- Date published:
10:16 pm, April 24th, 2023 - 63 comments
Categories: Anzac Day, australian politics, China, defence, democratic participation, iraq, tech industry, uk politics, us politics, war - Tags:
Andrew Little says our government is willing to “explore” participating in AUKUS Pillar 2, but “foreign or local voices would not be a factor.” Our leaders will decide he says. I say “taihoa.”
It is deeply ironic that we have a national holiday, ANZAC Day, to commemorate a military disaster in 1915. A debacle that was largely down to the choice of one political leader, Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, where thousands of our young men were killed.
The context of the lead-up to World War 1, famously described by Barbara Tuchman as “The March of Folly,” was a contest of empires. We are now living in another contest of empires, between a declining United States which sees itself as destined by God for absolute supremacy as the sole hegemon, and a rising China which seeks a multipolar world where political power is shared and it is not again subject to the colonial depredations of the nineteenth century.
Events are moving fast and our media as well as our political and bureaucratic leadership here and in Australia are conditioning us to another era of the apparent inevitability of war. Australia, our only formal ally, is in the thrall of the United States and despite protestations of independence we are being drawn ineluctably into her embrace. If Australia goes to war with China over Taiwan in support of the United States, must we follow as her ally?
Who should decide our fate? And should we have a say as a people?
Not if the Australian political leadership has its way. There is a debate there about war powers reform, sparked by the fact that John Howard led Australia into the disastrous and illegal war in Iraq on his own decision. Helen Clark kept us out of it, for which we can be extremely grateful.
Now the Australian government is moving to change the law so the decision is made by the Governor-General, not the Parliament or the Executive. Given that the convention is that the GG acts on the advice of the government, this is a sidestep to avoid any possibility of debate or participation by the citizenry, and also of responsibility for the politicians. Alison Broinowski of Australians for War Powers Reform has this to say about the report of the Inquiry into War Powers Reform recently published:
Proposing that the role of the Commander in Chief, as set out in section 68 of the Constitution be restored, the Committee recommended that it ‘be utilised, particularly in relation to conflicts that are not supported by resolution by the United Nations Security Council, or an invitation of a sovereign nation given that complex matters of legality in public international law may arise in respect of an overseas commitment of that nature’.
If that means what it seems to, the Governor-General will be asked to approve the ADF being dispatched to an expeditionary war of choice that doesn’t meet the tests of legitimacy in international law. ‘Complex matters of legality’ which the report cites in explanation are always involved in public international law: that’s not the problem. What the Government seems to want is to be able to commit Australian forces to an aggressive war without either a UN Security Council resolution or the ‘invitation of a sovereign nation’.
What’s the non-sovereign nation? Obviously, Taiwan. And why will restoring the war power to the Governor-General do the trick? Because that’s in the Constitution, and indeed it’s how we entered World War I. Of course, the Governor-General can and should ask for information about such a war, but he is then obliged to give assent.
So the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the ADF high command and the troops will all be off the war crimes hook, and they need only wait to be told by Washington when to go. The ICC is unlikely to investigate the Governor-General.
The prospect is war with China over Taiwan. Taiwan is the excuse. The US is determined to push China down and retain its pre-eminence. Examples are technology bans – we have banned Hauwei and TikTok – and trade sanctions.
Preparation for war is taking the same course as before Iraq, with constant demonisation of all things Chinese. Public opinion has been turned against China in the West through a deliberate campaign of denigration and outright lies, funded and led by governments with the support of a complaisant media.
The colossal failure of the collapse of Singapore in 1942, another of Churchill’s disasters, is in large part why Australia has tied itself so strongly to the United States apron strings. The bombing of Darwin and the battles of the Kokoda trail together with the experience of the 7th Australian Division in Malaya brought the threat of Japanese invasion close to their home.
We did not feel it so much as a country, but I have an uncle and namesake who was shot down and killed there flying an obsolete biplane in a panicked daylight raid, another egregious failure of British military leadership.
War talk is in the air and as usual is of the wunderwaffen that the buildup to war might provide, and the so-called spinoff opportunities of technology in AUKUS Pillar 2. But wunderwaffen are extremely costly, and don’t always work as they are supposed to. Their opportunity cost is huge, and there are other and better ways to develope technology than the pathway to war.
For all the talk of war with China, besides the opportunity cost, nobody is talking about what it would actually be like. It wouldn’t be confined to the South China Sea. As disasters go, Gallipoli would be as nothing.
Its time to say to our leaders “Taihoa!” We need to talk about this. Cabinet should not decide on any consideration of AUKUS Pillar 2 until we have had a full and robust debate as a country, with full participation for all citizens.
That would be true leadership.