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.