The Gillard Labor government has further committed itself to the US alliance, agreeing to a major increase in US military operations and use of military bases in Australia.
The decision was announced after the annual AUSMIN meetings with US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton and Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, in early November in Melbourne.More US troops will be based in Townsville and Darwin, as well as US military equipment. There will be an increase in visits by US ships, aircraft and troops, and military “exercises” staged here “regularly”.
Gates tried to pretend this was to allow a faster humanitarian response in the region, but it is widely recognised as part of the US’s efforts to contain the rise of China. As an AAP report put it, “The United States plans to expand its military presence in Australia as the two nations manoeuvre to rein in an increasingly assertive China.”
But in fact it is the US, far from guaranteeing safety and peace, that is increasing tensions and imperial rivalry, through forging alliances and pursuing a military build-up in our region aimed at encircling China. The US has troops in Afghanistan to China’s west and demonstrated its friendliness to India, to China’s southwest, when Obama visited in early November. It has bases in South Korea and Japan to China’s north and east, and is now increasing its presence in Australia to its south.
Hillary Clinton gave no indication that the US is prepared to accommodate China’s rising power. She bluntly admitted that the US is not giving up its turf in the Asia-Pacific to China, saying, “The United States is both a Pacific power and an Atlantic power.”
She issued the warning that, “we expect China to be a responsible member of the international community whose actions are in accordance with their size and stature and the rules of the road”.
The claim that it is China that is displaying aggressiveness is complete hypocrisy.
As Rory Medcalf, from the Lowy Institute wrote in September, “Beijing’s naval modernisation is the legitimate response of a vast trading power to deep insecurity about its supply vulnerabilities.”
There is a reason the US is increasingly alarmed about China. As Leon Gettler, writing the Business Age, argued, “The decline of the American empire is under way.”
The US ruling class, like that of all empires before it, is not prepared to accept this. It wants to resist the rise of potential rivals—and China is seen as its key threat.
US President Barack Obama shares this pre-occupation just as much as the neo-conservatives that dominated George Bush’s administration did.
In 1992, a Pentagon Defence Policy guidance document stated, “Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival…that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union…Our strategy must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential future global competitor.” It was co-authored by Paul Wolfowitz, future Deputy Secretary of Defense under George W Bush.
In 2000, the right-wing US think-tank, the Project for the New American Century, which included Republican ideologues like Wolfowitz, wrote a Defence strategy proclaiming: “At present the US faces no global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position into the future as far as possible.”
Pointing two ways?
There has been some debate in the Australian ruling class about how to manage Australia’s relationship with the US and China—with China’s growing importance to the Australian economy and the US a historic military partner.
But the deepening of defence ties with the US shows that the Australian ruling class prefers to side with the US, in order to maintain Australian imperialist control in the immediate region.
For Australia, the new agreement means, as Alan Goodall wrote in the Japan Times, “Having signed a package of deals with Washington ministers for beefed-up military cooperation, she must ward off Beijing’s expected backlash.”
Maintaining the US alliance means deepening the military tensions and feeding China’s race to military competition, and even war, with the US. Australia’s rulers are taking us in a dangerous direction—and one ordinary working people must resist.
By Tom Orsag