ADELAIDE - I think Phil Fitzpatrick, The US sets up Australia for war, has invested Australia’s decision to buy nuclear submarines with more significance than it deserves, at least as far as the prospect of war is concerned.
As I have written before, in Rationality & balance required for China, the 'dance of death' between a resurgent and increasingly nationalistic and belligerent China and the previously dominant USA began some time ago.
Its is following the same steps that history says lead inexorably to war.
The decision to buy nuclear submarines probably should have been taken a long time ago.
It is a superior technology to diesel electric engines, with a number of major strategic and tactical advantages compared to our current submarines.
The defence minister, Peter Dutton, is evidently a hard headed, pragmatic and determined man, perfectly capable of making tough decisions.
In this case he has simply persuaded the government to do the obvious thing to increase Australia's war fighting potential to a higher level in the face of repeated threats and calculated attacks on our trading relationship from Xi Zinping's 'wolf warrior' diplomats.
China is not a benign power. It is no more or less self-interested than any other authoritarian power.
It has unhesitatingly coerced, imprisoned or murdered its own citizens to suppress any hint of democratic tendencies.
More recently, it has laid claim to seas and territories well outside recognised international boundaries.
It has sanctioned the use of force to preserve what it sees as its vital interests. In short, it is just another rising imperial power, with all the attendant ambitions and behaviour.
The USA, while subject to very serious internal divisions, remains an immensely powerful nation. It will not readily surrender its power and influence.
That is something all Americans can and will agree upon no matter how divided they may be on other matters.
Thus the world is entering a new phase of super power competition and, potentially at least, open conflict.
Whether it likes it or not, Australia has a choice to make. It cannot be neutral in this new world.
The blunt truth is that our basic democratic values and outlook make it impossible to align with China.
The decision to buy nuclear submarines and equip them with weapons that pose a serious threat to a hostile force is a pragmatic recognition of this fact.
Still, despite the current sound and fury, war is not inevitable. There is always time to draw back from the brink if there is the will to do so.
The real problem is that grievous errors in judgement may be made, not to someone makes a conscious decision to go to war.
So, the submarines are just another step in the dance that has been a feature of human existence since time immemorial.
We humans are programmed for war. We are a profoundly aggressive species, determined to defend and protect what we regard as our own, even unto death.
It is what has made us the world's pre-eminent predator. It is the source of our many triumphs and also of our many tragedies.
We can only hope that our leaders are aware of this awful history and exercise restraint.
The consequences of a failure to do so are, as Phil Fitzpatrick has pointed out, likely to be truly catastrophic.
Papua New Guinea’s role in this unfolding drama is to be an innocent bystander and, perhaps, a helpless victim.
Large scale industrial warfare has been inflicted upon PNG before and may yet occur again, so it too has choices to make, none of them ideal but some worse than others.
I wish them luck.