Thursday, September 3, 2015

Australia's Future: US Client State? Fascist State? Both?

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism - ownership of government by an individual, or by a group.”
 - US President Franklin Roosevelt.
"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism, because it is a merger of State and Corporate power."
 - Italian Fascist Dictator, Benito Mussolini.

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has spelled out the Abbott government's chilling vision for the future of Australia's Defence Forces. There are two key themes: closer integration between government and industry, and closer integration with the United States. In other words, lots of US corporations will be making lots of money from Australian taxpayers, especially if we continue to be involved in ill-considered US military adventurism. But don't worry, voters - there will be opportunities for Australian businesses to reap profits too!

In his Canberra address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia on August 26th, Mr Andrews outlined key elements of the forthcoming Defence White Paper, which seeks to guide strategy for the next decade or more. The government wants a "high technology future force" but this "will depend on our capacity to partner with... the US industrial base, as we are doing now."

In fact, these plans will ensure that Australia loses all pretense of sovereignty and becomes fully consumed into the sprawling US "military-industrial complex" (as former US President Eisenhower famously termed it in his 1961 farewell speech). Mr Andrews seems delighted at the prospect, repeatedly embracing closer integration between Canberra, Washington, and military industries.

"In the past," he says, "not enough has been done to recognise the importance of industry’s contribution to Defence and national security more broadly." Does he want medals awarded to the CEO's of major arms companies, or statues erected in their honour? No, he wants a "new way of doing business".

In the future, says Mr Andrews, "it will be mandatory for Defence to consider Australian industry in the formal capability development process."

"For the first time, government will recognise the vital role of Australian industry as a fundamental input to Defence capability."

Does that sound like the government is ready to outsource the defense of our nation to private companies? The language being used certainly sounds like all-too-familiar "privatisation" talking points.

Mr Andrews warns that "our defence industrial base is no longer structured or managed to provide major platforms in a timely manner." Apparently, whatever these "platforms" are, this is the Labor Party's fault.

"When the Government was elected in September 2013," says the Defence Minister, "six years of prolonged under-investment was placing Australia’s security in jeopardy."

The irony is that Australia remains one of the safest nations on earth, where people from countries we help destablize flock (if they can) to seek refuge. Our government is helping the USA spy on all our citzens, plus our neighbours, so there's very little chance of anyone springing an attack, even if they wanted to (which they don't). Our Navy boats can even invade Indonesian waters with impunity! The only real enemies we face are the terrorists our government has helped the USA create.

But Defence White Papers are all about imagining potential future enemies, not building peace. In this paranoid worldview, where fears can be exploited for profits, the only way to be safe is to "build an even closer partnership between government and industry" which will "spur more affordable war winning technology." In other words, ever more money for ever more weapons.

And of course: "The US Alliance will remain fundamental to our security and defence planning, and the highest priority for our international cooperation."

Mr Andrews repeatedly embraces the Orwellian term "rebalance" to describe the USA's expanding military presence in Asia-Pacific region. It's a puzzling term: does it imply that the Pacific rim was once "balanced" - perhaps after the USA bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Or does it suggest that the US military itself has been out of balance since they launched their ill-considered attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan?

At any rate, Andrews wants to "enhance military interoperability with the United States" (such as the very expensive Talisman Sabre war games), "exercise joint collective capabilities" (hello Pine Gap and the NSA) and "demonstrate our mutual resolve" (to do what?). He praises the growing US Marines base in Darwin, saying Canberra wants to see more "enhanced cooperation", particularly between the US and Australian air forces and navies. And, perhaps with a nod to Jeb Bush's Neoconservative friends, he welcomes US plans to "sustain & advance US military superiority for the 21st Century... within a resource constrained environment."

Yes, Minister, we all know how "constrained" US military spending is. 

On the vexed question of submarines, Kevin Andrews says he has been "fundamentally guided by the key principles laid out by the RAND Corporation, which we commissioned to conduct a detailed review of the Australian naval shipbuilding industry". But the RAND Corporation, originally formed by the Douglas Aircraft Company, is a global think tank mostly financed by the US government and US corporations. If Australian government and military decision-making is now "fundamentally guided" by such US entities, have we already been absorbed into the US military-industrial complex?

"To date," the Defence Minister continues to boast, "Australia is the only country approved to acquire and operate both the Super Hornet and Growler – two aircraft that are at the absolute forefront of the United States’ air power capabilities, reflecting Australia’s position as a trusted capability partner."

Indeed. The US military jealously guard their top secret hardware and software, prompting many allies to complain when they do not get full access to control billion-dollar purchases. But is Australia really a "trusted partner" or just an obedient, well-trained "poodle"? Either way, the US military industry is already making good money from us. Australia is buying eight P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft from the US, as part of a $5 billion investment, plus fifty eight F-35A Joint Strike Fighters (JSF), at a cost of at least $12 billion, even though they have been widely ridiculed as a massive waste of money. And there's more where that came from.

"US prime companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon have been identifying international opportunities and awarding contracts to some of Australia’s most innovative companies," declares Mr Andrews with pride. And over fifty Australian companies have been "approved" for the new Australia-US Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty. These, presumably, are the businesses that stand to reap profits from future years of "defence" spending. No doubt they are generous political donors too.

If this is really the future for Australia's military spending, we are all in a lot of trouble. Businesses are designed to grow from continued profits, and there are only two ways to continually grow military industries: either endless wars, or reckless, wasteful over-spending.

Only a deeply irresponsible government would commit Australia to such a path. So where is the Opposition on this - ready to speak up for Australian sovereignty? Or are we already a US Client State?

And where are the saner voices within the Australian military? Our grand-parents and great-grand-parents died fighting the threat of Fascism as it spread across Europe. Will we now meekly surrender to this new threat of Neoconservative, Neoliberal, 21st Century Corporate Fascism?