ADELAIDE - Dennis Argall, Australia’s former ambassador to Beijing and Washington, has written recently on the breakdown of USA's power as the defining feature of our strategic environment.
I agree with a great deal of what he has written, however, I think that has not demonstrated that China is not bent upon becoming the world’s most dominant and influential power.
He does not pay sufficient regard to the rhetoric coming from within the Chinese Communist Party about China’s destiny to resume its natural place as the world’s foremost power.
To this end it has embarked upon a massive arms program which includes rapidly expanding its naval power to create the ‘blue water’ navy needed to project its power well beyond its shores.
You do not need large aircraft carriers or nuclear armed submarines to simply defend territorial integrity.
Nor do you need to increase your nuclear missile supply to over 1,500 for purely defensive purposes.
Bear in mind that the level of military threat to China from any source is effectively nil.
In short, it is China’s behaviour that tells the story of its ambitions.
There is no denying that the USA is afflicted with many significant difficulties.
These include endemic racism, rising religious intolerance, a comparatively small but dangerous right wing white supremacist movement, and the huge problems resulting from giving people unrestricted access to military grade weapons.
The US also has to deal with the considerable problems caused by its unwillingness or inability to recognise, let alone rein in, the worst excesses of the neo-liberal capitalist model that it has helped unleash upon the world.
Any US president is necessarily beset with many excruciatingly difficult challenges which incumbent Joe Biden is highly unlikely to be able to remedy.
The current geo-political environment is the most febrile it has been for many decades.
Right wing totalitarianism has risen from the supposed dead to reassert its ugly presence in our lives.
Putin’s Russia is the leading example of this unhappy revival.
Its war in Ukraine is clear testimony of its willingness and ability to take any measure it deems necessary to achieve its imperialist aims.
China’s failure to condemn outright what Putin has done is more evidence, if needed, of the moral and ethical vacuum lying at the heart of its foreign policy.
Make no mistake, if something looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.
I don’t believe Australia’s defence minister, Richard Marles, although not the sharpest of Albanese’s ministers, is as stupid as some commentators believes he is.
At worst, he is a fairly ordinary minister trying to grapple with the awful reality that Australia cannot defend itself in the same manner as the Ukrainians because successive Liberal-National and Labor governments have utterly failed to foresee the rapidly changing geo-political dynamics that are now evident.
In fairness, they were not alone in making this potentially lethal mistake.
Europe was wilfully and spectacularly stupid in its approach to Putin’s Russia and is now paying the price for ignoring the obvious lessons of history.
Similarly, the USA has somewhat belatedly awoken from its self-deluding dream that China, as it became richer, would naturally progress towards being a more open and democratic society.
It hasn’t and it won’t. Indeed, Xi Jinping has materially tightened the Communist Party’s grip on power over the last decade.
The decisions taken about our future defence must reflect a necessity that we become much more self-reliant in our ability to defend ourselves.
This idea has already taken firm root within the various armed forces.
In Australia our military is equipping itself with longer range and more lethal missiles, investing big dollars in cyber warfare, and doing likewise in acquiring technologies like drones and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Russo-Ukraine War has been a major wake up call for the world’s various militaries which are now scrambling to reorient themselves towards fighting a new type of multi-dimensional warfare.
I mention this because people still seem to believe that our entire defence posture is premised upon our ‘great and powerful’ friend, the United States, coming to our aid.
In fact, the US would not necessarily be able to do this even if so inclined, especially if it was engaged in fighting in more than two major theatres.
Many US defence analysts believe their country is no longer capable of fighting in two major theatres under any circumstances.
Its defence priorities necessarily must lie with the homeland, not remote allies.
It should be noted that the Albanese government is being very careful to treat China with the respect it deserves without being unduly deferential.
Similarly, Australia’s posture in relation to the US is obviously more friendly but not uncritically supportive.
Still, there are still puzzling anomalies I do not like.
There’s the bizarre choice to have Australia’s oil reserves stored in deep underground caverns built into salt domes alongside the Gulf of Mexico.
And the seemingly inexplicable decision to buy nuclear submarines despite the almost total absence of the infrastructure and engineering knowledge required to maintain and operate these very complex weapon systems.
Hopefully, as time goes by, apparent anomalies such as these will be sorted out.