Since World War II, the U.S. has been the big boss leading a band of lackey nations, mostly in Europe but reaching distant Australia which tags along for the periodic pummeling of some hapless country, as James O’Neill explains.
By James O’Neill
For a country relatively remote from the world’s trouble spots, Australia throughout its short history since European settlement in the late Eighteenth Century has shown a remarkable capacity to involve itself in other people’s wars. With the possible exception of Japan in World War II none of these wars have posed a threat to Australia’s national security.
In the 1850s, Australia provided troops on behalf of the British in the Crimean War at a time when few Australians would have been able to locate Crimea on a map. Ironically, Tony Abbott as Prime Minister this decade was willing to commit troops to Ukraine, again over Crimea.
But Australian knowledge of historical and geopolitical realities in Crimea appeared no greater in 2014 than in the 1850s. The major difference was the infinitely greater threat to Australia’s national security if such a foolhardy plan had occurred in 2014 and Australian troops had found themselves confronting Russian forces.
Australian troops were also committed to the Boer War in South Africa, World Wars I and II, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, to name just the major conflicts. All of these involvements had two major characteristics in common: at no point (with the possible exception of Japan 1942-45) were Australia’s borders or national security threatened; and each involvement was at the behest of a foreign imperial power, often on entirely spurious grounds. The last four named conflicts above – Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – had the added dimension of being contrary to international law.
A common justification advanced in support of these foreign adventures is that they constitute a form of insurance policy, with the deaths of tens of thousands of Australian servicemen and women being the premium that has to be paid. If we do not pay these premiums, the argument runs, the “policy” expires and our “great and powerful friends” – the United Kingdom and more recently the United States – will not come to our aid if and when we are, in turn, attacked.
It has never been clear just who these aggressors might be, despite endless manufactured potential foes, nor why Australia feels the need to base its foreign policy thus when scores of countries do not feel similarly threatened nor feel the need to pay such a price for their “security.”
The capacity to have an intelligent debate about whether or not there are other, and better, options, is severely hampered by a number of factors. One of the major factors is the concentration of ownership of the mainstream print media. The Murdoch empire controls 70 percent of the nation’s newspapers and is run by someone who is now an American citizen and no longer resides in Australia. The bulk of the balance is controlled by the Fairfax family who at least reside in Australia.
This concentration of ownership results in a degree of uniformity of opinion that Stalin would have recognized and appreciated. There is a greater diversity of media ownership and opinion in modern Russia than there is in Australia, yet the relentless message in the Australian media is that Russia is an authoritarian state where dissent from an all powerful Vladimir Putin is discouraged or worse. Such a view would be laughable if it were not so dangerous.
The Pervasive ‘Group Think’
Academia is little better. The universities and the so-called “think tanks” rely heavily on subsidies from their American equivalents, or from Australian government departments committed to the government’s policies. There is an obvious reluctance to criticize, for example, American foreign policy when such criticism endangers funding sources, promotions, and comfortable sabbaticals in the U.S.
A recent example of the intellectual drivel that this can lead to was found in the recent publication of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute entitled “Why Russia is a Threat to the International Order,” authored by Paul Dibb, a former spymaster. It was an ill-informed discussion all too typical of what passes for foreign policy analysis. Not only did it demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of Russian strategic policy, it wholly accepted and American-centered view of the world.
In Dibb’s world, the Americans only act from the best of intentions and for the benefit of the people unfortunate enough to to be the object of their attentions. Any analysis of the way U.S. foreign policy is actually practiced is air brushed from the reader’s attention. The treatment of Ukraine is instructive in this regard.
Dibb completely ignores the February 2014 American-organized and financed coup that removed the legitimate Yanukovich government from power. Dibb ignores the military agreement that provided for the stationing of Russian troops in Crimea; that Crimea had for centuries been part of Russia until Khrushchev “gifted” Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 (without consulting the Crimeans); the overwhelming support in two referenda to secede from Ukraine and apply to rejoin the Russian Federation; the discriminatory treatment of the largely Russian-speaking population of the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine; and the Kiev regime’s systematic violation of the Minsk Accords designed to find a peaceable solution to the Ukrainian conflict.
Instead, he writes that Russia’s “invasion” and “annexation” of Crimea and its attempt through military means to detach the Donbass region in the eastern part of Ukraine have to be seen as a fundamental challenge to the post-war sanctity of Europe’s borders. Such historical revisionism and detachment from reality is unfortunately not confined to Dibb. It is all too common in the Australian media in all its forms.
A selective view of the world, of which Dibb is but one example, extends to a sanitizing of the U.S.’s role in post-war history. The U.S. has bombed, invaded, undermined, overthrown the governments of, and destroyed more countries and killed more people in the process over the past 70 years than all other countries in the world combined. Its disregard for international law, all the while proclaiming the importance of a “rules based system,” is well documented.
A particularly egregious but far from unique example is the war in Syria in which Australia is also involved, even to the comical extent of admitting culpability in the “mistaken” bombing of Syrian government troops at Door Ez Zair.
That the bombing was not a mistake but rather, as several commentators have pointed out (although never in the Australian media), was much more likely to have been a deliberate sabotaging by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s Pentagon element of the American war machine of the Kerry-Lavrov negotiated partial ceasefire.
Syrian intelligence has reported intercepts of communications between the U.S. military and the jihadist terrorists immediately before the bombing in which their respective actions were coordinated. The bombing was followed by immediate terrorist attacks on Syrian army positions in the area and is highly unlikely to have been a coincidence.
Cozy with Terrorists
This is, of course, consistent with American policy in Syria from the outset. The U.S. government has sought to maintain a ludicrous distinction between “moderate” terrorists and the rest.
Before the Russian intervention at the end of September 2015, the U.S. managed to avoid actually stopping the Islamic State advance through large swathes of Syrian territory, and together with Washington’s Saudi and Qatari allies have trained, financed and armed the terrorists from the outset. All of which is part of a pattern of U.S. support for terrorists, as long as they support U.S. strategic goals.
No such analysis appears in the Australian mainstream media which maintains an unswerving allegiance to only one form of analysis. This dangerous group think and intolerance of dissent is exemplified in a recent article by Peter Hartcher, the senior political correspondent of the Fairfax media.
Hartcher described what he called “rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows” by which he meant opponents in Australia of a war with China. The “rats” were politicians “compromised by China’s embrace”; the “flies” are the “unwitting mouthpieces for the interests of the Chinese regime”; the mosquitoes were Australian business people “so captivated by their financial interests that they demand Australia assume a kowtow position”; the “sparrows” were Chinese students and Australia-Chinese associations that exist “specifically to spread China’s influence.”
In Hartcher’s view all four groups were “pests” that needed to be eradicated. To call this reversion to the worst elements of 1950s McCarthyism is probably to do the late junior Senator from Wisconsin a disservice.
Were it simply a case of ignorance it might be simply consigned to the scrap heap where it richly belongs. But it is representative of the same mindset that has led Australia into so many disastrous foreign policy misadventures that it cannot be ignored. Another reason it cannot be ignored is that it represents and affects a widely held view among Australian politicians.
The demonization of Russia in general and Vladimir Putin in particular is clearly evident in the reporting of the situation in Ukraine and Syria. The ignoring of history and the inversion of reality is the default position. Everything that Russia does is a manifestation of its “aggression.” Putin is commonly described as a “dictator” and the appalling Hillary Clinton even compared him with Hitler.
That there is not a shred of evidence to support the many wild allegations against President Putin does not prevent their regular repetition in the Western media.
Ignoring International Law
Similar blindness is evident with regard to the reporting on Syria. Australia is manifestly in breach of the United Nations Charter in its participation in the attacks upon the Syrian government and its forces. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s laughable defense of the presence of the Australian military in Syria, the central plank of which was specifically denied by the Iraqi government, was nonetheless accepted without question by the Australian mainstream media.
There is more preposterous posturing over the South China Sea. The much vaunted “freedom of navigation” demanded for shipping in the South China Sea (although no one can point to a single instance of civilian maritime traffic being hindered in any way) is a concept selectively applied. Just ask a Cuban, Palestinian or Yemeni if freedom of navigation is their recent or current experience of American policy.
Australia partakes annually in a U.S.-led naval exercise, Operation Talisman Sabre that rehearses the blockading of the Malacca Straits, a vital seaway for China that along with dozens of military bases (including in Australia), missile systems surrounding China, free trade agreements that pointedly exclude the world’s largest trading nation, and many other aspects designed to “contain” China, are not the activities of a peacefully oriented nation.
Australia not only participates in clearly provocative actions, but the 2015 Defense White Paper is clearly predicated on planning a war with China. Public statements by senior defense personnel, both civilian and military, reflect a militaristic mindset vis-a-vis China that can only be described as magical thinking given the military capacity of the Peoples Republic of China to obliterate Australia within 30 minutes of hostilities actually breaking out is only part of the problem.
That such thinking takes place in a context where China, the perceived enemy, is also the country’s largest trading partner by a significant margin and the source of much of Australia’s prosperity over the past 40 years reveals a strategic conundrum that the politicians have singularly failed to come to grips with. Worse, it is not even considered a matter worthy of sustained serious discussion.
By its conduct both in Syria and the South China Sea, Australia runs the risk of becoming involved in a full-scale shooting war with both Russia and China. Viewed objectively, there is little doubt that in any such conflagration Russia and China enjoy significant military advantages. Even that superiority is not to be entertained. Instead, Australia pursues the purchase of hugely expensive submarines and F-35 fighter planes the strategic and military value of which is at best dubious and more probably, useless.
What then is the benefit to Australia of constantly putting itself in a position where the best it could hope for would be collateral damage? No rational human being would advance on a course of action where the detriments so significantly outweigh the benefits, so why should a nation be any different?
With its crumbling infrastructure, endless wars that it regularly loses, a corrupt money-dominated political culture, technologically inferior weaponry and enormous burgeoning debt, the U.S. is hardly a model protector. To believe otherwise is simply delusional.
As the U.S.-based Russian blogger Dimitry Orlov has recently pointed out, Russia’s international conduct is governed by three basic principles: using military force as a reactive security measure; scrupulous adherence to international law; and seeing military action as being in the service of diplomacy. That clearly does not accord with the relentless misinformation Australians are constantly fed but to confuse propaganda with reality is a dangerous basis upon which to formulate foreign policy.
China is also choosing a radically different path in its international relations. The One Belt, One Road, or New Silk Road initiatives, associated as they are with a range of other developments, the significance of which most Australians barely grasp, has the capacity to transform the world’s financial, economic and geopolitical structures in a remarkably short time.
The choice for Australia is stark. Does it persist in aligning itself with what the late Malcolm Fraser accurately called a “dangerous ally”? Or does it recognize that the world upon which its comfortable and dangerous illusions are based is rapidly changing and adjust its alliances accordingly.
At the moment Australia has the luxury of choice, but it is an opportunity that will vanish very quickly. Unfortunately, the lesson of history is that Australia will again make the wrong choice.
James O’Neill is a former academic and has practiced as a barrister since 1984. He writes on geopolitical issues, with a special emphasis on international law and human rights. He may be contacted at [email protected]
Good article. Replace ‘Australia’ with ‘Canada’ and Canadian politicians for Australian ones and this article could well be about Canada. Canada and Australia have much in common. Both are large countries with small populations mostly concentrated along the edges of their borders (the coast in Australia, the US border in Canada).
Both nations have a bloody history of genocide of the Aboriginal populations, both have a beer and sports culture and a citizenry that is largely politically illiterate, immigration is being used to drive down wages, wealthy foreigners buy property as investments and price locals out of the housing market, their armed forces are an expensive joke (right down to the F-35 bug-riddled flying computer), newspaper ownership in Canada is the most concentrated in the western world (unless Australia has leaped ahead)…and of course bot nations bow and scrape to the moribund Windsor family, fall in line with US foreign policy and take part in imperial wars so the US/UK can call itself a ‘coalition’. US popular culture and news saturate the media landscape (in Canada people argue about Trump and Hillary like they are voting in November and refer to the US president as THE president).
Yeah, good times ahead.
This goes for so much more than our hapless tag-along military adventures. But like many others, it’s not just a story of blindly following big brother.
In our politics, foreign policies, economic infrastructure, entertainment, mass media… all of it mimics US culture like a lyre bird, with little thought as to why or how. When did we become neo-liberal/ultra-conservative? Where did our Democrats go? What happened to the left here?
We gave up our sovereignty when we allowed foreign intel like CIA and others to gag and then topple the last decent government we had – Gough Whitlam’s Labour. Ted Shackley et al have a lot to answer for.
There’ll only be a clear understanding of the now when people start to understand what came before.
Like Faulkner wrote, “The past isn’t over. It isn’t even past.”
Excellent analysis and an enjoyable read.
There is nothing honourable or heroic in attacking and destroying smaller, weaker countries, e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.
The Anglo-Zionist modus operandi is smple – buy out the leader, control the candidate selection process or put a placemen in.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand, once relatively sensible, have now been infested.
“The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”
Harsh words, Rex Williams, but painfully correct
I had never seen Australia that way before but must agree. It has become a US puppet. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq again, Syria, Australian mercenaries fighting with US, Saudi and UAE against Yemen and who knows what other theatres for US terrorism.
What’s around the corner? Ask the USA.
Yes, for the last couple of months we have been fed by the Australian MSM the mono-diet of: Trump bad – Russia bad, and the pitch is only increasing towards the Nov 8 crescendo. Unfortunately, most people are succumbing even without understanding the personal risks of nuclear annihilation that they carry with such pro-Zionist dedication (Australia has several US strategic facilities on its soil and is thus a likely target for the Russian and Chinese nuclear missiles). The Zionists even got their PM in Australia now.
Personally, I do not consume the said sewage, because I switched out of MSM about 4-5 years ago and switched over to the Internet.
It truely saddens me that such slavish approach to sacrificing treasure and blood for the Zionist interests, under the promise of some protection by the other Zionist slave – US (which will probably end up similar to the abandonment to Malaysia by the previous British protectors) is bipartisan and even ubiquitous. If it were not for Julian Assange, I would have lost all pride in being Australian.
Also noteworthy is Australia’s place among the (many) delinquents on climate change, including the recent, gratuitous closure of an indispensable Southen Hemisphere atmospheric monitoring station—this in a country that may well soon be rendered uninhabitable by permanent drought.
Well, it is pleasing that this article extracted 7 comments from the world. Here is #8, written by an Australian
We are what we have always been, a compliant little country, 24 million sports fans, apathetic to boot and with a continuous stream of feeble governments. We grovel to the British monarchy, carry the bags for the hegemonic Americans and generally do the bidding of the Zionists, their parasitic influence being found under every rock, in all parliamentary corridors and carefully added to the policies of every political party in this country. We probably have a higher ratio of spies, a.k.a. dual-pasported Israelis , than in any other country outside the USA. They are even now making their presence felt as politicians, for their own purposes, naturally.
We have a debt that equals the USA, relatively, based on population with little in the way of prospects to improve the bottom line as we have no military / industrial complex. Yet we can still commit to an order for Aust $ 50 billion for diesel powered submarines, as if we need them and have now signed a 20 year lease for a US “pivot into China” military base in Darwin which, when added to the US Drone control operation at Pine Gap in Western Australia, makes a serious contribution to the US drive for world control.
But it should be realised that these things do not occupy the mind of the average Australian for too long. Just finished the football season and now into cricket. Must get our priorities right.
We are bound to sign off on the US-engineered TransPacific Partnership with our current PM whose electorate is the Jewish capital of Australia. Yet another example of US control over trade and other matters which we gladly support. It does save thinking for ourselves, thankfully. What a stupid idea that would be.
But here is the crunch. It is called independence. Something of a joke as the Obama, Bush, Clinton and all the other off-shore presidents of this virtual 51st State issue the directives for actions here or in the United Nations, to which we comply willingly, our vote an extension of the US dictates in those places. Independence never having been seen as even existing in this country. As I said, if it wasn’t the English Queen or King to which we grovelled and still do, since the end of WWII it has been the USA who have dined out on “what would have happened if we had not been your protectors in the Coral Sea?”. Akin to the evils of the fascistic, apartheid Israel, dining out for 50 years on the holocaust theatre and beating the anti-Semitic drum on every occasion while the rest of the world stands by as though struck dumb. And how.
Seen as something of a joke by the USA, easily managed and a bag carrier for Washington to boot. Just look at Howard, “man of steel; Abbott, feckless fool, shirtfronter #1, Bishop (Foreign Affairs for the uninitiated) voting against Palestine on every opportunity and a willing mouthpiece for US propaganda.
So, a quick summary for any of the intelligent Americans who subscribe to Consortium News.
Don’t feel sorry for us but instead see us as what the US government (any US government) sees as a compliant little country which somehow adds to US credibility by joining the USA in all their wars and dalliances for world power. We don’t think and as a result, don’t have to.
We must get something out of such a one-sided arrangement for all our efforts, besides military casualties. I will advise you all if I am ever able to determine what that is, such advice coming through the pages of Consortium News, naturally.
Don’t feel sorry for us but instead see us as what the US government (any US government) sees as a compliant little country which somehow adds to US credibility by joining the USA in all their wars and dalliances for world power. We don’t think and as a result, don’t have to.
Don’t feel impressed by us Americans but instead see us as what the Israeli government (any Israeli government) sees as a compliant muscle-bound country which somehow adds to Israeli credibility by pushing the USA into Middle East wars of choice and dalliances for Israeli power. We don’t think and as a result, don’t have to.
I don’t understand for the life of me why that arrangement continues. The British guy who has the last word in Australia isn’t necessarily your friend.
As for the submarines, they make some sense to me. Investing in surface ships in this day and age becomes more insane with every passing year.
Australia is very far away from the US, but very much closer to some nations with huge populations. Nearby Indonesia has more than ten times the Australian population, while India and China census errors are probably larger than Australia’s 24 million. Defending the place if the US either suddenly lost interest or became unable to help would be a nightmare to an amateur strategist like myself. It’s not that the Australians aren’t full of fight – their loss of 62,000 men in WW1 out a population less than 5 million souls proves that. They’d simply be overwhelmed.
Good comments Rex, I would hazard a guess that 90% of Australians are politically brain dead.
For the most part, we have a full belly, a roof over our head, beer and sport – what else do we need!
I don’t know what it will take to wake them from their slumber.
Having visited Australia a few times, I enjoyed the company of some very nice Australians. On the Internet I discovered one of the best ever – johnpilger.com. Not having met any Australian politicians I was probably spared meeting some of their worst.
Australia looks familiar to me: selling off the country to foreigners, all for a fast buck, resulting in a real estate and housing bubble; bringing in more and more immigrants to feed the housing bubble and to fill up the country with more consumers; promoting multiculturalism, further dividing the population; selling raw resources, little secondary industry; a monopoly on media that sells all of the above as a good thing; politicians in the back pockets of vested interests; a foreign policy that follows their U.S. master; the Third World demanding to be let in; a policy stating that growth, growth and more growth is a good thing.
A select few get filthy rich, a few more get moderately rich, while others twist, forced to get on the treadmill and into further debt, lest they get left behind. The country is raped and the culture is lost (eventually).
How to absolutely ruin a nice country!
Dead right too!
Australia is the lock on Asia, if Australia became independent the whole of Asia would have freedom to develop. Whoever controls Australia dominates Asia. Australia’s one episode of independence was between 1972-1975, ended by a US supported coup (Murdoch was its propaganda arm and because of his services was given media rights in the USA).
The Australia colony was founded by the British to control Asian navigation, MacArthur called it the biggest aircraft carrier in the world. It is such a safe base, that it has few US bases in it. Its size and placement is the critical asset of empire.
Our politicians and corporates have been carefully fostered as US agents, many of our trade union leaders, and nearly all the the political parties are infiltrated by such collaborators; our universities, in steep decline, dominated by them and intelligence agents often given academic jobs — intellectual decline is obvious and irrecoverable. Australia, my homeland, is a US shit-box.
Dead f*****g right!
It is also appalling that Australia’s so-called defense policy has the unwavering support of both major political parties, as does our policy towards Israel. We are given no choice, and insufficient political and/or media information to be appropriately informed.
Our policy towards asylum-seekers is disgusting, also fully supported by both major parties. Our effort to cheat East Timor out of its oil and gas wealth is reprehensible. New Zealand does not see the need to be so subject to US policy if it decides such policy is objectionable.
In some ways we have become, as a nation, more selfish and materialistic than the US. I wish we would be more independent, adhere more strictly to International Law, and grow up enough to detach ourselves from the apron strings of Mother England, and Uncle Sam.
I agree with you. I despair- poor fella my country.
Probably the Murdoch control of Australian makes it especially easy for Israel to control Australia in the same way it does the US. Headlines:
“Abbott gov’t the most pro-Israel ever”
“Tony Abbott quietly shifts UN position to support Israeli settlements, upsetting Palestinians”
“Australian PM ousted for more moderate rival with Jewish roots”
No doubt the last event was to make the Israel-First positioning of Australian governments just a little less obvious.
If Australia did not participate in the in the illegal invasion & destruction of Iraq & dying as essentially American mercenaries there would probably be no need for Australia’s inhumane treatment of Middle East refugees.
Or are Australians well known in the South Pacific Austral-Asia Region as the Protectorate of White Anglo-Saxon Dominance ? .
It is understandable that Australia has had concerns about security so far from the West, but unclear whether it has any rational grounds for concern about China. With Indonesia’s 300 million Muslims between China and Australia’s northern deserts, there would have to be a strong reason to suspect imperialism by China. Why would they consider a vast religious war next door to get those deserts?
The fear of “spreading communism” was once a factor. What was the involvement of Australia and the US in the genocide of more than a million communists in E Timor in Indonesia? Was it to get cheap Indonesian oil, to protect the shipping channels, or was it really a right wing strategy to suppress potential communism in Australia and the US, as with the Vietnam war? Has China ever threatened shipping channels there, despite its need for foreign trade, and why not defend those with a UN force if ever threatened?
The claims of the right wing in the US and Australia look very much like their usual scam of hypothesizing and provoking a foreign “enemy” so as to pose falsely as protectors, and accuse their moral superiors of disloyalty. This is the scheme of the tyrant over democracy forewarned by Aristotle millennia ago, and the perennial scheme of the right wing mass media in the US and Australia. All democracies must provide protection of elections and mass media from economic concentrations, and if they do not, will become dead trees in the forest of democracy..
Australia’s inhumane treatment of Middle East refugees
Nice article. The US has taken the low road for so long, the people of the US have forgot what it’s like to be righteous. Our so-called leaders are nothing but the butt of jokes and rightly so. https://waitforthedownfall.wordpress.com/the-leadership-of-fools/