Spreading Freedom (From The U.S.)

Australian newspapers reported on Wednesday that United States is to build a new military base in Geraldton, Western Australia. The facility will join existing major U.S. spy bases in Australia at Pine Gap and North West Cape. The decision was announced formally after three years of secret negotiations by Defence Minister Brendan Nelson, who went on to state that several more of these "ground stations" may be built at other locations across Australia. The purpose of the new base is to `provide a crucial link for a new network of military satellites that will help America's ability to fight wars in the Middle East and Asia.' Great.

Australia is already heavily tied up with American foreign policy - Blair is often branded "Bush's poodle", but the label could just as easily be applied to the hawkish Australian Prime Minister John Howard - he is often mocked for his desire to be the "deputy sheriff" of the United States. Howard, like George Bush and Tony Blair, lied his people into the Iraq war, claiming military action was necessary to combat Saddam's WMD arsenal, which apparently constituted a "direct undeniable and lethal threat to Australia". In fact, Australia only contributed some 2,000 troops to the initial invasion - hardly enough to significantly affect the outcome of the war. Rather, Australian involvement was more symbolic; a gesture of solidarity with the United States in its quest for global hegemony. Or, more accurately, an attempt to curry favour with the world's superpower and give Australia the semblance of political clout and international influence by hanging on to the U.S.' coat-tails - a strategy Tony Blair should be very familiar with.

The new military base will, as the New Zealand Heraldputs it, result in Australia `being locked deeper into America's global military agenda':

`Canberra has already tightened its security co-operation with the US through a range of measures including participation in the proposed "son of Star Wars" national missile defence system, increased training, and new military hardware designed to enable Australian troops to fight with American forces abroad.'

Philip Dorling, visiting Fellow at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said that once the base is operating, it will be almost impossible for Australia to be fully neutral or stand back from any war in which the U.S. is involved:

"Once again the Howard Government is extremely eager to add another strand to Australia's alliance with the US.

"If the Americans are involved in conflict anywhere in the Indian and Pacific oceans, basically our half of the hemisphere, Australia will be directly involved by providing vital intelligence and communications links."

He also noted that the base would become a target for enemies of the United States. Denis Doherty, national co-ordinator of the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, agrees:

"US bases make Australia a target for nuclear and terrorist attacks...They increase the US hold on Australian foreign policy, undermine Australia's security and add even more to the already out-of-control Australian military budget, which is running at A$55 million a day."

Dr. Michael McKinley, senior lecturer in international relations at the Australian National University (ANU), described the construction of the base as "a serious surrender of national sovereignty". "The Australian Government will not be able to withdraw its support for a US military operation, even if it disagrees with it", he explained.

Interestingly, the announcement about the military base came just as the U.S. formally refused to sell Australia any F-22 Raptor aircraft (the most advanced warplane in the world). The regional hierarchy is clear - no matter how much Australia tries to cosy-up to the U.S., there will only ever be one top-dog in the hemisphere.

Despite all this, and despite the fact that 60% of Australians view the U.S. as having a "negative" influence in the world while 69% of Australians feel that Australia takes "too much" notice of the U.S. in its foreign policy, the Howard government's agreement to bind Australia still further to American foreign policy by permitting the construction of yet another U.S. military base on Australian soil `is unlikely to draw serious political opposition`. On the contrary; the opposition party has already declared its full support for the government on the issue. As ABC (the Australian public service broadcaster) radio reported yesterday, this has been "a week when both sides of politics have been stressing the importance of the US alliance". "All week", reporter Peta Donald explained, "the Government and the Opposition have been trying to outdo each other on the question of who is a better friend of the United States."

Evidently, when it comes to support for servility to the United States, Australia is suffering from a definite democracy deficit. In this, as we shall see, it is not alone.

The United Kingdom also enjoys a close relationship with the United States. Ironically, it was Britain's nostalgic desire to retain an influential political presence on the world stage that led to its increasing dependence on and servility to the United States (the 1956 Suez crisis, in particular, made it clear that Britain was no longer a world power in its own right).

As with Australia, there is a clear and definite gap between public opinion and political will on Britain's relationship with the U.S. For example, the British public view President Bush as a greater threat to world peace than President Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il and Hassan Nasrallah, and yet Tony Blair is having to defend our "special relationship" with with the U.S. and not with Iran, North Korea or Hizbullah. Indeed, we are left with the absurd situation where all the main political parties support Britain's close alliance with the U.S. despite the fact that the majority of the public view the American president as one of the greatest threats to world peace on the planet (second only to Osama bin Laden). The British public also see the U.S. presence in Iraq as a greater threat to world peace than Iran, and yet all the major political parties argue for continued cooperation with the U.S.-led occupation whilst advocating sanctions against Iran.

Britain's nuclear "deterrent", Trident, is an excellent example of how our desire for power and influence has left us hopelessly subordinate to our master across the Atlantic. Firstly, whilst marketed as an "independent" deterrent, Trident is in fact nothing of the sort. Dan Plesch summarises the extent of U.S. involvement in our Trident programme:

`But can this system be called independent when so much of it is, as modern business-speak would have it, sourced in America? The deterrent is carried in four Vanguard-class submarines that were designed and built in Britain, incorporating US components and reactor technology. The delivery system is the Trident D-5 missile, which is designed, made and stored in the United States. The firing system is also designed and made in the US. So is the guidance system. The computer software is American. The warhead design is based on the US W-76 bomb. The warheads are produced by Aldermaston, which is co-managed by the US firm Lockheed Martin and uses a great deal of US technology. Some vital nuclear explosive parts are imported, we now know, from the US, as are some non-nuclear parts. The warhead factory is a copy of a facility at Los Alamos, New Mexico. The submarine maintenance base is also 51 per cent owned by Halliburton of the US.'

Moreover, Trident is not even operationally independent. That is, it would be very difficult if not impossible for the UK to launch a Trident nuclear missile if the U.S. was opposed to it. As Plesch reports (.pdf),

`The pro-replacement argument boils down to the need to have a weapon in case we face 1940 [i.e. a situation where the UK stands alone against a serious military threat from another state] again, but the irony is that in an obvious worst case of facing a hostile or neutral US the US would have every incentive and ability to remove the UK capability or prevent it from being used. In such circumstances a US-sourced system would be worse than useless if the public and the political elite had been left with the comfortable delusion that the weapon was independent.'

The result of our "prolonged and humiliating dependence on the United States" (in the words of former Chancellor Denis Healey) is that we are almost inextricably bound to U.S. foreign policy. As Dan Plesch writes, `Did Britain have to invade Iraq? No, but if we had not, when the Mutual Defence Agreement came up for renewal in 2004 would John Bolton have recommended to his president that Britain was worthy of another ten years of nuclear supplies "in light of our previous close co-operation"?' It's unlikely.

A secret British government assessment released in 1988, entitled `The Dangers of Becoming an American Satellite`, concluded:

`The UK, in its relatively weak position, is already greatly dependent upon United States support. It would be surprising if the United States did not exact a price for the support, and to some extent it does so...the more we rely upon them, the more we shall be hurt if they withhold it.'

As I have written before,

`Indeed the United States has exacted a price for [its] support - subservience. We are paying that price in blood on the battlefields of Iraq. The United States often follows policies that are harmful to British interests (they are usually harmful to American interests as well) and, due to our complete dependence on the U.S. for our nuclear deterrent, we are bound to follow those policies, as with Iraq. Replacing Trident would be like re-forging our shackles and handing the master back his whip.'

And yet, that is precisely what the government is proposing. When confronted with the initial estimate of the cost of replacing Trident - £25 billion - 54% of the British public were opposed to it (only a third were in favour). However, defence officials have now confirmed that the full cost of renewing Trident, including £1.5 billion per year in maintenance, will be closer to £65 billion over 30 years. Doubtless, if another opinion poll were conducted using the true cost, the percentage of the public who oppose renewing Trident would be much higher. Despite this, not a single major political party opposes the renewal of Trident (the Lib Dems argue for delaying the decision until 2010).

British subservience to the United States does not only damage the democratic system at home. By associating Britain so closely with disastrous U.S. foreign policy, most notably with the Iraq war, our government has sacrificed the security of the British people. Virtually every intelligence agency and every sensible analyst now agrees that the Iraq war made American and British citizens less secure. The price of following U.S. foreign policy so unquestioningly is not measured in pounds alone (the UK has the second biggest defence budget in the world, despite facing no conventional military threat whatsoever). It is measured in blood.

The problem is that the United States' explicit goal is global hegemony, as it has been ever since the end of WWII (prior to that it was merely regional domination, through the Monroe Doctrine). Its foreign policy is formulated with the aim of furthering that goal, as well as advancing the interests of the American business elite. U.S. foreign policy is not intended to further the interests of client states such as Australia and the UK. Indeed, as we have seen, it is often disastrous for these countries.

In the Middle East, for example, Israel's almost total dependence on the diplomatic and military aid provided by the United States has turned it into a virtual U.S. army base. Almost unquestioning support and adherence to U.S. policies and designs for the region is a given, even when the costs to Israel of these policies are enormous. For example, we recently learned that secret Israeli-Syrian negotiations were conducted between September 2004 and July 2006 that resolved most of the issues standing in the way of a peace. The discussions ended with the advent of the Lebanon war, but since then Syria has several times requested a resumption of peace talks "without preconditions". Israel has simply rejected the idea out of hand, despite overwhelming support for such talks amongst the Israeli public. Prime Minister Olmert has openly stated that his reason for refusing to engage Syria in talks, which, if successful, would contribute far more to Israeli security than a hundred Lebanon wars, is that the U.S. favours a strategy of isolating Syria. As he explained:

"At a time when the president of the United States, Israel's most important ally, with whom we have a network of strategic relations -- when he is fighting in every arena, both at home in America, in Iraq and in other places in the world, against all the elements that want to weaken him -- is this the time for us to say the opposite?"

U.S. control over Europe is such that it is pressuring members of NATO (which has no reason for existing other than to facilitate U.S.-led aggressions that are not approved by UN (e.g. Afghanistan) and to provide another market for the American defence industry) to increase their defence spending, buying from U.S. firms of course, despite the fact that Europe currently faces no conventional military threat, and will not do so for the forseeable future. A recent EU report confirmed that European countries, including Britain, France, Germany and several eastern European states, actively colluded with or turned a blind eye to CIA `torture flights', such was their determination not to upset the boss.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is correct to say that a "unipolar world", where "there is one centre of authority, one centre of force, [and] one centre of decision-making" has "nothing in common with democracy". It is not that the U.S. is uniquely evil; rather, it is uniquely powerful and whenever huge amounts of power are concentrated in few hands, corruption, dictatorship and oppression inevitably follow. As David Clarke writes, the U.S.' long history of aggression and terrorism is not "a reflection of the American character", but is rather an "inevitable consequence of unrestrained power." The horrific consequences of an all-powerful global hegemon can be seen with a quick look through even recent history. Putin is not being hyperbolic when he describes the "almost unrestrained hyper-use of force - military force - in international relations, a force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts". The U.S. has always granted itself the de facto right to act unilaterally, but the Bush administration has gone one step further and openly declared that the U.S. reserves the right to wage unilateral preventive war, in complete violation of international law and norms, to protect its "interests". This policy of unilateral aggression has resulted in the deaths of millions of people in the latter 20th century alone and, with increasing nuclear proliferation, the consequences for humanity in the 21st century could well be a lot worse.

Putin is right to call for a multi-polar world. Britain should concentrate on strengthening the EU as a counter-weight to U.S. power - in this, they could do a lot worse than to learn from the phenomenal progress that has been made by some South American states - Chavez' Venezuela and Morales' Bolivia, to give two examples - in increasing the independence of individual states and the region as a whole. But we must also understand that without a system of international law that is effectively enforced and universally applied, states will always perpetrate crimes and aggressions against each other. As Putin said, "We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law...It results in the fact that no one feels safe".

The latter 20th century was characterised by the growth of an unrivalled and unrestrained superpower, and the terrible atrocities that resulted from this. If we are interested in working towards peace and freedom, we must make sure that the 21st century is characterised by a just distribution of power and the development of an effective and democratic UN. A critical first step is for countries like the UK and Israel to make a conscious decision to commit themselves to working with and integrating into their respective regions, at the expense of their current servility to the United States. Spreading freedom is a good idea - indeed, it may well be critical to the survival of the species - but it is not done, as George Bush would have us believe, by granting the global superpower yet more power and more authority to do as it wishes. As commonsense should dictate, precisely the opposite is true. It's time we started taking the ideas of democracy and freedom seriously, and we must begin by placing a check on the unhealthy and dictatorial power currently wielded by the United States of America.

Cross-posted at The Heathlander

Tags: australia, democracy, EU, foreign policy, international relations, Israel, Syria, U.S., uk (all tags)


1 Comment

Re: Spreading Freedom (From The U.S.)

Yeah, and the shocker is the new Labour Shadow Minister for the Environment, Peter Garret, formerly of the band Midnight Oil and environmentalist fame has just had to eat crow pie over previous opposition to US bases and assert his support for the 'relationship.'

It gets worse.  Since the late Seventies the Australians have had a nuclear research facility and a reasonable delivery system, the aging F-111 fleet.  This has given Australia a modicum of independence in the region in worst case scenarios.  It is pretty clear that Howard has decided to stand under the US nuclear umbrella as a matter of policy and is retiring these aircraft in favour of a medium range attack capability.  The F-111's are transonic and were designed as hi-lo-hi reasonably long range nuclear bombers.  Australia's options, and sovereignity have slowly been eroded by this post-monarchist prime minister and his Liberal party.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-16 09:24PM | 0 recs


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