When faced with a potential conflict, why do we abandon the strategy that worked in the past for a strategy that will definitely fail?
My late beloved grandfather served in the Australian forces in WWII and it was thanks to him that he returned with a leg injury, which never healed, and a stress disorder trauma patient who saw him spend the last three decades of his life rarely left his bed.
He was proud of his contribution, but also deeply grieved those comrades who never returned, and he railed against the sheer waste of it all. And that horror was due to what was the only armed conflict in which Australia was unambiguously on the winning side.
Our most recent efforts in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq aren’t exactly a litany of triumphs – the troops packing up in Afghanistan right now aren’t exactly coming home because everything has gone well and it would be rude to exceed their welcome.
Even without well-substantiated reports of war crimes committed by Australian forces against civilians, one would think our leaders would hesitate to send our citizens to die at great cost in yet another foreign conflict. And yet some in our federal government are beating the drums of war with such savage enthusiasm that Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee would tell them to stop being so needlessly flamboyant.
Australian warmongers in dangerously powerful positions
Peter Dutton said that we are ‘already attacked‘China in the cybersphere, while its former head of department, Michael Pezzullo, worryingly raised the looming threat of conflict in his ANZAC Day speech.
And it shouldn’t be necessary to say it, but; despite the breathless rhetoric of Dutton and Pezzulo, if Australia went to war with China, we would be far behind.
It doesn’t help that successive coalition governments have committed us to spending billions of dollars on flashy new toys, such as the series of unmanageable design flaws that are the Joint Strike Fighter, and the submarines that promise to eventually produce largely obsolete machines. , assuming they are complete.
It’s especially concerning when, after military fetishist Tony Abbott became Prime Minister, he not only valued the military, but also began the budget cuts to our diplomatic corps and the foreign aid programs that represented the real regional weight of Australia.
Diplomacy was once our superpower, the smart choice for a small country far from the major decision-making centers of the Northern Hemisphere. However, alongside a new hawkishness over our military activity, there have been cuts in foreign aid. Last year we collapsed near the bottom of aid tables among OECD countries, ranking alongside Portugal.
And beyond the moral dimension of a rich country hovering in the middle of a group of very poor who are not doing well, there is also the cold, hard, secure calculation; because if things started with China, we would need all the friends we could have.
you have the neighbors you deserve
The much demonized Belt and Road initiative can very reasonably be seen as a way for China to exert influence over all countries in our region. But before you poke fun at the fact that China has bribed its way to popularity, it’s worth pointing out that we haven’t really endeared ourselves to the neighborhood lately.
If the push was ever to turn into a live fire, in which direction would a Pacific nation choose to jump right now? Would they support the country that brought in health workers and built a road network, or the one whose leaders made jokes about how drunk they are when sea levels rise?lapping at your door‘?
Australia cannot win a war with China, not only because it could atomize us without breaking a sweat, but also because we took a hard line with international aid as China moved closer. from all of our neighbors and said things to them like “Hey, do you want a hospital system? How about a new port? How about a nice big loan in exchange for which we would like your mineral wealth to serve as collateral?
And the war does not need to heat up to devastate us. Of course, China’s military might eclipse that of most of the planet (with the exception of the United States), but now it is also the largest economy on Earth. They don’t have to waste expensive missiles on us – they just have to grab our markets and wait.
Morrison can talk about the indestructible bond between Australia and our traditional allies (when not accidentally endorsing China’s stance on Taiwan…), But does he honestly think that if one told Indonesia, India or even the United States that they had the choice between trading with China or Australia, but not the two, would they bravely defend us on something as fragile as principle? Yes, me neither.
wanted: cold heads and diplomatic weapons
For all kinds of reasons, from COVID-19 to climate change, from a global recession to regional geopolitics, the world expects a lot of volatility. The winners in the times to come will not be countries that provoke entirely preventable fighting; they’ll be the ones who find clever ways to advance their interests and agendas, which likely won’t involve launching battles they can’t win.
What Australia needs is leadership composure and absolute weapons within DEFAT and our corps of ambassadors. We need exceptional Foreign, Trade and Defense Ministers to help us regain the level of influence and friendship we will need to survive and prosper for decades to come.
Or, you know, we trust the cold wisdom and unlimited personal charisma of Peter Dutton to continue his diplomatic strategy based on the public threat and see how it goes.