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(Image via @michaelhallida4)

In the third in a series about global military tensions, political editor Dr Martin Hirst argues that Prime Minister Turnbull has committed us to fighting an ongoing war alongside the U.S. that may never end. 

Are we already fighting World War 3? (Part Three)

Read Part One HERE

Read Part Two HERE

IN THIS SERIES, I have talked, darkly, about the concept of permanent, or "perpetual" war — a prospect first raised by George Orwell in his prophetic post-WW2 novel, Nineteen Eighty-four (1984).

My thesis is that we are now in another age of continuous war — that in fact we are already fighting World War 3, but we don’t know it, quite yet.

The central character in 1984 is Winston Smith, a “journalist” of sorts. Smith relates the story and he cannot remember a time when his alliance, Oceania (roughly NATO today) had not been at war and his country, Airstrip One, not under brutal military occupation.

Successes in battles fought in remote locations far from his home in London are reported each day in the news. But, as Winston knows too well, the news of 1984 is totally fake.

The brutal and continuous war of 1984 is fought in secret, a long way from the imperial heartlands and Winston knows he cannot believe the constant announcement of yet more victories and yet more territory captured.

In fact, so confusing is the torrent of fake news issued about the war that Winston has trouble remembering who the real enemy is. Who has Oceania been at war with for the past 40 years of his life? Is it Eurasia (the Soviet bloc of 1948), or Eastasia (China)?

It seems we are living in a time warp that takes us back to these days of constant and confusing warfare. Today, the role of “Big Brother” (BB) is taken by President Donald Trump, but the role of subordinate leaders – as it always was – is to venerate BB and add to his legendary status.

As a minor vassal state of Oceania in 2017, our prime minister is expected to play this role. It seems Trumble has taken to it with vigour, gusto and much gushing enthusiasm.

Any decent Australian would have been utterly dejected at the sight of PM Turnbull being a willing participant in the sideshow that is the U.S. Presidency of Big Brother Donald.

Turnbull could hardly contain his adoration of the most dangerous narcissist on the planet. The transcript of their joint media conference in New York on Friday makes for chilling reading.

Trumble just sucked and sucked and sucked, making sure he grinned and nodded in agreement with every misspoken, warped and mangled sentence that was ejected from Trump’s brain via his mouth.

Turnbull willingly shredded every ounce of global and domestic credibility he ever had with this display:

JOURNALIST: Do you think you can you put the refugee deal behind you and move on?

PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Oh yeah, sure. That’s all worked out. That has been worked out for a long time.

JOURNALIST: Telephone calls going will be good in future?

PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We had a good telephone call.

PRIME MINISTER: We had a great call.

PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You guys exaggerated that call. That was a big exaggeration. We had a great call. I mean, we're not babies. [Laughter] But we had a great call. Right?

PRIME MINISTER: Young at heart, young at heart.

PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We had a very, very good call. It was a little bit of fake news — that’s the expression.

PRIME MINISTER: Exactly right.

Turnbull was thoroughly humiliated – I think, deliberately – by Trump. He was kept waiting for hours and had his allotted time with the president reduced to a ridiculous 15 minutes.

You can bet it was an unpleasant 15 minutes for Turnbull too. He would have found it hard to get a word in edgeways in between Trump’s self-focussed monologues and angry rants.

Now we’re in the human trafficking business too.

The basic point of the meeting was for Trumble to swear his loyalty to Big Brother Trump in return for some shitty deal to rehome a few hundred Syrian refugees prisoners-of-war from Manus Island to the United States.

It seems like some putrid, people-trafficking version of the refugee swap deal will go ahead, but the price to Australia will be huge.

The deal is basically a recommitment to the status quo — Australia is to remain a loyal deputy and a base for U.S. military operations without complaint or criticism.

Trumble has sold our sovereignty for a rotten deal that will allow him to claim success in the anti-people-smuggling racket and puts Australian military personnel directly in harm’s way.

The takeout from Trumble’s Q and A with Brett Baier on Fox News makes this very clear:

BRET BAIER: What keeps you up at night?

PRIME MINISTER: Well there’s plenty to worry about. [Laughter] I can tell you, it’s very important to give this advice to everybody, very important if you’ve got big decisions to make, to make sure you get your sleep. But no, in terms of the national security issues, the two that are most pressing at the moment are in my mind, the North Korean situation – which we’ve spoken about – and also the continued battle to destroy the terrorists in the Middle East and indeed, around the world. This struggle against terrorism, against this violent extremism, manifested not exclusively but substantially by ISIL or Daesh, the destruction of ISIL in the field is of vital importance for our safety at home in Australia, and here in the United States and right around the world.

So we are committed to helping the U.S. deal with its military adversaries, making us a target for both the North Koreans and Islamic terrorism.

Prime Minister Turnbull in New York (Source: @TheTodayShow).

And in case we didn’t get the message, Turnbull made Australia’s commitment to the ongoing conflicts around the world crystal clear when talking to journalists in New York:

JOURNALIST: Did the President discuss with you increasing Australia’s military commitment in the Middle East as we really try to obliterate Islamic State?

PRIME MINISTER: We didn’t discuss any changes to our respective commitments, or at least to Australia’s commitment in the Middle East. As you know, we have a very intense engagement with the United States on these matters. We have the third-largest foreign commitment to the battle against ISIL in the Middle East. Our forces are working together and integrated intimately, as I saw when I visited our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan just in the lead-up to Anzac Day. I thanked them for their services and I met U.S. commanders there. The cooperation, collaboration, could not be closer.

Trumble mentioned Iraq and Afghanistan in this context and sometimes it’s hard to remember exactly what Australia’s commitment has been in these two war zones.

Australian military involvement in Iraq now goes back some 25 years, to the first U.S. invasion in 1991 in response to Saddam Hussein’s attack on Kuwait. Australians have been involved almost continuously since then in whatever U.S.-coalition forces have been involved in. That’s now enough time for the official war historian’s account of Australian involvement to stretch to four volumes — with, no doubt, more to be written as volume four stops in 2014.

'The Official History of Australian Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and Australian Peacekeeping Operations in East Timor' is to comprise the following volumes:

  • Volume I: covering operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East, 2001–06;
  • Volume II: covering operations in Iraq, 2003–11;
  • Volume III: covering operations in Afghanistan, 2005–10; and
  • Volume IV: covering operations in Afghanistan, 2010–14.

Civilian estimates are that Australia’s military adventures in Iraq have so far cost over $5 billion, even though, remarkably, only two Australians have been killed in Iraq since 2001. When PM Abbott increased Australian involvement in 2014, it was estimated then that the cost would be $500 million per year. At this time the commitment is open-ended, which means potentially billions more in treasure to be spent.

Our commitment in Afghanistan has been similarly continuous since 2001 and 42 Australians have died fighting there. At present, there is no sign that Australians will be withdrawn from Afghanistan any time soon. Military leaders say it will be at least 2020 before there’s any thought of reducing Australia’s commitment to Afghanistan. The financial cost of keeping Australian troops in Afghanistan is estimated at between $300-500 million per year.

In all, Australia has spent approximately $10 billion in contributions to the open-ended commitment to a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 20 years.

That’s a lot of hospital beds, new classrooms, roads, Indigenous projects, tertiary students, aged care and domestic violence programmes that don’t get funded.

Now we can add Syria to list of "front lines" on which we are fighting, at Oceania’s behest, in a perpetual war. The cost will be another few hundred million dollars a year in treasure and, as previously reported, an increase in global tensions that could turn ugly and nuclear, given the parties involved.

And for what?

So Truffles Trumble can fly half-way around the world to spend ten minutes kissing the arse of the most dangerous man on the planet and fanning the flames of his ego, in return for 30 pieces of tarnished, silver-plate.

Trumble was humiliated by the New York scramble — by extension so were we.

In case you missed it, Part 1 of this series, 'Are we already fighting World War 3?' examined the potential for global war to break out in north Asia. Part 2 of this series, Syria: The new frontline in a potentially global conflict (World War 3 - Part Two) focused on U.S. and Russian forces facing off in a proxy war that shows no sign of ending any time soon.

You can follow Dr Martin Hirst on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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