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Lowy Institute’s military planning based on flawed assessments

(Contributed)
 
A recent assessment issued by the right-wing Australia-based Lowy Institute and a strategic risk consultancy the Cognoscenti Group, has revealed how the Cold War is being taken to new diplomatic heights of tension by war-mongering military hawks.
 
It is not difficult to establish factual information, for such organisations would appear of secondary importance when issuing an official statement of intent. Those concerned appear curiously ignorant about readily available information from mainstream media sources.
 
The questionable nature of their factual analysis may, however, be explained by other problems: those responsible for the publication, for example, would also appear to have geographical ability lower than Grade 10 level. Acceptable map-reading skills, likewise, would appear well beyond their intellectual ability.
 
Readers of the Australian newspaper were recently honoured with an assessment of the Cold War with specific reference to the South Pacific, by Alan Dupont, chief executive of the Cognoscenti Group (CG) and a non-resident fellow of the Lowy Institute (LI). (1) The paper concentrated upon two central features: the need for Australia to develop broad regional alliances to counter the rise of China; the urgent requirement of Australia to counter China's planned development of port facilities in Samoa.
 
The CG/LI paper also provided an insight into the mind of a military hawk pursuing a US-led agenda, with every intention of pushing war-mongering diplomacy. The rise of China, for example, was assessed along lines of 'the most consequential change in our security environment for more than 75 years'. (2) 
 
Very little space, however, was provided in the paper to economic considerations where the rise of China as a major regional power has been assessed by US-led military planners as a threat to US imperialism’s traditional hegemonic defence and security positions. There is little evidence, for example, that China has military planning for formal control of the region despite its increasing political and economic influence there.
 
There was also no coverage provided in the CG/LI paper of recent US-led military initiatives to enable Washington and the Pentagon to use Australia and Japan as regional hubs for 'US interests' while taking a lesser role themselves in planning for real-war scenarios. The military planning is not secret, subject to higher levels of classification: recent official media releases have stated that 'Japan and Australia are understood to be pursuing deeper and broader defence co-operation, including joint exercises, strategic visits, trilateral co-operation with the US, and furthering sharing of defence equipment, science and technology'. (3)
 
The triangular diplomatic Global Transformation of Defence and Security (GTDS) from the period Donald Rumsfeld was US Defence Secretary has now been fully implemented although those responsible for the paper appeared oblivious to the fact. The CG/LI paper, to the contrary, drew attention to 'given doubts and resolve under Donald Trump, protecting our South Pacific interests', as if recent presidential moves to push America First were the real reason for a general lack of interest by Washington in the region.
 
The CG/LI paper also highlighted the need for Australia to establish a regional coalition of willing allies to challenge China as the 'best way of ensuring a successful pivot that protects our vital interests in the South Pacific'. (4) Such military planning would indicate an increased role for Australia within GTDS frameworks through use of other regional allies.
 
Australia, however, has provided few incentives for the establishment of regional military alliances, specifically with governments from the Pacific Island nations.
 
Such problems as Australian trade with the Pacific Islands as only constituting 1.3 per cent of total trade, with investment flows of finance capital being even smaller, being regarded as an obstacle to Canberra successfully wooing counterparts to establish a grand anti-Beijing coalition was not addressed in the paper. (5) Over half the 1.3 per cent Australian trade with the islands is also provided directly to PNG, meaning the paltry remainder is the budget allocation for hundreds of other islands. (6)
 
As a counter to perceived increased Chinese involvement in the South Pacific, the present Coalition government in Canberra has been lobbying private industry to increase their involvement in the region. The so-called important political initiatives, however, are swimming against a tide of dis-interest, the legacy of Canberra-based policies toward the region. A recent policy paper, published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, for example, openly acknowledged Australian involvement in the region had dwindled, with far-reaching implications. (7) It noted 'there's no point in government upgrading our strategic profile without an accompanying emphasis on commercial co-operation', and that, 'the Australian corporate sector effectively abandoned the Pacific'. (8)
 
Most Pacific Islands remain dependent upon small Australian aid budgets which pursue programs designed in Canberra; they rarely, if ever, facilitate sustainable economic development. Most islanders have become accustomed to Australian aid-workers living opulent life-styles amid the economic chaos and social dislocation their neo-colonial programs have created on behalf mining companies and the extractive industries. The shareholders are kept happy with their dividends, the Pacific islanders gain little in return.
    
In reality, Canberra now possesses very few bargaining chips to influence the government policies of Pacific Island nations, particularly in light of more favourable trade terms and softer-diplomacy from Beijing. Australia, nevertheless, continues to regard the South Pacific, as, 'our patch', without any real substance. (9) Media releases from Canberra have touched upon the sensitive issue and even questioned the official Australian diplomatic position. A recent statement from Canberra, for example, drew attention and raised the question 'if the ambition is to renew our commitment to the Pacific Family, stepped-up economic and military engagement needs to be underwritten', followed by a list of requirements linking opportunities in Australia with the Pacific islands over a generational period. (10)
 
The questionable nature of the CG and LI analysis is also accompanied by incorrect geographical information, used to challenge China.
The CG/LI paper drew attention to a so-called revelation that Beijing was considering development plans for the Asau port facilities and an adjacent landing-strip on the largest Samoan island of Savai'i. It was noted the plan would intensify national security concerns, 'that China is determined to establish a beachhead in the South Pacific that would threaten our core interests (and) destabilise the region'. (11) The analysis continued with the statement that China was attempting to, 'drive a wedge between Australia and the largest US Pacific bases on Guam and Hawaii. (12)
 
Using a standard Peters Projection, Map of the World, (Scale 1:1,230,000,000) with Southern Africa at the centre, showing the three strategically-placed straits of the southern cone of the Americas, South Africa and southern Australia with Antarctica, Guam, however, is due north of the Cape York peninsula in northern Australia. Hawaii, even further afield, lies due north-east. Samoa, however, lies due east of the peninsula. Samoa, due to its geographical position, cannot be described as a regional beachhead using standard English definitions. 
 
Likewise, if proposed Chinese facilities on Samoa really drive a wedge between Australia and strategically-placed US military and intelligence bases to the north, it would only be effective if Australian naval vessels sailed around the southern island of New Zealand after leaving port before heading elsewhere for military exercises or real-war scenarios.
 
Such military manoeuvring is fanciful, similar to the whole CG/LI analysis. 
 
The fact the editorial board of the Australian allowed the CG/LI group seven columns in their newspaper to publicise an analysis which can be easily challenged from information accessible from previous editions clearly shows how slack mainstream journalism has been allowed to become. Do the Australian editorial board even bother to read articles placed between the advertisements in their own newspaper?
 
We need an independent foreign policy to distance ourselves from this US-led military planning, flawed assessments and all which accompanies it! It is the product of a US-led 'permanent war complex'. (13)
 
Readers might also like to try and establish the fees paid by the Australian Defence Department for the type of analysis provided by CG/LI types of so-called 'military planners'. The fees, paid from government defence budgets, are tax-payers money and supposed to be accountable.
 

1.     Blue Continent Needs A Coalition Of The Willing, Australian, 10 December 2018; see also, China's Samoa port plan a concern, Australian, 27 November 2018.
2.     Australian, ibid., 10 December 2018.
3.     Japanese PM set to visit sub war grave, Australian, 13 November 2018.
4.     Australian, op.cit., 10 December 2018.
5.     Australia needs to show friends in the Pacific we mean business, Australian, 28 November 2018; see also, Back business for Pacific push, Australian, 28 November 2018.
6.     Australia needs to show friends in the Pacific we mean business, ibid., 28 November 2018.
7.     Back business for Pacific push, op.cit., 28 November 2018.
8.     Ibid.
9.     China v. US in the Pacific comes to a head in Port Moresby, The Weekend Australian, 17-18 November 2018.
10.   Pacific pivot needs to be more than guns and concrete pours, Australian, 12 November 2018.
11.   Blue continent needs a coalition of the willing, op.cit., 10 December 2018.
12.   Ibid.
13.   America's Permanent War Complex, The American Conservative, 15 November 2018.
 
 

 

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