Is the AUKUS Pact a good thing?
I want you to imagine a scenario: Australia and China are embroiled in yet another international dispute, but this one is getting nasty, it could be trade related, maybe they’ve had enough of paying through the nose for our steel, maybe we’ve banned one of their companies from a crucial Government tender, and once again, Morrison handles it with his usual diplomatic nuance (sarcasm font). So China decides, once again, to teach Australia a lesson. Just as it has tried to crush us with trade restrictions to set an example to the rest of the World, this time China decides to create a naval blockade around Australia until we agree to their terms. No oil, no medical supplies, no technology, getting to our shores until we submit. While it may sound fanciful to some, based on China’s most recent behaviour it’s not entirely implausible. So what would Australia do? Confront the Chinese Navy in international waters? Based on our current arsenal, that won’t end well. But surely the US will come our rescue right? Well, yes, probably. They are signatory to the ANZUS treaty and it is probable that the convoy would be seen as an act of aggression, but with the real prospect of another Trump Presidency in 2024 looming, the safety net of the US military always coming to our rescue is not the sure bet it once was. What the AUKUS Pact appears to do is integrate our military interests in such a way that we wouldn’t need to rely on the US coming to our rescue, they would effectively already be here, because we will be part of them. Now there is an element of this which is extremely unnerving to Australians because it does largely tie our future to that of the US, however it is really difficult to conceive of any realistic scenario where Australia would be willingly abandoning a US war effort any time in the future. We have joined them in every single conflict they have been on since World War Two, it’s hard to imagine any looming conflict where the domestic political objection would be sufficient to buck that trend. There will also be those that see this as a needless poking of the Chinese bear and that we should instead be shifting our allegiances to the new Superpower to our north. Make no mistake of it, the Chinese Government are not good people. They are a brutal dictatorial and nationalistic regime committed to a new world order with themselves at the centre – this isn’t hyperbole, this is their own published doctrines. They are a threat to liberal democracy and a failure to offer a meaningful resistance to their power grabs will pose a threat to the well being of Australians in the future. This doesn’t mean we can’t live peacefully with China, or continue to trade with it, but we must never submit to it. This is the logic behind AUKUS. Does this mean I support it? Well, yes and no. It is going to be expensive. Remember Australia doesn’t offer the US much in the way of manpower or technology. What we do have is geography and money – they will be expecting both. The issue is, while it is extremely naïve to presume that China will never pose a military threat to Australia’s interests, I don’t believe this is where the greatest threat will come from. The front line has been, and will remain, within our society. The greatest threat to our democracy will not take the form of an invading army, it will be the exploitation of societal division and disenfranchisement in an effort to paralyse our institutions. What does this look like? Just look at the deterioration and polarisation of US society over the past decade. This is largely the result of a persistent attack by foreign actors, manipulating the people of the US to wage war on each other. This can, and is, happening here. All the tools already exist. There are existing social divisions, there are countless groups which feel disenfranchised from the mainstream society, and we still have no meaningful resistance against the misinformation that preys upon these weaknesses. Spending billions on submarines to defend our shores will be a futile if the enemy is already within. This is where we must appropriate our fearless approach to military spending to ensure the domestic threats are confronted first. How do we do this? We must address social division and disenfranchisement within our community. By reducing the number of Australians who feel neglected by our society we reduce the number of potential “enemy combatants” within our own ranks that could otherwise unwittingly find themselves contributing to the destruction of our political system. If you fail to invest in institutions of Australian society; our welfare system, our education system, and our health system, then the castle our military is being funded to protect will begin to decay from within. No one has asked where we will find the billions to merge our army with these two larger wealthier nations, so I can only ask that the same indifference to deficit be offered when the budget declares just how much it is prepared to make available to the services and systems that keep all Australians believing that our nation is, after all, worth defending.