Australia has had a security treaty called ANZUS with the U.S. since 1951. It has been the cornerstone of Australian Foreign policy however the Swan Island Peace Convergence is calling on this treaty to be torn up for the following reasons:
1) The U.S. Alliance does not make us more secure or peaceful
Rather than than keeping Australia safe, our security alliance has repeatedly put Australian forces on the frontline of conflicts as we support our “great and powerful friend”. Australian troops have been part of U.S. imperialist wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan.
When John Howard invoked the ANZUS Treaty for the first time after the September 11th 2001 attacks, he was very clear that our alliance to the U.S. was central to the decision to commit troops. Recently on Four Corners Howard was quoted as stating about the decision
I was making it very plain that we would stand beside the Americans, because given what had happened to them, it was a time for 100 per cent allies, not 70 or 80 per cent allies
In 2010 PM Julia Gillard stated in Parliament
Mr Speaker, Australia has two vital national interests in Afghanistan.
One: to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists, a place where attacks on us and our allies begin.
Two: to stand firmly by our Alliance commitment to the United States, formally invoked following the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.
In reality it is our perceived alliance that got Australia into Afghanistan and have kept us there ten years, not the so called “War on Terror”.
2) Our alliance costs us billions
Australia is the 14th largest military spender in the world and the 6th largest per capita! We spend $32 billion dollars a year on “defence”. In reality much of this spending is to enable the Australian Forces to contribute directly to the U.S. war machine or to contribute to the strategic aims of Washington in our region.
According to the Anti-bases Campaign Coalition
- Australia has spent $10 billion on the war in Afghanistan – $1 billion a year plus an additional $1.6 billion for extra armour.
- Australia is purchasing 100 Joint Strike Fighters from the U.S. at a cost of over $16 billion.
- The 2009 Defence White Paper pushed for 12 new submarines (estimated to cost $30 to $40 billion).
These are just some of the costs that the U.S. alliance places on Australia distorting both our defence needs are our whole economy, putting it on a footing for war not peace.
3) Australia’s contribution to the U.S. War Machine
Australia makes an important contribution to the U.S.’s ability to project its military power around the world in aggressive military actions.
- The SAS: The highly trained SAS troops that Australia has sent to Iraq and Afghanistan are very valued by the U.S. They fit in with the U.S.’s anti-insurgency strategy of using special forces as “assassination squads” to kill enemy fighters, often in night raids.
- Bases: The most important U.S. Base on Australian soil is Pine Gap, which is a crucial communications base for the U.S. It helps the U.S. maintain its sophisticated communications systems which drive its nuclear weapons, drones, missiles and other military hardware.
- Joint Training Exercises: Australia takes part in expensive joint training exercises with the U.S. military on Australian soil. For example every two years thousands of troops are involved in the Talisman Sabre “war games” of the coast of Queensland.
- Marines in Darwin For the first time this year, Marines are now based permanently in Darwin. Thousands of U.S. Marines will be permanently based in Darwin within a short time.
- New Drones base on Cocos Island A new base on the Indian Ocean is to be built to allow surveillance drone aircraft to operate from the Australian-held Cocos Islands and to spy on Chinese shipping in the Indian Ocean.
- Access to ports and airbases Australian ports and airbases are being upgraded for increased use by US nuclear-armed warships and aircraft, particularly in the north of Australia.
4) Growing tensions between the U.S.A and China
The increasing U.S. military presence in Australia and the growing importance of Australia to the U.S. as a military ally can only be understood in the context of the growing tensions between the U.S. and China in the Asia Pacific. As China rises as a military and economic power and the U.S.’s economy continues to falter, the U.S. is increasingly seeking to contain Chinese power through military means. Washington is planing a string of bases and alliances stretching from Japan and South Korea through South East Asia to the Indian subcontinent to contain China. In particular the U.S. wants to maintain control over shipping lanes. This would give it a great advantage in the event of any future conflict with China.
Australia is potentially on the front line of any conflict between the U.S. and China which could erupt over numerous flashpoints in the Asia Pacific, such as Taiwan, North Korea or disputes over the seas around China.
Wikileaks releases of U.S. diplomatic cables make it clear where the Australian establishment stands on this issue. In 2006 a U.S. diplomatic cable revealed Kim Beazley, then Opposition Leader and now Ambassador to Washington, told U.S. officials that
In the event of a war between the United States and China, Australia would have absolutely no alternative but to line up militarily beside the US. Otherwise the alliance would be effectively dead and buried, something that Australia could never afford to see happen.
In addition, Kevin Rudd, whilst PM, in a meeting with Hillary Clinton explained that Australia was building up its navy in response to Chinese power and that whilst the U.S. should try to integrate the Chinese into the international community, the U.S. should be prepared to “deploy force” if “everything goes wrong”.
Australia’s and the U.S.’s commitment to staying in Afghanistan can also only be understood in the context of these broader geopolitical aims. The U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan to maintain its dominance in Central Asia and the Middle East at the expense of its rivals in China and Russia.