The Sovereign Nation-State as a Contributor to Terrorism

Image result for terrorism

Image credit:indiandefencereview.com

The current crises associated with ‘terrorism,’ in particular the shocking acts by individuals in the beheading of civilians as acts of revenge notwithstanding, there are issues with regard to the nation-state and its role in the ‘shaping’ of terrorism that have remained undisclosed.  The active participation of individuals and/or groups and their forming of a reaction to the nation-state is what has remained at the forefront of the commentary.  By its very nature the focus on the reaction implies a dyad: the perpetual reinforcement of the nation-state as being just and reasonable; and that those who react against the nation-state and its laws/wisdoms are criminals.  Hence, there has been no comment with regard to the ‘process’—such as the systemic brutalisation of a populace as encountered by the ‘Marsh Peoples’ of southern Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime—which caused them to rise up after the First Gulf War.  To wit, governments need not acknowledge their role in creating terrorists; and terrorism.  However, placing terrorism in perspective with regard to the nation-state provides a useful template and guide to what it consists ‘of.’

 

‘[T]here are many definitions for the word terrorism as there are methods of executing it … [h]owever, most definitions of terrorism hinge on three factors: the method (violence), the target (civilian or government) and the purpose (to instill fear and force political or social change).’[1]  Save for the ongoing mantra of poverty creating discontent and disenfranchisement of peoples—which is often followed by group violence—governments of nation-states tend to decouple from deeper issues that bring about decentralised, yet organized, group violence. Therefore, the questioning of what governments actually ‘do’ in order to bring about the rise of a ‘non-state actor,’ remains unmentioned, unexamined and more importantly unattached to governments and their explicit actions. The Islamic State (IS) is the current overt example in such a state-of-affairs and is encountering the wrath of several nation-states—including Australia.

 

Whether liberal-democracy is the best form of government is a moot point and need not be debated here as this essay is concerned with why a group would rebel against a liberal-democratic government—such as the current Iraqi government—and pursue change through violence.  A counter-argument is and remains, if the sovereign state was accomplishing the task of good government/governance, the corresponding inclusiveness it would generate, would surely render violent reaction (near) non-existent. This is currently not the case in many nations. Therefore, the question of what does it ‘take’ for a group—such as IS—to react with violence, and why is it intent on the creation of a territory that essentially, overrides traditional boundaries?   A useful broad-spectrum answer to this question is evident by their actions of claiming the territory IS believes is theirs and as such, IS has no respect for traditional Western/Eurocentric stipulated boundaries. Whilst there are no surprises in the outcome of governments—whether liberal-democratic or otherwise—not questioning their role in creating terrorism and/or or terrorists per se, as this could involve the burden of introspection, it is nevertheless useful to delve deeper into how the  notion of sovereignty has changed; and in turn observe what this fluidity has done in encouraging a ‘rise in terrorism.’

 

There is a need, in order to bring a balance to the current debate to cast aside the horrendous acts of individuals and focus on terrorism per se and therefore, involves taking a clinical approach to the issue.  There is much needed in the overall commentary with regard to terrorism and terrorists that requires coming to terms with the role of the nation-state in order to comprehend what has come to be, its bedevilment. Terrorism after all, does not happen ‘in a vacuum,’ and it is not an ahistorical event.  Therefore understanding terrorism in the later twentieth century and the early twenty-first century requires a significant historical leap which enables the nation-state to be grounded in its historical intent—what it was supposed to ‘become’—and paradoxically, by observing this factor and how it has changed over time offers an understanding of why non-state actors (terrorists) exist.

The Treaty of Westphalia[2]—hereafter referred to as the ‘Treaty’—in 1648 saw the formulation of the sovereign nation-state (often referred to as the ‘State’ or ‘Statehood’), and from this time the notion of what is to be ‘sovereign’ has been imposed on the world.  The Treaty was an agreement by the elite powers of Western Europe that ended the Sixty Years War[3] which had laid waste to much of Europe.  Eventually, the processes and the underpinnings of the Treaty would usurp all that stood in the way of the accompanying Westphalian-system of government; and governance.  Or put more simply how governments are structured and how they should interact with their respective populaces through rule-of-law, diplomacy, merit and numerous other ‘reasonable’ acts. The power of the Treaty can be seen in the sovereign-state marshalling its abilities through the use of a disciplined army and in some cases navy, and of the State becoming the ‘strongest form of political organisation.’[4]  Feudal rulers, feudal families, tribes, clans, weak(er) monarchs, dynasties, elites and numerous other groups would be drawn into the State in one way or another.  This could be achieved through persuasion as in the case of the French in Corsica by offering protection, or the use of brute force such as the British in the case of Scotland, and the Dutch in Indonesia.  Others, nomadic peoples such as the European gypsies, native peoples such as the Australian Aborigines, the Amerindians would be completely overcome through ongoing pressure and at times direct force.  African tribes too, through the arbitrary drawing up of borders by the great colonial powers (Britain, Italy, Portugal and France) over approximately two centuries[5] experienced the Treaty first-hand in this way.  The intrusion of Commodore Perry’s ‘black ships’ in order to demand long-secluded Japan trade with the West, (1853-1854)[6] is also an intrusion of the Westphalian-system spurred on by mercantilism, in a post-1648 world.  The banal yet necessary observation to acknowledge is the centuries-long successes of the covenant of statehood remains internationally recognised and largely accepted to this day.  There is however, one crucial aspect that came into being via the Treaty and it is a rigid understanding of what sovereignty has at its root: recognized demarcated borders; and the non-interference of others.  Thus,

 

[T]he world consists of, and is divided into, sovereign territorial states that recognize no superior authority; the processes of law-making, settlement of disputes and law enforcement are largely in the hands of individual states; [and] international law is oriented to the establishment of minimal rules of coexistence.[7]

 

The above statement suggests sovereign states are allowed—due to the implementations of numerous international laws—to govern their recognized territories in any way they choose.  Therefore, no other country is to impose their ‘values’ of governance on another sovereign state.  The reality of the situation is vastly different.  Powerful nation-states for centuries, have sought to impose their value-systems on others often resulting in ‘total war.’ Total war consists of ‘a high mobilisation of society … [comprise] a fight for survival … [and] mobilize resources and means to wage battles with few restraints …’[8]  There have also been micro-instances of this phenomenon—known as ‘limited war’—delivered against groups within nation-states by their own government or by other more powerful States, often for a nebulous ‘greater good.’  Limited war is however a more difficult phenomenon to explain as it is nebulous by definition.  Broadly speaking, ‘limited war’ requires nations to place artificial restraints to preclude it from escalating into total war … [and] limitations on the objectives sought; weapons and manpower employed; the time, terrain, and geographic area of hostilities; and the emotions, passions, and energy, and intellect committed by a nation.’ [9]  The problematics of limited war are that it has within it, conceptual tensions: how much of a commitment is ‘limited,’ and by what ‘means’ should they be measured?[10]  Osgood’s enunciation of the pivotal discord, within the concept stresses the difficulties of what ‘limited’ actually consists of in hostilities and this incorporates the following dichotomy: ‘war may be limited from the perspective of one belligerent, yet virtually unlimited in the eyes of another.’[11]   The North Vietnamese forces fight a total war as opposed to American and allied forces fighting a limited war in Vietnam (162 – 1975) are examples of this discord writ large.   

 

Some recent of limited war are the Russian Federation fighting the Chechen Rebels in the Second Chechen War; the French in the Indo-China Conflict (the First Vietnam War) and Algeria (the Algerian Conflict); the British in Malaya (the Malayan Emergency, or the War of the Running Dogs); the United States of America (US) and its allies in Vietnam (the Vietnam War[12]); and the Second Gulf War, also known as the ‘War on Terror’ mounted by the US and its allies in Iraq, to name only a few[great examples!!].  These examples encompass the mix of State-versus-State conflicts and include State-versus-non-State actor conflict, although the main aim is to announce the temerity with which the nation-state acts.

 

To be sure, non-State actors, or actors of a ‘renegade State’ that rebels against the government of a nation-state is immediately labelled a ‘terrorist group’ or an ‘insurgency,’ through the prism of international law.  The implication intrinsic within these definitions is that the backlash against a sovereign government is inherently illegal which technically it is; and therefore ‘corrupt’ which is a moral addendum the nation-state often applies to its enemies.  The opposition Tamil Tigers rebelling with violence against their suppression by the government of Sri-Lanka were deemed ‘terrorists;’ as was the ‘Viet Cong’ ‘insurgents’ when fighting the Americans’ and their allies in the south of Vietnam; and so too was the Irish Republican Army in ‘the Troubles’ in ‘defending’ their homeland against Britain.  The myriad of reasons each side would present in their justifications for actions is an arid argument at this point, as what is of interest here is the action of the nation-state toward those that oppose its will.

 

What is of the most relevance to the abovementioned is the understanding that powerful nation-states have, since time-in-memoriam, inserted a ‘fluidity’ in to the notion to sovereignty which has essentially allowed powerful nation-states free reign over less-powerful nation-states and groups.  In simpler terms, powerful actors have deliberately become involved in the affairs of others and their actions have disregarded the clearly pronounced element of what sovereignty ‘consists of’—the non-interference of otherswithin, and through the Treaty.  As this has happened continuously in previous centuries, the way in which sovereignty has been eroded in the twentieth century is what is important here, and it leads to a sagacious understanding: IS has moved in the same direction as powerful nation-state actors in its non-acceptance of sovereignty with the use of a deliberate invasion strategy.  A strategy that has been effectively shown to gain results for nation-states and moreover, IS fighters are showing similar contemptuous disregard of the Westphalian-system—as heralded by many of the most powerful of nation-states.

 

Whilst the beheading of civilians and crimes in conflict zones whether civilian or military cannot and should not be condoned, the intrusion by others into the lands of a sovereign state, whether through direct incursion or influence pronounces that the model of sovereignty within the Treaty—and its modern day equivalent the United Nations Charter—is now defunct; and open to interpretation.  Actions such as the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, ongoing US drone-strikes in Pakistan, the Indonesian military presence in Irian Jaya/West Papua in order to suppress ‘rebel actions,’ the recent Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, the presence of Russian forces in Chechnya, the French moving troops into Mali, and the presence of Royal Australian Air Force F-16 Super-Hornet’s over Iraq is to name only some instances of modern day brute force.  All however, signal that powerful nation-states are able to act with relative impunity and have altered the meaning of what it is to be ‘sovereign.’  Having a presence in a country through violent incursions regardless of the justification, defiles what the Treaty was designed to achieve: peace through the non-intervention of others in the sovereign state.

 

The issue of violent reaction occurring when people/s are ignored, brutalised, disenfranchised, status-deprived and repressed or a combination thereof by the actions of a sovereign state is another banal, yet necessary point to make.  However, the labelling of violent dissenters as ‘terrorists’ or ‘insurgents’ is a term with obvious ramifications as dictated by the nation-state; and through the prism of international law.  What should be acknowledged over and above this is that powerful nation-states have continuously shattered the boundaries of others sovereignty and have engineered a free reign of their power in order to fulfil their quests.  In doing so, powerful nation-states have effectively caused their own domino-principle: the rise of non-State actors pushing for their ‘rights’ outside the remit of the Westphalian-system.

 

Due to the abovementioned factors the ‘rise’ of terrorism, it can be argued has both, directly and indirectly been caused by powerful Western and Euro-centric sovereign nation-states since the end of World War One; and more so since the end of World War Two. Because the United Nations (UN), in particular the UN Security Council has fundamentally failed in its distribution of fair and reasonable jurisprudence.[13] Their example has been assiduously followed by some Baltic, Asian, Central Asian, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern nation-states since the latter part of last century.  All have had a part in the making of what is currently bedevilling the Middle East.  Unless the sovereign state curbs its tenacity in the suppression of ‘dissenting’ groups more will come.  Why will this happen?  In large part it will be due to abject derision and contempt which Western liberal-democracies—as the  major stakeholder’s in what is considered to be ‘good governance,’[14]—have held the Treaty and its latter-day equivalent in the second half of the twentieth century; and continue to do so in the early part of the twenty-first century.

 

[1] Harvey Kushner.  Encyclopedia of Terrorism. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003, 359. Italics in original.

[2] The Treaty of Westphalia is also referred to as the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, the Settlement of Westphalia, the Peace Settlement of Westphalia, and the Peace Treaties of Westphalia.  The Treaty of Westphalia was not borne of a single document as each, to some extent consisted of, and constituted, a ‘treaty’ of sorts.  The most pertinent ones were of Franco-German intercession: the Treaty of Münster, and the Treaty of Osnabrück respectively.  See: Leo Gross. ‘The Peace Treaty of Westphalia.’ The American Journal of International Law, 42, 1, January, 1948, 20-41. <http://www.jstor.org/view/00029300>

[3] The Sixty Years War—which produced the outcome of the Treaty of Westphalia—is divided into two counts. The first part consisted of an erratic 30 years of warfare leading up to a more definitive Thirty Years War (1618-1648).  Although it should be noted the 30 years of warfare which ended in 1618, was more of an ‘ad-hoc’ conflict than the Thirty Years War (sometimes also referred to as the Later Thirty Years’ War).  Both wars are however, usually combined by historians’ and referred to as the Sixty Years’ War.  The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) when referred to in isolation is consistently seen in more contemporary terms of warfare, due to the sustained/protracted and face-to-face nature of the various conflicts, and the level of ‘quasi-state’ or ‘state-like’ organization of the respective armies involved.  There is however disagreement amongst historians’ which needs to be acknowledged here.  Held refers to the war which produced the Treaty of Westphalia as the event which brought to an end the Eighty Years War between Spain and the Dutch Republic and believes the Thirty Years War was only the ‘German phase’ of the war.  See: David Held. ‘Inequalities of power, problems of democracy.’  Reinventing the Left.  Edited by David Miliband.  Cambridge: Polity, 1994, 78.  Finally, Sutherland states the Thirty Years War was not a war at all and states the ‘war’ has been developed into a ‘‘factitious conception’ which has become an indestructible myth.’  Sutherland views the conflict not as a ‘war,’ but as an interminable struggle between the Habsburgs and the French royal dynasty, the Valois and their successors the Bourbons, which did not end until circa 1715.  See: Nicola Sutherland.  ‘The Origins of the Thirty Years War and the Structure of European Politics.’  English Historical Review.   Oxford: Oxford University Press, 107, 1992, 587.

[4] Alfred Cobban.  The Nation State and National Self-Determination.  London: Oxford University Press, 1969, 30.

[5] Max Fisher.  ‘The Dividing of a Continent: Africa’s Separatist Problem.’  The Atlantic.  10 September, 2012. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/09/the-dividing-of-a-continent-africas-separatist-problem/262171/

[6] Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Visualising Cultures.  2010. http://ocw.mit.edu/ans7870/21f/21f.027/black_ships_and_samurai/

[7] Roger King and Gavin Kendall.  The State, Democracy and Globalization.  Houndsmills: Palgrave, 2004, 34. Italics mine.

[8] John Vasquez.  The War Puzzle.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 67.

[9] Adrian Lewis.  The American Culture of War.  The History of U.S. Military Force from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom.  New York: Routledge, 2007, 203.  Italics in original.

[10] Strobe Driver.  Why wining a war is no longer necessary: Modern Warfare and the United States of America through the prism of the wars of Vietnam and Iraq. Doctoral Thesis. Federation University: Ballarat, 2011, 103.

[11] Robert Osgood.  Limited War: The Challenge to American Strategy.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957, 2.

[12] The ‘Vietnam War’ is ‘known as the “American War” in Vietnam.’  See: British Broadcasting Corporation.  Timeline: Vietnam.

 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1243686.stm

[13] See:  Broken Promises. The United Nations At 60.  Citizens United and Citizens United Foundation.  Editors: John Selllman and Johnalynn Holland.  Director Kevin Knoblock, 2005.

[14] This is particularly true of governments that have embraced Western liberal-democracy as a form of governance since the end of World War One and thus, it has continuously been deemed to be the only ‘suitable’ form of government.  Moreover, its credibility was enhanced when it eventually ‘defeated’ its long-term rival: Communism.  The success of liberal-democracy, its merit in governance, its venerableness and robustness, and its righteousness and purpose are reflected in what Francis Fukuyama deeming the collapse of Communism to be the ‘end of history.’  See: Francis Fukuyama.  The End of History and the Last Man.  New York: Free Press, 1992.

The above article was also published by the AIMN in a modified version as

‘Double Standards: the West and terrorism’

The horrors recently delivered upon innocent civilians and police officers in France, and being mindful of the unspeakable multiple-traumas that would have been cast upon those involved in Australia’s Lindt Café siege, are painful in the extreme, and those concerned should be offered unconditional sympathy. With the greatest of respect–especially to those who have lost a loved one–there is a deeper malaise underpinning why these actions have taken place. In order to understand why these individuals’ were driven to this point must be cautiously brought to the fore. At its core is the way in which the West has manipulated—to its own advantage—the world’s body-politic; and the way in which this process has stirred the hatred of many.

The process of the untrammelled expansion of the ‘West’[1] or what is the Western ‘style’ of government and governance has been present in the body-politic of the world for several centuries. The European Westphalian[2] ‘system,’ is what underpins the way in which the world ‘is’ and consists of demarcated borders, sovereign/national government, recognized boundaries (sea, air and land), effective governance, and the rule of sovereign law, as well as international law. This ‘system,’ has been in place since 1648 however, there was an attempt to put this ‘system’ more firmly into place after World War One—through the League of Nations—however, this failed and it was not until after World War Two (WWII), that it was formally reinforced through an institute: the United Nations (UN). In coming to terms with UN ‘requirements’ and thus, the full recognition of the ‘system’ it is necessary to differentiate between ‘government’ and ‘governance.’ Government is who ‘runs a country’ and there are many different ‘types’ and forms of a ‘government’: dictatorship, democracy, autocracy, social-democracy, benevolent dictatorship, theocracy and numerous others. To be sure, often a particular government will consist of a ‘blend’ of practices although it will form under the mantle of one ‘type’ of government. Others will be static in their representation of a ‘style’ of government, such as Cuba and Britain, both incredibly different though rigid in their representation. Whilst there were, and are, many differences in the way in which countries are governed, all countries nevertheless, conform to the system of governance which Europa—or what we now call Europe/Western Europe—devised, and then disseminated around the world. The ‘manner of governing’[3] is premised on the aforementioned sovereign-system of values, which all participants recognize as legitimate/legal.

There are, of course, disputes with regard to ‘who owns what’ and there always has been. Hence, in modern day times these issues are meant to be debated in the UN. This is in direct contrast to the pre-Westphalian system of immediate recourse-to-arms when a matter was in dispute. The savagery of which, was summed by Grotius circa early-1600s as,

I saw prevailing throughout the Christian world … a license in making war which even barbarous nations would have been ashamed; recourse was had to arms for slight reasons, or for no reason, and when arms were once taken up, all reverence for divine and human law was thrown away; just as if men were thenceforth authorized to commit all crimes without restraint.[4]

There remains to this day, several current sovereignty/ownership disputes and they are China-India, (Arunachal Pradesh); Israel-Palestine, (Gaza Strip); China-Japan, Senkaku Islands/Diaoyutai Islands; and the Argentine-Britain, Falklands Islands/Islas Malvinas. Nevertheless, all of the these are expected to be solved through the various mechanisms of the UN, and the mantra of the UN has always been—through their various charters—to insist that peaceful settlement is the best outcome.

Underpinning the UN is also an insistence that nations, regardless of their government to (eventually) adopt ‘democracy,’ as through this mechanism the UN believes ‘best practice’ governance—or put more succinctly, the Western European ‘model’ of governing—should be adopted, as it offers better populace representation and moreover, is the consummate expression of fairness. All else is secondary to this model. Powerful non-democratic nation-states (such as China and Russia) do exercise considerable control within the UN—both are have permanent seats on the UN Security Council and are part of the Permanent Five (P5) members on the UN Security Council (UNSC)—and as such, they do respect the rules of polity as per the Westphalian system. Theoretically all nations-states, and in particular, democratically governed nation-states respect the Wesphalian mantra that a sovereign ruler/government has the ‘supreme authority to act in a particular sphere unhampered by others …’[5] or in simpler terms, a ruler/government is allowed to conduct their governing/governance on their own terms without the interference of others.

Therefore, one can argue, if democracies are the best representatives of what good government and governance represents, then it is only fair that their record be examined in what they have done in order to bring about peace; and what they have accomplished in the post-WWII world, in particular with regard to the non-interference component. This needs to be done to establish whether what powerful democracies have insisted upon through the mechanisms of the UN—peaceful dialogue, negotiation and other principles of justice—has actually been carried out by those that have the high moral ground with regard to governing; and to be sure, in keeping to their Westphalian ‘ideals.’

A perfunctory observation of the post-WWII era is an excellent starting point because the UN has been firmly established and once again, powerful democracies should not, if they are true to their ideals, be inciting hatred through what Grotius called ‘a license to making war’—the use of direct force—especially when its (read: democracy) expectations of others has not been met.

The West however, whilst insisting that others seek peaceful solutions, has ‘resorted to the sword’ on many occasions.  At times this has consisted of intra-state interventions (warring with another Western nation-state), though on most occasions, it has been Western interventions colliding with non-Western nation-states and/or peoples in one form or another. The interest here however, is the degree that the West, or ‘Western-orientated’ nation-states have delivered on their adversary, whether through direct or indirect violence.  Examples of the West going to war in one form or another consist of Great Britain and its dealings with Northern Ireland (The Troubles, 1968-1998)[6]; the British in Malaya (the ‘Malayan Emergency,’ or the ‘War of the Running Dogs,’ 1948-1960)[7]; the incursion and then invasion of northern Vietnam by the French (the First Indo-China War, 1946-1954); the French occupation of Algeria, in what Evans has called France’s ‘undeclared war’[8]; the Second Indo-China War (the Vietnam War 1962-1975) in order for the United States (US) to stem the tide of Communism which it insisted would take place through a ‘domino principle,’ which would see all of Southeast Asia usurped by Communism[9]; South Africa and the Apartheid regime which included the gaoling of the (then) terrorist Nelson Mandela; the ‘extraordinary rendition’[10] of citizens by the US to non-Western nation-states in their ‘War on Terror’ (2003 – ); to name only a few examples of violence which the West has approved.  Less overt, however just as troublesome is the selective approval by the West of, arming and/or supporting nation-states  that have brutal and repressive governments such as Saudi Arabia; and the tacit support by the West of other less-violent though highly-suspect governments’ in their deliverance of democracy to all of their citizens, such as Singapore. Whilst the aforementioned represent degrees of direct force and/or misguided political will on the part of the West, and bearing in mind Western nation-states are the ‘upholder’s of problem solving’ via the UN, the sheer ineptness on the part of Western nations in bringing about an end to the recent internal conflict in Syria, and a mutually beneficial conclusion to the long-term Israel-Palestine crisis[11] cannot be ignored as both, it is fair to argue, contribute to the utter despair and rage of numerous non-Western nation-states.  Moreover, they incite hatred toward the West; and manifest in their peoples a divide between how much the West really cares for non-Western populaces.

All of the abovementioned constitute abject and in some cases deliberate failings on the part of powerful Western nation-states in dealing with issues that are their concern—as per the tenets of Westphalia. More to the point, the West specifically addresses the notions of diplomacy through the various mechanisms of the UN, yet, and as is able to be observed, resorts to war, or a degree of violence at the earliest opportunity. The most relevant point here is, the West (and Western-orientated countries) pontificate one point of view, resort to violence, and then have the impudence it would seem, to believe their duplicity will go unnoticed and moreover, will not incite hatred and/or revenge toward the West. This is folly; and can only lead to eventual despair for the West.

The moral argument of whether attacks should take place against civilian targets is (now)an arid argument as the fact remains this is happening; and is evidence of the above duplicity in action. An alternative perspective remains to suggest that there is always another aspect to a given issue, for instance the argument that an agitator/event provoked the West into action—the most obvious in recent times being the World Trade Center disaster: A specific point needs mentioning here: it is the UN—usually the P5—that is charged with whether an action is warranted, and whether it should be pre-emptive or post-event.  Therefore, it is not a single country to decide whether it should take action, and should only take action with UN approval. The tenets of the UN remain in place: military force must not be used unless it has the official/legal backing of the UNSC.[12]

The West has failed in following its own rules; in its duty-of-care to good governance and has treated other nation-states, in particular non-Western countries, with contempt and derision.  As the actions of the West have developed and progressed in the post-WWII world the deliberateness of these actions—in some cases toward other Western nation-states, in the case of Ireland—have caused groups to come-of-age; be willing to sacrifice their lives; and execute others in the cause against the direct repression that the West has delivered. While the actions of non-state actors are reprehensible, especially when civilians and police officers are targeted, it is far too simplistic to state that the cause of non-state actors—terrorists, guerrillas and insurgents—have not been encouraged to their actions due to the abject contempt with which the West has shown toward others. Additionally, the West has fundamentally failed to stem reactionary forces through both its implementation of selective policies toward Western-friendly nations; and used direct force when other nations have sought to deviate from the course that has been ‘set’ by the West.

The above argument and the West’s attitude toward others, and indeed the ‘license to war,’ that has prevailed is able to be given a broader perspective with a cursory observation of one of the driver’s the West has used in its delivery of its body-politic. This has been through the attitude of the most powerful post-WWII actor: the US. According to Little the US, and one could argue by association Western policymakers, have been influenced by potent racial and cultural stereotypes, some imported and some homegrown, that [have] depicted the Muslim world as decadent and inferior, U.S. policymaker’s from Harry Truman through to George Bush [have] tended to dismiss Arab aspirations for self-determination as politically primitive, economically suspect, and ideologically absurd.[13]

Current interventions (Australia’s into Iraq included), suggest this attitude remains entrenched in the psyche of the West and Western-orientated governments, and to be sure, unless these nation-states embark upon a change in their body-politic the horrifying repercussions of contemporary times will continue; especially against ‘soft targets’ as per the recent sieges in urban areas.

A pertinent reminder of the rage felt toward the West is able to be traced through the actions of Britain, France and the US and numerous other Western nations, although when examining interventions the US remains the most active, and has a long history of intervening in the affairs of others. From the Caribbean, through to the Middle East, the Central and South Americas, Africa and numerous other locales—to be fair, the UN has sponsored several actions—although it is imperative to note that between 1898 and 1996 there were 93 interventions on the part of the US–this is what Peceney has called ‘democracy at the point of bayonets.’[14] For many reasons beyond the deaths of innocent civilians, a rethink of the West’s ‘license to war’ is sorely needed. At the very least Western and Western-orientated countries, should stop offering platitudes regarding Western and Western-orientated nation-states being the ‘upholders of the virtue of good government/governance,’ when it is obviously a disingenuous and (now) deeply-flawed position to now assume.  More to the point, non-Western nation-states perspicaciously observe the dichotomy of argument, and parallel actions.

© Dr. Strobe Driver.  January, 2014.

[1] Western civilisation and what it represents is a vast and complex subject and fraught with interpretation. A succinct reference to this is only needed here in order to instil an understanding of how it became so expansive in its mechanisms that allowed this to prosper. Western civilisation has as one of its major tenets industrialization and science as part of its formulaic, and this in and of itself required organization and the forming of standing forces.   Although Stearns uses the Industrial Revolution to make a point about the West it can be applied to when the Treaty of Westphalia and the sovereign state came into being. Stearns avers industrialization, ‘extended a Western commitment to using technology as a measure of social progress. The impulse to deplore other societies as backward because they lagged behind Western industrialization represented a further step is [sic] what was already a well-established impulse…[and moreover being Western] now depended on claiming unchallenged world supremacy…’ See: Peter Stearns. Western Civilization in World History. New York: Routledge, 2003, 105-108.

[2] The Treaty of Westphalia is also referred to as the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, the Settlement of Westphalia, the Peace Settlement of Westphalia, and the Peace Treaties of Westphalia. The Treaty of Westphalia was not borne of a single document as each, to some extent consisted of, and constituted, a ‘treaty’ of sorts. The most pertinent ones were of Franco-German intercession: the Treaty of Münster, and the Treaty of Osnabrück respectively. See: Leo Gross. ‘The Peace Treaty of Westphalia.’ The American Journal of International Law, 42, 1, January, 1948, 20-41.

[3] Dictionary.com < http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/governance?s=t > January, 2014.

[4] Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), was a Dutch philosopher and author of De Jure Belli Ac Pacis (The Rights of War and Peace), [and] wrote down the conditions for a just war that are accepted today.’ See: British Broadcasting Corporation. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/ethics/war/just/history.shtml> July, 2007.

[5] Derek Verall. ‘The Westphalian system and its underlying normative order.’ World Order. Managing International Conflict. Editors of the School of International and Political Studies, Geelong: Deakin University Press, 1996, 3.

[6] See: British Broadcasting Corporation <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/troubles&gt;

[7] See: Noel Barber.   War of the Running Dogs, 1948-1960. Cassell Military Books, 2007.

[8] See: Martin Evans. Algeria: France’s Undeclared War. Oxford University Press, 2012.

[9] President Kennedy in a UN speech in 1961, stipulated if Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam fell to the communists, this would result in the gates of defeat for liberal-democracy being ‘open wide.’ See: John Kennedy. ‘Address in New York City before the General Assembly of the United Nations.’ September 25, 1961. United States Government Public Papers. <http//www.jfklinl.com/speeches/jfk/publicpapers/1961/jfk387_61.html> Accessed 23 April, 2008.

[10] See: Jane Meyer; ‘Outsourcing Torture.’ The New Yorker. February, 2005. <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/02/14/outsourcing-torture&gt;

[11] See: Tanya Reinhart. Israel/Palestine. How to End the War of 1948. Seven Stories Press, 2002.

[12] See: Chapter VII. Article 39 – 43. ‘Action with Respect to Threats to Peace, Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Aggression.’ Charter of the United Nations.

[13] Douglas Little. American Orientalism. The United States and the Middle East since 1945. Chapell Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008, 11.

[14] Mark Peceney. Democracy at the Point of Bayonets. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania University Press, 1999, 16.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australia-China and the Rise of Pax-Sino: Where to now?

First published on E-International Relations, 21 Sept, 2014.

http://www.e-ir.info/2014/09/21/australia-china-and-the-rise-of-pax-sino-where-to-now/

Australia, has sought to ensure it has long-term allies in the Asia-Pacific (A-P) region. This is due in no small part to the surprise attack on Darwin during World War Two (WWII)—an attack of ‘Pearl Harbor proportions’ which was shocking and incomprehensible to Australia[1]—and involvement in the Korean War via ,the United Nations. Incorporated within this came the germane, yet prevailing belief greater regional stability is the result of powerful regional allies. To ensure this remained ongoing Australia entered into the ANZUS treaty, along with New Zealand (NZ) and the United States of America (US), in 1951. To be clear, the ANZUS treaty is not as strictly defined or worded as that of the treaties within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which the US helped construct in the Cold War era. NATO treaties specifically require ‘consultation and assistance’ to any signatory nation-state under attack “including the use of armed force.”[2]  The ANZUS treaty is not so rigid, and commits each country only to ‘consult’ should one be threatened and/or attacked, and does not specifically commit any country to use military force.[3] Australia, nevertheless has shown its allegiance to its powerful ally the US in numerous ways since the end of the Korean War, with involvement in, and a generous commitment to, the Vietnam War; a naval commitment to the 1991 Persian Gulf War; and a ground commitment to the Afghanistan conflict as part of the International Security Assistance Force. This Force comprises a multi-national NATO-driven, United Nations approved assemblage of military and support forces, with the prime task of establishing an independent government in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. This in turn will facilitate ‘improvements in governance and socio-economic development in order to provide a secure environment for sustainable [domestic] stability.

There have also been other non-incursion commitments to US needs in the region, the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, and inter-military exchanges and exercises of varying resources and degrees: the most recent being Exercise Pitch Black in northern Australia.[4] This is a biennial war exercise centring on offensive and counter-offensive and -air combat. The exercise is designed to bring together regional actors, such as Indonesia and Malaysian forces including European (French and British) assets. However, at its core there is a desire by the US to ‘increase USAF [United States Air Force] interaction with regional partners and allies without significantly increasing the footprint [of] permanently-based [US] assets and personnel…’[5] which for all intents and purposes has the knock-on effect of maintaining an historic regional security apparatus. These abovementioned have contributed to creating a binding and mutually beneficial US-Australia relationship with the outcome of the US maintaining a core presence in the A-P, whether it be through mechanisms of pressuring for increased aircraft rotation through Australian bases,[6] or initiating a byproxy arrangement: using Australia as a ‘lily-pad’ for American military planning and preponderance. This is colloquially known as ‘piggybacking of an allied country’s facilities’[7] in order to enhance their strategic footprint.

Australia in recent times, has upgraded ties to the US and deliberately embarked upon a strategy of creating ever-closer bonds in order to signal to the region its position has changed; and that the US has become a more ‘valued’ ally. Since 2011 consecutive Australian governments have proactively pursued these ties with a considered urgency, due to a recognition that China is on the ‘rise;’ Indonesia is increasing ties with China; and the slippage of Australia from a superior power in the region to that of an equal power is understood. Notwithstanding, the deep-seated mistrust Australian governments’ have historically shown to Australia’s near-neighbours. One of the reasons the General Dynamics F1-11 aircraft were purchased by Australia in the 1970s was that it could strike Jakarta and return. There also remains an omnipresent threat of an homogeneous ‘yellow-peril’ to the north and northwest being ready to pounce. This long term underpinning of the Australian psyche is also part of the reason Australia is seeking US munificence to allay the military ‘rise of China,’ and moreover, this has been further exacerbated by the US having been panicked into reacting to a renewed Chinese presence in the A-P region. Hence, an upgraded presence, of US marine rotations, which was initially put in place by Defence Minister Stephen Smith[8] during the Rudd government, the continual acquiescence of the Gillard government to this program,[9] and the ongoing clambering for greater US positioning by the Abbott government has succeeded in sending signals to China in the first instance, and Indonesia in the second, that Australia remains the belligerent, non-inclusive, xenophobic, middle-power of the A-P. As insulting as this is toward China, Indonesia, and a myriad of other countries in the region it has also allowed another message to be sent—unless you overtly side with the US, Australia will maintain a greater political distance. The shunning of North Korea (NK) due to their missile program is secondary to the US having problems with NK’s ‘super-note’ (counterfeit US dollars) engagement.[10] This is a problem which Australia has been unable to disengage from, due to continual pressure from the US; and to step further back in history, the non-exploration of a dual initiative in the 1991 Gulf War with Indonesia, due to its ties to the Islamic world.[11]

China is rightly concerned by the actions of consecutive Australian governments, especially as it has not been recognised in the halls of government as anything beyond a successful trading partner; and a ‘threat.’ This is summed up in Australia being vulnerable to a ‘foreign aggressor’ (read: China) due to its re-emergence as Australia’s greatest challenge in the twenty-first century.[12] The continued non-admission of China’s renewed place in the world, which is a byproduct of ‘pax’ or ‘peace-through-force’ in the sense that ‘pax’ refers to periods in history marked by the absence of major wars[13] as was the case with pax-Britannica (circa 1750 through to 1919), and pax-Americana in the post-World War Two era. The complexities of war notwithstanding, the main aspect of this argument resides in smaller powers not wishing to engage in war due to the omnipresent danger of a larger power applying major force and crushing the smaller warring parties.

The continuing state-of-affairs comprising a continual denial of its repositioning in the region via incessant and overt acknowledgement of US’ preponderance in the Asia Pacific will drive China to look elsewhere for potential allies. This will be to the detriment of Australia in the region more to the point, as China progressively embarks on a renewed geo-strategic status in the region; and begins to establish a stronger geo-strategic footprint—the current Pakistan and Myanmar bases notwithstanding—Australia will begin to be sidelined by China. The current state-of-affairs has been accepted and commented on by observers such as ex-prime minister Malcolm Fraser who asserts, ‘Other powers need to understand the time of Chinese isolation from broader international affairs has ended,’[14] and Hugh White stipulates ‘It simply will not work to say that China must accept the status quo under [the current] US leadership…’[15] with regard to the A-P region. However, the Abbott government has refused to neutralise ructions in the geo-political sphere by re-articulating its position toward China, other than that of China being essentially a valued ‘trading partner,’ and in doing this is allowing an already fractious relationship to ferment. The Abbott government has further enraged the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) government by offering unremitting consent toward the US; and Japan, to the point of Foreign Minister Bishop being labelled a “complete fool,” by The People’s Daily.[16] The recent and current attitudes toward the PRC—and by their expression toward the Chinese people—will not bode well for Australia-China relations in the future, and will result in long-term suspicions toward Australian (read: US-driven) political and strategic preponderances in the region. The current attitude toward China by Australia sends signals that it is not welcome as a new and robust actor in the region and the ‘Cold War era-ties’[17] that China alluded to in 2012 are omnipresent; and have continued. Unless Australia understands the new A-P environment and ceases elevating the US and other regional Euro-centric allies, frictions will continue and eventually elevate to a threat-of-force scenario from which the PRC will demand even stronger allegiances and/or issue an ultimatum that will be followed by a military collision.

In closing: Australia’s preponderance in the region also stems from a belief that the US will step-in at the first sign of conflict, and it this also has its roots in Australia being ‘saved’ by the US in WWII. Whilst there is no doubt the US did come to the aid of Australia in WWII it also did so for its own geo-strategic reasons. Nevertheless, it is timely to mention that Australia’s rescue was not the highest strategic priority for the US at this time, ‘in fact [it was, according to a secret US Army list] behind seven other priorities, beginning with maintaining Britain, keeping Russia in the war as an enemy of Germany, and maintaining the status quo in India the Middle East and China.’[18] For the Abbott, or following Australian governments, to believe that the US would immediately come to Australia’s aid is folly, and this alone is reason to treat China with respect and dignity, as geo-strategic ructions begin to become increasingly fractious as China and the US vie for superiority in the region.

© Dr Strobe Driver

Strobe Driver completed his doctoral thesis in war studies in 2011 and writes on International Relations; and Asia-Pacific security. He is also a sessional lecture and tutor at Federation University in the social sciences, history and international relations. The views expressed in this article are through his own research

[1] Tom Lewis and Peter Ingham. Carrier Attack Darwin 1942. The complete guide to Australia’s own Pearl Harbor. South Australia: Avonmore Books, 2013, 85.

[2] Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ‘Does ANZUS commit the US to come to Australia’s aand id, as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop claims?’ Fact check. 23 July, 2014. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-08/does-anzus-commit-us-to-come-to-australias-aid-fact-check/5559288

[3] Fact check. 23 July, 2014. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-08/does-anzus-commit-us-to-come-to-australias-aid-fact-check/5559288

[4] Rob Taylor. ‘Australia Embraces Marine Presence in Darwin.’ The Wall Street Journal. 14 August 2014. http://online.wsj.com/articles/australia-embraces-u-s-marine-presence-in-darwin-as-nations-gather-for-pitch-black-drills-1408035997

[5] Mike Yeo. ‘Exercise Pitch Black concludes in Darwin.’ The Diplomat. 26 August, 2014. http://thediplomat.com/2014/08/exercise-pitch-black-concludes-in-darwin/

[6] Jared Owns. ‘US to seek to boost military presence in Darwin.’ 12 August, 2014. The Australian. Murdoch Media.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/us-to-seek-to-boost-military-presence-in-darwin/story-e6frg8yo-1227021399220

[7] Richard Tanter. ‘The US military presence in Australia: “The Asia Pacific Pivot” and “Global NATO.” 11 November, 2013. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/us-to-seek-to-boost-military-presence-in-darwin/story-e6frg8yo-1227021399220

[8]  Commonwealth of Australia. ‘Minister for Defence – Interview with Lyndal Curtis, ABC 24.’ 14 June , 2014. http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2013/06/14/minister-for-defence-intervidew-with-lyndal-curtis-abc-24/

[9] Ben Packham. ‘China reproaches Australia over strengthened US defence ties.’ The Australian. 17 November, 2011. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/archive/national-affairs/our-indispensable-alliance-barack-obama/story-fnb0o39u-1226197460882

[10] Gregory Elich. ‘North Korea and the Super note enigma.’ Global Research. 7 Amy, 2008. http://www.globalresearch.ca/north-korea-and-the-supernote-enigma/8919

[11] Gary Smith. ‘Australia’s political relationship with Asia.’ ‘Asia in Australia. Edited by Mark McGillivray and Gary Smith. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1997, 112.

[12] : Australian Strategic Policy Institute https://www.aspi.org.au/publications/chinas-new-dream-how-will-australia-and-the-world-cope-with-the-re-emergence-of-china-as-a-great-power

[13] Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pax%20?s=t

[14] Malcolm Fraser with Cain Roberts. Dangerous Allies. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2014, 260.

[15] Hugh White. ‘China must be offered a bigger role in Asia.’ The Age, Melbourne: Fairfax Media, 10 June, 2014, 16.

[16] John Garnaut. ‘China paper: Bishop a fool.’ The Age, Melbourne: Fairfax Media, 15, July 2014, 5..

[17] John Garnaut. ‘China warns on US-Austrlian ties.’ The Age, Melbourne: Fairfax Media, 7 June, 2012. http://www.theage.com.au/national/china-warns-on-usaustralian-ties-20120606-1zwp0.html

[18] Bob Wurth. 1942 Australia’s greatest peril. Sydney: Macmillan, 2008, 139.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

But will China invade Australia?

800387_95688650These past weeks have seen Clive Palmer MP berate the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government and other (Chinese) that have had business dealings with him. This was followed by a further dictum from his colleague Senator Jacqui Lambie speaking about the potential of a Chinese invasion and whatsmore, she has refused to withdraw her comment. The short-tempered outburst by Senator Palmer on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Q&A program, to be sure was just that, an outburst. As insulted as the Chinese community feels toward Palmer, his outburst was attributed to his frustration with the legal system, his dealings with some Chinese business people and when it all imploded, he drew in other societal elements. Nevertheless, being a minister of parliament does demand a level of tact and discretion that was obviously lacking on the night in question and there has been some repercussions, but other than hurt feelings not much more seems to have eventuated—an apology was forthcoming and all appears smooth again.

Returning to Senator Lambie, and her comment about the ‘Chinese invasion of Australia,’[1] it can be safely assumed that what Lambie is actually referring to is contained in a broad military context: an air- and sea-borne attack culminating in a boots-on-the-ground, physical armed presence not dissimilar to the one taking in place in Ukraine by Russian forces in recent times; the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas in the early 1980s; and the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003. History, and moreover recent history, is littered with examples of the ‘type’ of military engagement Senator Lambie is identifying. To be sure, this is a step further than the ‘fiscal invasion’ of the Chinese that was hinted at prior to the election of the Abbott government, which directly dealt with the number of Chinese investments in Australia—especially with regard to landholdings/farming—which was driven by the somewhat xenophobic Nationals under the guise and umbrella of ‘who owns what in Australia.’ Free market squabbling aside, and the prejudices inherent within this argument about the marketplace, the issue that needs to be examined is whether there is a modicum of truth in what Lambie has stated. Is Australia really in danger of being invaded?

Acknowledging the obvious generalizations that are present in the political deliberations and in the comments of Senator Lambie, there is a need to examine what is pushing the underlying tone of the debate, and then driving the discussion. One upshot of her comment/s is that the military ‘rise’ of China is now out in the public sphere and the massive impact this will have on Australia is finally beyond the hallways of the Department of Defence in Canberra.   The heretofore hidden fears that reside alongside the mercantile arena of profit and the ‘food bowl’ debates within the Asia-Pacific (A-P) have evolved into the public arena. It is also fair to argue the popular press has played its part in the awareness of the ‘fear factors.’ Articles that have appeared in the press recently include ‘China must be offered a bigger role in the Asia-Pacific,’[2] ‘New vertical Chinese map gives greater emphasis to South China Sea claims,’[3] ‘Return of the samurai: Japan steps away from pacifist constitution as military eyes threat from China,’[4] ‘Long March Out of China’;[5] and one of the most recent which offers an historical, rather than a straight contemporary assessment, is Paul Monk’s ‘China’s parallel with Germany before WWI [World War One],’[6] which highlights the course of war being the outcome of particular political processes. With all of the abovementioned commentary, and in particular because Monk has drawn into the mix an historical pivot, there is a need to examine these issues further to highlight where the fear ‘comes from,’ and where it has its roots.

The idea of an invasion being the only pathway to gaining political and geographical advantage is in part due to the popular media being awash with images of war comprising fast moving conflicts that escalate quickly, are both broad-front/symmetrical and asymmetrical, extremely violent and intense and have the ever-present element of ‘collateral damage’ (read: civilian deaths) in the race for armies or militias to establish their strategic footprint/s. However, the relevant issue is invasions gain results which inevitably have to be repelled, defused or accepted.   Invasions by the Soviets into Chechnya, the United States of America (US) into Iraq, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) troops and their allies incursion into Afghanistan, the recent Israeli invasion into Gaza, and the Islamic State (a non-state actor) being successful in northern Iraq, all offer and reinforce a broad-based understanding of what invasions can actually accomplish and also offer an insight into why they are embarked upon. There is however, more to all of these events in terms of them being simply categorized as overt acts of violence that have a focused outcome—namely territorial acquisition through forceand it is within this spectrum that Senator Lambie alludes to, that can be given a perspective.

A significant part of the reason the rise of China, and the subsequent actions of the PRC government have become so chilling, and the reason the ‘invasion’ word was used by Senator Lambie, is twofold. In the first instance an Asian nation has never presented such a symbolic threat to Western hegemony; and secondly, never has an Asian nation had the actual potential to follow through in a sustained/long tern way with military force. The shock of this state-of-affairs resides in Western nation-states and Western European-centric nations—Australia and America, and to some extent Japan are included is included in this mix—have been privy to, over the past several centuries is watching the slow but sure rise of Western Europe as a ‘force.’ As Europe became a force it has incrementally been able to dictate its version of what government and governance should ‘comprise of’ to the rest of the world. And moreover, it has used force in the process of making nations adhere to ‘Western’ principles. The way in which this has happened includes both military and political realms: the forcing of democracy on Japan at the end of World War Two (WWII) by the US and Allied powers; winning the Korean War by United Nations forces; and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. All of these instances have had the enduring effect of proving Western liberal-democracy is the most venerable and robust of all governments and governance. Francis Fukuyama would deem the collapse of communism to be the ‘end of history,’[7] which translates in simpler terms, to liberal-democracy as a form of government ‘winning’ against communism. In the process of the West ‘winning’ however, there has also been double-standards along the way which have undermined the faith and confidence in Western governance and the damage this has caused should not be underestimated. Included in demanding of good governance from others there has been an acceptance of appalling behaviours from the West per se in favouring those that have served the needs of the West: Singapore and Saudi Arabia being leading examples of this phenomenon. Other examples of atrocious behaviour are incursions by France into Algeria to stem independence movements and its claims on (French) Indo-China; the US and Allied invasion of Iraq in 1991 in order to gain a ‘New World [American/Western-driven] Order;’[8] the second invasion of Iraq under false pretence in 2003 is to name only a few instances in which Western geo-political and geo-strategic double-standards with regard to ‘good governance’ have reigned supreme. In accomplishing such occupations and political tenets, the West has been able to decree the way in which the world—aside from the Russian Federation and China—must operate. These cursory examples prove the West has made, and remade, the platform upon which ‘good governance’ is judged. The time of this dominance is coming to an end, as China is on the rise.

China will be a vastly different case to what the West has previously encountered and then dominated, as it has adopted the West’s interests in being a regional as well as global controller and therefore the ‘case’ of China is completely different than what has gone before in the power-stakes of the twentieth century. China is a completely different because it has a ‘pax-Sino’ in mind—not unlike the pax-Britannica of the 1800s—and it has embarked upon this in earnest from the mid-1990s—and it has a century’s long plan. China’s dominance is that of being a global geo-political and geo-strategic actor and thus, current preponderance in the A-P is only the first step, and an even stronger global military presence will follow. China has moved in a truly ‘global direction’ and is on a pathway that was triggered, and then further stimulated, by Premier Deng Xiaoping who started the process in the mid-1980s. The Xiaoping era would be the first quantum leap into a globalized world and would signal significant domestic and international changes—this was defined by Xiaoping as ‘socialism with a Chinese character.’[9] China was essentially, thrust into a Western world and it would over time exploit the free market, gain international political astuteness, and in the late-1990s, begin to stamp its geo-strategic authority on the world: the A-P region is its first port-of-call. Over time China is seeking to take its ‘rightful place’ in a globalized world. This ‘time’ has taken two decades and it is now in that ‘place’, or in simpler terms, China is now a major actor on the world stage and moreover, one that is prepared to back its position/s up with military force if need be. It is at this point that the historical element as well as the dangers for other actors—particularly Australia in the A-P region and the invasion scenario to which Lambie alludes—can be introduced.

Part of the danger Australia faces in the future as China moves out ‘into the world,’ is that the world will have to accommodate the PRC’s needs, and by necessity its people. This factor, in the first instance is where there are ongoing and developing difficulties. There is an ‘accommodation’ that will need to be given over to China and a significant point to focus upon is to observe an historical element, and to realize within it lies a chilling and changing demographic. In 1913 Western Europe accounted for 14.6 percent (%) of the world’s population. By 2001 Western Europe comprised 6.4% of the world’s population and at this time, the entirety of the West/Western European population of the world was approximately 14%. America, as a standalone country comprised at this time, 4.6% of the world’s population. As at 2001 China’s population comprised approximately 21% of the world.[10] Herein lies the ‘problem’ that Australia in the first instance and the Western world in the second, will have to face: if China is not offered a more prominent of ‘rightful place’ in the schemata of world strategies/politics a massive disruption will occur as China will react to any moves by other nation-states to retard its progress. Based on history, a war is in the making. It is pertinent to ask what will drive such an outcome. The evidence-base for this ‘outcome’ is also in the history of the West.

The schemata upon which the West has developed its societal modality is one of a thriving and burgeoning middle-class, and this has been encouraged in other societies by the West in order for the West to meet its own needs, and in doing this the West has had other societies contribute to its progress.  The ‘progress’ became an ever-upward spiral in which the dictums of modern nation-statehood—that is, economic growth equaling stable investment environments for Western enterprises—were ones that offered ongoing prosperity; and the middle-class continuum. What is happening in China, and has been exponentially expanding in the past decade, is the PRC has set about accomplishing exactly what the West has done for centuries: developing a strong middle-class. The Chinese government has set about actively creating a burgeoning middle-class in part to have a greater tax base, to extract people from grueling, chronic poverty and to in general raise the living standards of citizens. Domestic harmony is also part of the PRC’s aim. Overall, this has been successful as poverty has fallen from 26% in 2007 to 7% in 2012.[11] An historical comparison can be made here which befits the West’s pattern, and in doing so offers the growth of China another perspective and the inherent dangers for the West.

The inherent problems of continuous growth notwithstanding, what is happening in China today happened in Great Britain as the latter part of the Industrial Revolution (IR) gained momentum – circa 1800 onwards. In the process of the IR’s momentum the British government had to meet ever greater demands from its populace. How did it satisfy the demands of its ever-growing middle-classes? Britain robustly expanded beyond its own borders often usurping other nation-states, frequently through violence and colonisation in order to gain what it needed. Nations that acceded to British demands, either as a ‘protectorate’ that was accorded all of the security and safety Britain could muster or, alternately, Britain used force. Nevertheless, Britain still gained what it needed and the British people benefited—the middle-class continued. To be sure the French before Britain used this method, and since post-1945 the US has followed a similar trajectory with its domination of world markets through the Marshall Plan, the Bretton-Woods agreement which allowed America to essentially dominate the world’s free market, are examples of heavy-handed polity.

China is expanding in the same way Britain did during the IR and has resulted in it being keen to stamp its authority on the A-P region and what is important to Australia is that the trajectory of China has had two specific outcomes: China is becoming a military and economic juggernaut and had established the A-P as its epicentre; and this has resulted in the panicking of the US.  Recently the Obama administration has gone to great lengths to reassure Australia it is committed to keeping a geo-strategic and political presence in the region with a recent visit by Secretary of State Kerry and a reiteration of wanting to ‘rebalance’ Asia.[12]  This illustrates the US is keen to keep one step ahead of China in the region.  However, and crucially for Australia, underpinning this is America does not want to modify its approach to the region; and wishes the status quo to remain within the post-WWII and Cold War parameters.

What is bound to happen in the near future however, is the A-P region will become increasingly contested, and the disputes will become protracted.  As the middle-classes of China begin to demand their perceived and/or actual rights, the PRC government will have to succumb to their demands, if only for enhanced domestic stability.  Hence, China will, like the Spanish, French, British and Americans before it, have to use extramural preponderance to get what it needs for its populace.  The question that can now be asked and the one that returns to the core of this article, is will this result in an invasion of Australia?  From a geo-strategic perspective it is unlikely that this would happen in the next decade as China does not have the support facilities in the region for a limited invasion as the most vulnerable ‘impact points,’—the west/northwest of Australia—would not be able to be adequately reinforced after an initial foray.  China over the next decade will be dealing with its expansion in the A-P region in a much ‘softer’ way, as it has done in the region generally, and in Africa and Oceania.  This has been done with unconditional fiscal contributions (loans).

With regard to soft power China is critically aware of the political ramifications of Australia’s poorly thought through foreign policies, and in particular the rage that these have created throughout Indonesia. China has been quick to capitalise on this with gaining deeper connections with Indonesia.  If a more solid outcome and strategic footprint—air- and sea-bases in Indonesia—is enabled by the PRC beyond the current military outposts of Pakistan and Myanmar the danger/s for Australia exponentially increase and an invasion would be more likely. The importance of outposts and the enhanced capabilities they offer can be seen through Britain in the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas, the US in Guam, Diego Garcia and the United Arab Emirates.   These are clear examples of preponderance and to believe China is not on a similar pathway modeled on British and American history is to deliberately ignore the evidence.   From this point it is obvious that if China were able to establish a greater military presence in Indonesia exercising control over Australia would be more able to be achieved although this would more likely be the strangulation of access to shipping- and air-traffic in the region, regardless of whether it is military or mercantile, as this tactic would essentially render Australia fiscally and militarily decapitated in the region.

Returning to the initial centrepiece of Lambie’s argument and notion of whether Australia is in danger of being invaded in the traditional sense’ of the term.  The reason this is not probable is the state-of-affairs regarding invasion are dictated by sheer logistics and materiél requirements for an invasion to succeed and then be sustained.  Chinese support- and/or operated-bases are in their infancy and this will be the case for at least another decade and therefore an invasion would not be strategically viable. In the meantime China will continue to ‘invade’ Australia from an economic perspective and this will have a triad attached: to enable China to exert influence on regional strategic partnerships; to establish China and A-P multilateral deals that actively encourage the use of the Renminbi (sometimes called the Yuan), as a source of collateral; and to pro-actively downgrade Australia-US military commitments and partnerships.  As happened with Britain and the US the middle-classes of China will demand more from their government—in particular more fiscal and military status in the world—and Australia will be at the forefront of these ructions that both soft power and hard power bring.  As the decade toward 2025 grinds on the massive influence China will have will cause the displacement of Australia’s and as such, the Chinese will not automatically accept Australia’s definitions of how the A-P should be controlled: this will cause problems.  The coming state-of-affairs for Australia will be one surviving the numerous upcoming protracted and friction-filled escalations and the ever-greater political and military demands China will inevitably make.  In parallel with this the other issue for Australia will be whether Australia is also able to fend off America’s increasing desperation to maintain its traditional post-WWII foothold as it too, and in order to fulfill its ‘rebalancing’ claims, must enter the regional quarrels.  However, this does not necessarily equate to protecting Australia per se.

 For Australia the decisions that will have to be made, in order to totally avoid an outbreak of war—one in which Australia for all intent and purposes will inevitably lose and one that would encourage a ground invasion by Chinese forces—is where to place China as these regional machinations increase?   And correspondingly, where to place the US?  The point for Australians’ to understand is it is a WWII-based belief to assume that the US will come to Australia’s aid immediately, or as a follow-up to any Chinese show of force.  The truth of the matter resides in the history of the US as per WWII being a ‘European war’ until the bombing of Pearl Harbor forced the US to face the realities of the conflict, and the undeniable reality is that an Australia-China military collision would not necessarily be an urgent priority for the US.  Once again the making of such a statement can be given credence by observing that America is fiscally bankrupt to China, and owes the PRC trillions of dollars and the US would simply not risk China calling in its debt/s as this would devastate the US domestic economy.  And moreover, for the US Australia would not be the only ‘game in town.’   Reflecting on this statement, a significant part of the reason the US lost the Vietnam War is that it was not the ‘only game in town’[13] as it was beset with domestic civil strife, had ongoing issues with the Soviet Union-Cuba alliance, and had European Cold War commitments as well as the ‘space race.’  An Australia-China conflict will also adhere to the ‘not the only game in town’ principle for the US and for Australians’ to believe that the US will see a conflict in the A-P region as important enough to warrant an immediate response is simply wrong.  Also, America will be tormented with fiscal and political problems in the next two decades which will continue to render an already war-weary nation to be dubious about entering another war.  The problems that will influence the US’ lack of enthusiasm to intervene in the A-P will range from the sheer distance from the US and of it being a China-controlled environment; intractable domestic and regional dealings with Mexico and the South Americas associated with drugs, migration and political trends; the combined economic, geo-political and in some cases geo-strategic influences of what has become colloquially  known as the ‘BRICS,’ (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa); the ongoing and increasing demands of, and ties to, Israel in a continuously fractious Middle East; and the immersion of energy, politics, and geo-strategies of the ‘stans’ of Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

To be sure, the US essentially having been sidelined to that of an equal rather than a superior player in the next decade is already being put into place by China.  The evidence is America’s slow reaction to commenting on and having a greater involvement in the South China Sea tensions in a more immediate manner which is in direct contrast to its role in the Cold War years.  Moreover, China has continued to exercise its perceived ‘regional rights’ with relative impunity; and the PRC recently rejected a US proposal to decrease tensions over the ‘disputed territories,’[14] and these are further signs the days of absolute control for the US are over.  The issue-at-hand remains that China would not invade Australia in the next decade because pax-Sino has not been on the ascent long enough; and has not been able to establish the required networks for a limited invasion of Australia to succeed.  Perhaps of equal importance in the next decade America will have declined to the point of being non-interventionist, at least in the eyes of the PRC.  After the next decade for Australia all will not be so secure.

 The implications for Australia beyond 2025 onwards are not as assured and this will be due to the fact that as China continues to rise the US will continue to decline and therefore, the US will have become a significantly lesser threat.  Furthermore, as the US is forced to shift its focus toward Central Asia, the South Americas and Israel, this will make Australia more vulnerable.  There is no reason to think that if Australia continues on its current pathway of antagonism in the region—especially toward Muslim countries—that there would be enough impetus for China to believe a limited invasion would not be successful.  There is much China could gain from such an overt act as part of a grand strategy of preponderance; to force Australia to rethink its US ties; to gain greater access to Australia’s resources upon which it depends; as a signal to regional enemies that it is the force to be reckoned with; and to show regional allies it is the most powerful and dynamic actor.  In short, Senator Lambie’s outburst is largely accurate, premature perhaps, but based on British and American preponderance, accurate nevertheless.

 © Dr Strobe Driver

[1] ‘Jacqui Lambie refuses to apologise for warning of Chinese invasion.’ AAP/The Australian. Sydney: Murdoch Press. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/jacqui-lambie-refuses-to-apologise-for-warning-of-chinese-invasion/story-fn59niix-1227038207396

[2] Hugh White. ‘China must be offered a bigger role in the Asia-Pacific.’ The Age, Melbourne: Fairfax Publishing Ltd, 10 June, 2014, 16.

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-26/an-new-chinese-map-gives-greater-play-to-south-china-sea-claims/5550914 Australia Network News, 26 June, 2014.

[4] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-19/japan-expands-their-military-amid-growing-tensions-with-china/5672932 Australia Network News, 19 August,, 2014

[5] Andrew Browne. ‘Long March Out of China.’ The Australian, Melbourne: Murdoch Media, 19 August, 2014, 9.

[6] Paul Monk. ‘China’s parallel with Germany before WWI.’ The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney: Fairfax Media, 20 August, 2014. http://www.smh.com.au/comment/chinas-parallel-with-germany-before-wwi-20140820-10631j.html

[7] See Francis Fukuyama. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press, 1992.

[8] Gabriel Kolko. Another Century of War? New York: Monthly Review Press, 2002, 217.

[9] Ezra Vogel. ‘The Transformation of China.’ The Agenda. http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674055445

[10] Angus Madisson. The World Economy. Historical Statistics. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris: OECD, 2003, 258.

[11] GALLUPWorld. ‘China’s Per-Capita GDP has Led to a Drastic Reduction in Poverty.’

http://www.gallup.com/poll/166565/one-five-worldwide-living-extreme-poverty.aspx

[12] Jemima Garrett and staff. ‘US secretary of State John Kerry uses Asia-Pacific to ‘redouble’ focus on region.’ Australia Network News, 14 August, 2014 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-14/john-kerry-focuses-on-pivot-to-asia-pacific-at-end-of-region/5671992?section=world

[13] [13] James Lee Ray and Ayse Vural. ‘Power Disparities and Paradoxical Conflict Outcomes.’ International Interactions, Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis, 1986,12, 315-342.

[14] David Tweed and Sangwon Yoon. ‘China snubs US proposal at ASEAN.’ The Age. Fairfax Media: Melbourne, 11 August, 2011, 13.

Posted in Asia-Pacific Politics, Australian politics, Rise of China | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What a State demands, what a citizen gives, and what Abbott and Hockey simply don’t understand

australiamapRecent history and the dreaded ‘age of entitlement’ mantra

The rhetoric from the Abbott-Hockey mantra of the ‘age of entitlement’ appears to be getting more manic as a viewing of the ABC’s Parliament Question Time will attest; and as other Coalition ministers join the fray. Moreover, the reinforcement that it is getting due to the persistency of the mantra heralds that somehow, some way, we had this ‘entitlement’ bestowed upon us by the liberal-democratic nation-state. This is however, not the case and as much as Abbott would have the populace of Australia leave his mantra unquestioned, there is much more to the where ‘entitlement’ debate. Of course, and as can be expected by a Conservative neo-liberal government, the mantra quickly shifts focus to some within the State not being ‘deserving’ of the care of the nation-state. In order to suggest the opposite of the Abbott-Hockey mantra and that in fact Australians duly deserve their ‘entitlement,’ requires a balance needing to be struck in the argument.  One that shows the population actually worked for its fair share of the so-called ‘entitlement.’

First of all however, the imbalance in light of current political machinations regarding who is deserving and who is not, can easily be observed in two examples: aged pensioners are the deserving recipients of welfare; and the unser-30s are not. To be sure, the reason why pensioners have been targeted as the most ‘deserving’ one can assume is they will form a significant voting bloc at the next election.  A reasoning for the under-30s being targeted is they are prone to being selective about employment; and possibly not wanting to work at all.  As patently false as this may with regarding the under-30s, the Conservatives have convinced themselves it is true and have set about turning the information into a ‘fact.’

Why the under-30s are being ostracised in this way is difficult to understand as from the perspectives of chronological, structural, functional and in particular fiscal, they will be the ones that underpin the future pensions and lifestyles of the very ministers—Abbott, Hockey, Cormann, Andrews, Robb, and Abetz—who are driving the mantra. This forces any observer to question whether they understand the way in which economies-of-scale actually operate, and/or whether they are simply so slavish to the neo-liberal agenda per se, that nothing else is able to penetrate their idealised version of the way an economy should operate. Furthermore, by punishing these people in such a way is to suggest that the under-30s are ‘on their own,’ which in and of itself collides with their fellow ex-treasurer’s (Peter Costello) ideal that a woman should have ‘one child, for mum, one for dad and one for the country’ which has as its undertone that the country values an individual’s worth (if only for their ‘future of Australia’ populating capabilities).  Here we are some twenty years on and those same children that were born in the mid-1990s are about to get their ‘reward’ for being under-30.  Although it is a germane observation, there is something that should nevertheless be mentioned: it is the under- (and people in their) 30s that have the majority of the children.

Whilst the above has dealt only with certain groups in society it is important at this point to expand on the notional understanding of what the State ‘is’ and what it ‘wants,’ and who supports ‘it’ as an entity. The State as an entity is interested, via its ruling elite, in its own existence and wellbeing. This is and remains, a continuum. Where does it get its wellbeing and ongoing existence from? The answer is its people. More to the point, the population-geography mix of a State is able to shed some light on how the State manages its populace and of course, some do a better job than others: Sri Lanka does an appalling job and Sweden does an excellent one. Other nation-states aside there is the matter of Australia and how it manages its people and it is timely to talk about the nation-state in general, in order to come to understand how much it has demanded of a given populace.  In placing what the nation-state has demanded will offer a ‘balance’ and counter the ‘entitlement’ argument that the Abbott-Hockey mantra invokes. The following is an historical précis of how the nation-state came into existence and why a citizen—in this case one living in the nation-state of Australia—should demand his/her entitlement regardless of his/her position on the socio-economic ladder; and regardless of what ‘entitlement’ the Abbott-Hockey team thinks an individual is ‘worth.’

The beginning of the nation-state

In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia (TofW) came into being after Western Europe (as it is now called) was laid waste from the Sixty Years War. It was decided amongst the political elite that bordered-regions were needed so that defined geographical territories—what is now called the nation-state—should exist in order to create sovereign realms.  In doing this there would no longer be accidental straying into the territory of another, and therefore hostile responses would be minimised because of this understanding.  Borders would remain permanent and due to core agreements there would be less frictions and less wars.   The TofW would achieve peace, or in the case of an actual war taking place, it would allow for a ‘just war’ to be the answer to any quarrels, and this would reside in either defending a given territory and the expulsion of an intruder; or it could also allow for an invasion into the intruder’s territory in order to establish a greater peace—exiting the territory when the problems were over was also required. Powerful nations now refer to this as an ‘exit strategy.’ Needless to say there have been many, many wars since the inception of the TofW, however what we are interested in here is how did those wars, whether they were invasions or defence-driven, manage to take place? The short succinct answer to this question is sovereign nation-states used their populations as battering rams against each other–this still is the case regardless of whether the nation-state should have ‘matured’ beyond this paradigm. A major outcome of the scenario alluded to here is that the ruling elite of the ‘State’ were in the process of building their realm usurped clans, groups, tribes and many other peoples, and in doing so forced homogeneity onto all within their particular realm. In simpler terms, the State drew in domestic peoples and took over the role a clan elder would encounter in his/her role in the group. The State then made the people/s that had been usurped its ‘citizens.’  In this process of state-building the State gave ‘entitlements’ to their people in order to keep them loyal, fed and happy lest they need them in a crisis; and lest they rebel should their basic needs not be met. Of course it is an arid argument and a moot point to understand that some did a much better job than others (and this applies equally in contemporary times). England for instance, from about 1750 until 1919 excelled at this particular ‘model’ of ‘state-building’ to the point of making England into a world power: pax-Britannica. During, and before this time others were also exceptional at this as well, Spain, Portugal and France to name only a few.   The British achieved status whilst the elite began to care for their people, and the people in turn incrementally began to offer loyalty, labour and encouragement. The United State of America also achieved this for their Anglo-settlers, via the twin grips of manifest destiny and patriotism. Of course this was also achieved, sometimes to a much greater degree than in England by countries such as Sweden, Finland, France and Denmark.

International politics aside, it is timely to ask what do Abbott and Hockey want from their populace? It is not too long a bow to draw to say that the Conservatives want loyalty, obedience and a strong sense of nationalism from (and for) Australia’s populace. What they appear to not understand is, that it requires an effort on the part of the State to keep these desired traits in the populace in place. The way in which a governments can achieve this is either through brute force which is a delicate balance as the civilian population will rebel at the slightest hesitation of a ruler’s power, or to actually reward citizens for their loyalty and patriotism. When viewed from the perspective of the people of a State these ‘entitlements’ could and should be seen of as, ‘repayments’: a reward for being loyal to the ‘model’ that influences and controls their lives on a day-to-day basis, and one that the ruling elite continually force upon them.

Australia: 2014

The upshot of the above when seen from a different perspective is to suggest that the State under Abbott, Hockey and Andrews has no, or at the very least a declining, duty-of-care to some of its citizens—in this case the under-30s. The under-30s are not in need of care by the State as they are essentially capable of living on nothing and can find their own way in life without the input of the State. What is more, the shift of an ‘entitlement’ to somehow becoming a handout from the State for ‘no reason’–even though one could argue it is the fault of the State in not creating enough jobs–is to observe that the Abbott-Hockey mantra has redefined ‘entitlement’ to ‘privilege’. Hence if there is any fiscal input into an under-30s life then it will be seen of as a ‘gift’ and not something State ‘should’ do, in other words the State will choose whether a person is of worth and if the under-30s do not conform to the (increasingly) rigid and draconian State-driven elements (such as ‘get a job or else’) in place they will be fiscally expunged from the State’s care. This is a shocking turnaround for a developed nation-state such as Australia; of a liberal-democratic country; and of a supposed egalitarian nation-state.

The future: a possible scenario

Let’s move to the future and assume that Australia reaches a crisis in the Asia-Pacific region and that a war with China/Indonesia/Russia (one or as a combination) is imminent. Who would fight this war of the future? Surely it will be the under-30s?  The ones who the State thought were not deserving of care under the Abbott-Hockey-Andrews mandate. If a crisis of this magnitude happened—and it is important to note here, that the Asia-Pacific will be the next geo-strategic flashpoint—the State would without doubt, call upon the under-30s to show their loyalty, join the fight and embrace the needs/requirements of the nation-state of Australia. However, the State would be indulging in an acute double-standard if the Abbott-Hockey-Andrews fiscal and safety-net austerity were allowed to continue, as it has told them that as a part of the population–those in their late-teens and throughout their 20s–they are not worth the duty-of-care of the State.  Perhaps pensioners can be called upon to join the fight?  As loyal as pensioners’ may be to the State, their ability to fight a war is obviously nonsensical, so it stands to reason the young will be called upon—as has been the case in all wars.

Regardless of whether the above were to take place is a moot point as what is important is the argument that all Australians are worth being cared for equally, and that it is in fact the duty of the State. The frightening aspect of the Abbott-Hockey mantra is the divisiveness and separation it will cause in the community, and if the abysmal treatment of the under-30s is allowed to take place, it may produce a lost generation that has no hope and no trust in the State.  Indeed, in a worst-case scenario the under-30s may decide they have no obligation to defend it as it has not cared for them. Would this ever happen in Australia? Take a look at Spain or Greece for an insight into what a State can do in showing it simply doesn’t care about its young; and punishes them with austerity measures regardless of the fact that it was not the young who were responsible. The mess their political elders got them into is of their own making and was not caused by the young, and moreover, the elders have reneged on their ongoing responsibilities to their young.  A shameful reflection on expecting the young adults to absorb the neglect of the State through punishment and in doing so shun what the liberal-democratic State has historically and incrementally encouraged: a high duty-of-care for its citizens. If borrowing money to care for the young is the cost of a civil and prosperous, well-educated society then it is worth it, as the ramifications of austerity are horrendous, from which it will take decades for Australia to recover.

The State has a responsibility to its citizens as it demands so much from them and it will continue to do so. It’s time the political elite understood this and were aware that loyalty comes from giving and not from taking away.  The nation-state of Australia may well need the people it is punishing today, to fight a war tomorrow.

© Dr Strobe Driver

 

Posted in Asia-Pacific Politics, Australian politics, Rise of China | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

People ‘cost too much’: the Abbot Government and Neoliberalism

flagWhat to do, what to do…

The current non-acceptance of the 2014 Budget by the Australian population—which in turn has been reinforced by the majority of state government premier’s—does not bode well for the future of the Coalition as a unified force in politics. Perhaps what is worse for the Abbott government is it comes on the back of the debacle by Attorney-General Brandis and the proposed changes to racial vilification laws. The seeding of dissent in a party is usually political death as the Australian population witnessed under the Rudd-Gillard years, and Brandis’ byproxy non-acceptance that Australia in now a multicultural country, (some of whom these ‘other’ cultures live in the seats of Liberal Party members) may be a bitter political truth for many a person wanting the ‘good old days’ of ‘Anglo-only’ Imperialism back.   Nevertheless, wanting those days back does not reshape the reality that multiculturalism is here to stay.  Moreover, the same blithe attitude that was exhibited to those objecting to the changing of the law, now appears to be exhibited towards those that expect honesty from their politicians with equally dismissive statements. The treatment of dismissing people out of hand in terms of delivering a ‘this is what you get, take it or leave it’ attitude smacks of a ‘born-to-rule’ attitude, one which has as its undertone that ‘we’ (the Conservatives) will not be questioned by those that know less. This is a dangerous though not unexpected path for Abbott’s Conservatives to do down. A broader perspective than the decisions of the 2014 Budget need to be addressed in order to find out how this attitude has become manifest.

Free education and health are the cornerstones of Western liberal-democracies, at least those that follow the Western European style of democracy (a style of democracy that the United States of America (US) wilfully abandoned many years ago), and it was essentially borne out of many historical precepts. For the purpose of this essay however, two instances to articulate where welfare ‘came from’ are the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent demands from the population—this is where unionism also sprang from—to be cared for so they could work for the industrialists; and the wage-earning individual could pay taxes which equalled mutual prosperity. The aftermath of the horrors of the Second World War (WWII) also placed demands on Western liberal-democratic governments as those returning home insisted the State—which they had sacrificed so much for—help re-join their shattered lives. From this there was a maturity of populations, as populaces realized that the State in fact had demanded (and continued to demand) so much from them in terms of taxes, labour, loyalty, citizenship and even death in defence of the system (through the wholesale drafting of the population in world wars), is to mention only a few demands the State placed on its citizenry. We can now turn to what has happened to America and the way in which it has gone on to influence the world and in doing so influenced Australian politics, in particular the Liberal Party in Australia.   Whilst the US has in general a shocking and despicable system of healthcare, one which can only be held up and praised by the most wealthy and hardened industrial capitalists and/or people whose judgement is deeply affected by lobby groups, as the poor are simply disregarded. A cursory Google search of Wisconsin’s history of medical care toward there citizenry is a shocking read to anyone wanting to be informed about adequate healthcare for the poor, particularly under the current governor. America however, does have free education for some as it does healthcare: those that have served in the military. The benefits one gets during and after service are life-long and generous and whatsmore this has the offshoot of building an ongoing military–never having a shortage of recruits. Starving the general population of generous benefits and giving them to the military will always draw in a stream of new recruits as it is seamlessly coupled to an assumption that a posting to a war zone is unlikely; and if that happens the war is eminently survivable. Of course there are other ways of ensuring a vibrant military and having a well-cared for population (examples being Switzerland and Finland) however, this is not the neoliberal way.

Back to the point of free education and excellent healthcare. Prime Minister Abbott seems to not understand that after WWII those that fought demanded a high standard of free healthcare, not dissimilar to what he expressed would happen under a Coalition government prior to the last election. And there is the other issue of those baby-boomers that were the children of those who fought and died for their country, they too were inculcated by their (sometimes widowed) parents about what to expect from the government in terms of benefits and moreover, the State should do the ‘heavy lifting’ on their part. More to the point the baby-boomers have grandchildren now and this is perhaps the point which seems to be fundamentally lost on a Conservative and intellectually stultified Front Bench. Telling a baby-boomer (even if he/she was faithful enough to vote for the Coalition in the first place) that their grandchildren will not be able to see a doctor for free is, and will be, a very dangerous political move. However dangerous it is, it is shaping up to be trumped by Abbott’s commitment to the US-style neoliberal system. Including but not restricted to the cutting of all welfare; a disdain for those that cannot work; the Howard-style belief that private enterprise is able to deliver and care for the public much more efficiently than a dedicated public service; and the commitment to create a two-tier Australia along the lines of the American model.   An assured outcome is that of having a working-poor that underpin the wealth of the elite. How does this work? One need not look far to see the system which the Abbott government wants in action with regard to how a two-tier Australia will ‘work.’ Whilst this is moving away from healthcare it nevertheless offers evidence.  A good example of the two-tier system is that of Walmart employees in the US having to have their wages topped-up (read: a welfare payment from the government to move their wage into the category of a ‘living’ one), and this is due to their minimum wage being so pitifully low that although they work five-plus days a week their wage remains so abjectly moribund that the government has to contribute to their wellbeing through a top-up—the two-tier system in action. The advantage however for companies who use this model is that they are able to claim that people have a job and therefore ‘dignity’; and a ‘better’ place in society. Regardless of the disdain a company such as Walmart shows to their workers’ and of the executive being resentful about paying any sort of respectable wage—as has been the case shown in recent times by some mining entrepreneurs and other industrialists in Australia—the true ‘worth’ for companies in having employees is the political leverage they obtain; and the power that it brings. Threats of a future offshore location of a business is enough for governments to be panicked—especially Conservatives—into adopting the ‘too-high minimum wage’ mantra. The truth of having a minimum wage so low, as per the American model however, is that it in turn, needs to be topped-up by government (read: taxpayer) funds.   A further insight this offers is it displays the near-absolute contempt a company such as Walmart has for not just their own employees but all American taxpayers–further highlighting their slavish dedication to the Industrial Capitalist system. One could also go on to question where the morality is in taking money from other taxpayers’ in order to sustain a billion-dollar company’s network of employees, but that is beyond the remit of this essay and has been exposed in the aforementioned. The American model comes into stark relief as the Conservative Abbott government begins to push harder and harder on welfare recipients and works toward bringing in a neoliberal agenda. What is also of interest here however, is what if Australians reject the Liberal Party’s neoliberal agenda; and in doing so see the American model for what it truly represents. What to do, what to do?

Assuming the Abbott government keeps taking negative hits from their neoliberal policy not unlike those that led to the systemic decline and then decimation at the polls for the Thatcher government in Britain during the very beginning of the 1990s—the Poll Tax being the ‘bridge too far’ to save the Tories. The Abbott government too will be faced, if the polls continue on a downward trend, with the dilemma of either replacing or politically resuscitating their leader. Of course, they will not be able to depose Abbott due to the ramifications it would have in the political sphere of their unrelenting criticism of Labor; and the unseating of an elected member of parliament, and leader of the country. Therefore, resuscitation will be their only real answer. The other problem for the government will be the Coalition as a political entity will be faced with what it represents to the public: the domain of ageing, elitist, out-of-touch (mostly) white males. A point one could argue that was symbolically driven home by the punitive treatment of under-30s in the election.   High profile senators—and a possible leader of the future amongst them—Abetz, Andrews, Hockey, Truss, Dutton, Robb, Pyne, Brandis, will be pushed to do something as Abbott’s credibility declines and this will bring about an inconvenient realization which will need to be considered: the under-30s are the grandchildren of the baby-boomers. Thus, giving credence to the argument that the Coalition the Thatcherism-aspects of simply not understand interconnectivity elements within society. Thatcherism reigns supreme. The Coalition’s belief in the neoliberal mantra that Thatcher instilled (or at least attempted to) that ‘there is no such thing as society, only individuals’ ultimately means they do not understand, or deliberately ignore that there is an inter-reliance within society and this attitude is rusted-on.  Within this paradigm fail the Conservative Abbott government also fails to understand that grandparents’ actually love their grandchildren and are committed to what’s best for them. Neoliberalism has blinded the Abbott government to their Western European-societal roots, in which it is the actual duty of the State to care for its citizens. Once again what to do, what to do? The Coalition has two choices, to ride out the punitive measures of the Budget and hope that the Australian people—come the next election—will forgive them for their dalliance into the Americanisation of Australian society, or they will continue to push hard and eventually tell the Australian people it’s time they gave up on Western European societal norms because they ‘cost too much.’  If the ‘costs too much’ scenario is successfully implemented and the shift toward the individualistic Americanisation of Australian society is successful, there will be no turning back.

To be sure, the ethics and morality of how a person and/or people have come to ‘cost too much’ is far beyond the template of this essay, suffice to say that Abbott who is highly-educated in theology should be at the forefront when it comes to care and wellbeing of the Australian people. Notwithstanding, convincing pensioners however, who will be in need of the most care that they should fend for themselves and that hospitals, (of which most are an arm of the State), will be reticent for them to attend their emergency wards because they’ll be too crowded by people using them as substitute for their General Practitioner will be a game-changer for pensioners. Yet again, this offers the premise that the Coalition is addicted to the neoliberal ‘American model’ of society utterly and completely. This said however, one does need to ask how a Front Bench which has such an array of deeply-religious God-fearing people on it could possibly resort to such Dickensian treatment of the poor and underprivileged. It must be that they do believe and it is present in their rhetoric, that they know best and that they have the highest moral/ethical values but in turn have a low application of these principles when delivery of care to their populace is required. Everything about health (and education) is ‘too costly’ even if the Federal government is the eventual beneficiary of an intellectually robust and healthy nation.

Should the American (insurance-industry driven) model is embraced it will mean a two-tier health system which will eventually exclude the poor, low-class and the elderly, and if the new education principles are adopted it will also be a two-tiered system. Eventually being only for the ‘deserving’ (read: wealthy) people, essentially those that have a lesser chance of going to prison. This amounts to both education and health being reserved for privileged, upper-middle class (mostly) white people.  There is a distinct correlation to the Abbott Front Bench and interconnectivity in this scenario too.

 

© Dr. Strobe Driver

Posted in American politics, Australian politics | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Australia’s Abbott government, the Asia-Pacific region and the ‘China Divide’

South Korean Guardians. Image : Dawn Whitehand

South Korean Guardians. Image : Dawn Whitehand

Prime Minister (PM) Abbott arrived in China after a somewhat successful mission to Japan and South Korea recently, in acquiring trade benefits on some Australian exports. Broadly speaking, his visit to parts of the Asia-Pacific (AP) region has been hailed in the popular press as a high exposure trip, one which offers considerable benefits to Australian merchants in the future and significant prosperity over the next two decades. There have been some losers in the deal such as the dairy trade and of course, rice growers have been essentially ignored, which in some ways is to be expected (especially from Japan) as there is a cultural issue at stake and therefore, rice falls into the zone of being an untouchable and sacred foodstuff that has considerable emotional baggage. In order to understand this precept it’s relevant to ask: “Do Australians have a similar product with the same emotional content? Although not with the same amount of emotional collateral attached, wheat and sugar farmers do lay a substantial claim to their products going beyond just being an export or domestic foodstuff and constantly announce the superior elements of their product; and its connection to Australian farming’s ‘worth.’ Australian wool-growers are another group which offer an emotive-bonding to their product in tune with the ‘sheep’s back’ historical-economic factor.

This is all well and good, however China has been a harder nut-to-crack, notwithstanding the comment about Japan being Australia’s “best friend in Asia”.[1] This was a truly ridiculous thing to say (or imply) by PM Abbott as all it succeeded in doing was overtly singling out a ‘favourite’ in a region that has seething historical animosities, and because of this must demand an incredibly high level of tact, discretion and sensitivity from Australian politicians. This comment was an insult to South Korea and was met with a furious response with the implication that South Korea would essentially find it difficult to engage with Australia on broader security issues in the future.[2] When you need—as Australia does—as many friends in the A-P region as it can get this was a shocking outcome, made all the more problematic when bearing in mind the undeniable fact that the region is incrementally becoming more fractious and tension-filled. Moreover, it is one more step toward a very bad outcome for Australia’s future security, and it is here the reasons for this belief can be examined.

Whilst the above comment has the potential to make future security negotiations more sensitive than they previously would have been with South Korea, it also offers an insight into the naivety of PM Abbott with regard to international diplomacy. However there is a more important issue at stake here. Australia, during the rise of China, will need all of the help it can get when dealing with this massive rise—which to date, the people of Australia, including its politicians, seem to not fully realize the immensity of the issue-at-hand—and moreover, Australia will desperately need every friend it can get in the process of negotiating future outcomes with China. A case in point and good reference here with regard to making friends is to observe how Western governments had to deal with each other during the Cold War during the making and then sustaining the ongoing viability of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This is made even more relevant when observing the tensions in the Ukraine and NATO’s involvement in the region with the recent incursions by the Russian military. Constant awareness and respect is the key to having the most successful outcome and NATO is constantly aware that negotiation and not ‘playing favourites’ is the key to success for both the warring countries; and the survival of NATO. To be sure, the unified front that will be required in the A-P region, I argue, will dwarf arrangements that have gone before and whilst making and keeping allies remains in the tenet of applying forethought, being respectful, acknowledging inter-region tensions, not igniting old animosities and numerous other social niceties, it is also the actual job of a politician to be acutely aware of their role in any given scenario.

From this point we can return to the issue of why is it of the utmost importance that Australian politicians be mindful of both current and past occurrences when dealing with Japan, South Korea and the People’s Republic of China (PRC)? Especially with the PRC. There are obvious diplomatic criteria which interweave throughout simple decency and respect which Australia demands within the region and therefore it is obvious that South Korea should ask for the same tenet to be applied. There is however, much more at stake for Australia than a ‘mutual respect’ factor being the most important element in regional dialogues, and it is timely to offer a ‘what is about to take place’ some perspective as the A-P region seems to have escaped the focus of politicians—especially the current PM and his foreign minister. There are two issues that will come to the fore and they will place Australia in danger if politicians are unable to negotiate their way forward. The dyad is and remains: as China rises, the United States of America (US) will decline. This will have a remarkable effect on Australia and it needs to be taken much more seriously than has been shown in recent times. A forecast of the future was given a succinct and erudite perspective by the international economist David Hale on Lateline as recently as February 2014. Hale avers

“So there’s no doubt going forward China will be by far the most important military power in this part of the world, and the question is: will the US be in 10 years’ time an effective deterrent? And because of all the pressure on US Defence spending because of the politics in our Congress, we may well fall behind China and have in fact a military capacity inadequate to guarantee Australia’s security or the countries of the region. Here are the numbers. On the current trend line, America’s Defence share of GDP [Gross Domestic Product] will fall from 4.8 per cent of GDP two years ago to 2.6 per cent in 2023. That would be the lowest ratio since 1940, when it was 1.7 per cent of GDP. We had big cuts in Defence spending after the end of the Cold War, but we never went below three per cent. Now we’re going to 2.6. And given all the pressure on Defence spending from the growth in Medicare and other entitlement programs, that number could be by 2030 down as low as two per cent. So it’s a very, very significant change in both countries – China spending more and more, the US spending less and less.”[3]

The issue at hand here is not how much the US spends on its defence budget, as this by definition does not refer to capabilities, but where and when it deploys those assets is what is of interest. The US deploying assets in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been very limited compared to what it is capable of and herein is the problem for Australia. The US deploys the amount of assets it sees fit and is acceptable to the American population just in case the US takes casualties—and the body bags begin to mount—Operation Restore Hope in Somalia (1993), is an example of a deployment gone wrong the body bags coming home. This was followed by a seismic political change by a US administration and the US pulling out. The issue for Australians to understand is if there was a collision with China in the future there is no way Australia could guarantee the US will come to its aid, and moreover if it does, there is also no way of knowing how much the US would commit—and for how long. Hence, the Australian government should not engage in activities that have a negative ripple effect on Australia as this will create future animosities in the region and force China’s hand.

An example of this can be observed in the ongoing tensions between Australia and Indonesia, when the (rightful) anger of Indonesians percolated to the surface in the recent information gathering (read: spying) scandal. Keeping Australia’s neighbours close should be foremost in the mind of this and future the governments, and talking in the way the PM Abbott does offers nothing to encourage respectful political closeness, nor does it pave the way for future meaningful dialogues on issues which Australia and Indonesia may disagree upon. To be sure there has to be at some point, and at some level, an understanding that it is China that is rising in the region—and based on the history of Western governments, in particular the speed with which Great Britain went to war over the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands and the demand of the US after the World Trade Center disaster with President Bush’s mandate of you’re either “with us or against us”, it should be further noted and more fully understood that the PRC will be calling Australia to account for its actions. Japan and South Korea, whilst they have been faithful allies will have their hands full with China’s rise which essentially means, they will not be able to come to Australia’s aid militarily if there is any threat of retaliation posed by China, they simply will default to what is good for their populace. More to the point, they do not have the military capacity to enter a long and sustained conflict with such a powerful neighbour.  There is also another reason why Australia-China relations should be treated with the utmost respect, as the situation unfolding in our near-north requires Australians to come to terms with a simple geographical reality: the US is not our near-neighbour This also seems to have escaped the attention of Australia’s politicians and populace however, whether Australians likes it or not, it is and remains a fact.

There is a need at this point introduce and explore another perspective in order to gain a clarity to China’s current and future actions. This can be done by once again offering a perspective to what has become a well-known term: globalisation. What will this mean to the A-P region? Given the large-scale acceptance that the region’s ‘time has come’ a history of what a strong maritime presence offers from an historical perspective can be introduced to highlight the coming dangers for Australia; and to observe what force projection/s can be attained by utilizing this modus operandi. A history of maritime preponderance and the reasons why countries pursued it with such vigour is what needs to be incorporated in any underpinnings of contemporary times as by doing this offers a perspicacious understanding of how it all ‘came about.’ Whilst politics is a global event, and has been since the implementation of sea-faring, the breakthrough came with the invention of what became known as ‘capital ships’[4] or ‘ships of the line.’[5] These ships came to the forefront of power-stakes in the Seventeenth century, in events such as the Anglo-Dutch wars of the mid- to late-1700s. The types of ships which had replaced the galleon were not only singularly a powerful entity but when used as a fleet were able to travellong distances and therefore, were constantly able to maintain and reinforce the power of their admiralty; and the ruler who utilized them. The extraordinary power of these vessels is able to be shown by the English who controlled what was essentially a ‘globalized environment,’ due to the proficient use of their navy established, and then reinforced, their superiority in the world’s sea-lanes. As such sea-lanes became one of the most powerful expressions of control for a country and the corresponding needs and wants of their geo-strategy remained in place. A powerful navy became a defining instrument of a nation-state wishing to exercise influence over others.

The use of sea-power as a weapon of preponderance accelerated after World War One and gained more momentum during and after World War Two (WWII) due to the obvious advances in technology, mechanization and industrialisation. Hence, geo-strategies shifted from Great Britain after WWII and were centred on a new superpower—the US—and with the corresponding containment of the Soviet Union within the framework of preponderance, a powerful navy—especially with aircraft-carriers and their associated battle groups—became a critical part of control and containment exercises within sea-lanes. The US learned the value of the combination of sea-power and mobile carrier-based air-power in the Pacific phase of WWII and it sought to, and been successful at maintaining this from this time. Security issues abounded for those that remained powerful after WWII and the actual and/or perceived rise of Communism were shifted from the spheres of Europe to Asia, essentially because the Soviet Union would not acquiesce to the demands of the West and of course Cuba remained ‘recalcitrant,’ as did the Democratic People’s Republic Korea (North Korea). The British and French too adopted the model of air- and sea-power combinations and were active after WWII–often to appease American demands—however Britain and France did not rise to the stratospheric military heights of the US in the post-WWII world. Briefly, the use of sea-power for instance was put into place in attempting to contain Communism, and the corresponding use of sea-power expanded out from the containment of the Soviets to the Southeast Asian regions. This can be seen in the advent of ‘shooting wars’ such as the Malayan Emergency or the ‘War of the Running Dogs’ (1948-1960) which involved British and Commonwealth forces, followed by the First Indo-China War (1946-1952) which included France, and then the Second Indo-China War—or what the West calls the ‘Vietnam War’ (!962-1973)—to name only a few.

To be sure, the term coined by President Eisenhower of the ‘Domino Principle’[6] fuelled the fires of response that democratic countries should do something about this ‘rising tide’ of Communism before it ‘swept’ through Southeast Asia. As insulting as this term is to the nations of Southeast Asia—in that all Southeast Asians were drawn together or ‘homogenised’ by Eisenhower’s statement—I would argue however, in using this term its ramifications went further, deeming the nation-states of the A-P to be steadfastly incapable of defending themselves against the ‘Communist threat,’ and of taking a different path than their neighbours. Put simply, Asian governments and peoples were, as far as the US was concerned, fundamentally incapable of thinking for themselves and/or acting independently. The ‘herd mentality’ that the West had created with regard to Asians from the 1950s and beyond came to fruition in the 1960s. Whether this attitude evolved through the use of tactics such as ‘human wave’ frontal assaults that the Japanese had used in the Pacific theatre of WWII, or that the Communist forces had used in the Korean War is not a debate that needs to be had here, however it is safe to argue that due to Eisenhower’s statement—one which was reinforced by Kennedy during a speech in the United Nations in 1961 in which he stated if Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam fell to Communism, the gates of defeat for liberal-democracy would be ‘open wide’[7]—the attitude had taken hold in the mindset of the American elite.

Nonetheless, what did US forces utilize in their war on the enemy? Sea-power combined with air-power from both sea- and land-borne assets, such as carrier-based aircraft off the coast of Vietnam and land-based aircraft from as far away as Guam were deployed. This was accompanied by an invasion force of infantry and armour, and assets from other allies. At the end of the day it would fail due to numerous differences in the way the North Vietnamese forces fought back in the South, in terms of waging ‘asymmetrical warfare’; of US aircraft losses in the north; the convincing political suasion in the international arena by the North Vietnamese government; and of domestic unrest in the US socio-political and political environments in the US to name only a few. Other countries took lessons from the Vietnam War, and although some nation-states such as the US (and their allies) in Afghanistan, and Russia in Chechnya, have clung to the fiction that a populace can be supressed for an indefinite period of time, the truth is that ongoing limited wars wear down even the most powerful belligerent both fiscally; and emotionally.

The above examples highlight the intersection of globalisation, the use of sea-power and how the decline of the US, at least in terms of its overarching presence on the world stage, developed and became manifest. There were also other contributing factors which deserve a mention and to round out the analyses of this essay that it was not only a military issue that exhausted the Superpowers. The Soviet Union (in part) collapsed due to Russia having to support its satellite-states and also having to bear the enormous cost of exercising its power preponderance far beyond its borders both in terms of air- and sea-power. The US (in part) collapsed financially from the blowback of recalcitrant populations in Iraq and Afghanistan which refused to see them as saviours and only as invaders; of waging a never-ending war on terror in Pakistan; and the intricacies of the international monetary system placing more and more stressors on the US dollar, which in turn was a blowback from the Clinton administration’s relaxation of financial regulations.

The above can now be seen to neatly conjoin to why China is able to move so directly into its new role as a regional superpower. The above template of the West forcing its hand in the A-P region and beyond has provided a learning experience for an exponentially intellectually growing, global politically active, militarily responsive, and savvy country—at least since the mid-1990s. China slowly and incrementally began to establish itself as a forthright regional actor and is now effectively putting into actions what the West—particularly the US—has taught it. China has begun to lay claims to its ‘historical’ lands and sea-lanes, which in recent times has led to an increased military presence in the South China Sea, Western Pacific, the Taiwan Strait, and the East China Sea. Back to the original point, what does this mean for Australia? China is using a maritime force to establish a significant and ongoing presence in the region, and its extramural incidences will only grow throughout the next decade (and beyond). Crucially though, like America, Britain, France, Portugal and Spain beforehand, China has in mind a long-term vision for the rise of its status as a nation; and its people. The People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) movement into the A-P region in a forthright manner is now a cornerstone of its future plans and moreover, as with the US after WWII it does not see its role as that of having a decade-long agenda, the agenda China has for its dominant role in the A-P is more as a century long timeline—once again not dissimilar to those Western powers that have gone before.

Australia after WWII saw itself as an upcoming regional power, as did the US in terms of a global power. Victory does this to countries in general, and in its aftermath countries jockey for position/s as in this case their post-war ambitions were played out and in the US case this has gone on for decades. Russia also expanded under Communism and drew in other nation-states as it stormed across the Balkan states, eventually culminating in a Soviet Union. Levels of force vary and are used by countries at numerous times in order to express their preponderance. Why would China be any different than those that have gone before with such shining examples as the US re-flagging of tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Kuwait crisis and, as previously stated, the United Kingdom immediately resorting to force rather than diplomacy in the re-taking of the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands. These are just two examples of preponderance manipulation; and of force overriding negotiation.

So what is the main point here? China has learned from these examples – the PRC government is not stepping back from forcing its hand in the A-P region and what is more, it has a long-term plan for regional dominance and this will mean the use of force if the PLAN is ordered to by their government. Moreover, China is fully aware of the perils of the US in terms of its war-weariness as the failures of Iraq and Afghanistan bear out, the immense fiscal problems in the US economy, the belief in the American population that their efforts are under-appreciated if not downright scorned by their allies and their enemies, and the immense friction in both the Middle East and Central Asia that ongoing drone-strikes have caused. China for instance is very active in both soft and hard diplomacy in Central Asia—as it is in other regions— and it is exponentially benefiting from the internal chaos that the strikes are causing and is riding on the back of the hatred the strikes are generating in the domestic populaces of numerous countries. China’s presence in the A-P is not only increasing it is here to stay and it an astute actor and observer in a globalised world. Australians should not underestimate the intensity and the determination China has and will continue to exercise as it mimics those powerful nation-states that have indulged in ‘pax’ before them.

Recently on several programs such as Lateline and Foreign Correspondent the para-navy abilities of the PLAN have been shown and what this underpins is the PRC is deadly serious about making its presence known and of protecting what it believes is its territories and/or rights. The difference between the A-P region and Central Asia is China is beginning to show signs that it is increasingly willing to use force andas such, its para-navy abilities have been utilized against both Vietnam and the Philippines recently. To be sure Australian government needs to interpret this in the most serious of ways and to give it critical thinking far beyond the ‘economic benefits’ that a rising China will bring. This requires the Australian government recognizing that it should not place its A-P neighbours in descending orders of worth as this will create animosity—from which will come a backlash. This is not the 1950s anymore, an era in which Australia could essentially dictate to its poorer regional neighbours about what they ‘should do’ and ‘not do’ and moreover, Australia should become familiar with the idea that if China is not treated with respect it will retaliate and the PRC will not ask Australia’s permission of how hard it will need to act; nor will the PRC take kindly to the notions of Japan and South Korea being given regional preferential treatment. And more to the point, China also understands that there is no solid agreement between the abovementioned nations and Australia that if China chooses to exercise limited force against a Royal Australian Navy vessel or a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft—whilst it would initiate strong condemnations—there is no agreement that demands an instant military response.

China continues to rise and is the ‘elephant in the room,’ of which there has been very little acknowledgement of by the current PM. What if China places pressure on the nations of the A-P to not involve themselves with Australia, and bearing in mind this is a billion-plus people backed up by an extremely effective and forceful navy, what if in order to keep a semblance of regional peace they side with China and exclude Australia from issues such as free trade, ocean access and flight corridor access? Can’t happen? The countries of Africa during the apartheid years refused flight corridor access to South African Airways (SAA) which meant SAA had to fly down the coast of Africa—a costly, long, and fuel-burning haul.   Refusal to let Australian aircraft and shipping could happen. If this were to happen the political immaturity of the Abbott government will have contributed to the state-of-affairs by only concentrating on the economic ‘benefits’ rather than treating the region with the respect it deserves; and the PRC government the dignity it deserves as a country that has excelled in nation-building and has gone on to mirror the ways of the West. The malaise the Abbott government continues to show China displays an incredible naivety with which it treats the region and the abject poverty-of-mind that it has toward the future of the A-P; and Australia’s place in the region.

Footnotes:

[1] John Garnaut. ‘Japan: Tony Abbott must tread lightly on his North-east Asia trip.’ The Age, Fairfax Media http://www.theage.com.au/comment/japan-tony-abbott-must-tread-lightly-on-his-northeast-asia-trip-20140407-zqrwr.html 7, April 2014.

[2] ‘Japan: Tony Abbott must tread lightly on his North-east Asia trip.’

[3] Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ‘China’s economy could overtake the US in ten years.’ Lateline, 12, Feb 2014. http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2013/s3943580.htm

[4] Geoffrey Parker. ‘Ships of the Line.’ The Cambridge History of Warfare. Edited by Geoffrey Parker. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, 120

[5] The Cambridge History of Warfare, 125.

[6] Hugh Brogan. The Penguin History of the USA. London: Penguin Books, 1999, 649.

[7] John Kennedy. ‘Address in New York City before the General Assembly of the United Nations.’ September 25, 1961. United States Government Public Papers. <http//www.jfklinl.com/speeches/jfk/publicpapers/1961/jfk387_61.html>

Posted in American politics, Asia-Pacific Politics, Asian Century Politics, Australian politics, Rise of China | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A reply to : How many children’s lives will Tony’s jets cost?

Eurofighter Typhoon

Eurofighter Typhoon

A reply to the Australian Independent Media Network’s article (by Kaye Lee): How many children’s lives will Tony’s jets cost?

This article raises some good points, however there are some tensions within it that I would like to address.

Whilst I have no genuine problem with the comparison of the cost of the JSFs and that it could be better spent, there is the issue of an air force. The real problem for me is that the JSFs were bought by the Howard government without a proper due process essentially, and that in fact there are vastly superior aircraft for less and/or similar price tag. Dassault for instance, make a vastly superior aircraft, the Rafale, and there is of course the Eurofighter Typhoon.

This aircraft–the JSF–is an aerial-lemon.

Also the argument regarding China (and its rise), which will come to meet Australia in the very near future — China is progressing militarily as well as economically. Currently it is establishing bases in Pakistan (which despises the USA due in part to the ‘war on terror’ which has left the populace deeply resentful of America due, in no small part, to drone-strikes) and in Burma as well as moving to establish bases in Africa. China is now setting about accomplishing what the USA once did: establishing a long term plan for it to become a global power. Australia should take heed and plan for this happening as America is not our neighbour, nor is it in our region and nor will it come to our aid if there is a clash with China.

America, after all, is a war-weary nation.

Posted in Asian Century Politics, Rise of China | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Abbott uses society’s vulnerable as means to an ideological end

Whilst this is a very good and articulate article there is an historical issue with poverty that might be of interest to the readers’ of this article. Prior to the Great Depression (GD) of 1929 poverty was thought, at least by the elite in the USA and elsewhere in the West, to be somehow of ‘God’s work’ inflicted on those that were essentially ‘lesser beings,’ or had some sort of moral ineptness, or in simpler terms they were morally bankrupt and/or stupid. Then along comes the GD and many, many rich people who were of inherently ‘good character’ became poor, so therefore those that were in poverty couldn’t all then be labelled to be of a morally questionable nature, could they? If rich people become poor then it must be something else (perhaps the economy) that has thrust these otherwise decent people into the morass of poverty. Hence poverty became redefined as having causal issues rather than moral ones. Of course the political backlash to that was consecutive American presidents investing in getting the poor out off their situation/s : the New Deal being one such program.

It seems that it will take something like this to change PM Abbott’s opinion of the poor (which I would argue he gained from John Howard’s political and religious ideals) as staunch Conservatives such as Abbott are unwilling to admit to the failures of the capitalist system until an economic catastrophe strikes and their political base shows sign of deep strain/s ( a good example of a political base fracturing and there being a change of policy would be Work Choices for Howard). It is however, abundantly clear that Abbott sees the poor in Australia as the ‘problem’ and not the economy that has placed them in their dire straits.

The Australian Independent Media Network

Image courtesy of news.com.au Image courtesy of news.com.au

Can anybody make any sense out of what this government doing? asks Jennifer Wilson.

It seems to me that it’s a core conservative tradition to use  the most vulnerable people in society as a means to an ideological end. There are endless current examples of this: threats to pensions, restricted access to Newstart for unemployed youth, destruction of universal healthcare, proposed reduction of the minimum wage and a cap on that wage for the next ten years, all part of the Commission of Audit’s recommendations to the Abbott government prior to its first budget in a couple of weeks.

None of these measures will affect anyone as disastrously as they will affect the poor, and while middle class journalists  on a good wage, some of whom are Abbott’s most vocal supporters,  scream like stuck pigs about the flagged “debt levy” on incomes over…

View original post 774 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Rise of Pax-Sino and the Asia-Pacific Region

This is a presentation I gave as part of the Cultural Enquiry Research Group (CERG) on the 3rd of March 2014, entitled ‘The Kangaroo, the Eagle and the Dragon: Australia-America-China and the possibility of war in the ‘Asian Century.’ It is an overview of the potential of Australia going to war with China in the near future (2025 +) due to frictions that are being created in the Asia-Pacific region.

Posted in Asia-Pacific Politics, Asian Century Politics, Rise of China | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Australian Navy ‘strays’ into Indonesian waters

Aussie flagThere is much to read in to what has happened recently in the straying of Australian Navy vessels into Indonesian sovereign waters and the ire this has raised in the officials of their government.  From a party that espouses ‘sovereignty’ one would think that they would have it well-understood that any infringement on sovereignty would be at the forefront of their understandings.  It appears not to be so.

Where to from here?

Whether the issue of boat-people/arrivals is increasing or decreasing is not the main cause for alarm in terms of the outcome of such a lapse in border security and whether the Australian government is using life-boats to shuttle people to certain locations is also not the issue – notwithstanding, the sympathy any reasonable person must show for the poor distraught souls on board – there is a much bigger element that will come back to haunt Australians.  What these farcical and inept actions are achieving is driving the Indonesian government to shift away from seeing Australia as a decent, worthwhile and trustworthy neighbour.  And by its own actions Australia is fuelling a shift in allegiances by Indonesia from Australia to elsewhere.  What this will and must produce is, as China and India rise – in particular China – Indonesia will use this breach of understandings/s and protocol as a springboard to move out of the current state-of-affairs, that of being a tolerant neighbour of Australia, to viewing Australia as a disruptive, uncaring and dishonest neighbour. It will do so with good reason.  This level of disrespect (although it has been followed by an apology from Minister Morrison) will not go unnoticed by future Indonesian governments as a blatant infringement on their rights as a sovereign state; and moreover, it will be used as a reason to favour and to ally with China in the future.

One may also ask, is this an overreaction by the author in terms of over-stating what will be quickly forgotten; and intergovernmental exchanges will continue?

The answer to this is the author believes that it, along with the regional Imperialism shown by Australia for the last half-century, is coming to an end and it is issues such as the one of infringing on Indonesian waters, and the political incompetence shown by Minister Morrison, that is not only hastening the event of Australia’s  decline but also encouraging Indonesia to look elsewhere for military allies – and it will be China that comes to fill the gap.  This will produce a crisis for Australia not unlike that experienced in the Pacific phase of World War Two (WWII), in terms of Australia beginning to flounder and wondering what it has done to ‘deserve this.’

The answer is that the mismanagement of the asylum-seeker issue by previous governments – though this has reached new heights of mismanagement under the Abbott administration – and the pathway of abject disregard for alternate opinion  is fuelling a future set of crises.  The situation will be made more volatile by the rise of China and the subsequent ramifications that this will bring.  Australians should not forget that just as the post-WWII saw the rise of pax-Americana to replace pax-Britannica, so too will the demise of pax-Americana see the rise of China: pax-Sino.  Who then will Indonesia choose as a confidant in the region? And what reasons will it state for favouring China over Australia?  Indubitably, the asylum-seeker issue will be high on their list.

To think that China will not demand countries in the region to lay out, for all the world to see, who will be their allies is naïve in the extreme.  As in the era of pax-Americana the Americans demanded a visible and public arena of admission regarding their alliances and before them, so too did the British.  Why will China be any different?  Why would Indonesia not have to declare their alliance to, and with, China?

But of course that would never happen in the sophisticated sphere of twenty-first century world politics where realpolitik is able to be played out without fear or favour, and nations are not necessarily beholden to their past.  This sounds good until the reality of adversarial politics comes into play and reasons are needed to separate neighbours: issues such as the treatment of Indonesian policy regarding asylum-seekers and the towing-back of boats in to sovereign waters will come to the fore.  This is and will be one of the reasons Indonesia will use to generate favourable policy with a rising China, and it will be to the detriment of Australia.

Why would this happen?

Pax-Sino is a reality that Australia must face — and whether China rises faster or not-as-fast as is being forecast is a non-issue — the fact is China is rising, and will influence geo-politics in the Asia-Pacific region exponentially over the next fifty years.  Australia should attempt to circumvent any problematics with its neighbours by seeking to de-escalate regional tensions rather than play into the hands of, and create greater problems, through considered and respectful dialogue rather than the quasi-Imperialist tenets that govern its attitudes in the region in contemporary times.  China will adopt and focus its foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific to achieve its goals of putting right what it believes to be a submission to the notion of ‘European superiority’ via the intervention of the nation-state Westphalian system–especially toward the end of the nineteenth century.  The Chinese according to Martin Jacques in his book, When China Rules The World, were sublimated and forced to alter their ways.  To be sure, ‘The Middle Kingdom became just another state, now with a name, China, like any other.  An elite and a people schooled in the idea of their cultural superiority entered a prolonged crisis of doubt, uncertainty and humiliation from which, a century and a half later, they are now only beginning to emerge.’

The Chinese government will pursue, what they believe to be their ‘rightful place’ in the world, and it will be via the Asia-Pacific in the first instance, that this will be played out.  A more succinct and perspicacious reason for treating nation-state neighbours, and their sovereign waters, with respect need not be illuminated further as the reasons for a less-Imperial stance in regional machinations are obvious.  The Abbott government should be looking to a regional balance in the future.  One that does not alienate a neighbour with the (coming) power of Indonesia, which of course doesn’t mean grovelling agreement with all policy. However, the change in regional military power-status is rapidly approaching and Australia needs to be more astute and diplomatic in its dealings with its nearest vastly populated neighbour, or rue the day its (shades of Imperialist) arrogance in dealing with up and coming regional powers reigned supreme

Posted in Asia-Pacific Politics, Asian Century Politics, Australian politics, Rise of China | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments