Hugh Red 24 July 2019
Professor Hugh White has been in the establishment press recently, advocating greatly increased military spending and the possible creation of an Australian nuclear arsenal. This is of course something we should vigorously oppose, but the interesting thing is why he is proposing it. It is because, in his view, the US is not to be relied on to defend Australia, and so we must take on the task ourselves.
Problem is, Australia would only be in a wider conflict as a result of the US 'alliance' itself: this is where Hugh White's arguments fall down. Although he started as an outsider inserted into the Australian military-establishment by Kim 'bomber' Beasley, he has by now taken on their dominant consensus on nations such as Russia and China (and others): that they are long-term or generic threats to Australia.
But minus the hosting of significant US bases in Australia, of a Marine strike force, of rotations of US bombers in the NT, and of a doglike-devotion in both major parties to falling in line with US aggression – without all this, and with a genuinely independent foreign and defence policy, our relations with other countries can be conducted in a different light.
After all, China has continued being Australia's major trading partner despite our hosting bases which help target Chinese cities with US nuclear weapons (which bases in turn become targets themselves). Although that partnership is fraying at the edges due to the enlistment of Australian support for the latest US offensive against China, part of the decade old 'pivot to the Asia-Pacific’, still there is no reason Australia and China couldn't return to a mutually-beneficial relationship once our subservience to the US ended. Of course, establishing relationships of mutual benefit with a rising social-imperialist power will have its own difficulties but these can be greatly minimised if we were genuinely independent of US political, economic and military influence and control.
The same is true of Russia, and increasingly of our south and south-east Asian neighbours. Malaysia and Indonesia for instance, being supporters of the nuclear weapons ban treaty, might well respond favourably to the idea of a regional nuclear weapons-free treaty. The US of course wouldn't allow such a thing as long as the Coalition and the ALP remain wedded to 'the deputy-sheriff' role.
As for military spending, it's true that to carry most Australians with a policy of independence, a robust defence force would still be needed. But minus the costs inflated by massive corruption and inefficiency, and corporate oligopoly of the US military-industrial complex, we can surely provide an adequate defence AND free substantial funds towards meeting this country's ever-growing social needs.
So much of the Australian military budget is devoted to weaponry, vehicles and equipment aimed at supporting US forces, rather than defending Australia. Two cases in point - $12 billion-plus on the greatest rort in the history of the military-industrial complex, the Lockheed Martin F-35 (or the 'flying heap of crap' as it has been labelled) – could be substituted by twice as many much cheaper and better Russian warplanes.
The 3 air-warfare destroyers just built are far too few to defend a country the size of Australia (but as support for a US fleet trying to close off Chinese trade routes say near Singapore - a different matter!). Sell them off and redirect the return. There are other examples, but the point is: Australia has not sat down and looked at a rational allocation of funds between military and social needs because we have not had an independent stance in our whole (white) history. The size and geography of Australia is itself a massive deterrent to invasion – and there are other forms of defence than military ones.
So let's thank Hugh White for at least raising in wider circles the issue of how dependable our alliance with the US is – and move on from his less-useful suggested responses.