On the heels of the Independent & Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) 2017 National Conference (8-10 September) two interesting and important articles were published that questioned the value of the US-Australian military alliance. The articles came from Richard Butler (former Ambassador to the United Nations; Diplomat in Residence at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York) and James O'Neill (a former academic, who practiced law in New Zealand and Brisbane and writes regularly on geo-politics, concentrating on international law and human rights).
In much the same way as Malcolm Fraser did in the latter part of his life, these two reflect the broadness of opposition that exists and is developing against US domination of the Australian polity. Richard Butler's, The Alliance: The Facts and Furphies examines the current misrepresentations of the alliance and James O'Neill's, Australia and U.S. "Joined at the Hip": Where's the benefit? scrutinizes our political leaders’ supine compliance towards our 'powerful ally'.
Both impressively make similar points on the nature of Australia's relationship with the United States. Unequivocally they affirm that the United States is a risky imperialist power; that remarkably both major parliamentary parties, Coalition and ALP, are slavishly committed to serving US strategic interests; that foolishly this acquiescence is dangerous for, and against Australia's interests.
Additionally, Butler points out that Australia's current political relationship with the United States diminishes our status as an independent nation. Our national sovereignty is sacrificed because, " Conservatives, within both main parties, believe that outcomes in international relations are ultimately determined by power, not principles or rules, and therefore, its best for Australia to be on the side of the most powerful state."
Furthermore, he remarks: "When they address the issue of Australia’s national security, they assert that it relies upon our alliance with the US; indeed, they say, our ultimate national survival depends upon it." Butler suggests this craven approach to security is based on a number of giant furphies.
He comes up with 4 furphies that he thinks should be challenged:
1) "...that the US and all it stands for is solid and clearly resilient to the disaster that is the Trump presidency”;
2) "US society is seriously divided... This is more than what has been called diversity or the US ‘melting pot’”;
3) "...such a political crisis, it could be argued, would relieve us all, of the misbegotten Trump presidency.";
4) "...there is the abiding phenomenon of America seeking foreign adventures, conquest, war, as a solution to a lack of domestic political cohesion and the needs of its massive arms industries ...the most flagrant furphy of all of them is that we have joined the US in its wars in order to ensure its protection of us..."
Butler deals with these furphies with forceful counter arguments and concludes that the political situation inside the US is dysfunctional with the potential for Trump to initiate a major foreign war. The practice of blind faith by our political leaders of accompanying the US into military action will not in the end protect us, but in fact attract an attack on out territory.
If the US becomes involved in a nuclear exchange, the mere fact that we have US bases on our soil makes Australia a target in the eyes of North Korea, China and Russia. He reminds us that the justification for our involvement in US-led illegal wars and invasions put forward by such acolytes as John Howard, that Australia is part of an 'Anglo sphere', is an exceptionalist belief that is offensive to other parts of the world.
James O'Neill, who gave a presentation at the IPAN the 2017 National Conference, in his article gives a historical background to why Australia slavishly submits itself to imperial powers, Britain in the past and the United States now. Since the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in January 1942 there has been no critical appraisal of Australia’s dependent relationship with the US.
This is reflected in the present by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's repeated sycophancy that Australia is “joined at the hip” to the United States on its defence and national security. Neither the Labor Party or the media attempted any critical commentary; rather as we have come to expect they demurred and fell into line.
This is not surprising O'Neill points out because, "Prior to that seminal event, Australia had never challenged its role as a colonial appendage to the British Empire. That status had led Australia into a series of wars, which in common with just about every other military misadventure before and since had only the vaguest connection with Australia’s national interest, if any."
He lists two the military adventures that Britain called on Australia to support: The Crimea War of 1850's, Australian troops fought with the British against the Russians over control of the Crimea peninsular; Australia followed Britain into the First World War at great cost to its soldiers to block Germany's challenge to British imperialist territorial domination.
However, "With the rout of the British forces in 1941-42 by the Japanese, it was obvious to Australian politicians that a new protector was needed, and the Americans required no encouragement to assume that role. The marriage of convenience that occurred in 1942-45 may have suited Australia in its perception of an imminent Japanese invasion, but then, as now, the bride’s dowry should have been scrutinized more closely.
"A relentless propaganda campaign through every possible medium has been waged since then to convince Australians that in 1942 and since Australia has been getting a good deal. The fake security blanket of the ANZUS treaty personifies that. The reality is somewhat different."
Indefensibly, the American empire since the WWII has caused unparalleled death, destruction and pillaging of other countries' resources, with Australia involved in three of the US’s current wars: Afghanistan, since 2001; Iraq, since 2003; and Syria, since 2015. O'Neill argues that these wars were all illegal under international law; were commenced under false pretexts and continue under ever-shifting rationales; have wrought death and destruction upon their civilian populations; and none could be legitimately classified as essential to Australia’s national security interests.
He predicts, "Given the slavish adherence to American imperialism, these wars are not likely to be the last to see Australian involvement. One has only to look and listen to the current belligerent (and remarkably ignorant) rhetoric over North Korea, China and Russia to see that the US has no plans to change its modus operandi of the past 200 years. On the evidence of past history and current policy stances, Australia will yet again be sacrificing its soldiers, its treasure and its reputation fighting other countries’ wars for other countries’ benefit."
Butler and O'Neill's analysis about the dangers of Australia's servile alliance with the United States has recently been verified by North Korea's warning, "...they will not be able to avoid a disaster". An understandable reaction after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne gave a provocative press statement condemning North Korea for its nuclear weapons and missile programs (whilst at the same supporting and participating in military exercises with the US and South Korea in the region) at the Demilitarized Zone village of Panmunjom village in early October.
Also, Trump's decision to decertify the nuclear deal with Iran has provoked outcry around the world, and in particular is not supported by the five other powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia - who were signatories to this agreement. Trump and the US ruling class are now more isolated than ever (the other five powers continue to reaffirm their commitment to the nuclear deal with Iran), although it is not the first time US imperialism has gone out on its own and ignored international law and agreements.
Correctly raising the ideological level, correctly leading the mass movement
Identifying the main contradiction, imperialism and the main danger, US aggression as the greatest threat of war is the most urgent task of anti-imperialists, especially communists. In addition, Australia's dependent client relationship to US imperialism needs to be confronted, exposed and explained to the Australian people.
The first steps in doing this have been undertaken in the present peace umbrella organisation of IPAN. Activists have carefully and correctly raised the ideological level of IPAN members and the wider peace movement, who now acknowledge more than ever the dangers of imperialism, in particular the threat of US imperialism and the need for Australia to achieve political, economic and military independence from America.
Links have been made in preparation to eventually mobilise all the classes that can be rallied to oppose military aggression when it does break out. The biggest class of course that needs to be involved is the working class, who will suffer the most in the event of war.
However, other classes such as the intelligentsia have a positive role to play in the united front against imperialist war, as Butler and O'Neill testify.
In fact, elements of the national bourgeoisie can also be allied with if they demonstrate a willingness to oppose Australia's involvement with US military aggression. It is the comprador bourgeoisie (From Turnbull's Coalition government, Shorten's parliamentary Labor party, Business Council, corporate monopolies, upper echelons of the state apparatus and military etc) that needs to isolated and attacked because of its umbilical attachment to US strategic interests.
In achieving a broad alliance amongst the Australian people all anti-war organisations, groups and individuals must be accorded a respectful place in the peace movement. It is important that Vanguard and other united front media fulfil the role of providing a credible and useful source of information and anti-imperialist analysis about imperialism's threat to the world's peoples.
Richard Butler's, The Alliance: The Facts and Furphies
James O'Neill's, Australia and U.S. "Joined at the Hip": Where's the benefit?