and therefore assumes that a war will be declared by China in order to regain its territory. In the build up to war it will be critical for Taiwan to exercise its gains and temper the coming encounters. How should this be accomplished?

Other countries in the A-P do not have the capacity to be involved in a shooting war beyond patrolling their littoral-waters, air-space and territories, although they will form politico-blocs that will indulge in commentaries on China; and make observations within the UN. Beyond this, the portent will be one of reacting to rather than making demands on China—as per the US in post-WWII, and Britain and France in the two centuries prior. Australia and Japan do not have independent foreign policy objectives toward Taiwan and a war with China would not extend to unilateral or bilateral actions of these two actors. Australia and Japan, although both are regional middle powers it is safe to argue, have unsophisticated and parochial foreign policies in the A-P and do not (to date) express exigencies beyond the remit of US foreign policy prerequisites. Thus, Taiwan should not rely on Australian and Japanese assets—unless the US enters the conflict and demands support. The Taiwanese government and the Taiwanese people need recognise a salient, observable and pivotal fact—as should other A-P actors—that the only country the US is completely and utterly committed to militarily and to a considerable extent economically—the legal commitments to NATO as per 2018 notwithstanding—is, and remains, Israel. The reasons the US adopts this stance toward Israel are moot and need not be entered into here, suffice to state that it has been standard US post-1948 practice and remains vibrant.[14] Thus, Taiwan is of peripheral concern regardless of machinations within the US Congress[15] and the US’ direct involvement will be dependent upon, and as has been stipulated, numerous globalised and historical happenings and dictums. With the aforementioned in mind and based on the predication that a war is inevitable it is now appropriate to forecast a Taiwan-China war; and offer a continuum of evidence; and observations.

Continued tomorrow … China and its approach to war

Previous instalment … The direction a war will ‘take’


[1] Christopher Hughes. Chinese Nationalism in the Global Era. London: Routledge, 2006, 21.

[2] Basil Liddell-Hart. When Britain Goes to War: Adaptability and Mobility. London: Faber and Faber, 1932, 29-42.

[3] Omaha Beach: A Flawed Victory, 34-35.

[4] Omaha Beach: A Flawed Victory, 34-35.

[5] David Sanger. ‘U.S. Would Defend Taiwan, Bush Says.’ The New York Times.  26 Apr, 2001.

[6] For a succinct explanation of the situation in Somalia. See: ‘Blackhawk Down: The Somalis battle that changed US Policy in Africa.’ BBCNews. 1 Feb, 2017.

[7] The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) centres on American foreign policy being ‘adrift,’ and that America’s ‘place in the world,’ that of being a forthright, and if need be intrusive actor, in order to reinstate US authority then so be it. The PNAC has many contributors although the directors are William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Bruce Jackson, Mark Gerson, and Randy Scheunemann. The project was established in Spring,1997 and is an initiative of the New Citizenship Project. See: Project for the New American Century.

[8] The possible outcomes of the ‘America First’ mantra of the Trump administration are complex and due to many ongoing reasons, including the problematics deep within the US voting system and the representations of States in Congress. This stipulated, a succinct explanation of the polity of the Trump administration see: James Curran. ‘“Americanism not Globalism.” President Trump and the American Mission.’ Lowy Institute. 3 Jul, 2018.

[9] Charles Kupchan, ‘The Future of American Exceptionalism.’ Foreign Affairs. Edited by Gideon Rose. Vol 7, 92, March/April 2018, 140.

[10] For a brief though succinct analysis of immigration and the similarities and reasons of migration as a problem. See: Ananda Taub and Max Fisher. ‘The U.S and Europe, Migration Conflict Points to Deeper Political Problems.’ The New York Times. 29 Aug, 2018.

[11] The U.S and Europe, Migration Conflict Points to Deeper Political Problems.’ The New York Times. 29 Aug, 2018.

[12] Chris Horton.  ‘In Taiwan, U.S. Official Says Commitment ‘Has Never Been Stronger/’ New York Times. 21 Mar, 2018.  Emphasis added.

[13] Ralph Jennings. ‘Taiwan Relies More On US After the Loss of Diplomatic Allies.’  Voice of America. 4 May, 2018.

[14] For an example of US commitment to Israel. See: Whitney Webb. ‘US Military Aid to Israel Set To Exceed $3.8B, Or $23,000 Per Year For Every Jewish Family Living In Israel.’ MPNNews. 3 Aug, 2018.

[15] Patricia Zengerle. ‘U.S. senator plans measure to help Taiwan keep its allies.’ Reuters. 24 Aug, 2018.

Strobe Driver completed his PhD in war studies in 2011 and since then has written extensively on war, terrorism, Asia-Pacific security, the ‘rise of China,’ and issues within Australian domestic politics. Strobe is a recipient of Taiwan Fellowship 2018, MOFA, Taiwan, ROC, and is an adjunct researcher at Federation University.


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The Cardinal Can Do No Wrong: George Pell’s Defenders

The powerful have always had defenders.  Power seeps into the system, corrupts, controls and, ultimately, assumes an authority that does wonders to destroy an appraisal of fairness.  To be there is to assume that matters are natural, a habit. As David Hume made clear, such an instance creates the basis of error: because it has been accepted for generations and through precedent does not make it a law or an acceptable practice.

To be fair is, in a sense, to relinquish the advantages of power and accept the levelling nature of balance.  To be fair is to understand power as a danger. For the highest cleric in the Catholic Church to receive a formal conviction in terms of historical child abuse is an example of bringing a certain power to account.  “He did have in his mind,” observed the County Court’s chief judge Peter Kidd in the pre-sentence hearing, “some sense of impunity.”

The Pell conviction is also an example of defenders running to barricades in the name of protection, hoping that faith prevails over evidence, belief over the allegedly crude advances of the secular realm.  As that philosopher of revolution Frantz Fanon appositely noted, those holders of a strong core belief, when “presented with evidence that works against that belief” repel what is placed before them. Cognitive dissonance must be avoided.

The issue for some of Pell’s defenders is not one of finding justice but its impossibility for those who see a being beyond capture, and past conduct beyond censure.  Forget the victims and what the convicted person did to them. Some other ploy is at work.

Guy Rundle got heavy at Crikey, claiming that the conviction of Pell had to be a significant moment in the culture wars. “The full court press by Bolt, Henderson, Akerman, Devine et al marked them off pretty decisively from the parliamentary wing of the right (with the rule-proving exception of Craig Kelly), who were quick to ring-fence Pell from what remains of their politics.”

This has assumed fabulous contortions.  To know a man is to presume an all-conquering, wilting innocence, pushing evidentiary findings to the outer limits.  No legal system could possibly corrupt this personalised sense of he of certain cloth of Church; to have met a creature in garb, even not necessarily believing him, is to acknowledge a person as beyond guilt.

The matter must, therefore, be far more fundamental, a big picture plot as to why Pell must suffer.  It might be the vengeful in search of a sacrificial lamb, the Cardinal’s conviction as a rite for purification.  It might be the Church in search of a cleansing alibi. It is not possible to claim that Pell is guilty, shouts reactionary columnist Miranda Devine because no jury could possibly claim to be unbiased.  Would that problem be alleviated by a jury of other peers, priests, maybe?

Devine, herself a Catholic, has never been shy to suggest a conspiracy.  There is always something else at work. In 2017, she claimed in an off-the-edge tweet that Victoria’s Police Chief Graham Ashton was “desperate or a distraction from the crime epidemic he’s incapable of stopping”. Catholics, she suggested in the language of sectarian fear, were being hunted.

Andrew Bolt, who holds court at Sky News and The Herald Sun, similarly cannot fathom what has been done to the fallen cleric and assumes that self-opinion can become canonical.  “Declaration: I have met Pell perhaps five times in my life and I like him,” admitted the one-dimensional polemicist. “I am not Catholic or even a Christian.  He is a scapegoat, not a child abuser. In my opinion.”

The opinion caveat is important for Bolt.  Having landed in hot water previously for not clarifying that his opinion as just that, the Federal Court gave him a good wrapping over the knuckles for what was, at its core, shoddy journalism on “White Aboriginals”.  But on this occasion, the self-proclaimed rabble-rouser felt he was on to something. “Cardinal George Pell has been falsely convicted of sexually abusing two boys in their early teens. That’s my opinion, based on the overwhelming evidence.” 

Not that Bolt actually saw the evidence or was exposed to it, but he is nonetheless content suggesting that the victims’ reluctance to initially report the abuse (has he any understanding of Church history?), and the business of the room where the abuse was said to have taken place, suggested innocence.  Furthermore, “the man I know seems not just incapable of such abuse, but so intelligent and cautious that he would never risk his brilliant career and good name on such a mad assault in such a public place.” Bolt, ever the purveyor of the shallow view and ignorant formulation of human nature. Perhaps he suggests that the cleric was simply too intelligent to have been genuinely caught?

A dangerous twilight zone has developed.  The critics have shown, in searing fashion, that they do not believe that guilt could ever be associated with certain figures of office.  In this sense, they betray a posh-boy, aristocratic perversion: people of a certain class can never wrong; people of some groups (African migrants, for instance) always do.  Kill, maim, rape and maul, yes, but never assume that any code, criminal or otherwise, applies to certain members.

This is entertaining if teasing idiocy.  The very people who believe in necessary rules assume that these should be selectively applied.  There have always been pleasant, decent murderers, but thinking otherwise changes it. There are entertaining child abusers of high standing, and thinking them charming and ambitious makes abuse improbable.  There are bon vivant genocidal maniacs, dressed well and hoping for a historical kill, and thinking them good company turns them into miraculous innocents.

Such conduct, including messages of support from former Australian Prime Ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott, brings to mind the good character references, and beliefs, of the recently canonised Mother Teresa (now St. Teresa of Calcutta), who kept good company with the dictatorial likes of Jean-Claude Duvalier of Haiti, and swindling millionaires such as Charles Keating. The latter, an anti-pornographic crusader of frothing fanaticism, liked talking about God and family values even as he perpetrated financial fraud with sociopathic enthusiasm.  The Saint simply believed they were incapable of crime. For some, that is all that matters, and laws should be best forgotten.

The process will have to run its course and the cardinal’s run of the legal system is far from over.  Pell’s defence team will no doubt be reassessing the evidence with forensic aptitude, and point out errors or doubts.  But that does not discredit a verdict arrived at through formal processes in the presence of a jury and a well summing up by the judge. The danger in such doubting circumstances is that those good souls who are duly selected to serve on a panel of peers are deemed, if not expendable, then dangerous to the health of the defendant.

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