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Issue #1723      March 16, 2016

War clouds gather

US President Barack Obama, in a recent interview with the Atlantic magazine, threatened “there is potential for conflict with China” if it continues to antagonise its neighbours. The “antagonise” tag is a reference to China’s reclamation and use of hotly disputed islands in the South East China Sea. “In terms of traditional great-state relationships, I do believe that the relationship between the United States and China is going to be the most critical,” Obama said. (The Atlantic “The Obama Doctrine”, April 2016)

Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper (DWP), which was released towards the end of February, reads along similar lines: “The roles of the United States and China and the relationship between them will continue to be the most strategically important factors in the Indo-Pacific region.”

“I think we have to be firm where China’s actions are undermining international interests, and if you look at how we’ve operated in the South China Sea, we have been able to mobilise most of Asia to isolate China in ways that have surprised China, frankly, and have very much served our interest in strengthening our alliances,” Obama continued.

Australia as a loyal deputy has facilitated the US in its efforts to isolate and surround China. “The United States will remain the pre-eminent global military power and will continue to be Australia’s most important strategic partner,” the DWP says as though the US has some arbitrary, self-anointed role as global cop.

Militarisation of region

The US, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, has militarised the Asia Pacific region. Apart from its bases, training and other facilities in Australia, the US has in:

  • South Korea – more than 27,000 troops and plans for a missile defence system
  • Japan – more than 48,000 troops
  • Philippines – more troops and weapons
  • Guam – the small island has more than 6,000 military personnel
  • Western Pacific – US Pacific Fleet which include six core battle groups and eight destroyer squadrons
  • Singapore – naval base, key logistics and maintenance hub for Navy and Air Force
  • South China Sea – flights and ships provocatively ignoring China’s warnings
  • Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean also plays an important strategic role.

Military domination serves three key purposes.

The first is to feed the corrupt and bloated military industrial complex and its insatiable appetite for super profits which can only be made from wars.

The second is to maintain its economic domination, where this cannot be achieved by other means.

The third is to halt and stifle the development of progressive political alternatives and other independent, sovereign forces that reject its imperialist domination.

In other words, the US is not prepared to countenance any power that challenges its global economic, political or military hegemony. It is prepared to go to any lengths to ensure that, including war – even nuclear war.

The DWP’s main focus is on the Asia-Pacific region where China has extended its influence or may do so in the future.

For some years, the US has had a policy of containment and the aim of breaking up China into smaller states and ending the rule of the Communist Party of China.

Sovereignty for sale

The DWP sets out to deepen and accelerate the integration of Australian military in the US war machine. The most recent announcement is for US long range, heavy bombers to be stationed in Darwin. US forces and air force bomber planes already use Australia’s Bradshaw Military Base near Darwin for exercises and reconnaissance.

In early April 2015, US Lieutenant Colonel Dougherty proclaimed Australia to be an empty place: “You guys have opened up your homes to us. We’re living in your guesthouse. The outback truly is out back, with vast wide-open spaces. There’s things we can do here we cannot do back in the States. [In the US] it’s very restricted; you have to worry about safety considerations like not shooting other units as you train. Here you don’t have those issues. It’s a blank slate.”

Terra nullius is alive and well, with no recognition of Aboriginal communities or Aboriginal land.

Apart from a few patrol boats, the massive 10-year program for $195 billion additional spending on expanding Australia’s war capability has little to do with the defence of Australia. It is offensive in nature. The main focus is on maritime and long distance warfare, far from our shores. The target is China.

Profits of war

The government is purchasing 72 F-35A long range, joint strike fighters from Lockheed-Martin at a cost of $17 billion – that is before the blow-outs. Production was commenced prior to testing and the planes may require retrofits at even more cost (See transcript, ABC’s Background Briefing program, Radio National 06-03-2016). The first are expected to be operational by 2018. BAE Systems is part of the team building them.

According to Lockheed-Martin, the “F-35A is characterised by a low profile design; internal weapons and fuel carriage; advanced radar; electro-optical and infrared sensors with advanced voice and data link communications; and the ability to employ a wide range of air-to-surface and air-to-air weapons.”

The seven high altitude MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft on Defence Minister Marise Payne’s shopping list are unarmed, long-range, remotely piloted aircraft which will undertake other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks. The supplier is Northrop Grumman.

The manufacturer for the seven long range, high altitude MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft are also from Northrop Grumman.

The six E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and air-to-air refuelling aircraft, the 12 carrier-based EA-18G Growler Electronic Attack aircraft, the eight P-8 Poseidon for anti-submarine warfare, are amongst the purchases from Boeing.

These companies are part of the corrupt military complex, that through its lobbyists and swinging doors with the Pentagon ensure that the US never runs out of wars.

Even before the US announced its US Pivot into Asia-Pacific in 2011, more than 320,000 US troops and marines were already stationed in the Asia-Pacific. This number will grow much higher over the next five years with the announcement that 60 percent of the US military, naval, air and ground forces will be shifted to Asia-Pacific by 2020.

Mysterious 2% of GDP

There has been media speculation over the source of Australia’s defence budget target of two percent of GDP. It appears the two percent of GDP target comes from the US and has been incorporated as a NATO directive.

In March 2012, President Obama told British Prime Minister David: “We meet to reaffirm one of the greatest alliances the world has ever known.” Almost four years later he warned Cameron that special relationship might end if Britain did not spend at least two percent of its GDP on defence. Obama apparently has no time for “free riders”.

When visiting Australia in mid-November 2011, Obama said, “The United States of America has no stronger ally than Australia.”

At the same time Obama and former PM Julia Gillard announced plans for the US’s “pivot” in Asia and the permanent presence of 2,500 US forces in Australia. The budgets that followed saw rapid hikes in military spending. The DWP commits to military spending reaching the US-set target of two percent within five years.

It is absolute madness for Australia to spend billions of dollars to wage war. It makes even less sense to wage war against our major trading partner. The idea that such a war will be confined to distant seas or shores is simply a lie.

Australians are already feeling the impact of its participation in the military build-up being led by the US. It is being funded by cuts to health, education, social security and other important services.

Only this week, the government was again considering how to reduce the age pension, this time by including the value of the home in the assets test.

In war, the only winners are the military industrial complex and big banks. An end to all wars and war preparations, mutual respect of sovereignty and independence is the only way forward.

Next article – Editorial – Which system? The capitalist system!

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