The shock waves from the US election had Malcolm Turnbull rushing to re-emphasise the importance of the US alliance. In the process, he joined a select group of tyrants and dictators, including Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Cambodia’s Hun Sen in embracing Donald Trump. Foreign minister Julie Bishop backed Turnbull, declaring the United States had been the “guarantor of peace and security and stability in our region”.
On the other hand, Trump’s victory provoked former Labor prime ministers Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd, Greens leader Richard Di Natale, an assortment of media commentators and most recently Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson Penny Wong, to argue for a more critical approach to the US alliance.
But we need to go much further than simply distancing ourselves from the US alliance or taking a more “independent” stance within its framework. We need to scrap it altogether.
The US alliance has of course been the central pillar of Australia’s military and foreign policy since World War Two. Though pitched as purely defensive, it is nothing of the sort. Far from being the “guarantor of peace”, it is an aggressive, warmongering alliance.
The alliance has never been about defending the interests of the mass of the Australian or US populations, but about advancing the imperial interests of the giant corporations that dominate both economies. It is there to protect the profits of the rich and powerful.
Under the framework of the alliance, Australian troops, alongside US troops, have been involved in wreaking murderous destruction in Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, Korea, Somalia plus numerous other smaller foreign occupations and incursions.
Over many decades, Australia has provided the US with a series of vital military and spy bases such as Pine Gap outside Alice Springs, North West Cape in Western Australia and the former Omega base in Gippsland, Victoria. These bases have been central to US planning for nuclear war.
CIA-controlled Pine Gap remains a vital spy base. It was involved in supporting the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. As well as spying on communication signals, it is used for targeting drone missile attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.
It is commonly argued by sections of the left that Australian governments have been needlessly dragged into US wars that were not in our “national interest” – that Liberal prime ministers like John Howard and Bob Menzies and Harold Holt were nothing but lap dogs for the US.
This misunderstands the dynamics at work and the role of Australia as a middle ranking imperialist power. The Australian ruling class has long seen the US alliance as vital to its strategic and economic interests and argued vociferously for greater US military involvement in the region.
Far from being in any sense dragged into the Vietnam War against its will or better judgment, the Australian government stridently lined up with the hawks against the doves in the US administration, arguing to step up the war decisively.
From its origins as a white colonial outpost in Asia, the Australian capitalist class has always sought a strong imperial backer, first Britain and later the US, to advance its own imperial interests both in the immediate region and on the wider world stage.
It was only with British military and financial backing that Australia and New Zealand were able to seize colonies such as Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Cook Islands and Nauru and stamp their influence over the other islands of the Pacific – Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, the Solomons and so on.
Over recent decades, Australia has become the US “deputy sheriff”, intimidating regional powers such as Indonesia. It was only thanks to US backing that Australian troops were able to turn East Timor into an Australian neo-colony and rip off the oil and gas in the Timor Sea.
Even more importantly, the Australian capitalist class relies on the US military and security apparatus to defend its trade routes and investments all around the world and to crush any popular revolts that threaten the global capitalist status quo.
As a quid quo pro, Australian governments, both Liberal and Labor, have been among the US’s most reliable allies on the world stage, defending every massacre and atrocity by the US or Israel and repeatedly participating in US invasions and military incursions under the spurious guise of “humanitarian intervention”.
There has never been anything positive about this warmongering alliance. In the Obama era, many were fooled by the rhetoric claiming the alliance was about “defending freedom and democracy”, and that the US could be a force for good, or at least stability.
Such claims were always wrong – now that Donald Trump is US president-elect, they are self-evidently ludicrous. It is hard to imagine how the case to break the US alliance could be any clearer than it is right now.