Commentary on Conflict: then and now

This page will offer a base of details from numerous sources that will help address the ‘how, what and why’ of conflict, in order for it to be more fully understood.  The information produced on this page is related to war in general, war history, conflict, terrorism and other related issues–including current crises such as the increasingly burgeoning Asia-Pacific.  The information will cross centuries as well as encompass the present, and will provide insights into the historical and contemporary complexities therein; and some comment will be offered by the author as suggestion or factually-based analysis (including citation).  All information is in no particular order, however it has within it a series of insights that the reader can extrapolate upon with the intent of gaining a deeper and more nuanced understanding of conflict and its portents.

This page will have regular updates and will (hopefully), be informative to all audiences — from those with a passing interest in International Relations to those with a more pronounced focus (such as war) and is directed toward all, whether they be high school students; interested parties; or professionals.

When Kabul became the new Saigon the endless war ended

‘… when we marched into the rice paddies on that damp March [1965] afternoon, we carried, along with our packs and rifles, the implicit convictions that the Viet Cong would be quickly beaten and that we were doing something altogether noble and good.  We kept the packs and rifles; the convictions, we lost.’

Excerpt from Philip Caputo:  A Rumor of War (1977).

The way in which the Taliban took hold of Afghanistan should come as no surprise within the realm of modern war; and warfare.  Nonetheless, it is being viewed in the public sphere and the general news cycle as ‘surprising.’  The reason for the ‘surprise’ is because the West had previously and consistently told the world it had ‘defeated,’ or were ‘defeating’ the Taliban.  The truth of the matter however is, the Taliban had not been defeated, they were merely dormant.  That is not to say they were not active per se, they were just biding their time and doing what a decentralized, disciplined militia group does—enough to stretch the enemy resources, not enough to cause a full-scale offensive by their more powerful adversaries—in particular the United States of America (US).   The tactics the Taliban employed have been used numerous times before, although the most pertinent is perhaps the France – Algeria War (1954 – 1962).  Similar to what the Afghanistan War/War on Terror (2001 – 2021) the war in Algeria was fought by the Armée de Libération Nationale in Algeria was one of keeping the French forces continually hamstrung and overstretched by doing just enough to show the French were not in control.   Successful asymmetrical warfare demands consistent though tempered attacks and as described by Horne entails just enough ‘to keep the pot simmering with an occasional grenade thrown into a café here [in the capital El-Jazair or a main town], a burst of machine gun fire on the beach there.’[1]  Accordingly and as was the Taliban’s plan, they would wake from their slumber immediately their enemies had been worn down by corruption and incompetence on the part of Afghanistan military forces; and the timeline that had been imposed on the West by its politicians, military leaders and its citizens—particularly the US—had run its course, the Taliban knew and understood there would be a cathartic change (read: retreat) on the part of Western forces.  The Taliban inherently understood, once the timeline and the tolerance level of the West’s military (and civilian) had become exhausted; and due to the fact the Taliban’s focus had not waned nor changed, a conversion in Western mindset would take place and policy would follow.   This is what happened. 

An unfortunate aspect of Afghanistan is the same war had already happened to the Soviet Union in its Soviet – Afghan War (1979 – 1989) and prior to this war the US and its allies in Southeast Asia: the Vietnam War (1963 – 1975).   Thus, the war with the Taliban by the West can be seen within the remit of a ‘repeat of history.’  During the Vietnam War—or the ‘American War’[2] as the Vietnamese call it—all the North Vietnamese (NV) troops fighting the ground war in the south had to do was engage in a protracted war without becoming bogged down in static force-on-force collisions.  Asymmetrical warfare would remain the strategy of advantage.  The NV were certain, and as had proven to be too much for the French to come to terms with in the First Indochina War (1946 – 1954),  that asymmetrical tactics inevitably drain the conviction of foreign troops to the conflict and this is followed by their governments, their military leaders; and eventually, their domestic populaces.   The NV forces in order to stem the enthusiasm for the war on the part of the South Vietnam military (the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN)) and in particular the US was create a continuum of tactics in which, and for the US in particular, ‘nothing seems to work, where the [conventional Western] rules [of war] either don’t exist or obviously don’t apply, and where they are confronted by impotence and failure day after day.’[3]   The NV set the groundwork for asymmetrical warfare to come to the fore and when the ARVN and US forces had to face the strategy as a continuum, they became reactive rather than proactive and hesitant rather than assured.  What must happen after these tenets become commonplace is they eventually demand a retreat and if the army doing the retreating can regain their confidence, a regroup and renewed attacks to regain ground.  The Afghanistan War/War on Terror would be the next action which would see the US and its allies engage in a war which was fought in the hope of the enemy engaging in static, frontline engagements in which they could be soundly defeated.  This would not happen and the US and its allies would once again, descend into chaos.

Thus, all the Taliban had to do to win the war was a triad: apply the principles of keeping the war a protracted happening; make sure any kinetic engagements were asymmetrical; and implement a war of a ‘third kind’ overall strategy.  Whilst all of the aforementioned principles are important a war of this ‘type’ is particularly effective, as it is one in which a guerrilla fighter must be ‘indistinguishable from the general population, [and direct] engagements must be sporadic and their perpetrators unobserved and unidentifiable … The deadly game [of combat and how to destroy the enemy] is played in every home, church, government office, school, highway, and village.’[4]    For the Taliban to have re-emerged so quickly it is and remains evident that a war of a third kind was a significant part of their overall plan and moreover, history had proven there was no need to change the strategy as the West would eventually capitulate.

The Taliban has won and the West—particularly the US—has been defeated (again) by a decentralized; dedicated group of fighters willing to bide their time, have no timeline of when the expulsion should occur, appear weak, and when the time is right, strike.  What these tenets achieve consists of but are not limited to a de-stabilisation of the control the foreign forces appear to have gained; create chaos amongst civilians which bleeds confidence in the belief they are being cared for; overstretch opposition military assets; and sow political doubt in the worth of the conflict amongst foreign troops and their political leaders.   Fifty-plus years ago the lesson was there to be learned in the Vietnam War.  The NV had bided their time and continued with their asymmetrical tactics until the time was right to engage in a symmetrical exchange which it accurately predicted would turn the tide of the Vietnam War in their favour.  The 1968 Tet (New Year) Offensive was launched and NV troops

[A]ttacked almost every important American Base, every town in the city of South Vietnam.   The combined force of eighty-four thousand men simultaneously moved in to five out of the six cities, thirty-six out of the forty provincial capitals, and sixty-four district capitals …. One unit penetrated the grounds of the presidential palace, four blocks to the south; another took over the government radio station and a third assaulted the Tam Son Nhut air base, breaking through the heavily guarded perimeter to blow up aircraft and engage in gun battles with American troops.[5]

 

Although the action from a military perspective was a failure in real terms, what the offensive achieved was the near-complete disintegration of the control ARVN, US and their allies had in the south of the country.  The action produced the predicted anger and rage in Congress; and a further erosion of public support for the war.  The Taliban whilst not having a single action of the scale of NV troops nonetheless, persisted with ongoing and continuous thrusts into territory controlled by the Afghan troops and their allies.  The end result would be the same as the West and its allies would be incapable of changing their tactics from symmetrical to asymmetrical and thus, history would be repeated.  

Considering the intention when entering a war is to win it, one can only ponder at the sheer ignorance of those that sent their assets and personnel into a war which they were ‘assured’ of winning.  The lessons of Vietnam whilst being writ large were ignored by those that obviously thought technology and the swift deployment of troops would prevail over decentralised, committed, battle-hardened militias that controlled the countryside; the tempo of the battles; and who had no finite timeline.  Indubitably, the aim of the Taliban was to drag the war out and keep killing as many Western troops as possible.  Within this dyad the slow but sure disintegration of the ‘noble cause’ of the West of bringing democracy to Afghanistan would perish too, and it did.

The catastrophic defeat and humiliating retreat for Western forces had come to fruition, but at least the wait for the war to end, had ended and the citizens, and the military of the West could retire and wonder why its leaders after 20 years of fighting had still refused to acknowledge warfare has changed; and why hope and not articulately thought-through battle plans were not paramount in the mindset of their leaders.  Meanwhile, France remains in Mali and the US is about to enter another war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, no doubt hoping the guerrillas they fight will abandon their predilection for asymmetrical warfare and succumb.       

 

© Strobe Driver

September, 2021.

[1] Alistair Horne.  A Savage War of Peace.  Algeria 1954-1962. New York: New York Review Books, 2006, 413.

[2][2] 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

[3] Daniel Elsberg. Papers on the War. New York: Simon & Shuster, 1972, 249.

[4] Kalevi Holsti. The State, War, and the State of War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, 36-39.

[5] Frances FitzGerald.  Fire in the Lake.  The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam.  Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1972, 388-389.

 

Starting at the beginning: a very succinct explanation of war …

What ‘is’ war ?

[W]ar is a contention over something and that while war differs from other contentions in that it employs a special means, namely force, we should not lose sight of the fact that war is a form of contention … From this perspective, war may be considered a violent way of getting objects of value.

See: John Vasquez.  The War Puzzle.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 30.  Emphasis in original.

Why and how was the Roman Empire so successful conquering all those in its     path ? 

[R]oman soldiers were trained to manoeuvre as units, receiving their orders by bugle call and maintaining their cohesion even in the chaos of battle.  As a result, any Roman commander worth his salt could deliver maximum force when opportunity presented itself, and retreat in good order if necessary.  Disciplined, coherent forces had advantage over even very large numbers of ferocious opponents acting as individuals … just 300 legionaries who had been cut off [at Gaul] were able to defend themselves for hours against 6,000 opponents at the cost of only a few wounded.

See:  Peter Heather.  The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, 7.

How and why did fighting for European/Europa (Christianitas), gain so much credence and credibility ?

The rise in the knights’ [as a professional soldier]  standing followed changes in military technique—the development of castles, for instance, and the growth of fighting on horseback—which enhanced the standing and prestige of those who fought … In the eleventh century, we also saw the blessing [by the clergy] of swords and weapons. There emerged a religious ceremony of knightly investiture … As kings were crowned so knights were invested.  Knighthood now was, or could be, a vocation.  The Church was in touch with the profession of arms, without the king as an intermediary.  The warfare of knights was securing a new sanction and prestige … .

See:   H.E. J. Cowdrey.  ‘The Genesis of the Crusades: The Springs of Western Ideas of Holy War.’  The Holy War.  Edited by Patrick Murphy.  Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1976, 14 – 17.

Through articulate war ‘management’ Great Britain won wars and (eventually) ruled the World 

The British practice of warfare from the sixteenth century to World War 1 was to employ…[a] way of war [which] de-emphasized direct confrontation, concentration, mass, and battle and emphasized surprise, mobility, manoeuvre, peripheral attacks on the enemy weaknesses, dispersion, conversion of resources, and negotiated settlements.  War was to be conducted in a “businesslike” manner and was to be profitable.  The British used sea power primarily to achieve their limited strategic objectives.  They traditionally fought low-expenditure, high-gain wars that took advantage of Britain’s geographic circumstances that exploited those of its enemy.  The British way of war was to destroy when possible the enemy’s fleet; attack enemy trade; block the enemy’s coast and conduct raids on the enemy’s ports, coastal towns and colonies; seize, when possible, the enemy’s colonies; subsidize allies on the Continent; wait for the attacks on the enemy’s economy and peripheral areas to erode its capacity to resist; exploit opportunities through the use of surprise made possible by the superior mobility of the fleet; deploy limited expeditionary forces on the Continent to fight alongside the larger forces of the allies; and finally, to manoeuvre the enemy into an untenable position in which it had no other option but to conclude a peace agreement on terms set by the British and their allies.

See:  Adrian Lewis.  Omaha Beach:  A Flawed Victory. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001, 34 – 35..

Commentary: Taiwan – China

Yet another visit by a #USA envoy to #Taiwan and #China reacts–as it usually does. What will come of this visit, one might ask? Will it be the same as all that have gone before? No firm stance by the US on whether it will come to Taiwan’s aid militarily (aside from selling Taiwan as much materiel as Taiwan can buy), it will surely be the same old, same old. The people of Taiwan must surely understand another meeting with President Tsai, is not a reliable ally gained. #AsiaPacific #Asia #War #China #Asiapacificsecurity #Asiapolitics
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-54200913

Commentary: Australia and resources

Getting to the point about fuel and fuel reserves. Producing 75% more food than Australia can eat is a simple approach to food security–if you don’t have the fuel to get it to distribution centres then it stays where it is: on the farm. One has to wonder about Australia getting involved in far-away conflicts, Iraq, Afghanistan, Philippines when Australia’s security is hinged on fuel; and its codicils. How was Japan brought to its knees in WWII (pre- the dropping of the atomic bombs), was because it–as an island–had no capacity to import, distribute or access domestic fuel. This is a salutary lesson for Australia–an island nation-state–as we currently have ‘enough’ fuel for 19 days, and would rely on the US to import fuel should Asia-Pacific security plummet–and moreover, referring to the Asia-Pacific/Oceania/Micronesia as ‘our patch’ is a government-driven fantasy, which does not take into account the direness that Australia will face as the decade moves toward 2030.  Keep in mind China is geo-strategically static at the moment, and this will take some years to change although when it does Australia will need all the fuel it can get. Driving a bushmaster from Bendigo to Darwin will take some doing. Although Australia is going to build a fuel depot in Darwin Harbour to get some fuel supply leverage. Let me guess, all the tanks will be above ground as digging them in will no doubt be too expensive? Might as well paint targets on them.

Commentary:  Australia – China

The latest ban on Australian goods–lobsters–by #China is not to be unexpected and moreover, comes on the back of beef, barley etc for Australia. This is a classic Sun Tzu maxim of before you go to war, you must ‘know your enemy.’ How does this translate in terms of #EconomicSecurity for China. This is how it works. Since time-in-memoriam nation-states have been involved in extending their authority and in part, this has always been through waging an economic war before an actual ‘shooting war’ takes place. With regard to the ‘lobster thing’ is China attempting to assess how many #AsiaPacific nation-states (or others such as the #USA#Canada, and the #UnitedKingdom etc), will come to the economic rescue of #Australia; or at the very least, demand China cease and desist. The answer is in the deafening silence of these nation-states, and it does not bode well for Australia. This shows Australia’s understanding of its allies is stuck in the 1950s. 

 
 

Commentary: Will China attack Australia?

In response to several questions regarding my previous FB post and whether #China will/would attack #Australia I thought I would add some clarity; and cite a reference. This post therefore, will be a bit long. The first is the term ‘attack’ is subjective and usually means a deliberate ‘kinetic exchange — in the vernacular a ‘shooting war’ taking place. This is unlikely until circa-2030 as whilst China is making determined moves into the #AsiaPacific it is (and will be for some time), unable to sustain a conflict per se; and it has too many issues to ‘settle’ in order to focus an attack. Two of these are the Uyghur ‘problem’ in the northwest province which Indonesia is very concerned about; and energy/military issues with #Russia. There are many more problems. All need some form of balance. Attacking Australia and #war in order to gain specific aims will exponentially increase on the part of China in the next decade; and China will be able to engage and sustain engagements (this is the key element) by circa-2030. The bigger picture can be observed in the history of war and it will return and moreover, Australia will be incapable of reacting in a military way to the processes China will put in place; and this in turn, will force Australia to negotiate on China’s term. The below quote is from Lewis’ book Omaha Beach: A Flawed Strategy, which delved into the sheer stupidity of the WWII D-Day landings; and the military misgivings/disagreements of said landings. To a certain extent, it was luck that allowed the beaching to be a success etc. That aside Lewis analysed a ‘type’ of war that will serve China well and one that Australia will be unable to actually repel and moreover, China will become more powerful as it isolates Australia. The method is as follows:

The British practice of warfare from the sixteenth century to World War 1 was to employ…[a] way of war [which] de-emphasized direct confrontation, concentration, mass, and battle and emphasized surprise, mobility, manoeuvre, peripheral attacks on the enemy weaknesses, dispersion, conversion of resources, and negotiated settlements. War was to be conducted in a “businesslike” manner and was to be profitable. The British used sea power primarily to achieve their limited strategic objectives. They traditionally fought low-expenditure, high-gain wars that took advantage of Britain’s geographic circumstances that exploited those of its enemy. The British way of war was to destroy when possible the enemy’s fleet; attack enemy trade; block the enemy’s coast and conduct raids on the enemy’s ports, coastal towns and colonies; seize, when possible, the enemy’s colonies; subsidize allies on the Continent; wait for the attacks on the enemy’s economy and peripheral areas to erode its capacity to resist; exploit opportunities through the use of surprise made possible by the superior mobility of the fleet; deploy limited expeditionary forces on the Continent to fight alongside the larger forces of the allies; and finally, to manoeuvre the enemy into an untenable position in which it had no other option but to conclude a peace agreement on terms set by the British and their allies. 

Commentary: A response to the above post

In response to several questions regarding my previous FB post and whether #China will/would attack #Australia I thought I would add some clarity; and cite a reference. This post therefore, will be a bit long. The first is the term ‘attack’ is subjective and usually means a deliberate ‘kinetic exchange — in the vernacular a ‘shooting war’ taking place. This is unlikely until circa-2030 as whilst China is making determined moves into the #AsiaPacific it is (and will be for some time), unable to sustain a conflict per se; and it has too many issues to ‘settle’ in order to focus an attack. Two of these are the Uyghur ‘problem’ in the northwest province which Indonesia is very concerned about; and energy/military issues with #Russia. There are many more problems. All need some form of balance. Attacking Australia and #war in order to gain specific aims will exponentially increase on the part of China in the next decade; and China will be able to engage and sustain engagements (this is the key element) by circa-2030. The bigger picture can be observed in the history of war and it will return and moreover, Australia will be incapable of reacting in a military way to the processes China will put in place; and this in turn, will force Australia to negotiate on China’s term. The below quote is from Lewis’ book ‘Omaha Beach: A Flawed Strategy’ which delved into the sheer stupidity of the WWII D-Day landings; and the military misgivings/disagreements of said landings. To a certain extent, it was luck that allowed the beaching to be a success etc. That aside he analysed a ‘type’ of war that will serve China well and Australia will be unable to actually repel and moreover, China will become more powerful as it isolates Australia. The method is as follows:

The British practice of warfare from the sixteenth century to World War 1 was to employ…[a] way of war [which] de-emphasized direct confrontation, concentration, mass, and battle and emphasized surprise, mobility, manoeuvre, peripheral attacks on the enemy weaknesses, dispersion, conversion of resources, and negotiated settlements. War was to be conducted in a “businesslike” manner and was to be profitable. The British used sea power primarily to achieve their limited strategic objectives. They traditionally fought low-expenditure, high-gain wars that took advantage of Britain’s geographic circumstances that exploited those of its enemy. The British way of war was to destroy when possible the enemy’s fleet; attack enemy trade; block the enemy’s coast and conduct raids on the enemy’s ports, coastal towns and colonies; seize, when possible, the enemy’s colonies; subsidize allies on the Continent; wait for the attacks on the enemy’s economy and peripheral areas to erode its capacity to resist; exploit opportunities through the use of surprise made possible by the superior mobility of the fleet; deploy limited expeditionary forces on the Continent to fight alongside the larger forces of the allies; and finally, to manoeuvre the enemy into an untenable position in which it had no other option but to conclude a peace agreement on terms set by the British and their allies.

 Commentary:  A further analysis, to ‘Will China attack Australia?’

In response to several questions regarding my previous FB post and whether #China will/would attack #Australia I thought I would add some clarity; and cite a reference. This post therefore, will be a bit long. The first is the term ‘attack’ is subjective and usually means a deliberate ‘kinetic exchange — in the vernacular a ‘shooting war’ taking place. This is unlikely until circa-2030 as whilst China is making determined moves into the #AsiaPacific it is (and will be for some time), unable to sustain a conflict per se; and it has too many issues to ‘settle’ in order to focus an attack. Two of these are the Uyghur ‘problem’ in the northwest province which Indonesia is very concerned about; and energy/military issues with #Russia. There are many more problems. All need some form of balance. Attacking Australia and #war in order to gain specific aims will exponentially increase on the part of China in the next decade; and China will be able to engage and sustain engagements (this is the key element) by circa-2030. The bigger picture can be observed in the history of war and it will return and moreover, Australia will be incapable of reacting in a military way to the processes China will put in place; and this in turn, will force Australia to negotiate on China’s term. The below quote is from Lewis’ book ‘Omaha Beach: A Flawed Strategy’ which delved into the sheer stupidity of the WWII D-Day landings; and the military misgivings/disagreements of said landings. To a certain extent, it was luck that allowed the beaching to be a success etc. That aside he analysed a ‘type’ of war that will serve China well and Australia will be unable to actually repel and moreover, China will become more powerful as it isolates Australia. The method is as follows:

The British practice of warfare from the sixteenth century to World War 1 was to employ…[a] way of war [which] de-emphasized direct confrontation, concentration, mass, and battle and emphasized surprise, mobility, manoeuvre, peripheral attacks on the enemy weaknesses, dispersion, conversion of resources, and negotiated settlements. War was to be conducted in a “businesslike” manner and was to be profitable. The British used sea power primarily to achieve their limited strategic objectives. They traditionally fought low-expenditure, high-gain wars that took advantage of Britain’s geographic circumstances that exploited those of its enemy. The British way of war was to destroy when possible the enemy’s fleet; attack enemy trade; block the enemy’s coast and conduct raids on the enemy’s ports, coastal towns and colonies; seize, when possible, the enemy’s colonies; subsidize allies on the Continent; wait for the attacks on the enemy’s economy and peripheral areas to erode its capacity to resist; exploit opportunities through the use of surprise made possible by the superior mobility of the fleet; deploy limited expeditionary forces on the Continent to fight alongside the larger forces of the allies; and finally, to manoeuvre the enemy into an untenable position in which it had no other option but to conclude a peace agreement on terms set by the British and their allies.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Commentary: The signing of the RPEC (Nov, 2020)

The Australian government recently signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which brings together 10 members of #ASEAN, #Australia, #China, #NewZealand and #SouthKorea. This is an enormous #economic achievement for Australia and opens numerous markets. Now just imagine a geo-strategist in the #USA. The achievement has tied the #AsiaPacific together in a substantially powerful way; and has separated the US from the region. India hasn’t signed, I wonder why?

Whilst sovereign nation-states are allowed to do as they please, the signal of togetherness excludes the US; and thoroughly establishes Australia’s intent to get closer to the region All this, whilst Australia has been saying the US is our closest and most reliable ally. The military signal too, is mixed. Any geo-strategist in the US worth his/her salt would think, ‘wait a minute, how close are we to Australia? They went ahead and made an economic deal to the exclusion of us, their closest ally; and one that favours China.’ The Morrison government is can be assumed thinks it can do what it wants in the region without repercussions. The US will not take kindly to this; as it did not with the lease of the Port of Darwin and it will interpret the RCEP as a slap-in-the-face. This is yet another dangerous path the Morrison government has gone down by saying one thing and doing another and thus, when China really begins to put politico- and military-pressures on Australia. The ‘with us or against us’ mantra.

The RCEP may be the reason the a war-weary US needs to step-back from an overt defence of Australia–the one that Australians’ have believed will happen from the 1950s. But that’s okay, because Australia can defend itself, we’re ‘tough’ and able to ‘come together’ and defend in a time of crisis. This factor is, in and of itself an interesting issue, as when the majority of the male and some of the female population is busy defending Australia, who will farm, who will attend to the sick, who will raise the children, who will drive the trucks to get supplies to the defenders? And bearing in mind the trucks that are being driven to the defenders may come under fire, who will drive them knowing this?

Australia–especially the Morrison government– really needs to come to terms with its decisions; understand its actions and reactions more thoroughly; positively engage with the region as a diplomatic actor; stop tempting backlashes; and solidly understand the severe limitations of its military capabilities.

To be sure and to give the abovementioned a perspective and to clarify my commentary, is to observe the American Civil War. A significant part of why the Confederates lost the war was because there were too many men fighting and not enough ‘doing.’ This includes but is not limited to food distribution, logistics, harvesting and supply chain maintenance (see: Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall off the Great Powers, pp178 – 182).

Commentary: Australia – Japan relations (Nov, 2020)

The positioning of Australia in the #Asiapacific gets worse and worse. Prime Minister (PM) Morrison — the ( #LNP ) government — has visited #Japan in order to further pull together some sort of cohesive #AsiaPacific defence plan and one can only wonder why when Japan was rebuffed as a submarine-provider. It is somewhat disturbing that the visit was made knowing and understanding historical animosity China shares with Japan. To wit, the last thing in these current turbulent times is to actually create further divisions–nonetheless the PM made the visit. Thus, it can be interpreted by the visit and the political manoeuvring therein, that somehow, someway the Chinese government has plateaued in its ambitions and that developing an ally will stymie said ambitions. This of course is not, and will not be the case. China will in its quest to become a regional (if not global) superpower, continue to retain its military-, economic- and politico-influences.

Certainly, a balance can be brought to current times by arguing that China has plateaued and this is due to the pandemic; an unsteady relationship with India; and the deterioration of US-China relations. This happened with Portugal and Spain in the South Americas; and France in Tsarist Russia. What takes place when this happens is powerful actors reassess the setbacks and put new strategies in place, in order to maintain their status. Understanding that China–like powers and superpowers before it– will plateau at times in its trajectory of claims as it realigns its capabilities. Therefore, understanding that China will plateau in its power-status at times, is necessary, however it should not be construed that the overall power-trajectory has become redundant.

China is an emerging superpower and it should be treated as such; not confronted as this will involve and evolve a zero-sum-game mentality, from which any force-on-force collision should it takes place, will be used by China to firmly (re)establish the regional power-stakes. Nonetheless, Australia’s positioning of troops in Japan will be construed by China as a forward defence strategy and it will demand a focussed response and further will encourage China to apply more time, energy and money focussed on economic-, military- (etc.) resources. This is normal behaviour for a turning an imagined power-trajectory into an actual one.

Notwithstanding these factors and the ongoing dysfunctional Australia-China relationship aside what does overtly befriending Japan actually achieve; and is there any additional defence-related objectives that can be gained? Considering Japan has a debilitating defence recruitment problem (see: Japan’s soldiers are greying. Time to draft robots?), and the Japanese populace does not want to commit additional resources to its defence; and moreover, the Japanese Defense Force has been described as woefully inadequate, due to its branches of the military being compared to ‘warring fiefdoms’ (see: The Problem with Japan isn’t warmongering: It’s a toothless military), what did PM Morrison hope to achieve?

Based on the evidence, this was an ill-thought through venture by Australia’s PM; and one that yet again, emphasises Australia–through the inherent bias that comes from being an isolated middle power–simply does not have an informed understanding of the way in which (imminent) superpowers act; and react. This lack of comprehension adds to Australia’s already perilous position in the Asia-Pacific and brings a war closer.

Commentary: Australia – China and the Australian soldier image

The doctored image of an #Australian #Australianarmy soldier killing a child–made and doctored by the #Chinese artist Fu Lu #Fulu ( @Qilin )–should not IMO be observed as a stand-alone image specifically directed at the Australian public, but more as an image that will influence Australia’s neighbours #Indonesia and the #Philippines in order to stymie any possibility of an allegiance developing (or developing further). The image is a formulaic designed to shift these two nation-states more to the ‘East’ than to the ‘West’–for them to conjoin to the ‘#Asia for #Asiatics’ proforma; and ethos. This formulaic has been used on many occasions especially in wartime propaganda and a cursory glance at Australia- #Japan, #US – #Amerindians, #England – #Orient relations will bear this out and as disgraceful as these images are, the process of politico-disenfranchisement of the other is nonetheless, a well-worn path.

The doctored image as harmful as it is to Australian #international relations, does however, signal that #China is on the pathway of the ‘limited war exhaustion strategy’ that I have alluded to in previous posts. Hence, the Australian government needs a much more #cosmopolitan approach than its current demand-driven, do-as-I-say focus, as this plays into the hands of China’s express commentary that Australia is the thug of the #AsiaPacific. A burgeoning superpower will not backdown as it has many geo-strategic hurdles to jump in its quest for status–as per the history of the US; France; Britain and many others. The focus of China is to shut Australia out of the Asia-Pacific; deny its middle-power status; and eventually, erode its influence. The problem here, is the #Morrisongovernment is assisting the process.

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