THE DRUMS OF WAR ROLL ON
The Role of the United States of America
President Franklin D Roosevelt dreamt of an organisation to promote peace and security. In 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill anticipated a form of “United Nations” with the cardinal principle being respect for “The right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live”. On 26 June 1945, fifty nations signed the Charter of the UN. Their commitment was based upon respect for equal rights and the sovereign quality of all members. The US had led the way.
However, President Harry Truman had little in common with Roosevelt, declaring in 1941: “If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia; and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible.” Similar language has been used by various US representatives in relation to Ukraine. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council from 2014 to 2019 has said: “What worries me most is the fact that the rules-based international order is being challenged not by the usual suspects, but by its main architects and guarantor, the US.”
The 2022 war in Ukraine has created a real risk of a US-Russia conflict even though US leaders have long recognised that in such event, nuclear weapons could lay waste to the American mainland. During the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy took the first steps towards détente, resulting in the Soviets backing down, but only after Kennedy promised to remove Jupiter missiles from Turkey.
The US today lacks the leadership of Presidents Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Kennedy. Instead, the 21st century has yielded Presidents George W Bush, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden, leaders who risk bringing about the worst-case outcome – the waging of World War III and losing it! Biden is contributing to the risk of such conflict with China. He has repeatedly asserted that the United States has a commitment to send US troops, in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Each time his gaffes have been walked back by his administration. Air Force General, Mark Kelly has warned that the Chinese forces are “Designed to inflict more casualties in the first 30 hours of combat than we’ve endured over the last 30 years in the Middle East.” A war with Russia or China would harm the United States on a scale without precedent in living memory.
Five years ago, I referred to the clichés of war: “Lest we forget”; “We shall remember them”; and “They did not die in vain”. There is a missing “not” in the second of those quotations and there is one too many “nots” in the third.[i] Judging by today’s beating of the drums of war, it seems that those tragic sacrifices have indeed been forgotten. Does the human species carry in its DNA, a brutal disposition to war? What have these global conflagrations achieved? What was achieved at Gallipoli, North Korea, Iraq, Vietnam, and Afghanistan? Nothing, only millions of lives lost, mutilated and maimed, physically and mentally, and a lifelong suffering of families, widows, mothers, and children.
Covid-19 and the China Doomsayers
There have been thousands of nonsensical commentaries arising from protests against China’s zero Covid policy, including, for example: “Are China’s lockdown protests the beginning of the end for Xi Jinping”, or “China’s lockdown nightmare has become Xi Jinping’s Ukraine war.” Historian, Niall Ferguson even warned that Xi might lash out at Taiwan to create a geopolitical crisis to distract people from recognising how badly he was doing!
However, there have been Covid protests all around the world. In September 2021, Reuters reported that “Australia’s police arrested 235 people in Melbourne and 32 in Sydney at anti-lockdown rallies. Several police officers were injured in clashes with protesters.” Six officers required hospitalisation. In Sydney, riot squad officers, highway patrols, detectives and general duty police were deployed. In October 2021, Amnesty International reported that police in Australia had been given unprecedented powers to enforce Covid-19 restrictions. Research found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people were disproportionally subjected to arrest and search by police in relation to Covid-19.
No sooner had China started to relax restrictions when Western pundits started warning about the dangers of China opening up and relaxing its tough measures. You’re doomed if you do, and you’re doomed if you don’t! As Alex Lo put it, “I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Zero-Covid is bad for the world but scrapping it is also bad for the world. For such Western critics, why not just say it out loud – China is bad for the world, period”.[ii]
Taiwan-a Silver Lining or just Wishful Thinking
Local elections in Taiwan on 26 November 2022 resulted in success for the KMT opposition party, and a major drubbing for the ruling DPP. President Tsai immediately resigned her position as head of the DPP. Her credibility had been damaged by her ties with US President Biden. The KMT’s 43 year old Chiang Wan-an won the biggest prize, the mayoralty of Taipei, hinting at a new and vigorous KMT. He is the great-grandson of Chiang Kai-shek who was the leader of the KMT in 1949. Could this portend trouble for the DPP in Taiwan’s national elections, just over 12 months away, in January 2024.
The KMT seeks to play down the belligerence of the DPP in its relations with Beijing, dramatically reducing the risk of war between China and Taiwan, a war in which the US threatens to be involved and a war in which Australia appears to be enthusiastically, and ridiculously willing to participate!
Can Australia Really be this Misguided?
From the outset, Australia has provided token forces for US almost anywhere on the globe, whether the conflict was important to Australia’s interests or not. However, in constructing its alliances America chose, in the ANZUS Treaty not to guarantee armed assistance for Australia – it is merely a commitment to “consult”. Now, the US knows it is in trouble and it lacks the means to contain China and we see intense efforts in realigning the minds of its various allies – Japan, Korea, Philippines and Australia. Even with Australia’s recent change of government, the China fear continues to influence its policies.
This should come as no surprise. Greg Sheridan, foreign editor and provocateur and delusionist-in-Chief at The Australian writes that “The time to start preparing for war with China is now.”[iii] It is difficult to imagine a more distorted, not to mention prejudiced, report about China.
Sheridan suggests that the US loves peace whereas Beijing craves war. He talks of China’s defence spending of US$230 billion but fails to mention that the US spending dwarfs the next five countries combined. According to Sheridan, “The Chinese military is everywhere” but no mention is made of the 800 US military bases around the globe (China has one offshore naval base, in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa). For Sheridan, “Everything consequential in regional diplomacy – AUKUS, the Quad, enhanced US/Australian military interaction with the integration of Japan into the US/Australia alliance – is all about China’s burgeoning military.”
The US Defence Secretary describes US military involvement with Australia which includes rotations of bomber taskforces, fighters, and future rotations of US Navy and US Army capabilities. Sheridan critically describes China’s dangerous and coercive actions throughout the Indo-Pacific but again there is zero mention of US military objectives. He quotes a Pentagon report suggesting the one purpose of Beijing’s build-up is “to restrict the US from having a presence in China’s immediate periphery and to limit US access to the broader Indo Pacific region”. Just imagine the US reaction if China were to have a presence in the Gulf of California or the Gulf of Mexico – remember Cuba!
Sheridan complains of China pushing the development of nuclear weapons at “breakneck speed” saying that, according to the Pentagon, China is expected to have “700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2030”. No mention is made of the Russian arsenal of 6,850 nuclear weapons or the US arsenal of 6,450 nuclear weapons (as reported in USA Today as recently as 3 September 2022).
Sheridan omits (perhaps chooses) not to mention the US Defence Department’s 29 November report regarding military developments involving the PRC which reflects a grimly realistic rethinking of China’s military capacity with senior officers saying the US is “on a trajectory to get crushed in a war with China”. The US cannot win a firefight close to China’s coast and cannot defend Taiwan whether it wants to or not. According to two separate reports in December 2022[iv], the US is considering a scorched earth strategy of destroying Taiwan’s semiconductor factories (including the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the most important chipmaker in the world) in the event of a Chinese invasion, raising stark questions about the US capability of defending the island.
China has not been at war with any country since a brief three week border war with Vietnam in 1979. The US has been at war for 93% of the time since its founding in 1776. It worth recalling that:
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 his 2014 book Dangerous Allies, former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser said: “Our leaders argue that we need to keep our alliance with US strong in order to ensure our defence in the event of an aggressive foe. Yet 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!”
“AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM” – HEAR THE OTHER SIDE!
[i] The Drums of War published 6 October 2017 – www.inmyopinion.co [ii] You couldn’t make it up if you tried – South China Morning Post 7 December 2022 [iii] The Australian 10 December 2022 [iv] Pentagon, Chinese analysts agree US can’t win in Taiwan Strait and US mulls scorched earth strategy for Taiwan, Asia Times 6 December 2022