US imperialism gathers its proxies and prepares for war
The wave of United States-led militarism sweeping the Asia-Pacific region is not difficult to observe; evidence is readily available from easily accessible sources.
The development of US-led military facilities for defence and security provision, likewise, is also easily traceable.
It is, however, the developments not so easily identifiable which reveal US military planning for real-war scenarios through the use of regional proxies that are particularly revealing.
In March, an official Australian Defence Department media release announced a 'record number of US marines will be deployed to Darwin' within coming weeks, and they will, 'take part in joint operations with Australian Defence Force personnel'. (1) The same media release also revealed the increased numbers of military personnel was 'the seventh and largest rotation' since the deployments began in 2012. (2) While the release revealed 'these initiatives strengthen the ability of Australia and the US to work together', reference was also made to a total of fifteen planned military exercises including other regional partners such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. (3)
Behind the list of regional partners lie the US-led Global Transformation of Defence and Security (GTDS) provision from the period when Donald Rumsfeld was Defence Secretary with the Bush administrations. The plan included Japan being transformed from a client state to a fully-fledged hub for 'US interests' in the northern part of the region, with Australia as a southern counterpart. While the GTDS plan was military in orientation, the thinking was also based on economic neo-colonial considerations.
Military alliances and Free Trade Agreements
The Asia-Pacific region had become the most dynamic sector of the world economy, following the rising influence of China as the main driver of economic growth throughout the 1990s. The US wanted to retain their hegemonic standing within the region, increasingly challenged by the rise of China. As early as 2000, it was noted in official media releases, that, 'it is now a common assumption among national security thinkers that the area from Baghdad to Toyko will be the main location of US military competition for the next several decades'. (4) Military alliances, therefore, rested upon layers of so-called regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
It is not difficult to establish the merging of military alliances with FTAs: speaking to a major forum in London in 2015, then Australian Defence Secretary Kevin Andrews said the western response to 'China's rise will be the major driver of the Indo-Pacific's strategic future', and that the problem will be 'a key consideration for Australian planning and policy-making' for defence. (5)
GTDS and the role of proxy states
The GTDS plan has now been fully implemented; the regional partners of the fifteen planned military exercises are now clustered around the two main hubs in matrix formation as part of US-led alliances. In the case of Japan, the GTDS plan included provision to extend 'the reach of Japan's military', previously limited to 'its own self-defence', to, 'allowing it to act when the US or countries US forces are defending are threatened'. (6)
The GTDS planning also included major diplomatic initiatives for the “US military's re-entry in Southeast Asia, 25 years after the end of the Vietnam War'. (7) Numerous military facilities across the wider region were, therefore, subsequently re-opened. It was noted in official media releases, however, the US 'have no desire to reoccupy any of the massive south-east Asian bases from the last century. Nor do they have the money to create new ones'. (8) Within US military planning provision was made for the extensive use of proxies and alliances to enable the Pentagon to become 'partnered with nations and have rotational presence that would allow us to build up common capabilities'. (9) Emphasis was placed upon the US 'committed to helping its allies', with expecting them to defend 'US interests', even if they run counter to their own best interests. (10) A recent US media release following the release of a 55-page national-security document, for example, contained the statement, 'our strategy is to advance American influence in the world'. (11) No reference, however, was given to the specific interests of US proxies and alliances with allies.
The extensive use of proxies and alliances, however, has brought the US new problems which they are still trying to resolve. As proxy country's military capabilities are connected into the centralised GTDS plan, the problem of 'lack of interoperability' has arisen. (12) Different technologies are not necessarily compatible. The recent case of New Zealand buying four Boeing maritime patrol planes from the US is an example of the case in question. The four planes will be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. An official media release tersely noted, 'flying the same aircraft as military counterparts in Canada, the US and Australia would be a huge advantage'. (13)
There remains little ambiguity about the military plan for the four planes, and location: New Zealand has 'flagged concerns over China's economic influence on Pacific nations'. (14)
The problem of interoperability has also been exacerbated for the US by countries across the region readily accessing military technologies developed by China, including 'advanced radars, sonars, sensors and communications platforms which cannot integrate effectively with US technologies'. (15)
In the case of Thailand, traditionally one of the closest regional allies for the US, for example, China has recently sold over US$1 billion of submarines to the Thai navy. (16) Diplomatic initiatives between Bangkok and Beijing have also recently established a 'joint naval centre' together with a 'joint arms factory to produce and maintain other military equipment'. (17)
There are numerous other similar examples with countries across the Asia-Pacific region. It is, however, the manner in which the US has chosen to deal with the problem which has revealed their regional military planning.
India and the Quad
The US is the main advocate of the so-called Quad, the linking of India into the GTDS plan. The recent US national-security document contained information about 'Trump's call for closer quadrilateral engagement between Australia, the US, India and Japan', and that the diplomatic relationship was the plan for the US to 'remain closely engaged with the Indo-Pacific'. (18) The statement was met with the usual diplomatic silence although it is generally acknowledged both Australia and Japan are not particularly enthusiastic about the so-called Quad.
There is, nevertheless, a logic behind the US position, with far-reaching implications for the region.
India, with its large, well educated workforce, has in recent times been used by US-led military planning as a buffer against China. The planning now appears to have been intensified for the following reasons.
India was formerly close to the former Soviet Union and Russia, which it relied upon for much of its defence and security provision. The country joined the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961 and remains fully committed to the organisation which has provided extensive contact within the developing countries which frequently support Cuba. In recent times, however, India has swung heavily in support of the US. (19) With the final stages of the implementation of the GTDS, the Indian government of right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, began a 'desperate bid' to 'modernise the nation’s Soviet-era military hardware and boost its fledgling domestic defence industry' with a twelve per cent increase in military spending. (20) It continues to the present day.
The diplomatic re-alignment of India in recent years has also included the exporting of military technology and electronic warfare equipment compatible with US requirements which has included a global positioning system intended for sharing with regional neighbours. (21) The present Indian government has also maintained strong links with its former pro-Soviet allies. In 2017, India began the construction of a satellite ground station in Vietnam, linked to others in Brunei, Indonesia and Mauritius, linking the sensitive and congested shipping-lanes of the South China Seas with the Straits of Molucca and access to the Indian Ocean. (22)
The moves have also been accompanied by a high-level diplomatic initiative from the Pentagon to New Delhi to negotiate defence and security agreements to enable the US 'to sell security-focused communications equipment that enables communications interoperability between Indian forces and those of the US and, potentially, other US allies that use the same or similar secure data links'. (23)
There remains little ambiguity with the chosen US position toward India. The same official media release covering the Pentagon-New Delhi diplomatic talks also included reference to 'Washington's need to cultivate India as an ally', and the importance of 'India's geographical location'. (24)
India has become a regional proxy for US-led militarism and real-war scenarios: the move carries new dangers for the Asia-Pacific region.
1. More US Marines than ever head for Darwin, Australian, 23 March 2018.
4. Asia moves to the forefront of Pentagon planning, The Guardian Weekly, (U.K.), 1-7 June 2000.
5. China's rise will drive defence policy, Australian, 28 April 2015; and, China's rise a threat to security, Australian, 15 November 2017.
6. Japan to extend military reach beyond self-defence, The Age (Melbourne), 29 April 2015.
7. Guardian Weekly, op.cit., 1-7 June 2000.
8. US eyes return to south-east Asian bases, The Guardian Weekly, (U.K.), 29 June 2012.
10. US signs defence deal in Asia, The Guardian Weekly, (U.K.), 2 May 2014.
11. Tough-talking President takes a blunt instrument to the bullies of Beijing, Australian, 20 December 2017.
12. US needs to sell more weapons as Russia and China fill the breach, Australian, 4 July 2018.
13. Upgraded Kiwi eyes on China's Pacific interests, Australian, 10 July 2018.
15. Australian, op.cit., 4 July 2018.
18. Australian, op.cit., 20 December 2017.
19. The United States in South Asia: The India Factor, Strategic Analysis Paper, Future Directions International, 26 June 2018.
20. Arms Race, The Express Tribune, 20 July 2014.
21. India takes on China in Asian space race, Australian, 30 June 2017.
23. The US and South Asia, op.cit., 26 June 2018.