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Australia should consider hosting bases with US forces: A response to this absurd and dangerous proposal in the coming age of pax-Sino

There are telling signs for Australia not to antagonize China, writes Dr Strobe Driver, and the suggestion that Australia should consider hosting bases with US forces will only antagonize them further.

Defence analyst Ross Babbage says Australia should consider hosting bases with US forces.

This is yet another, ridiculous and ill-informed commentary from the conservative (I would suggest neo-conservative) Menzies Institute and Ross Babbage’s comments should be rebuffed in no uncertain terms. There is an assumption that is so entrenched in this Institute and the Australian psyche in general that the United States of America (US) will ‘want’ and ‘need’ to come to the defence of Australia in the future as the rise of China happens–and pax-Sino comes to fruition. Some perspectives needs to be put on this so that Australia does not plunge headlong into a situation that is driven by the US, and one from which Australia cannot extract itself when the military collisions begin to come to the fore (I forecast the late-2020s).

A good perspective is to place where Australia ‘fits’ in a ‘needs-list’ for the US. What’s the population of California, approximately 40 million, this equals one state in the US being more than the entire population of Australia. Now, about the number of personnel available for a war and placing this in context. The New York City police force has about the same number of personnel as the Australian Army and Navy combined. The population of the US is approximately 340 million, ten times-plus (+) the size of Australia. Will the US really want to extend its forces out into the Pacific with all of its military dangers in order to save Australia, a land of so few people? There is also a widely held assumption in Australian politics that that the US ‘wants’ us as a true ally rather than just as a bulwark against the rise of China – as Japan was against the rise of the Soviet Union in the pre-Cold War days, and Okinawa is at the present time is with regard to China. Will the US really want to save Australia when China embarks upon what the West has done in the past 200+ years, or will Australia be consigned by the US to the Churchillian tenet of it being not worth the effort of saving? To gain an insight into what the future will bring, there are some issues regarding the US-Australia ‘partnership’ in the Asia-Pacific (A-P) that need to be examined.

There is first of all, the issue of the rise of the Latino, Hispanic and African-American vote in the US which will, in the next decades, outstrip that of the White, Anglo-Saxon vote–upon which Australia to a certain extent has relied on due to the cultural links and in keeping with it being part of England and its ally the US–and with this there will surely come a re-focus of the US’ population on the Central and South Americas. The other historical point to ponder is that Britain in its Industrial Revolution (IR) expanded (pax-Britannica), as did the US after World War Two (WWII) when it went through its own IR (which produced pax-Americana) due in part to the re-building of Europe and Japan by US monies. Why did these expansions happen? Because both Britain and the US began, due to the fiscal economics of the time, building burgeoning domestic middle-classes which insisted on their military, economic, cultural and geographic expansions. China has in the next ten+ years approximately 545 million people moving into their middle-classes. What will they want? The same as British and American citizens wanted in their eras of ‘pax.’

And in passing it should be noted that China’s military technologies–some of which have surpassed the US’–are another reason to not grab the ‘dragon by the tail.’ China is rising and will continue to rise and Australia needs to be acutely aware of the US’ last gasp at holding onto power is just that–the age of pax-Americana is passing–and although the US has been unable to come-to-terms with this–as the British, Dutch, French, Spanish and Portuguese before them were also unable to in their time–the facts are however, omnipresent. Reinforcing this point in an evidence-based way is to observe the following: the end of the Bretton-Woods agreement; the demise of functionalism within the US suburban populaces; a police-state mentality coming to the fore in order to keep citizens under ever-greater control (the US has more people in prison than China although China has a billion more people); the ongoing and continuous incarceration of African-Americans and the associated intellectual and fiscal costs of this practice; the rise of Europe as per the European Union which will gain momentum; the rebuttal of US war policies by powerful European states; endless and fiscally-draining limited wars; and the ‘Imperial overstretch’ of its military forces (which have brought down many an empire), are to name only a few examples. Nevertheless, Australian conservative institutes refuse to believe the US that was, is not the one of today. This is self-inflicted parochialism on their part, and they should be ashamed of their affliction to their desires overwhelming intellectual rigour.

Where does this leave Australia if this ridiculous proposal is enacted? As a target! For Australia the question is and will remain for the next decade, is one that the late Malcolm Fraser proposed and it is hinged on as the US declines, does Australia want to be seen of as complicit in the maintaining of US Imperial power in a world that will be effectively controlled by China? And more to the point if we are, will China demand retribution for Australia’s role in the ongoing maintenance of a declining pax-Americana? Australia should dispense with its penchant to embrace the US, if only because China is building a pax-Sino that will last as per pax-Britannica ‘model,’ for hundreds of years. This is in direct contrast to the shambolic example of pax-Americana, one in which the US has in sixty years, managed to alienate and gain the hatred of dozens of nations. The US has achieved in sixty years what it took the Romans two millenium, and the British 250+ years to achieve. Hence, the US has a ‘pax’ which has existed for a short time in relative terms, yet it has managed to pull Australia along as a passive and willing ally. Australia has partaken in pax-Americana to an enormous degree and it is now time to desist and reconfigure its relationship and there are numerous reasons for this to happen and moreover, they are identifiable and obvious. To be specific however and with regard to what the US domestic population actually wants Australians should be aware of the US past. Australians should not forget that the reason the US did not enter the European phase of WWII (1939-1941) was because President Roosevelt feared the political backlash of fascism in the US domestic population, or in plainer terms, many, many, Americans supported Hitler. With the rise of the Tea Party neo-conservatives, and other forthcoming issues changing and burdening the US, to think that the US will ‘drop everything’ and come to Australia’s defence is a grasping at the past, combined with a nonsensical belief that the US has in place the same policies that were in place decades ago. There are telling signs for Australia not to antagonize China and they are the ones that should be enacted, not ones delivered by the commentators that willingly remain entrenched in a fanciful past and in doing so place Australia in deeper trouble in the coming fractiousness that will be the A-P region.

About the author:

Dr Strobe Driver completed a doctoral thesis in war studies in 2011 and he now commentates and writes on war, terrorism, Asia-Pacific security and numerous other issues that are both historical and currently in the public sphere. He is also a lecturer and tutor at Federation University, however the views expressed are his own and are based on his research.

This article was first published on Geo-Strategic Orbit.



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  1. ISW

    Yep, Geopolitically Australia is heading towards the wrong side of history.

  2. Harquebus

    Conducting an extended conventional war will be very difficult for those without crude oil.
    The U.S. with its vast but expensive unconventional oil appears to be better placed. There will be no surplus crude oil to facilitate holidays and quick trips to the shops.

    No country let alone China will have the ability to control the world. The super powers will only have the ability to destroy it.

    “Move to the Far East and the nations around the South China Sea are all threatening one another, again the focus of the argument being the oil and gas fields of the region. They all know that without oil they cannot survive, and are prepared to fight for every last drop of the stuff, no matter what the cost. As a measure of what the dispute is about, the volume of oil in question is 11 billion barrels. One billion barrels is less than a month of world consumption. ”
    The End of the Oil Age.

  3. keerti

    An interesting article which neglects to look past the political to the greater effects that climate change will have on the mix.To feed and water it’s population China will eventually need to expand, as they are attempting now in the south china sea.Their calculations obviously show that the countries involved may complain, but are not in a to position to realistically resist. Where will that lead them? The usa will not spend vast amounts of money securing oil supplies for Vietnam and co.That would not be in it’s economic advantage.China is not stupid enough to engage in open conflict with usa which vastly outclasses it in military hardware.
    The major reason that the usa did not enter the 2nd world war until late was because it was making much more money selling war material to england. It was only when it was directly threatened that it came into the war. By that time britain was nearly to it’s economic knees and is still paying for it.

  4. Roswell

    Agree. Interesting article.

  5. Annette Schneider

    You may be interested to learn that a very high ranking army officer in our family who was in Korea and Vietnam and had also been an envoy in Washington shared Malcolm Fraser’s view that the greatest threat to Australia’s security is our alliance with the USA. He also said that we should be wary of China, but that goes without saying. I feel that New Zealand has always had much saner foreign policies than Australia, or am I just hiding my head in the sand? There is a global economic collapse brought about by peak oil and climate catastrophe on the way which will outdo the Great Depression. China will be leading the way down the slippery slope to the collapse of civilisation.

    Will the rest of the World be so busy fighting amongst themselves to notice us? I certainly think that no one will bother to come to our aid. It’s a pity we are making such asses of ourselves at the moment. No one loves us any more; we don’t even respect ourselves as we flaunt international law and common decency. Harquebus, has summed the state of play up well; I just hope Australia can get its act together and elect some competent and humane leaders who can get us even slightly primed for the future. Our future of horses and bicycles for transport and scrabbling for water and food. It’s a pity that the NSW Government couldn’t get it together and ban CSG fracking today. Our farms and water are precious. Just look at California if you need to ask why.

  6. Kaye Lee

    Whilst I agree about China’s growing influence and relevance to Australia, I think that economics will play the active role rather than warfare. Why would China threaten us militarily when it can buy us without the cost and hassle of war? ChAFTA gives them access to everything we have without them having to fire a shot.

    This fixation with all things military is, to me, an anachronism perpetuated by arms manufacturers and a US government whose influence is fading. War means jeopardising your markets and supply chains. It is a huge unnecessary waste of money that anyone other than arms manufacturers would deplore.

  7. diannaart

    Very interesting article, however, as others have noted, we need to include the environment into the equation – climate change/non-renewables are now major players – whether our leaders recognise this fact or not.

  8. paul walter

    No one gets how sinister this is.

    The US has set up a pretext for intervention in Australian politics on the basis of security concerns for its troops. It may be warning others off direct intervention, but cogniscance realises that big powers can also club together if self interest dictates, at the expense of a smaller (resource rich, strategially important) nation.

  9. keerti

    It needs, I believe, to be remembered that the Chinese culture leads them to play along game. Decisions and plans are made with the long term good of future generations clearly accounted for. The usa has difficulty planning past it’s next mealbreak!

  10. David Bruce

    Will it really matter after the USA is Balkanized?

  11. paul walter

    That is actually the comment of the thread, David.

  12. Colin Gradolf

    The US will still be home to sufficient WMDs to destroy the world many times over; even after it’s Balkanisation.

  13. keerti

    Don’t worry about horses, Annette. If a toatal collapse happened the only horse you’d be riding would be Shank’s Pony.

  14. strobedriver

    I find all of the comments really good and engaging, if I may say. And if I could have another ‘go.’ With regard to the USA entering WWII and selling materiels etc to Germany and England that is true however, the USA should have entered the war prior to when it did due to the mass of (English/European) tonnage being sunk in the Gulf of Mexico by German U-Boats (after the outbreak of the European phase of the war 1939) which is technically in US waters, however they did nothing and let it happen. Once again, this was due to a possible political backlash and the domestic support for Nazi Germany.

    With regard to the Asia-Pacific and Australia. The issue for Australia is also that China can send Australia broke by distressing our export inductries. This can be done in two ways: by placing fiscal pressure on the US not to intervene in the A-P–due to the fact that the US owes China and Saudi Arabia $30tril–in the wake of their banking meltdown, if China decides with its new ocean-going navy to cut-off/threaten the Malacca Strait and moreover, if one observes the distance from the US it will be a challenge for the US. More to the point what if China directly threatens to sink a US carrier. All strategists know the death of a carrier would cause uproar in the US so therefore, would they send a carrier to keep the Strait open; and keep Australian exports flowing? Also what if China’s navy (the PLAN)allows US-flagged ships through and no one else’s that would pacify the US or alternately the PLAN may decide who, what and when is allowed through etc–they have learned this strategy from the US navy in the Persian Gulf. With regard to Climate Change. The point being Climate Change will be placed the ‘even harder to do’ list than it already is when the frictions in the A-P really break-out, and China will not–and already does not–take kindly to Australia and its bombasticness in the A-P region, combined with its deputy sheriff role that the US has imposed on Australia, and consecutive governments have graciously/unquestioningly/timidly accepted.

    My point being Japan as a regional power was unable to be stopped 1900–1945, Britain in its IR, France under Napoleon, the list goes on, and now its China. Sure there may be some issues along the way which retard their growth etc, however, they are on ‘their way.’ What if Indonesia sides with them, and India takes a dim view of Australia as well and decides to side with China militarily–here we are stuck on an island waiting for our traditional ‘rescuer’ who may never come. As I have stipulated in a previous article the sad truth is, Australia was SEVENTH on the US’ list of priorities in WWII. I wonder where we are on their list now? And even if we are closer to the top, they wouldn’t betray us would they? Perhaps we should ask the Montengards (the Hill peoples) of Vietnam, the Iraqi southern Marsh peoples, the Rwandans, the ARVN to name only a few who have been given many promises and then ‘let go’ when it all got too tough for the US. We really should find loyal friends to rely on or we will suffer when the A-P becomes the epicentre of the world.
    Thanks again for your comments 🙂

  15. paul walter

    Thank you also, strobe for further thought.

  16. paul walter

    I will say one thing though. It will always stick in my mind, the way Kevin Rudd was undermined as to both mid east policy, global economic and ecological reform and the China issue, the way this last went, you have to wonder if some sort of interference emanated from a dark place yet to have light shone upon it.

  17. stephentardrew

    Great article. I thoroughly concur. These arguments mirror Malcolm Fraser’s in his excellent book “Dangerous Allies” in which he warns us about the fading US empire and our requirement to move towards anon-aligned position very much in tune with our Asian neighbours. Time to wake up to the fact that Britain abandoned us during the second World War and the US were commited to non-involvement in the Pacific until the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

    We should wind down our offensive complicity with the US who are finding themselves disliked and hated by many nations they have used and abuse and we are painted with the same brush through our complicity. We need to stop any offensive moves in the Middle East and not interfere in Russia so we can build a strong defensive network that would be a deterrent to any sort of invasion.

    Guerrilla warfare is the nightmare from hell and that is why invasions are a total failure. Indonesia could not control tiny East Timor with the might and brutality of their military while the US failed in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and the many South American interventions then they cannot protect and most probably protect us. However we can most certainly protect ourselves with well designed network of defensive capabilities.

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