Satellite of a Superpower


Australia is a bloody good holiday destination, to quote from a recent advertisement.  The natives are notably friendly and eager to help. The eastern coastline is almost one long unsurpassable beach of fine golden sand, lapped by the surf of the mighty Pacific.  Inland, the unspoilt vistas of the Blue Mountains are simply awesome. Further inland still, the wide brown plains of ‘the sunburnt country’, a limitless parched landscape that many Australians prefer to more lush pastures, roll out towards the distant horizon. Other varied features such as Kakadu, the tropical north, the barrier reef, the red heart of Uluru, must remain unmentioned, or we shall be here all day. Suffice to say that Australia is a land of prodigious natural gifts.


If you like eating and drinking, Australia comes as close as may be to paradise.  And the quality of the light would lure a modern Van Gogh away from Arles.


But to be more honest than is usual amongst travel agents, there are also problems that KPN readers in particular will find irritating.  These are easily avoidable – it is merely necessary to keep the television set switched off, and to keep away from newsagents in case a headline might inadvertently be seen. For today Australia has become a satellite[1] of the United States.


It must be said that the reason for this dependence is understandable.  Spare, vast Australia lies immediately beneath crowded Indonesia, which has over ten times the population.  Further north still are the teeming millions of the lands designated in Britain as the Far East. During the last world war, with the flower of Australia’s armed forces sent overseas to fight a European war, there was little to prevent a Japanese invasion.  This invasion was prevented by US forces, which sank most of an invasion fleet at the battle of the Coral Sea on 7th – 8th May 1942.  Australians remember the peril they were in at that time, and how the US came to their rescue.


It is not surprising, therefore, that politicians of all colours wish to avoid the charge of anti-Americanism.  Permission to locate the radar stations to assist the US Star Wars project was granted without debate. On our last visit a half-billion dollar order was placed (not by us!) for US M1A1 Abrams tanks.  These tanks are so massive that it was found that the existing landing craft would have sunk under their weight – the purchase was more symbolic than useful – a gesture of dependence.  On this visit the situation had worsened.


Take the case of the four Boeing C-17 Globemasters, huge aircraft capable of carrying four times the payload of a Hercules.  Their purchase was simply announced as ‘Defence has been given the green light to spend two billion dollars buying the four aircraft’.  No debate.  The justification is illuminating.  The aircraft will ‘carry tanks and helicopters to military hotspots and international disasters’.


Take the case of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).  In 2002 Australia agreed to pay $300 million towards development costs.  Now it is proposed the buy 100 JSFs, at a cost of $16 billion, easily the largest military purchase in Australian history.  This works out at $800 dollars for every Australian pensioner, adult, child and baby.  The JSFs will replace the ‘ageing’ F-111s.  What will they do?  The JSF is equipped with stealth technology.  It is ideally suited to conduct joint military operations with the US.  It will do nothing to combat terrorism, everything to increase the risk of terrorism by involving Australia in military operations in other countries.


None of this ultra-sophisticated extremely expensive weaponry is appropriate for genuine defence of Australia – it is designed for extra-territorial use, in pre-emptive style wars.


Australian dependence on the United States has a sinister side today, when the current US administration has turned that great democracy into a rogue state. Australia’s armed forces are perfectly coordinated with the US, and the Australian government can be counted on to jump whenever instructed to do so, and to use its military as part of a ‘coalition of the willing’ in any future US adventure. 


Australia can be described as a democracy only as far as internal matters are concerned.  Its foreign policy is monitored and controlled by the United States.  If the US does invade Iran, Australian forces are sure to be deployed, helping to give a spurious respectability to another war.  Britain seems not to be so slavishly dependent on US direction, and it does seem unlikely that we will go along with an Iran invasion plan, especially if there is a change in leadership here.  Only Australia, and perhaps a few other dependent states, may be counted on to support another illegal, pre-emptive war. 


[1] A satellite is a body apparently freewheeling in space, but which in reality has been captured by a larger body, about which it orbits on an invisible string.  Its path is determined by the large body that has captured it, and is entirely predictable.