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Shape, Deter, Respond: Australia’s role in advancing US imperialism’s “interests”

Written by: (Contributed) on 12 July 2020


The recent Australian government Defence Strategic Update 2020 (DSU) position on national security and regional considerations is based upon three questionable criteria: Shape, Deter, Respond.

Nothing in the official position of the Defence Department is, however, what it appears; it is really about strengthening the 'alliance' with US imperialism and neo-colonialism.

The DSU is also not an original policy but a calculated move back to hawkish regional military positions over an area allocated by the Pentagon to Australia in the name of 'US interests'.

As US-led diplomatic tensions escalate toward China, Australia, therefore, stands the possibility of being drawn into 'real-war scenarios'.

The DSU 2020 was recently launched amid a flurry of publicity provided by the Morrison coalition government in Canberra about an urgent regional defence policy update. In recent times US-led assessments have been highly critical of the declining US position as it has entered into competition with China.

The DSU is based upon three criteria:

a.   Shape, where the area defined as Australia's strategic environment will be subject to a shaping exercise to establish what is regarded as a 'stable, secure and sovereign region'. (1)

b.   Deter, where influences regarded as 'against our interests' are militarily challenged, with 'stronger deterrent capabilities, including long-range strike, cyber attack, and area-denial weapons'. (2)

c.   Respond, where the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is upgraded with improved 'logistics, stock-holding, fuel supplies and military bases, acquiring strike weapons, including possibly hyper-sonic missiles in the future'. (3)

The DSU also included a dramatic increase in Australian defence spending to $270 billion, with estimated increases of 7.2 per cent, 9.2 per cent and 9.0 per cent in the three years from 2020-21. (4)

The underlying factors behind the DSU, officially clouded to avoid scrutiny, have included:

1.     A concise definition of what constitutes Australia's supposed strategic environment with reference to 'the 'north-east Indian Ocean, through maritime and mainland south-east Asia to Papua New Guinea and the south-west Pacific', revealing the vast area around Australia all existing on the same arc from Pine Gap, central Australia, to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which are sensitive US intelligence facilities used for regional surveillance when studied with an actual size world map. (5)

A closer study of the 'strategic environment' has, therefore, included the following countries, land-masses and maritime areas:

*The Straits of Malacca, one of the most congested and sensitive shipping-lanes in the   world, linking the South China Seas with the Indian Ocean through islands which are part of Indonesia;

*The South China Seas, a contested maritime area regarded as militarily sensitive;

*The Philippines, unstable with a volatile political culture and long history of repression;

*Guam, a major US military hub and major player in Micronesian diplomacy amongst a large number of smaller landmasses and shipping-lanes with renewed diplomatic links with Taiwan;

*Kiribati, regarded as sensitive with renewed diplomatic links with China;

*Tuvalu, situated mid-way between Hawaii, the headquarters of the US Indo-Pacific Command, and Australia, and therefore of major strategic significance for the US-Australia 'alliance';

*Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, which are considered strategic and also major players in Polynesian diplomacy within various forums for the Pacific Islands.

The three strategically-placed countries of Melanesia are also placed inside the circumference of the arc from Pine Gap: PNG, which has hosted US-led military facilities on Manus Island; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Each country and landmass within the 'strategic environment' is a potential flashpoint, due to US-led diplomatic hostilities directed toward China.
While each of the countries have their own distinct characteristics, many have economies based on extractive industries, linked to Australian mining companies. Their relationship with Australia, therefore, has tended to be based on neo-colonial relations. The recent DSU would appear to be aimed at strengthening these existing relations, which has included the Morrison coalition government establishing closer links with the ASEAN trading bloc to co-ordinate their policies. (6)  

It is not particularly difficult to find the necessary evidence: a recent statement from Canberra, for example, drew attention to the fact Australia was 'strengthening its intelligence-gathering capability … and intensifying economic and strategic co-operation with allies' to counter the rise of China in the region. (7)

2.     The DSU, however, is not an original policy, but one based on a re-vamped US-led previous Cold War position. The Deter part of the DSU would appear to have re-used standpoints from the Reagan presidency period where shadowy organisations such as the National Coalition for Peace through Strength were fronts for Washington-based private intelligence organisations such as the American Security Council. Their far-right agendas sought to create an arms race, as a means of de-stabilising adversaries which, in those days, was the former Soviet Union. Their focus has now switched to China.

3.     The Respond part of the DSU forms part of classic Cold War positions where China is continually demonised in mainstream media. It has led to a US-led escalation of diplomatic tensions, where it has been noted, for example, that 'the Indo-Pacific is the epicentre of rising strategic competition'. (8)

The very real possibility of Australia, therefore, being drawn into regional hostilities and real-war scenarios is a problem most sensible people can no longer ignore:

                                          We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Morrison is right – we need to protect ourselves, Australian, 3 July 2020.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Ibid.
4.     Why our best defence is a good offence, The Weekend Australian, 4-5 July 2020.
5.     Morrison shoulders arms to Beijing, Australian, 1 July 2020.
6.     Canberra to enlist ASEAN in China row, Australian, 1 July 2020.
7.     Bold bid to fight off China attacks, Australian, 26 June 2020.
8.     PM shoulders arms to China, Australian, 1 July 2020.


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