US imperialism places new demands on its Australian servants
The Trump administration appears to also be upgrading the role of Australia in regional military planning, with the likelihood of a further escalation of hostilities with China.
The call, by Grant Newsham (pictured above), a senior researcher with the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, was to increase US troop numbers by a further 2,000 personnel and involve up to four US naval vessels stationed close to Darwin, is a serious Pentagon military position. (1) The prestigious conservative US-led think-tank formed in 1999 has close links to the Pentagon, employing what their website refers to as 'special advisors': Newsham is a former US colonel, with long-time experience of Japan. (2)
The Pentagon already has at least an official 375,000 military and civilian personnel covered by the Indo-Pacific Command based in Hawaii. The recent US-led military planning for increased command facilities in mid-2018, took place amid rising diplomatic tensions with China. (3) The new zone of responsibility covers 36 nations. The real military and civilian totals are, therefore, likely to be much larger. Australia, for example, has a large defence sector with some employed in an official or semi-official capacity in command structures. Other countries also have large military reserves with civilian personnel who are drawn upon at time of national emergencies.
Almost hidden within a few short official media releases, the US-led regional military plan included 'spearheading a fresh strategy on the Indian and Pacific Oceans', which would involve a Darwin-based amphibious force linked into an alliance with allies: Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Indonesia, 'and aim to eventually hold a local equivalent of Hawaii's Rim of the Pacific military exercises'. (4)
The US already has 2,500 military personnel rotated on the temporary basis through northern Australia each year, as part of regional operations. The proposed US-led military plan would appear to require Canberra accepting and 'permitting a standing foreign presence on its soil'. (5) Part of the proposed US position would appear to be centred upon providing the Pentagon with rapid deployment facilities by sea.
The Pentagon regards the rise of China as a serious competitor for US traditional hegemonic positions; regional diplomacy, in recent times, has included a dramatic escalation of hostilities which have included the South Pacific and South China Seas as possible 'theatres of war'. The moves have coincided with US-led regional diplomacy pushing a new Cold War against perceived Chinese influence. The Pentagon’s view is that 'China's objective is to replace the US' in the region; hence, 'Australians must contend with advanced and persistent military threats'. (6) This is all within the context of a US-led trade war, which has had serious implications for countries across the wider region.
US imperialist ideologues and policy-drivers assess their nation’s present standing as being one of relative decline. Newsham has attributed the problem of decline to a preoccupation with combat in the Middle East and Afghanistan for nearly twenty years, during which time China has made many advances. The problem has also been exacerbated by what Newsham has regarded as a series of 'inadequate and uncertain defence budgets' which has also contributed toward the US experiencing an 'eroded military edge in the Indo-Pacific'. (7)
No reference was made in any of the official media releases to increased defence budgets to finance the operations although it would appear likely the US expect its regional partners to foot the bill.
Within the US-led military plan, for example, an increased role would be thrust upon Canberra 'effectively making northern Australia a new front-line for projecting Western influence' into the wider region, with emphasis placed upon the possible creation of 'a big US base in Australia' for strategic reasons. (8) The official media release was couched in terminology which could hardly be regarded as ambiguous; Australia was noted as constituting 'strategic real estate. Few locations rival it for any power that aspires to primacy in the Pacific and Indian Oceans'. (9)
While no reference was given to US-led proposals for the Lombrum military base on Manus Island, PNG, it was implicit within the new proposed military plan that the role of Australia was as a forward base for US-led regional operations using offshore facilities. Newsham stated, for example, the need for smaller marine units dispersed throughout the region linked into electronic warfare systems 'making use of long-range precision weapons'. (10)
The military plan has taken place at a time when US-led regional military planners are considering revising their trilateral diplomatic arrangements linking Tokyo and Canberra with the Pentagon, to also include India with the so-called 'quad'. The matter is set for high-level diplomatic talks early in 2020 with Prime Minister Scott Morrison visiting India to meet his counterpart, PM Narendra Modi. (11) On the already publicised agenda will be discussion about joint military technology projects and reciprocal access to military facilities. (12)
With US-led regional military planning developing along these lines, we need an independent foreign policy!
1. 'Unite to check China's advance', The Weekend Australian, 21-22 December 2019.
2. Website: The Japan Forum for Strategic Studies.
3. US re-brands Pacific Command amid tensions with China, CNN US Military, 31 May 2018.
4. Korea's Diplomacy, The Chosun Ilbo (Seoul), 30 May 2019; and Weekend Australian, op.cit., 21-22 December 2019.
5. Weekend Australian, ibid.
7. Blunders eroded US edge in Pacific, Grant Newsham, The Asia Times, 17 September 2019.
8. Weekend Australian, op.cit.. 21-22 December 2019.
11. Wong backs India ties to shape 'our region', Australian, 9 December 2019.
12. Morrison to tighten defence ties with India, Australian, 12 December 2019.