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Australia's sovereignty is in unsafe hands

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(Cartoon by Mark David | @MDavidCartoons)

Since World War II Australia has progressively ceded its sovereignty to the United States.

The process was hastened by former Prime Minister John Howard who had little sense of national independence. Australia is now tied to a state suffering economic decline, a collapse in political consensus that may turn violent and diminishing international influence. In order to maintain supremacy, America has decided to confront rather than co-operate with China. And Australia is allowing itself to be dragged along behind the back of the truck.  

Stand back and take a look at what is happening in America.

A movement with strong links to the Republican Party, supported by Trump and White Supremacists, stormed the Capital and the 117th Congress on 6 January with the intent of overturning President Biden’s inauguration. It was violent, it was bloody and it challenged the very basis of American democracy.

There is an armed right-wing movement of Proud Boys, QAnon, fascists and other crazies in America spoiling for a fight. A fight they hope will see an end to the democratic institutions they loath. The Republican Party is providing political cover. Many in America’s armed services and police forces secretly support the objectives of the movement.

As the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests demonstrated, America is a deeply divided country, in economic decline, with an uncontained COVID-19 pandemic and 300 million weapons in private hands. It is a volcano ready to blow.

Bereft of influence and respect, America deploys its considerable military arsenal in a display of strength which it vainly hopes will broker influence; naked power as a substitute for diplomacy. It has ever been thus. Since the end of WWII, America has used the threat of atomic weapons and military aggression in attempts to bring about outcomes favourable to its own interests.

However, the prosecution of war by America in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan failed to bring about intended outcomes. Only the "secret" CIA war supporting the Mujahidin in Afghanistan against the Russians might be seen as a success. However, it gave false confidence for a conventional war in Iraq and later in Afghanistan against the elusive Taliban, a war that mirrored the failed Russian occupation of Afghanistan. And it resembled the losing war the Americans fought in Vietnam. The lessons of war are problematic in American political and defence institutions.

America sees China as a strategic rival and trade threat. Rather than seek creative and productive co-operation it seeks containment. In so doing it has sought to conscript regional countries to its narrow and negative narrative. It is the same strategy it employed with respect to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. It seeks legitimacy and support for dubious undertakings and attempting to isolate and demonise China is a dubious undertaking.

However, it is one that Canberra has swallowed hook line and sinker, together with right-wing academics, so-called think tanks, such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), funded by U.S. arms manufacturers and agencies, and supported by journalists such as Peter Harcher, Eric Bagshaw and Greg Sheridan.

The last eight months, faced with the need to negotiate with China over loss of trade, Morrison – briefed by ASPI and the Institute for Public Affairs (IPA) – has said Australia will not concede sovereignty in the face of bullying by a foreign power.

Morrison, who has a limited grasp of history and current affairs, appears unaware that we have little or no sovereignty. Much was ceded to the United States by John Howard, who took us to war in Iraq on the basis of a conversation with President Bush. No debate on going to war was undertaken in the Australian Parliament. So much for sovereignty.

Pine Gap completely compromises our sovereignty and has done so for 50 years. But would the sneering L-NP boys of Parliament House – Tim Wilson, James Paterson, Dave Sharma et al – go to war with the United States against China in the event of an ‘incident’ concerning Taiwan? Would they bypass parliamentary consideration of an armed Australian deployment? And given their ages, would they volunteer?

John Howard, although in the right age bracket, did not volunteer for Vietnam despite his strong support for the war. He followed in the footsteps of his hero Menzies, who refused to volunteer for service in WWI despite his support for the war.

The Coalition with its fawning and unquestioning "loyalty" to the USA long ago ceded Australian sovereignty. Can anyone imagine the L-NP saying "no" to the U.S.?

Several U.S. senators complained to Howard that the Australian Wheat Board gave bribes to Saddam Hussein. Howard was mortified. He busted the AWB and in the process lost the best tool Australia had for negotiating wheat deals. It later transpired that the senators were acting to marginalise the AWB and Australian wheat markets, which America quickly moved to secure. Howard was a craven fool, but we know that.

The purchase of the F-35 further attests to that — a deal he stitched up on the back of an envelope in Washington.

True to Coalition form Morrison did the same with respect to China. Trump got him to bad mouth Xi Jinping, China slapped on trade sanctions and the U.S. stepped in to pick up our lost markets.

The new Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has shown he is not averse to China-bashing along with National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan. Biden rhetoric will be more moderate toward China but U.S. policies will remain unchanged. The U.S. sees China as a threat to its supremacy and the U.S. military and industrial complex is keen to sell arms.

The U.S. is the biggest threat to U.S. supremacy. Look at what Trump and his supporters stand for and the fact that the Republican Party have gone along with a significant move to the right which increasingly looks like the path to fascism.

Australia, it seems, is determined to sink with the USA — a country, as noted, divided and in crisis, a country with diminished international respect. Like a dog who never learns Australia has got itself excited about something called the Quad – a dialogue that has been revised into an alliance between Australia, the U.S., Japan and India, so-called regional heavyweights – in an arrangement designed to confront and contain China. It won’t hold together, it won’t work. Has anyone thought to ask regional states what they think of the Quad? Is it assumed regional states will fall into line? They won’t. Why should they?

Australia has lost face and standing in the region over the bungled handling of its relationship with China. It is seen as inept, particularly by Vietnam, which is hard-headed, adroit and cleverly diplomatic in successfully managing its difficult relationship with China.

Does Australia want to keep its sovereignty eggs in the American basket? Under the circumstances, it would not seem wise. The rampaging mob on Capitol Hill have significantly lowered the value of the American shareholding. There are 20 or 30 million people in America who support what Trump stands for. White, right wing and angry. How will Biden contain that, let alone bring them on side?

What has Australia gained from the gift of Australian sovereignty to the US?

Just as they are spoiling for a fight internally, they are spoiling for a fight with China. They are conjuring up the bile and racism that was mustered against Viet Nam and China by the earlier, tamer American Right, to initially push and then sustain the US involvement in the Viet Nam war.

America is a frustrated and angry country. It is ready to lash out, perhaps use an outside threat to bring about internal unity, maybe in the mistaken belief that the mob and moderates will unite around the star-spangled banner, with the threat of communism a common cause.

Time to rescue those eggs and, with them, Australian self-respect and pride.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat.

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