For good or ill US is democracy’s torch bearer
10 December 2022
ADELAIDE - It was Lord Palmerston who first said, in a speech to the British House of Commons on 1 March 1848, that Britain had ‘no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.’
This axiom ought to be the guiding principle for Australian diplomacy and, in fact, I think it has been since 14 March 1942, when prime minister John Curtin stated that Australia turned to America for support and advice in confronting the Japanese peril in the Pacific.
Our relationship with the US has endured since that time and, as Phil Fitzpatrick has rightly pointed out, we have usually acted loyally if sometimes unwisely to support our ‘great and powerful friend’.
Successive American administrations have come to regard Australia as their most stalwart ally in a world where suspicion, fickleness and bad faith is more often than not a feature of diplomatic relations between nations.
Critics say that Australian governments have been too servile and supine in their dealings with the US and that this has led us into grievous error, notably nasty and futile small wars.
There is, I suppose, some truth in this.
That the US has behaved badly at times is hardly contestable.
Like all imperial powers its judgement can by skewed by mistakes, misunderstandings, misjudgements and various internal factors.
Despite this, in general it has been a force for good.
Importantly, it is plainly the case that Australia’s voice is heard and carries some weight inside Washington’s ‘beltway’, and this matters even in what seem to be the autumnal days of an uncontested US imperium.
I think this voice and support will continue to matter in a world where events are plainly slipping from the control of political and business elites.
Vladimir Putin’s grave errors in judgement with respect to Ukraine are an especially egregious example of how badly things can go wrong when hubris, ambition and desperately bad analysis inform the political decision-making process.
Smaller but still appalling examples of this may be seen in relation to Ethiopia, Eretria, Syria and Iran.
Now the great and not irrational fear is that China’s president for life, Xi Jinping, will fall victim to the same thinking that has propelled Russia into a crisis for which no good exit is now possible.
The US and Australia, along with many other countries in the Asia Pacific region, may well soon be confronted with an appalling choice between supporting the democratic rights and freedoms of Taiwan or acquiescing to a military takeover by a resurgent imperial China.
This will be yet another ‘wicked’ problem for the world. A problem to which nations will need to elect for what will be the least worst solution.
If that moment comes then Australia will once again have to decide if its national interests align with those of its various partners, including the US.
Once again, as has usually been the case since the end of World War II, all eyes, including Australia’s, will turn to the US for leadership.
There is no escaping the reality that the US, for good or for ill, still exerts leadership of the so-called democratic world.
Critics of the US would do well to remember this truth when casting aspersion upon Australia’s leaders for supposedly failing to correctly assert our own national interests.
Where does Corney live? Obviously not in PNG otherwise he would have observed the total domination of the economy by Chinese ranging from resource ownership to roadside betel nut vending.
Who does he think dominates the retail and real estate sectors? Who runs the trade stores far and wide throughout the country? And who has exploited the corrupt and gullible politicians and public servants in order to breach many laws and commercial protocols?
Trade and business are part of their DNA and they will do what it takes to be involved in it.
The only thing they are not doing is undertaking imperial invasion outside their neighbourhood and I wouldn’t hold my breath on the chances of that continuing.
Posted by: Dave Ekins | 12 December 2022 at 08:16 AM
Noble sentiments for Costa Rica, but the Romans had a different view.
They said, 'Si vis pacem para bellum', if you seek peace, then prepare for war.
Years later Napoleon with similar views said, 'God is on the side with the best artillery, and he realised this at Waterloo, when his own artillery was evidently not the best.
Posted by: Chips Mackellar | 12 December 2022 at 05:52 AM
From any list comprising humorous, necrophorus and odorous, there too come rancorous, rigorous and vigorous.
Yet make no jest on the care to preclude nor elegies to elude.
Eric Bogel, having sensed "the enormity of the conflict and its individual toll", wrote 'And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda'.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 11 December 2022 at 05:59 PM
Methinks that Corney has overlooked China's invasion cum takeover of Tibet and Xinjiang in relatively recent times and the beating that the PLA underwent when it endeavoured to invade Vietnam several decades ago.
And I wonder what the Formosans would say? And many Mongolians.....
To believe that 'China's history is not a history of imperial invasion, exploitation and domination' is to believe in the Good Fairy.
Posted by: Ed Brumby | 11 December 2022 at 03:48 PM
"These ideals include the belief that security derives from respect for universal human rights, that wealth means wellbeing, that individual health corresponds to a healthy environment, that mental health is affected by experience of citizen interdependence and solidarity. Democracy depends on security derived from human rights-based policies to promote equality."
Nope. Poor ideals to me.
Regardless of democracy I don't think life works that way in reality, and it's likely that Costa Rica would not work without the CIA and Uncle Sam up north.
Security does not derive from respect.
Security prevents disrespect.
Tolerance derives from respect.
Reciprocation is key. Strength must undergird this, and when push comes to shove (e.g., Ukraine) you must be prepared to stand and fight for your rights.
What is the basis of human rights if it is not something worth defending?
Wealth does not mean wellbeing, that's an and/or fluctuating state in which one does not necessarily preclude the other, and it sounds like a neo-liberal rationalisation to equate the two.
Wellbeing/wealth does not entail long and peaceful life, suffering and death happen. I think Siddhartha said it better.
Individual health and environmental health are associated but not necessarily correspondent, otherwise Germany would have won.
And if you go around thinking that your personal sanity depends on the rational thoughts, speech and actions of other human beings, then you're going to go nuts pretty quickly - and frankly I'm surprised that any of the old time kiaps made it out of PNG without completely losing their marbles.
Posted by: Michael Dom | 11 December 2022 at 11:08 AM
If only Australia was more like Costa Rica.
I've been a fan of Costa Rica's environmental measures and use of renewables for quite a while.
Their take on security is also impressive as Stuart Rees explains in his article, Thinking differently about peace and security, lessons from Costa Rica, posted on John Menadue's Pearls and Irritations website:
World-wide threats to life on earth imply a desperate need to think differently about peace and security. Costa Rica teaches how.
One of several countries to have abolished its military, Costa Rica shows strength without armed force, provides riches through respect for human rights and by protecting a life sustaining environment. Such perspectives reject those ‘mine has to be bigger than yours’, views which contribute to militarism and to arms races.
Costa Rica’s domestic and foreign policies stand on three legs: the abolition of the army; a commitment to neutrality; every citizen’s right to peace.
Coupled to these objectives Is the Costa Rican government’s respect for international human rights law, a commitment which supports national and international interests through membership of the Organization of American States, established to foster collaboration for peace, justice and solidarity.
Costa Rica’s policies reflect values inherent in two substantial projects. Columbia University’s 2018 Sustaining Peace concluded that progress towards peace requires societies to develop identities, mindsets, language, values, habits, norms, rituals, taboos and institutions which promote non-violence. In his 1978 work Stable Peace, Kenneth Boulding envisaged that to govern the country’s social organisation and life, Costa Rica would use non-violence, cooperation, and dialogue. It would not resort to conflict and violence.
These ideals include the belief that security derives from respect for universal human rights, that wealth means wellbeing, that individual health corresponds to a healthy environment, that mental health is affected by experience of citizen interdependence and solidarity. Democracy depends on security derived from human rights-based policies to promote equality.
Descriptions of the Costa Rican experience provoke distinct citizen responses, two ways of thinking about peace and security. The first respondents comprehend and support the Costa Rican view. They could be dubbed men and women for Ahimsa, that Sanskrit word which Mahatma Gandhi used to advocate non-violence as both a way of living and a law for life.
The second citizen response reflects macho man, incredulous that an army might be abolished. He insists, ’If you think like that, you must be soft in the heart and in the head. You are an appeaser. The individual or the country with the biggest stick always wins. Human beings are wired to be violent. Aggression is natural.’
This reasoning is apparent in the ironical, political, security think tank and media views that peace is best considered by investing in weaponry. Militaristic policies require a strong, nuclear armed ally. Promotion of the arms industry needs an enemy, hence antagonism towards China and little thought about dialogue with Russia.
As one of the early signatories to the 2017 Treaty on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, Costa Rica leads for disarmament, highlights the relevance of a non-violent philosophy to combat domestic violence and to end military stand offs between nations. As a standard bearer for international law and for perceiving peace negotiations as inseparable from policies to address climate change, the panacea like benefits should be obvious.
Conversations about demilitarisation, neutrality, and about human rights as a key to economic and social development paint pictures of security. The ideals matter. Culturally distant from nuclear armed nations’ claims about deterrence through means of annihilation, from US assumptions that citizens need guns to be free, far removed from Australia’s official excitement about buying a nuclear submarine, Costa Rica repeats that countries can be strong without being armed.
The challenge is immediate. Human survival depends on ways of living together peacefully. Consistent with the objectives of the UN Charter, meeting that challenge requires the rewarding prospect of Cost Rican type ways of thinking about security.
With no time to lose, this way of thinking can be practiced and shared immediately.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 11 December 2022 at 09:45 AM
Chris - Here are two items that may be of interest. Just a little chink in the 'bamboo curtain' as a wider view for many readers about Taiwan not covered by most popular media such as BBC.
20220804 'Taiwan’s trade with China is far bigger than its trade with the US'. Posted on CNBC by Evelyn Cheng.
1 Mainland China and Hong Kong accounted for 42% of Taiwan’s exports last year, while the U.S. had a 15% share, according to official Taiwan data accessed through Wind Information.
2 About 22% of Taiwan’s imports last year came from mainland China and Hong Kong, versus 10% from the U.S., official data showed.
3 Many Taiwan-based companies operate factories in mainland China. In 2021, Taiwan businesses received $200.1 billion in U.S. export orders, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service.
Taiwan’s business and economic ties with mainland China and Hong Kong have grown so large that the region is by far the island’s largest trading partner.
Many large Taiwanese companies in high-tech industries such the world’s biggest chipmaker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co TSMC) operate factories in mainland China.
In all, Taiwan exported $188.91 billion in goods to mainland China and Hong Kong in 2021. More than half was electronic parts, followed by optical equipment, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Finance.
Taiwan’s exports to Southeast Asia were even greater than those to the U.S. — at $70.25 billion to the region, versus $65.7 billion to the U.S., the data showed.
As a source of Taiwan’s imports, mainland China and Hong Kong again ranked first with a 22% share. The US only had a 10% share, ranking behind Japan, Europe and Southeast Asia.
Growing trade with mainland China
In recent years, Taiwan has bought an increasing amount of products from mainland China, and vice versa.
Over the last five years, Taiwan’s imports from mainland China have surged by about 87% versus 44% growth in imports from the US.
Taiwan’s exports to mainland China grew by 71% between 2016 and 2021. But exports to the U.S. nearly doubled, growing by 97%.
According to a 2020 census, about 157,900 people from Taiwan resided in mainland China, a roughly 7% decrease over the preceding decade.
The entire island of Taiwan was home to about 23.6 million people in 2020, slightly less than Shanghai’s population of roughly 25 million people at the time.
However, Taiwan’s economy is larger than Shanghai’s, at about $781.58 billion versus $680.31 billion last year, according to official figures.
In 2021, Shanghai’s share of mainland China’s GDP was 3.8%.
20221208 'Taiwan’s false hope for Hong Kongers disillusions fleeing Christians' by Angela Lu Fulton in Christianity Today' - my extracts:
Taiwan initially promised to provide “settlement and care” to thousands of Hong Kongers like Wong but, in the months since, the government has made it increasingly difficult for Hong Kongers to gain permanent residency, preventing many from working and settling on the island.
Government officials fear that allowing Hong Kongers to resettle in Taiwan could provoke China and open the door to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) infiltrators.
In May, lawmakers delayed indefinitely a plan to allow those from Hong Kong and Macao to receive permanent residency after five years in Taiwan on work permits.
Some pointed to concerns that the scheme could open the door to CCP agents now that Hong Kong is controlled by Beijing.
Posted by: Arthur Williams | 11 December 2022 at 12:57 AM
Here is a link to a recent interesting article on Counterpunch entitled 'The Powell Memo Revisited' by Brad Wolf:
Prisons are privatised and corporatised thereby influencing criminal justice reform. Schools are privatised and corporatised thereby influencing the development of young minds.
Our media and, more importantly now, our social media, is owned by corporate oligarchs who influence the narrative fed to us each day, a narrative designed to keep people scared and pitted against each other.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 10 December 2022 at 03:34 PM
Force for good? This statement is mostly inaccurate.
More like "force for greed and domination" is a better and fitting description.
Australia has become a complete stooge.
Only Gough Whitlam had the balls of steel to graduate from that sad era of servility - only to be dethroned by the apt accomplice of John Kerr, keeping in lockstep with his imperial Britannia and the CIA.
The US is hellbent on protecting her petrodollar. That alone gives it massive leverage to extract political and economic concessions from other countries. In short, it allows them to retain their hegemony.
However, China’s take is different. It does not want to rule the world, it wants to trade with the world - especially the Global South.
The Global South has been cheap raw material paradise for US multinationals and western capitals - ably aided by their militaristic governments at home.
Countries like China has become much richer and can become so much richer if it continues to conduct trade with other countries, as opposed to colonising a country and extracting its existing wealth as the Western nations have done throughout history.
China’s history is not a history of imperial invasion, exploitation and domination. It has been a history of trade, going back to the Silk Road and earlier.
The US in her desperate and anxiety driven quest to manufacture all manner of bloc-ization and little camps here and there is falling flat.
It didn't catch the wind in South East Asia, nor in the great African continent, Latin America, the Middle East and even in the Pacific Islands countries.
The recent budget proposal by the House of Representatives of more than USD850 billion military or war budget will not stop the massive re-calibration that is at play right now. It's too late.
Accept defeat and save that sweat for the massive contradictions that are ravaging the US back at home.
Posted by: Corney Korokan Alone | 10 December 2022 at 09:12 AM