- by Casey Davidson
- The Guardian
- Issue #1980
It’s been less than a month since the US tore out of poverty-stricken Afghanistan after losing a twenty-year dirty war, with Australia dragging behind, and already they have announced a new absurd military scheme, AUKUS, a deal between the US, UK and Australia to develop and deploy nuclear-powered submarines along with other military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region. The move comes with a multitude of complications, including potentially breaking the non-nuclear proliferation agreement, additional expense for taxpayers, ramping up of aggression towards China, further subservience toward the US and loss of sovereignty for Australia, and further challenges for cooperation for global threats such as climate change and the pandemic.
The AUKUS abomination makes Australia complicit in developing military artificial intelligence, cyber warfare, underwater capabilities, and long-range strike capabilities in cooperation with the US and the UK. While the Australian public have been up in arms about the threat of nuclear development, there are additional concerns of development of other advanced weaponry threatening the region. AUKUS creates additional fears as other Indo-Pacific nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia may respond by ramping up their own military spending for their own defence. This could spark a new arms race in the region.
BREAKING THE NON-NUCLEAR TREATY
Australia as a medium-power has little need to participate in the nuclear arms race and has remained free of nuclear weapons. It is a signatory to the The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which is an international treaty founded to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. This treaty is at risk of being broken by Australia under the new agreement, however the powers that be claim to have found their way around the existing agreements by providing nuclear-powered subs that do not carry nuclear weapons. Curiously, nuclear subs are designed specifically for offence, and there are no existing nations with them that do not have nuclear weapons. It also provides a way to develop nuclear weapon technology in Australian waters with little ability for it to be regulated.
Australia’s geographical position in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as its fundamental roots as another white colonial power give the US strategic advantage in containing and threatening China. Unsurprisingly, China has expressed dissatisfaction with the formation of AUKUS. Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry described the move as an “extremely irresponsible” threat to regional stability, expressing that “China is promoting economic cooperation and regional economic integration, while the US is pushing for war and destruction.”
Not to mention, Australia relies heavily on China for trade and investment. In fact, China is Australia’s largest trading partner, and an irresponsible act such as this is likely to further damage the already delicate relations. This will continue to affect Australian workers negatively as Australia’s economy experiences additional strain.
WHITE COLONIALIST IDEALISM
Australia has already succumbed to co-founding the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad) with the US, India and Japan, in response to increased Chinese economic and military power. But the formation of AUKUS is telling of an idealistic ambition to move back to what Carlos Martinez, author and co-founder of Friends of Socialist China describes as a “euphemism of white colonial unity” inextricably linked with British colonial slavery, genocide of indigenous peoples, the rape of Africa, brutal colonisation of India, and the horrendous Opium Wars in China.
Martinez also points to the link with the UK’s favourite colonial offspring, the US, and their deeply horrific occupation in the Pacific of Hawaii and Guam, as well as genocide in Korea, war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, while Australia has continually acted as a proxy for US interests, joining in Vietnam, the CIA-backed coup in Indonesia, and many more atrocities in the Asia-Pacific region. In Martinez’s overview he stated that this is “the character of these countries, and everyone in the region and in the world understands perfectly well what they represent, but this is a fundamentally racist neo-colonial project and it is frankly, an embarrassment”. AUKUS is not an attempt to protect the wellbeing of Australians, but an attempt to maintain US hegemony.
HOPE OVER HEGEMONY
Additionally, China’s economic growth and prosperity is not a result of plunder and exploitation like in the West, but a result of an exceptional socialist political model. For more than forty years, the Global South has been forced to succumb to predatory neoliberalism and endless war. With China’s defeat of extreme poverty, rapid infrastructure development and cooperation with 140 countries under the Belt and Road Initiative, they are demonstrating a way forward, and a hopeful path for humanity. What has the West got left to offer the rest of humanity? It seems nothing but climate catastrophe, dirty wars, and poor pandemic management.
Regardless, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hellbent on carrying through this irresponsible deal, and has made remarks in response to criticisms that “our relationship with the United States is a forever relationship”. This points to the fact that his coalition is tied to bowing down to all requests from the US, no matter how damaging for the Australian people. The reality is that the pact is a clear indication of how little sovereignty Australia has, and how tied it is with lining the pockets of US weapon manufacturers, and supporting US imperialist wars of aggression. This speaks volumes to the so-called democracy and freedom of the Australian people in interests of domestic and international concern.
LIBERAL & LABOR IN LOCKSTEP
So what do the Labor opposition leaders have to say in response to the announcement of AUKUS? Anthony Albanese has supported the ramp-up of nuclear military presence without question, with his only concern being how to manage bipartisan oversight. Even ex-Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s only concern was that the submarines would not be built fast enough, and in fact encouraged the Coalition to rapidly accelerate the process. It is clear that leadership in the Labor Party is happier to risk working class Australians being involved in a potential war with a nuclear power rather than mildly inconveniencing their US counterparts. The Australian working class deserve a real party of the working class, and should not submit to this disappointing uniformity with the Liberal Party.
CRITICISM FROM KEATING AND ARDERN
The only previous Australian leader who made any sense in the discourse was ex-Prime Minister Paul Keating, who expressed great dissatisfaction in a letter to Morrison, “If the US military with all its might could not beat a bunch of Taliban rebels with AK47 rifles in pickup trucks, what chance would it have in a full blown war against China, not only the biggest state in the world, but the commander and occupant of the largest landmass in Asia?” In response, Morrison basically restated his position that the US-Australia relationship is “forever” and that he shares the views of ex-Prime Ministers John Curtin, Robert Menzies, and John Howard.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned that “New Zealand’s position in relation to the prohibition of nuclear-powered vessels in our waters remains unchanged”. New Zealand provides an example of how a more responsible Western nation could behave in terms of maintaining fruitful relations with both the US and China.
GLOBAL COOPERATION A NECESSITY
Fundamentally, AUKUS is an outrageously obtuse and expensive project which is not based on any sense of rationality. At a time when the world continues to be faced with global threats, cooperation becomes ever more essential. While it seems the COVID-19 pandemic is on its way out, everyone in the world has been affected, and it has changed everyone’s lives significantly. The threat of climate catastrophe continues to breed existential dread for people all over the world, and there are already a significant number of climate refugees seeking new homes. As Martinez highlighted, “climate catastrophe is a very, very serious threat and it’s a global threat. If Shanghai goes down, if Guangzhou goes down, well, New York’s going down as well, and Miami is going down as well.” There should be no new military alliances, but cooperative alliances to tackle these very real challenges facing every person in the world. The world yearns for peace, development, cooperation and safety. All Australians who share these values must campaign to turn back the tide on what may otherwise be an inevitable path to war.