The great, sad news out of Australia right now is the discovery of eight children stabbed to death
in Cairns. At this writing, the event is quite mysterious, although I suspect that we will have more information soon.
Politically, the most interesting news from down under is former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser's recent piece arguing that Australia must distance itself from the United States
. Fraser (in office 1975-1983) uses surprisingly blunt language:
IT IS time for Australia to end its strategic dependence on the United States. The relationship with America, which has long been regarded as beneficial, has now become dangerous to Australia’s future. We have effectively ceded to America the ability to decide when Australia goes to war. Even if America were the most perfect and benign power, this posture would still be incompatible with the integrity of Australia as a sovereign nation. It entails not simply deference but submission to Washington, an intolerable state of affairs for a country whose power and prosperity are increasing and whose national interests dictate that it enjoy amicable, not hostile, relations with its neighbors, including China.
Bottom line: We're bellicose. Australians don't want war: They want to do business.
Fraser lists four reasons why a strategic partnership with the Americans might prove ruinous:
First, despite much blather about a supposed unanimity of national purpose, the truth is that the United States and Australia have substantially different values systems. The idea of American exceptionalism is contrary to Australia’s sense of egalitarianism.
Did it ever occur to the neocons that this country's continual insistence on the exceptionalist fantasy might not play well with our allies? They
aren't impressed by all of that "shining city on a hill" nonsense. These days, that hill is a dunghill, and the shine has worn off.
Second, we have seen the United States act in an arbitrary, imprudent and capricious fashion. It has made a number of ill-advised and ill-informed decisions concerning Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East.
The third reason: The partnership means Australia would go to war when we do. The fourth reason: Australia might be attacked by one of our enemies.
American fecklessness has produced this state of affairs.
Sing it, Brother Malcolm! Although, as I've noted before, use of the word "feckless" implies that some people are feckful
. Personally, I'm not sure how much feck I have, due to a malfunctioning feckometer.
Fraser's piece is fairly long, so you should read the rest for yourself. I'll note only a few highlights:
The way in which war has been conducted through South Asia—especially the use of drones, which have killed significant numbers of civilians—provides the extremists with a welcome and potent recruiting tool. Nor is this all. Events in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine also represent a grotesque failure of U.S. diplomacy and a reduction in American influence worldwide.
There's a quote attributed to Voltaire: "To find out who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize." Although many dispute the accuracy
of that quote (frankly, I never heard it before this year), the sentiment adds flavor to Fraser's words.
Fraser then discusses the American base in Darwin and -- of course -- the great eavesdropping facility in Pine Gap:
This used to be a largely defensive facility. It was, more than anything else, an information-gathering operation of significant importance. Changes in communications and weapons technology, and their application to a great variety of U.S. weapons systems, from drones to longer-range missiles, have altered the character of Pine Gap. Information from Pine Gap is also used for missile defense (which China regards as vitiating its nuclear deterrent) and for targeting a range of modern offensive missiles. This would give Pine Gap a new and urgent relevance if a conflict between China and Japan involving the United States developed into a serious crisis. It is Pine Gap, above all, that makes it impossible for Australia to say that it is not involved.
Fraser bluntly states that Pine Gap must be closed within four or five years, and Australian personnel removed from the facility within six months.
THUS, STEP by step, discreetly, even secretly, successive Australian governments have allowed a situation to develop in which if America goes to war in the western Pacific, we will have no option but to go to war as a direct consequence. If Australia sought to stand aside, it would not be believed. We have never before been in such a situation. This situation is not compatible with Australian integrity or with Australian sovereignty. Australians do not realize that America’s capacity to declare war and include us is far greater than the power Britain had over the Dominions.
No foreign power should have that control over Australia, and certainly not a United States whose values are different and whose strategic decisions have been shown to be ill balanced and dangerous.
How might Fraser have improved this argument? He might have noted that his years as Prime Minister overlapped Jimmy Carter's tenure as President. Jimmy Carter is now on record as saying that America no longer has a functioning democracy.
That pretty much clinches the case, doesn't it? Why would Australia want a dicey strategic partnership with a former
democracy? If the United States requires allies, we should reconsider the kind of country we want to be. If we lose our allies, we lose our superpower status. We tell ourselves that others need
us. They don't.