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Issue #1594      May 22, 2013

Defence White Paper

Part 2

Indo-Pacific arc

The White Paper states,“China’s continued rise as a global power, the increasing economic and strategic weight of East Asia and the emergence over time of India as a global power are key trends influencing the Indian Ocean’s development as an area of increasing strategic significance. In aggregate, these trends are shaping the emergence of the Indo-Pacific as a single strategic arc.”

(Photo: Avante Media Australia)

Hence the adjustment of “Australia’s priority strategic focus to the arc extending from India though Southeast Asia to Northeast Asia, including the sea lines of communication on which the region depend.” This adjustment in priorities is to bring Australia into line with the US’s pivot.

The Paper notes that the sea-lanes are vital trade routes for China and India as well as for Japan, Singapore, India, South Korea and Australia.

The inclusion of India reflects growing concerns that India “is expected to become the world’s third largest economy by 2025, by when it will also become the most populous state.”

India is modernising its military. The US, with the assistance of Australia, is doing all it can to draw India into the US camp as an ally and pit it against China and Russia. Australia’s sale of uranium should be seen in this light. There is also the risk of war between India and Pakistan which could serve US interests by weakening or even seeing India broken up.

Yet India is rapidly becoming more important to Australia as a trading partner and there has been a recent surge in migration from India.

The US’s longer term plans for India are similar to those for China – to break the country up so that it cannot pose a threat to US economic domination. In the case of China, there is the question of counter-revolution and turning China into a “democracy”.

The military agenda is only one facet of the US’s attempts to contain China’s economic development and prevent it overtaking the US. It is waging political and ideological battles within China, promoting disruptive forces and ethnic and religious divisions.

The Paper emphasises that the strategic environment will be shaped largely by the relationship between the United States and China while noting the importance that India will play in the longer term.

The government also expresses concern over the growing influence in the region of Russia and the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). It makes particular reference to “Russia’s economic potential, as a supplier of oil and gas, nuclear technology and conventional arms.”

At the same time it promotes the formation of multi-lateral and bilateral alliances in the region and escalation of military exercises with the US’s (and so Australia’s) military partners.

Economic domination

“Because the adverse impact of the Global Financial Crisis has been comparatively heavier on Western economies, it is accelerating the shift in economic and strategic weight to our region.”

This is true. It is also accelerating the relative and absolute economic decline of the US, which the White Paper does not say explicitly. What the US cannot achieve by economic or political means, it pursues using military might and other forms of sabotage.

The US, NATO and other Western governments preach the rule of law, but shamelessly arm terrorist groups, do business with drug traffickers carry out assassinations, orchestrate coups, as well as bombing infrastructure to gain access to natural resources and pursue their economic interests.

Libya, Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq and Yugoslavia, to name a few of their victims, have all been subjected to such exercises.

“Australia has direct interests in stable trade routes through the Indian Ocean. Some of Australia’s major trading partners – China, Japan, Singapore, India and the Republic of Korea – are heavily reliant on these routes for energy and raw material resources,” the Paper says.

It is clear that the US is seeking to control these routes with the assistance of allies like Australia. The aim is to contain China economically and militarily and the Indian Ocean is a critical component. The White Paper makes the point that “Over 80 percent of China’s oil imports transit the area.” Is the US planning to blockade China’s sea lanes?

Brian Toohey writing for the The Australian Financial Review raises concerns that Australia is being diverted from its core objectives if planners allow operational doctrine to be dominated by the US’s important new Air-Sea Battle Plan (“Spend less more wisely”, 4-5 May 2013).

“The plan assumes the ADF will always be available to help impose a proposed naval blockade on exports of raw materials from reaching China, Australia’s biggest market,” Toohey says.

“It will need an extraordinarily compelling case before Australia participates in a blockade that will collapse the global economy. Nevertheless, the US military is pushing Australia to give higher priority to preparing for such a blockade as part of a high intensity war with China.”

War preparations

The 2013 Paper is the culmination of a series of reviews including the Australian Defence Force Posture Review (03-05-2012); Australia in the Asian Century (28-10-2012); and the National Security Strategy (23-01-2013). Each of these papers spelt out aspects of the Australian government’s and the US’s “rebalancing” of economic, military and political focus towards Asia and the Indian Ocean.

Looking beyond the spin in the 2013 Paper, it is clear that the US and Australian governments are escalating their war preparations and China is still the principal target.

The paper is essentially a political statement for public consumption that attempts to sell a massive build-up in Australia’s war preparations. It outlines the expansion of “joint” US bases in Australia, purchase of materiel, development of electronic, cyber and space warfare capacity and the expansion of maritime capability in particular.

As previously announced, Australia will continue with its plans to host permanently 2,500 (on rotational basis) US marines in Darwin and expand its bases for the use of the US at Tindal and Darwin.

It will go ahead with 12 new submarines (to be assembled in South Australia), new amphibious ships, ten C-27J Battlefield Airlift aircraft, Air Warfare Destroyers and other purchases that will extend its marine capability and striking power. Twelve EA-18G Growler aircraft will add to their Hornet range to “provide the ability to dominate the battle space electronically” – i.e. shut down electronic equipment.

Australia will play a major role in the US’s space war and missile “defence” plans with the deployment of the C-band ground-based radar at the Harold E Holt Naval Communications Station at North West Cape in WA and the Space Surveillance Telescope elsewhere in Australia.

This will strengthen the US’s capacity to attack satellites and space-based systems and monitor launches by other countries.

Australia is also planning to use unmanned surveillance systems including unmanned aircraft (drones). It is silent as to whether the drones would be used for military attacks.

Australia’s build-up in offensive military capacity only serves to fuel the arms race in the Asia Pacific region. The White Paper appears to support the growing militarisation of the region and the expansion of the military industry in Australia. It is sold as job creating, whereas the same money put into such projects as public transport and alternative energy would create many more jobs, serve other social needs, do less damage to the environment and reduce the risk of war.

Instead of advocating nuclear disarmament, it talks in terms of “the deterrent value of the strategic nuclear forces of major nuclear powers.”

Regardless of all the rhetoric, the main thrust of the White Paper – the strengthening of the US alliance, “rebalancing” of Australia’s military, expansion of US bases and training on Australian soil and blind subservience to the US – means the agenda of the 2009 White Paper has not changed. The main target remains China.

Budget

There has been considerable criticism from the war hawks in the media that the government is not making enough cuts to other budget items to fund the massive shopping list of aircraft, submarines, warships and weaponry.

They seem to have overlooked that it is a pre-election budget and that the government plans to increase Defence spending from 1.5 to about two percent of GDP. The 2013-14 Budget Papers provide for ongoing increases from $29 billion in 2013-14 to a whopping $36 billion in 2016-17.

This is consistent with the Rudd government’s policy of a real increase in military spending of three percent per annum which was put on hold by Gillard as the government attempted to restore the budget to a surplus.

The so-called cuts to military spending have largely come from delays in purchases and internal restructurings and efficiencies – the defence forces did not get all they wanted immediately, but they have not been hit hard like the unemployed, single parents or others on the receiving end of real cuts.

Regardless of whether Liberal or Labor wins office, with the elections over, military spending will once again be a sacred cow, shielded from axe-wielding treasurers. Australia is still preparing for war.

Alternative path

China’s White Paper, The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces, published by the State Council in April, 2013, states: “It is China’s unshakable national commitment and strategic choice to take the road of peaceful development. China unswervingly pursues an independent foreign policy of peace and a national defence policy that is defensive in nature.

“China opposes any form of hegemonism or power politics, and does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. China will never seek hegemony or behave in a hegemonic manner, nor will it engage in military expansion. China advocates a new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination, and pursues comprehensive security, common security and cooperative security.

“It is a strategic task of China’s modernisation drive as well as a strong guarantee for China’s peaceful development to build a strong national defence and powerful armed forces which are commensurate with China’s international standing and meet the needs of its security and development interests.”

The US-Australia Alliance might be “indispensable” to the warmongering imperialists in Washington but for the people of Australia its cancellation is a necessity. Ending the Alliance, removal of US bases and other military facilities would be a huge political and military step towards peace and security.

As stated in “Australia in Asia” (Guardian 14-11-2012, #1573) “Australia does have another option: to develop genuine, friendly relations with China and other Asian neighbours based on respect, equality and recognising sovereignty and independence. This would necessitate the adoption of an independent foreign policy, removal of all US bases and other military installations and personnel and an end to the US alliance.

“This would not only bring peace and stability to the region, it would serve the interests of the people of Australia. The additional bonus is that billions of dollars would be saved that could be directed towards job creation and pressing social needs.” It is scandalous that Australia spends over $70 million a day on war preparations and cannot find the money to increase unemployment benefits by $50 a week.

See last week’s Guardian for Part 1 of this article.   

Next article – FMLN continues on the path of progress in El Salvador

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