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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

US interests are Australia's? « Previous | |Next »
November 15, 2011

The Gillard Government is going to sell uranium to India, even though India hasn't and won't signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and will side with US in its conflicts and rivalry with China with the decision to give the US a significant new military presence in northern Australia.The former decision comes from pressure from the US and is primarily about the geo-political containment of China.

So there goes Australia's independence option out the window along with the option of a policy of “equidistance” between Beijing and Washington. Mungo McCullum nails it:

So we are not really treating China as a friend after all, but as a potential enemy. This is the only sensible interpretation of allowing Australia to be used as a forward base for a contingency operation aimed at China. And it is one that Beijing is unlikely to miss. Thus Australia, however keen it portrays itself to continue the trading relationship, will be seen as potentially unreliable, subject always to the larger context in which it has involved itself.

Australia's long history of subservience to Washington continues, even though the US is a declining global power facing an Asian century. The standard clichés about American global leadership, American exceptionalism, and that never-ending American Century become ever more hollowed out and shrill.

The “American Era”---the era when the United States could create and lead a political, economic and security order in virtually every part of the world---is nearing its end. The US is shifting its main strategic attention to Asia, both because its economic importance is rising rapidly and because China is the only potential peer competitor the US faces.

The US's long-term goal in the Asia-Pacific is to preserve American preeminence and prevent the emergence of a local hegemon--China. However, the US is kneecapped by its accumulated debt, eroding infrastructure and a sluggish economy, and so its options are limited. It cannot remain as Asia-Pacific's pre-eminent power and so it creates a hedge against a rising China---off shore balancing.

The US today is characterized not only by financial collapse, but more ominously by the decreasing ability to rally the globe toward the empire’s ends, and the corresponding need to pursue strategic goals via brute military force. The American century is no more.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:13 AM | | Comments (18)


I would have understood this silliness in 1979... but in 2011 it's just embarrassing.

I don't know what comes over the ALP when they dabble in foreign policy. Maybe the institutional momentum in the public service and especially the ADF is so powerful it renders the politicians incapable of intelligent thought. Or perhaps sucking up to the yanks is still the safe way to show they are not really commie hippies like News Ltd says they are.

From the perspective of our medium to long-term national interests, the strategic stupidity of enhancing ties with the USA as part of a China containment project ought to be blindingly obvious even to someone like Gillard who has never taken any interest in foreign policy. But I guess addressing Congress to standing ovations is more glamourous than talking to a bunch of old blokes in Beijing through an interpreter. And as for Rudd and Smith, what's not to like about photo ops visiting the diggers wearing that shiny deputy sheriff's badge?

I wonder what would happen if China decided to make doing business with Australian companies harder, or let it be known that students enrolling in Australian universities would have limited career prospects, in protest at our blatant attempts to sustain US hegemony in a region where it has no legitimate national security interests. How long do people think China will passively refrain from adopting the kind of bullyboy threats and sanctions that the Americans have adopted as everyday diplomatic discourse?

Listening to Latteline on this at this mo, as Bishop exhorts Labor to go harder on uranium sales to India.
Someone is talking about "conviction" politics, but the presenter is mentioning how conservative Labor has become, even on gay marriage, this embellished by a tart comment from Bob Brown.
Gary proposes that the "garrison" theory that explains the fall of previous empires through history, like the Roman and British ones and
Mars'and comments are thus right, yet there is possibly an evolution of global and national economics over time that has reinforced the capture of government by neoliberalism: in other words, it's getting worse.
America is getting weaker, almost corpse like perhaps, but isn't that because the carcass must now sustain the predators who have pulled it down?

Hugh White in The Age says that America's vision is that Asia will divide into two camps, with China on one side and the rest, under US leadership, on the other. It works to ensure that the rest of Asia stays strong and united by America's side.

At APEC in Hawaii, Obama promoted the economic element of his vision. His Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative is aimed at building a new economic framework in Asia that includes America's friends and allies and excludes China. It is not clear that is a good idea. Now Obama is coming to Canberra to promote the political and strategic element of his vision. He wants to draw America's loose network of Asian allies and friends together into a more unified military coalition to confront China's growing maritime power.

He says that though the new rotational training deployments for US marines mean very little symbolically and strategically they mean a great deal. They show Australia's willingness to join America's military coalition against China. And make no mistake: this is all about China.

I doubt that China will be persuaded to accept US leadership in Asia. It is going to overtake America to become the richest, and hence ultimately the most powerful, country in the world.

Under Gillard Australia will be squeezed by the US-China rivalry.

When Americans talk of the Pacific century they do not mean the shift from unilateralism to multilateralism. They mean unilateralism, US style.


I thought the same thing watching the footage of Hawaii. Japan is probably the only other nation in the region happy to take orders from the US.

We're already handicapped by our whiteness and ignorance.

I agree with almost all of the post and comments except the insistent repetition of the US' "decline". What decline? The US' military power has never been so great as it is today. I strongly suspect that the US also runs a big network of sympathisers and outright agents in very many foreign Govts., media organisations, political parties and influential social organisations, probably including Australia. That isn't decline, that is power.

I suppose the "decliners" might point to US unemployment, foreign oil dependence, some manufacturing weakness, decaying civil infrastructure, racial tensions and such social problems, but I don't find that evidence of "decline" except in a purely social sense.

History teaches us that the great majority of human civilisations have consisted of a small elite exploiting a helpless and oppressed population. The US is simply moving back to that standard model, and abandoning the exceptional post-WWII period of widely shared prosperity.

Highly unequal societies can be very persistent over time and can remain very dangerous to their neighbours. To pretend to ourselves that US hegemonism is going to somehow collapse because of some very loosely defined "decline" is to bury our heads in the sand.

The American have leaned on Gillard. The ALP Right are little Americans. Little is being said about India's reluctance to subject itself (and in particularly its 5 military-run nuclear facilities) to the inspection provisions set out in Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The ALp have dumped their principle that Australia not sell uranium to any country which has not signed up to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

George I am sure Hugh White is exactly correct about America's aspirations. Why Australia should see such a polarised outcome as being in our own interests is beyond me. Fortunately I don't see the ASEAN nations co-operating ... they've been dealing with China since long before the USA even existed. The current of events will frustrate US ambitions in Asia just as it has in the Middle East; Australia should be acting in its own interests with intelligence and foresight. ANZUS and all its associated Western values bullshit are baggage that ought to be left behind in the 20th century.

Obama came into office with a desire to shift U.S. policy away from its Middle Eastern focus and reassert America's importance as a Pacific power, particularly in light of China's growing regional influence.

The decline thesis refers to the shift from unilateralism to multilateralism in the world of nations. The US will have to share economic and military power with China in the Asia Pacific region as the geopolitical map is about to be redrawn. The US's years as the Pacific superpower are over. The Pacific is no longer an “American Lake”.

The US needs to think creatively about how to be a pacific partner instead.

I presume the Gillard backflip on uranium exports to India reflects the US desire to export nuclear technology (and maybe turnkey reactors) to India. US aspirations in that direction are reflected in the US-India civil nuclear agreement mentioned in The Age article linked in the post. There is a more detailed rundown on that agreement here:

Julia would have received her marching orders during her visit to Washington earlier this year.

gary sauer-thompson,
Thanks for the reply, but I don't see any indication of the US accepting anything less than hegemony in the Pacific, China regardless.

"Hegemony" to the US means, I think, (besides overt military dominance) a substantial slice of any financial action including the financing of trade plus an expansion of US-sourced exports where the "right" US firms can profit. In that context, Chinese and Indian economic growth is fine provided that US financiers and some manufacturers (aerospace, pharma, nuclear) are well provided for. Those are, of course, the big players in the MIC.

The Foreign Affairs article linked in the post notes that the new trade agreement signed in Hawaii provides a framework: "In addition to the merchandise traditionally included in previous such pacts, the TPP will cover services, intellectual property, investments, and state-owned enterprises, among other areas".

Privatisation will be an important part of this, as well as even more crushing intellectual property regime. And forget about any rules on Australian ownership of natural resources or any environmental regulation.

gordon says that "I don't see any indication of the US accepting anything less than hegemony in the Pacific, China regardless."

for sure. That is what its current policy position is and what it is trying to implement. But the US have no choice to accept something less than hegemony in a multilateral world.

The background is that the Bush administration around 2005 was keen to cultivate India as a counterweight to China, and was eager to push nuclear power as a key response to climate change. United States had reached an agreement to sell uranium to India, and the Howard government had agreed to also sell it based on the same agreement and the same safeguards.Howard also signed up to the Bush Administration's "Global Nuclear Energy Partnership"

It was Rudd when he came in, in 2007, who revoked that agreement with India because of Labor Party policy.

The Indians would probably just blow up Pakistan anyway. Perhaps we could make that a condition of sale.

Not yet Les. Imran Kahn is charging in to rescue Pakistan.

Yes lyn hes good at throwing things fast. Thats just what pakistan needs.

Nuclear bombing and the threat of it is an out moded form of control. Its much easier and creates far less liability issues down the track to undermine a countries leadership and let the oppressed kill themselves and those in control.