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Issue #1579      January 30, 2013

Rush to war preparations

“The 9/11 decade is ending and a new one is taking its place. That’s why I launch the National Security Strategy today,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard told Alexandra Kirk on ABC Radio National on January 23. The National Security Strategy is one in a series of reviews and statements on security-related issues. On the surface it is fiercely nationalistic, while in reality surrendering Australia’s sovereignty to the US. It plays down the likelihood of a major war and attempts to direct attention to other non-military security risks. It presents Australia as a middle power, strengthening its “regional engagement” and shaping the world in its interests.

(Photo: Avante Media Australia)

A new Defence White Paper is expected by June. In that context this process has a sense of urgency as the next White Paper is not due until 2014. There appears to be an urgent rush to war preparations.

The statement, called “Strong and Secure”, places emphasis on risks to Australia’s security such as cyber warfare, foreign espionage, terrorism, violent extremism, and serious organised crime, and outlines the government’s measures to deal with them. While toning down the 2009 Defence White Paper’s overtly aggressive stance towards China, China clearly remains the main target of Australian (and US) foreign policy and their military build-up in the region.

Its “vision” is for a “unified national security system that anticipates threats, protects the nation and shapes the world in Australia’s interest.” In particular, it seeks “To promote a favourable international environment: to influence and shape our regional and global environment to be conducive to advancing Australia’s interests and values.” (Bold in original)

This arrogant and nationalistic aim is a recurring theme. For example, in the section defining national security, the statement says, “Importantly, national security is not just about countering threats; it is also about making the most of opportunities. In particular, Australia seeks to shape the international environment, both to prevent the emergence of security threats, and to achieve broader benefits for Australia (such as trade and economic benefits).”

“For Australia over the next decade, the most significant trends are likely to be:

  • uncertainty in the global economy;
  • a rebalancing of global power;
  • the continuing importance of non-state actors; and
  • low-level conflict in high-risk areas,” the statement says.

Yet, with the exception of the fourth point, these important trends are not developed in the document. Even coverage of the government’s main concern, the “Asian Ascendency”, lacks detail concerning these developments and associated risks to Australia’s security.

Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a national security statement in 2008. It was followed by a Defence White Paper in 2009, outlining the way forward to the year 2030. There was the promise of five-yearly reviews to update for new developments. (See Guardian # 1410 13-05-2009)

In the foreword to the security statement, Gillard refers to “the acceleration in the dramatic economic and strategic change occurring in our region”, which she says led her to commissioning the document. “We are entering a new national security era, in which the rapid economic and strategic change occurring in our region will be the most significant influence on our national security environment and policies.”

These regional changes were reported on in another statement, “Australia in the Asian Century” which was released in November 2011. It draws attention to the ascendency of Asia and how Australian businesses should capitalise on these developments. (See Guardian #1573 14-11-2012)

Australia-US Alliance

The Australia-US alliance is promoted as “critical to our ability to deter and defeat adversaries.” Australia remains on the ready to intervene anywhere in the world on behalf of the US. Australia will retain forces in Afghanistan after 2014 as part of a new NATO-led mission. Australia is strengthening its ties with NATO which is planning to build its presence in our region.

The security statement says: “The Australia–United States Alliance (the Alliance) remains our most important security relationship. It has formed the foundation of our defence and security cooperation since shortly after the Second World War. The Alliance has proved a critical enabler for the development of our own military capability. It remains an important anchor for peace and security in our region.

“The value of the Alliance lies not simply in its defence aspects. It strengthens our prosperity as well as our security. The United States is integral to global economic growth and security, and provides the critical underpinning to the rules-based order that exists today.” (Bold added)

The statement should have added that the US has also determined our foreign policy since then.

This claim reflects the government’s side-lining of the United Nations and its preparedness to fight the US’s illegal wars to enforce rules and a new international order as dictated by the US.

However there is a short, not exactly honest, section on Australia’s seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC) in 2013-214. There it states:

“This is a major opportunity. As a middle power with global interests, Australia has long been a supporter of a rules-based international order. The UNSC has a central place in that order. It has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. To that end, the UNSC is empowered to authorise a range of measures, including sanctions and the use of force.”

The Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean rim are the main focus for military build-up and securing of partnerships and military alliances.

Australia will continue with its expansion and restructuring of military bases to meet US requirements.

Strengthening regional ties

Gillard says, “Australia must strengthen its regional engagement to support security and prosperity in the Asian Century.”

The promotion of bilateral and multi-lateral military and other partnerships with other countries in the region is central to the government’s strategy. They include Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, India, Singapore, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam. The US and Australia are working hard to bring India into the US’s sphere. Australia’s sale of uranium to India should be viewed in this context.

The US’s aim is the containment and isolation of China which are strengthened by its military encirclement of China and military build-up in the region, in particular off the coast of China, with the support of its partners.

The development of these partnerships is part of the drive by the US to pull non-aligned India, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia and other nations into its camp and try to shut China out. Everything is being done to cultivate divisions with China. Needless to say this agenda is not mentioned in the document.

China

Rudd’s White Paper took a belligerent stand towards China. “A major power of China’s stature can be expected to develop a globally significant military capability befitting its size. But the pace, scope and structure of China’s military modernisation have the potential to give its neighbours cause for concern if not carefully explained, and if China does not reach out to others to build confidence regarding its military plans.”

It went on to lecture China on what it had to do. This caused considerable offence and concern in China and elsewhere in the region.

The 2013 statement is more diplomatic, even if less honest. It speaks in terms of China as a regional partner and strengthening our relationship through “foreign and security dialogue and military-to-military engagement with China.

“China is playing an increasingly active role in regional affairs and multilateral forums and is building a significant military capability.”

“…China’s military growth is a natural, legitimate outcome of its growing economy and broadening interests. The rapidity of that military modernisation has given rise to a degree of uncertainty or even sensitivity.”

China remains the elephant in the room throughout the document. All sorts of risks and threats to security are identified, but rarely a name put to the sources of them except for Iran, Hezbollah and North Korea which come in for the usual demonisation.

Risks

The document refers to economic and strategic changes but instead of elaborating on that they are, it focuses on a host of risks and how Australia will be prepared to respond to them.

These risks include terrorism; espionage (foreign states and commercial); foreign interference (not explained); attacks on Australia (eg by resource hungry countries) and Australia’s interests anywhere in the world; organised crime; cyber warfare; so-called violations of our border integrity (eg asylum seekers, irregular migration patterns); attacks on our resources including offshore; instability in fragile and developing areas; climate change; cross border pandemics; and a range of natural disasters.

“A major war is unlikely,” Gillard says. But Australia will still continue preparing for war. There will be an escalation of joint military exercises with the US and our partners. Australia will continue with its expansion and restructuring of military bases to meet US requirements and acquisition of new submarines, frigates, fighter jets, drones and other materiel.

A great deal has been said about financing Australia’s military purchases. The 2009 White Paper laid the basis for a massive and relatively rapid build up of Australia’s military capability, in particular, Australia’s marine capability for off-shore offensive action. The military budget was to be insulated from the cuts being imposed on education, health, social welfare and measures to address climate change.

The Australian government has more than tripled its national intelligence effort (spying) between 2000 and 2012.

Civil and military integration

At present 384 federal police are deployed overseas, “including to promote the role of law and build law enforcement capacity abroad.” No information is given regarding their locations.

Their deployment is part of a more recent strategy for taking over “fragile states” (previously referred to as “failed states”) and other non-compliant states. The military move is accompanied by a civilian team to take over and re-establish government, law and order, “democratic” electoral processes, public infrastructure and to train and build military forces, etc, in line with Western interests.

In essence it is recolonisation dressed up to look like assistance. Instead of the more direct method of occupation and direct foreign rule, it provides the necessary structures for foreign corporations to operate freely and puts in place a compliant government. It may be preceded by war as in Afghanistan or by “invitation” as in the case of Australia’s intervention in the Solomon Islands.

Aid programs are increasingly being linked to military and other government operations.

Global strategic reordering

There is no doubt that major and, in some instances, rapid global reordering is underway. But the document does not deal with them, let alone how they might affect Australia. China’s role is not analysed at all. Africa hardly scores a mention, South America is ignored, significant changes in Europe and much of Asia are not dealt with. Where mention is made, it says little of value.

For example, take the following two paragraphs:

“Beyond the region, we will look also for opportunities to cooperate with other close partners, such as the United Kingdom, Canada and France,” and “On the whole, this global strategic reordering is positive. But it brings with it challenges. On the one hand it will enable Australia to reinvigorate traditional relationships, such as those with the United Kingdom, France and other like-minded countries, in the pursuit of common security interests on issues such as cyber.”

Those fleeting references to the UK hide significant developments. Just prior to the release of the security statement, Britain’s Defence Secretary Liam Fox and Foreign Minister William Hague were in Australia for talks with their Australian counter-parts and signed a secretly negotiated Defence and Security Co-operation Treaty on January 18.

One aspect of their discussion was co-operation and cost-cutting on the building of frigates and submarines for the two navies. But there is far more to it than marine vessels. The UK is talking of greater involvement in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean rim.

Australia already had strong military and intelligence ties with Britain. This latest development needs to be considered in a wider global context. Britain, although part of the EU, has never fully committed to it. In the inter-imperialist rivalry between the US and the EU, Britain has always been closer to the US and more ready to join US military operations.

The recent announcement of a referendum on Britain’s future in the EU by the conservative government and the strengthening of military ties with Australia – the US’s deputy sheriff in the Asia-Pacific region – suggest the British government is pulling out of Europe and putting all its eggs in the US imperialist basket. These and other significant global developments are completely ignored or passed over with a fleeting reference in the security document.

This “global strategic reordering” is occurring at a far more rapid pace than anticipated at the time of the White Paper just four years ago. Not just China and India are developing and militarising more rapidly, but China has extended its influence through investment and aid on all five continents.

Inter-imperialist rivalries are taking on new dimensions; the EU and US economies are not only in crisis, but also in relative and absolute decline. The balance of economic power is rapidly shifting and with it political and military developments which do not favour the US or the EU. But nowhere is there discussion of these and the many other aspects of global strategic reordering which the statement says is so important.

Pivot into Asia

“The United States has publicly articulated its ‘rebalancing’ toward the Asia–Pacific and remains the world’s most powerful strategic actor,” the security statement says.

Under the heading “Future Directions”, the list includes: “Encourage and facilitate the United States to continue playing its role as a stabilising pillar for regional security including by facilitating its rebalancing into the region and supporting the Global Force Posture Review.”

This refers to the US’s plans (announced in 2011) to build its presence in the Asia Pacific region and Indian Ocean – its “pivot into Asia” – which placed additional demands on Australia.

Australia followed with its own Australian Defence Force Posture Review, to bring policy into line with the US’s changes.

Gillard and US President Barak Obama – during his visit to Australia in 2011 – announced the strengthening of the Australia-US alliance. (See “Bringing War to Our Doorstep”, www.cpa.org.au , follow peace link.)

The changes to US policy are behind the sudden rush to prepare new security and defence documents, to bring them into line with the US’s “pivot” and the new demands being placed on Australia by the US.

What is clear about all the documents – national security statements, White Papers – is that they are sanitised versions, written for public and overseas consumption. The public, as usual, is being kept in the dark as to the real agenda, in particular our loss of sovereignty and independence and ongoing war preparations.

The financing of Australia’s reordering of its military and intelligence operations is played down in the security report. The tight fiscal situation is referred to, and the media are playing up recent cuts to the defence budget.

These cuts were not deep and largely illusory. Total spending on the whole area of military, intelligence and other security operations was not hit hard at all. The purchase of some large ticket items was postponed, including some that were not going to be ready on time! Watch this space, as they say, after the elections, when the big cuts will come – not to military operations but to social welfare, health and education.

In essence, the production of new security documents does not change the direction of Australia’s foreign or defence policies or weaken Australia’s focus on defending US global domination. They do nothing to build peace and security in our region, quite the contrary: they fuel the arms race, increases tensions and further erode Australia’s sovereignty.  

Next article – Editorial – Downward economic spiral

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