THE ANZUS ALLIANCE, SHARED VALUES AND SOVEREIGNTY – ITS NOT WHAT IT SEEMS
Updated: Mar 16
Recently, Australia’s Defence Minister, Richard Marles stated unambiguously that “Our alliance with the United States is completely central to our national security and to our worldview” and Australia’s militarisation “enhances” Australia’s sovereignty by strengthening its war fighting capability. According to the Australian government, the alliance with the US is “Based on our shared identities and values, and the desire for a peaceful way of life.”
Three questions: 1. Does our relationship with the US enhance Australia’s sovereignty. 2. Does Australia share US values. 3. Does Australia face a “China threat”? Although the Albanese government talks of respectful cooperation with Beijing, it nevertheless underscores its commitment to the policies of the former Morrison government, including its commitment to the US alliance.
The ANZUS Alliance
Current and past Australian governments describe the ANZUS Alliance as the “centrepiece” of our relationship with America and constantly give the Australian people assurances that the alliance is necessary for Australia’s protection. The ANZUS Treaty came into force in 1952, but it is only an agreement to consult and it is far from a security guarantee. It is nothing like NATO where an attack on one member is treated as an attack on all.
Australia had hoped for a security guarantee but that was resisted by the US even though the US does provide security guarantees to both Japan and South Korea. Australians dare not assume that America will provide military support in the case of an attack. It is unlikely that any US leader would be willing to attempt to convince their voters that defending Australia is worth risking a nuclear strike, say on New York or Los Angeles. The impression given by current and prior Australian governments that Australia can rely for protection on the ANZUS Treaty is both false and misleading.
Despite the limitations of ANZUS, the main reason for Australian support of the US in its war against Vietnam was the desire to keep our great and powerful friend engaged in Asia. As in Iraq, Korea, and Afghanistan, Australia was “buying” its protection by participating with the US in these wars. As Alan Gyngell has written, “The idea of the payment of a premium on an insurance policy became the most powerful metaphor in Australian public life.”[i] About 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam and 521 died. It is an expensive insurance policy to say the least.
The ANZUS Alliance has perpetuated a craven unquestioning fealty to the US. In 2019, Scott Morrison said that Australia and the US had “the most perfect of relationships”. In 2014, Tony Abbott described Australia as “an utterly dependable ally”. In 2002, John Howard talked about Australia being “the best kind of friend” the US could ask for, and in 2017, Malcolm Turnbull told Trump, “We are joined at the hip.”[ii]
As Malcolm Fraser wrote in Dangerous Allies (2014) “The most likely reason that Australia would need to confront an aggressive foe is our strong alliance with the United States. We need America for defence from an attacker who is likely to attack us because we use America for defence.”
Abrogation of Australian Sovereignty
Australia’s 2014 Force Posture Agreement (FPA) with USA explicitly states that US materiel and facilities based in Australia are for the exclusive use of US Forces which have exclusive control over, access to, and the use of such materiel. The FPA allows America to attack another country from Australian shores without the agreement or even prior knowledge of the Australian government, let alone the Australian people. Nevertheless, Marles suggests that Australia has “enhanced” its sovereignty by allowing US military forces and weapons into this country under exclusive US control.[iii] That is nonsense! The FPA plainly undermines Australia’s sovereignty.
With AUKUS, Australia’s sovereignty will be reduced even further. According to a report in The Australian on 12 March 2023, leaks of the AUKUS plan have revealed US nuclear subs will be forward-based in Australia from 2027.
Despite never ending talk in Australia about our “shared values” with America, there is a huge gulf on many issues between Australian values and those of the US. For a start, Canberra does not describe itself as Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” nor Madeleine Albright’s “indispensable nation” and, unlike America, Australia does not imagine that it has a “special covenant” with God. Nor does Australia believe that it is an “exceptional” nation, imbued with a manifest destiny. Although both the US and Australia are “democracies”, not all democracies are the same, nor do they share the same values.
American incarceration rates are the highest in the world and its adherence to capital punishment results in one of the highest rates of execution in the world. Gun control in America is out of control! Too many families grieve for the loss of their children gunned down while attending school. Police brutality, directed particularly at black Americans is an indictment.
The US regularly sanctions regimes which do not fall into line with its agenda and too often attempts (mostly unsuccessful) regime changes in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Vietnam, Venezuela and Iran.
After WWII, the US played the leading role in making the rules for the international community, but it almost immediately began breaking them. Donald Tusk (President of the European Council 2014-19) has expressed concern that “The rules-based international order is being challenged, not by the usual suspects, but by its main architect and guarantor, the US.”
So much for our “shared values”.
The China Threat
Australia (as with America) fears that China’s growing power poses a direct threat to our liberal democratic system and our values, but there is no evidence of this. China shows no desire to proselytise its ideology or to export its political system. In 2017, Xi Jinping said “We will not import a foreign model. Nor will we export a China model, nor ask others to copy Chinese methods.” While the US has about 800 military bases in 70 countries around the world, many of them encircling China, China has only one such base, located in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. The real concern is that the US fears that China will overtake it and America will cease to be the sole hegemonic superpower, a status to which America is addicted and for which it is willing to go to war, possibly even using Australia as its proxy.
The US is primarily responsible for generating the “China Threat”, the fear of China, and the need to contain China. There are a few things about which US Democrats and Republicans agree, but there is bipartisan consensus that China represents a challenge that must be contained, bringing with it the growing threat of catastrophic conflict. Make no mistake, it is not just the Republicans, nor just the Democrats. Foreign Policy reported in October 2022 under the headline “Biden is Now All-In on Taking Out China” saying “Donald Trump’s scattershot regulation and erratic public statements offered little clarity to allies . . . . Joe Biden’s actions have been more systematic”. The Australian Financial Review wrote in October 2022, under the heading, “Containing China is Biden’s Explicit Goal”, “Joe Biden this month launched a full-blown economic war on China – all but committing the US to stopping its rise. America’s conversion to China containment is bipartisan.”
The US has been at war for 93% of the time since it was founded in 1776, while China has not been at war with any country since a brief three-week border war with Vietnam in 1979 (from which China withdrew). At the age of 94, former US President, Jimmy Carter described the US as “The most warlike nation in the history of the world”.
In 2021, the US spent more on its military than the next nine nations combined. The US 2024 budget proposals would increase military spending to a record $842 billion. On 9 March 2023, The White House issued a Fact Sheet saying the Budget builds on proposals to “continue outcompeting China” and “prioritises China as America’s pacing challenge in line with the 2022 National Defence Strategy”. Biden has continued many of Trump’s policies and endorses the view that China’s growing influence must be checked.
China containment consumes US foreign policy. However, rather than containing China, there is an urgent need to engage with China in meaningful discussion about ways for coexistence in a future international system in which Beijing must and will have a role. Failing such engagement, the zero-sum competition will perpetuate a vicious cycle leading to catastrophe. The US is increasingly focused on rallying countries around the world to stand up against China, but instead of pursuing confrontation with China, Washington should earnestly seek to forge an understanding with its allies around the need for coexistence with China. Détente requires reciprocity.[iv]
The Scary Clowns are in Charge of the Circus
In March 2023, the Sydney Morning Herald published a series labelled Red Alert, a commentary which can only be described as outrageously misguided and dangerous propaganda, justifying Australia going to war with China. One so called “expert”, Peter Jennings, an out and out China hawk, goes so far as to say “I want us to think about what we can do which gives us a capacity . . .. to be able to sink the Chinese Navy and to bring down their aircraft?” He is talking about Australia, with its population of 25 million! That is not just anti-China bias, it is sheer lunacy. While China has no plan to attack, invade, or otherwise harm Australia, if Australia does act as these “experts” suggest, China will, and obviously must retaliate. In that event, the US can be expected to come to Australia’s aid with arms, ammunition, and money but NO BOOTS ON THE GROUND.
What is most troubling is that none of Australia’s political leaders, not Albanese, nor Marles, nor Wong has said a word to discredit this ghastly nonsense. Instead, our Prime Minister referred only days ago to “the single biggest leap in our defence capability in our history”. He was talking about AUKUS, an initiative conceived by the discredited former Prime Minister Morrison but, as the SMH says, it now falls to Albanese to midwife it! As The Australian reported on 12 March, the nuclear plan will cost more than $200 billion (ignore the $200 billion, focus on the words “more than”. The cost always goes up.)
The Australian Financial Review reported on 9 March that Defence Minister Marles said, “The true intent of this capability is to provide for the stability and for the peace of our region.” The same report adds that his predecessor, Dutton “agreed with Mr Marles that the submarines were about peace and prosperity, not war”. Prime Minister Albanese, visiting the US to unveil the AUKUS plan argues that the submarine capability is about ensuring a “more peaceful, secure world". The previously mentioned White House Fact Sheet states that the massive US Budget supports a “safe, secure, and effective nuclear stockpile; and reduces nuclear risks”.
All of the talk around the world, over so many years about reducing and eliminating nukes was obviously baloney. Now, at last, we know the truth. Nukes are about a safer and more secure world. The Scary Clowns have taken Charge!
“AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM” – HEAR THE OTHER SIDE!
[i] Fear of Abandonment by Alan Gyngell 2017 [ii] Emma Shortis – Our Exceptional Friend 2021 [iii] Richard Marles and the Betrayal of Australian Sovereignty by Michael Callanan, Pearls & Irritations 28 Feb 2023 [iv] Jessica Chen Weiss (Professor of Government at Cornell University, NY) - The China Trap (Foreign Affairs, August 2022)