AUKUS Nuclear Sub Deal Raises Anxiety in Australia

April 2nd, 2023 - by Caitlin Johnstone

AUKUS Exists To Manage
The Risks Created By AULUS’s Existence
Caitlin Johnstone / Caitlin

“NATO exists to manage the risks created by its existence,” Professor Richard Sakwa once wrote in an attempt to articulate the absurdity of the military alliance’s provocative nature on the world stage. At some point Australians must wake up to the fact that this is equally true of AUKUS: we’re told the military alliance exists for our protection, but its very existence makes us less safe.

As former prime minister Paul Keating recently observed in the Australian Financial Review, this government’s justification for the AUKUS alliance and the obscenely expensive nuclear submarine deal that goes with it has been all over the map, first claiming that it’s to protect our own shores from a Chinese attack, then pivoting to claiming it’s to protect sea lanes from being blocked off by China after Keating dismantled the first claim at the National Press Club two weeks ago.

One thing Canberra has struggled to do is to explain exactly why China would launch an unprovoked attack on Australia or its shipping routes; the former couldn’t yield any benefit that would outweigh the immense cost even if it succeeded, and the latter is absurd because open trade routes are what makes China an economic superpower in the first place.

Luckily for us, the Pentagon pets cited in the Australian media’s recent propaganda blitz to promote war with China explained precisely what the argument is on Canberra’s behalf. They say Australia would be at risk of being attacked by China because the US wants to use Australia to attack China.

In Part Two of the infamous joint “Red Alert” war propaganda series by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, imperial spinmeisters Peter Hartcher and Matthew Knott wrote the following:

But why would China use its limited resources to attack Australia instead of focusing solely on seizing Taiwan? Because of the strategically crucial role Australia is expected to play for the United States in the conflict.

“Our geography means we are a southern base for the Americans for what comes next,” Ryan says. “That’s how they’re seeing us. They want our geography. They want us to build bases for several hundred thousand Americans in due course like in World War II.”

Jennings says Americans would defend Taiwan by fighting from bases in Australia.

“America has a strategy called dispersal, which means when there’s a hint of a crisis, the Air Force gets out of Guam, the marines get out of Okinawa. Why? Because they know there is a high chance they will be obliterated. Where do they come? They come here. One risk our government is very concerned about is the phone rings, and it’s the US President asking for 150,000 Americans to be in the Northern Territory by next Tuesday.”

Ryan says as many as 200,000 US troops could descend on northern Australia.

Interestingly, the article also contains a rare acknowledgement in the mainstream press that the presence of the American surveillance base Pine Gap makes Australia a legitimate target for ICBMs:

“Distance is no longer equivalent to safety from our strategic perspective,” he says. In the first three days of a war, he says Beijing would be tempted to target Australian military bases with a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile attack to minimise our usefulness in the conflict.

“If China seriously wants to go after Taiwan in a military sense, the only way they can really contemplate quick success is to pre-emptively attack those assets that might be a threat to them. That means Pine Gap goes,” he says, referring to the top secret US-Australian base in the Northern Territory that the US uses to detect nuclear missile launches.

In their haste to make the case for more militarism and brinkmanship, these war propagandists admit what’s long been obvious to anyone paying attention: that the only thing putting Australia in danger from China is its alliances and agreements with the United States. The difference between them and normal human beings is that they see no problem with this.

Other empire lackeys have been making similar admissions. In a recent article by Foreign Policy, Lowy Institute think tanker Sam Roggeveen is quoted as saying the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal will make it “almost impossible” for Australia to avoid getting entangled in a war between the US and China:

“When you build a weapon system that is almost specifically designed to operate thousands of kilometers to our north, and which is perfectly suited to fighting a military campaign against China,” he said, “then at the final moment when the call comes from the White House—‘Will you take part in this war, or won’t you?’—it will be very difficult, almost impossible, for Australia to say no.”

The only way China attacks Australia is if Australia’s role as a US military asset makes us a target when the US attacks China, possibly over Taiwan or some other internal issue that’s nobody’s business but the Chinese. We’re told we’re allied with the US to protect ourselves, but that “protection” reminds me of an old joke by Willie Barcena:

“My homeboy Tito was always trying to get me to join a gang. Tito, with two black eyes, arm in a sling, and crutches, saying, ‘Hey, Willie, why don’t you join the gang? You get protection!’”

This obvious point gets flipped upside-down by those desperate to manufacture consent for militarism and empire, as we saw on a recent episode of ABC’s Q+A where South Australia Premier Peter Malinauskas called Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John an “isolationist” (my God I hate that word) for questioning AUKUS and said if we’re attacked it’s because we didn’t travel rapidly enough along this self-destructive trajectory.

“Do you worry because of the AUKUS deal, because of South Australia’s role in this, do you believe South Australia becomes a target?” Malinauskas was asked by host Stan Grant.

“No,” Malinauskas said. “Because if Australia becomes a target, that speaks to the fact that we haven’t been making the decisions that we should’ve a long time ago to ensure that we don’t become a target, and the best way to do that is to improve our defence posture.”

Of course this is bullshit. AUKUS has nothing to do with “defence”. You don’t need long-range submarines to defend Australia’s easily-defended shores, you need long-range submarines to attack China. Australia’s “defence posture” is an attack posture.

Keating expanded on this point in the aforementioned National Press Club appearance, suggesting that the real plan for those nuclear submarines is to take out China’s nuclear-armed submarines to cripple their “second strike capability”, i.e. to allow the US to win a nuclear war with China. Keating gave the following comments after arguing that many short-range submarines are a much better way to defend Australia’s coast than a few vastly more expensive long-range nuclear submarines:

“That’s the better defense policy for Australia than joining with the Americans up there in the shallow waters of the Chinese coast, trying to knock out — see look, you know this, Phil, or you may know this — the Chinese, in the air-sea battle plan they had eight or ten years ago, is whether they could knock out all the Chinese nuclear weapons in one strike. And people doubt that this could happen, you know, you can find the sites and knock them out.

“So what big states do is they have submarines in deep water that carry the same nuclear weapons that are not subject to a strike — it’s called a second-strike capability. What the Americans are trying to do is deny the Chinese a second-strike capability, and we’d be the mugs up there helping them. We’ll be up there saying Oh no, we’ll put our boats into jeopardy in the shallow waters of China.”

So stop babbling about AUKUS having anything to do with defending Australia or its shipping lanes, or defending anything at all besides the US empire’s last desperate hopes of securing unipolar planetary hegemony.

AUKUS is not a defence partnership because it’s got nothing to do with defence, and it’s also not a defence partnership because it is not a “partnership”. It’s the US empire driving Australia to its doom, to nobody’s benefit but the US empire.

AUKUS exists to manage the risks created by its existence, and the same is true of ANZUS and all the other ways our nation has become knit into the workings of the US war machine. If we’re being told that our entanglements with the US war machine will make it almost impossible for us to avoid entering into a horrific war that will destroy our country, then the obvious conclusion is that we must disentangle ourselves from it immediately.

The problem is not that Australia’s corrupt media are saying our nation will have to follow the US into war with China, the problem is that they’re almost certainly correct. The Australian media aren’t criminal in telling us the US is going to drag us into a war of unimaginable horror; that’s just telling the truth. No, the Australian media are criminal for telling us that we just need to accept that and get comfortable with the idea.

No. Absolutely not. This war cannot happen. Must not happen. We cannot go to war with a nuclear-armed country that also happens to be propping up our economy as our number one trading partner. We need to shred whatever alliances need to be shredded, enrage whatever powers we need to enrage, kick the US troops out of this country, get ourselves out of the Commonwealth while we’re at it, bring Assange home where he belongs, and become a real nation.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around and following me on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube. If you want to read more you can  visit my website or  Substack,  Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my husband Tim Foley.