Preparing to participate in a US war against China

  • Posted on: 19 March 2023
  • By: David

Dear friends, I have today sent the below to my local member, Peter Khalil, and a number of other ALP ministers, senators and MPs. Please feel free to use any of the text if you are moved to write along similar lines. Also published in Pearls and Irritations.

I write to convey my deep disappointment in the Labor Government, of which you are part, specifically in relation to the AuKUS submarine deal but more generally in relation to military strategy and foreign policy.

The US’s China containment strategy is designed to shore up US economic hegemony but being sold and implemented as a security policy. This strategy requires building a scare campaign representing China as a military threat and as part of that, accelerating the military build-up. This is extremely dangerous. The Albanese government has taken a number of steps which can only have to effect of locking Australia onto this disastrous path (AuKUS, B52s,  and cruise missiles). These come on top of pre-existing commitments such as Pine Gap, Harold Holt and ‘the Quad’. Supporting the economic containment of China on behalf of the US is not in Australia’s national interest.

Australia has a long and dishonourable history of joining imperial wars far from our shores (and from our national interest), from the Boer War and Gallipoli, to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. To this list your government – an ALP government - wants to add a US war against China.

The US has 750 foreign military bases, largely focused on ‘containing’ Russia and China (and preferably forcing them, through regime change, to join the neoliberal world order under US suzerainty).

The immediate cause of the Ukraine war was the Russian invasion but the context for this was created by the continuing eastward expansion of NATO; not just containing but compressing Russia (as in Iraq, directed to regime change with a view to gaining control over its oil supplies). The Russian invasion of Ukraine demonstrates the risks of this containment and compression policy as also applied to China.

The military logic of Australia’s acquisition of nuclear powered submarines is clearly about disrupting shipping passing through the Indonesian archipelago and the Straits of Malacca (through which much of China’s oil imports are carried). This is part of the US project of containment; it is not about defending Australia; rather it is about making Australia more of a target in the event of a US China war. It is hardly likely to win friends in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

It is profoundly irresponsible of your government to renege on its commitments to nuclear non-proliferation. Is the threat of nuclear war no longer a consideration in foreign policy? A submarine is a weapon and a nuclear submarine is a nuclear weapon. B52 bombers are likewise nuclear weapons whether or not the US Airforce declares that such missiles are carried.  Clearly the AuKUS submarines will be equipped to carry nuclear missiles. Just as the policy changed regarding the return of expended ‘sealed’ reactors for dismantling and waste storage, the assurances about not carrying nuclear weapons could be ignored in future contingencies without any public awareness or policy announcement. It appears that your government is determined to make Australia a nuclear target.  

Richard Marles defends Australia’s support for China containment with references to the ‘rules based order’.  This is quite cynical in view of the long standing imposition by the US of illegal wars, unilateral coercive sanctions, big power bullying in relation to trade, and frequent covert interventions to destabilise governments it doesn’t like (regime change) or to shore up those it does. The continuation of sanctions on Cuba is perhaps the most egregious illustration of the cynicism of this claim of a ‘rules based order’.

The WB and IMF were deliberately created as tools of US and European financial dominance and continue to drive economic policies which are directed to sustaining US economic hegemony. The WTO was established on the premise of a multilateral rules based trading regime but where multilateralism doesn’t suit the US, it breaches its trade commitments and sabotages the dispute settlement process.

The Murdoch and the Nine papers claim that Australia’s subordination to US strategic policies is about defending liberal democracy. But in many respects the US is an illiberal non-democracy; consider the stacking of the Supreme Court and the rejection of Roe, money politics and revolving doors in Washington, the grotesque gerrymander of electoral boundaries, and the growing movement to deny people of colour voter registration.

By maintaining its political independence, China has grown strong economically. It has invested hugely in education, including universities and research. It has made huge achievements in health and reducing poverty. Yet there is much that is not admirable about China’s domestic policy regime including the consolidation of its control of Tibet and Xinjiang including the inflow of settlers of Han ethnicity.  Is this really an argument for Australia to join the US containment project (including provocative ‘freedom of navigation’ exercises in the Taiwan Strait)?

Your government proposes to commit $368 billion on nuclear powered submarines as part of supporting the US containment of China. Compare this to the $100 billion that the rich countries have promised to the Global South, for climate change mitigation and adaptation, but still not delivered. The looming threat of global warming is an existential threat to Australia and the rest of the world but apparently not as worrying to your government as the ‘threat’ posed by China to the rules based order and to liberal democracy. (Still no move on tail pipe standards!)

The AuKUS deal, like the Stage 3 tax cuts, were designed to wedge the Labor Government in advance of the 2022 elections. Your government has completely surrendered on both. But even more disgracefully, you have done nothing to free Julian Assange and protect him from a life time of US imprisonment.

I urge you to reconsider these foolish and expensive military and foreign policies.

Yours sincerely,

David Legge