FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Dangling Appendage

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Melbourne.

The US juggernaut is positioning itself with some speed while the policy free wonks in Canberra catch their breath.  The US Presidential election results are still warm, and President Barack Obama’s heralded “pivot” (some call it “rebalancing”) towards the Asia-Pacific is gaining some speed. The Australian-US ministerial talks being held in Perth were always going to be a tame affair – the great chiefs from across the Pacific, making sure their outlying posts were still in order, that the drinks were still being served on time.  The formula went to script – the usual unreflective Australian views, and the all revealing American perceptions about power in the Asia-Pacific.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks were telling. For one, everyone can frolic in the playground of power.  “The Pacific is big enough for all of us.”  Australia, loyal janissary, compliant to a fault, had been instrumental in anchoring peace and prosperity in the region with US power.  She was certainly not remiss to express happiness that Washington had gotten another ally on the UN Security Council, one happy to voice a noisy “yes” on all issues American.  Might the administration be so kind as to make sure that the first missile that strikes Iran has an Australian flag attached to it?  We would be so grateful.

There has already been a first rotation of US marine troops in Darwin, with the next wave of troops scheduled to arrive in April next year.  Anyone with a sense of imperial history should know that occupying troops are never liked, even if the term occupation doesn’t figure in the lexicon.  Residents are happy to make their imperial defenders pay for local goods and services (drink, food, ready sex), but are just as happy to bayonet them given the chance.

A survey of the bland exchanges during these ministerial talks shows the usual trite positions.  Clinton is keen on the mutual building of “a more mature and effective multilateral architecture for the region that can help settle disputes peacefully, promote universal rights (and) greater trade and commerce within an economic system that is open, free, transparent and fair” (Bordermail, Nov 14).  This is striking, given the fact that such trade arrangements being negotiated – the Trans-Pacific Partnership being foremost on the agenda – has proven to be highly secretive, an enemy of free expression and potentially stifling for non-American companies. The aim of the arrangement is to punish online piracy, and the true enemy lurking in the detail is China – and other powers and citizens who refuse to abide by the US anti-counterfeiting regime.

There was some blather about monitoring space debris.  An American radar will be transferred to Western Australia to provide surveillance of an increasing laying of space clutter.  As for the resolution of territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Senator Bob Carr claimed, “We don’t take sides on the competing territorial claims.”  The collective pronouncement absolves Carr from actually explaining that it is very singular, with Australia as some daggling, obedient appendage.

This dangling appendage has been good enough to prostrate itself before the demands of the Washington establishment, enacting a constricting regime through the Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011. According to Clinton, the measure will supposedly boosting trade, helping companies collaborate to spur “innovation”.  This is simply nonsense.  The submission by Universities Australia (Feb 9, 2012) to the Senate highlights several concerns that were not addressed.  “The Bill will make it an offence for a university to supply information, assistance or training in relation to goods listed in the Defence and Strategic Goods List (DGSL) in prohibited circumstances without a permit.” While universities in Australia might not deal in goods per se in this context, they deal with knowledge connected with them. The mind police have been unleashed.

Other matters are summarised: impacts on what may or may not be taught by Australian universities; to whom such information may be taught to, and with whom Australian researchers engage with in terms of specific research; what might be published by Australian researchers and the research materials that may be transferred by Australian universities to non-Australian collaborators within our outside Australia.  The irony of the act is that it will go along hamstringing Australian innovation, while giving the American side of matters a boost.  Similar measures of deprivation were undertaken by the Soviets on their eastern satellites in Europe during the Cold War.  This is plunder by stealth.

Scratch the mutuality of it, and we have a better picture of the “alliance”, a case more of master and servant.  Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, who has a habit of being as sharp as a tack, was on to it.  Before an audience at the State Library of Victoria, he noted that, “During the current prime ministership, that of Julia Gillard, the US president Barack Obama made an oral and policy assault on China and its polity, from the lower chamber of our Parliament House” (Financial Review, Nov 14).

China is the big issue – to be managed, to be integrated and, if necessary, to be fought.  The term “containment” was avoided in the joint communiqué between US and Australian officials, but again, “containment” is a term avoided much like “occupation” or “US base”. Most prefer to look somewhere else.  This is a proposition that is a guarantor of war if ever there was one.  Tense political arrangements that are armed to the teeth culminate in only one thing – lethal conflict.  Taking the carriage of history in second class – Australia’s feted position – will see increased access of US naval forces to the Stirling Naval Base in Perth, a continuing presence of Australian personnel in Afghanistan after 2014, and a long term rotation system in Darwin ready and willing for the US marines.

Australian negotiators are famous for being rolled in Washington, and they have managed, in their denser moments, to play a very small second fiddle in the power game. These recent talks have simply confirmed that fact.  Australia, as Keating now terms it, is the grand “derivative” power, rather than one assertive, diplomatic and skilful in navigating between Beijing and Washington.  Never you mind what Chinese state-owned media have claimed – that Canberra risks being “caught in the crossfire” of US and Chinese confrontation.  Australia is the somnambulist of Asia – and it may well pay a very heavy price when it wakes up.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

 

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 28, 2017
Diana Johnstone
Macron’s Mission: Save the European Union From Itself
Jordon Kraemer
The Cultural Anxiety of the White Middle Class
Vijay Prashad
Modi and Trump: When the Titans of Hate Politics Meet
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Efforts to Hide Palestinians From View No Longer Fools Young American Jews
Ron Jacobs
Gonna’ Have to Face It, You’re Addicted to War
Jim Lobe – Giulia McDonnell Nieto Del Rio
Is Trump Blundering Into the Next Middle East War?
Radical Washtenaw
David Ware, Killed By Police: a Vindication
John W. Whitehead
The Age of No Privacy: the Surveillance State Shifts into High Gear
Robert Mejia, Kay Beckermann and Curtis Sullivan
The Racial Politics of the Left’s Political Nostalgia
Tom H. Hastings
Courting Each Other
Winslow Myers
“A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind”
Leonard Peltier
The Struggle is Never for Nothing
Jonathan Latham
Illegal GE Bacteria Detected in an Animal Feed Supplement
Deborah James
State of Play in the WTO: Toward the 11th Ministerial in Argentina
Andrew Stewart
Health Care for All: Why I Occupied Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Office
Binoy Kampmark
The European Commission, Google and Anti-Competition
Jesse Jackson
A Savage Health Care Bill
Jimmy Centeno
Cats and Meows in L.A.
June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail