Three compelling reasons to exit ANZUS

How long can Australian politicians continue with the pretence that the American alliance aligns with the nation’s interests? Trump or Biden? It doesn’t really matter except for determining the path of America’s decline into illiberalism. ANZUS must be exited.

There are three compelling arguments for leaving the ANZUS alliance.

The first is cynical but persuasive; America’s influence and therefore its ability to provide for Australia’s security is lessening rapidly. A string of foreign policy failures alongside the rise of significant regional powers like China, India, and Indonesia, and the loss of credibility and moral standing both inside and outside Europe and North America because of Ukraine and Gaza, have ensured this.

Then there is the potential dissolution of the Republic as the domestic anti-democratic, illiberal, and authoritarian forces surge bringing ever-increasing division, political violence, and dysfunction. Whichever way the presidential election goes these trends will intensify, and the growing disregard for the constitutional constraints on the use of state-sponsored violence against civil society, and the general tolerance and proclivity for political violence, hover over everything.

In a recent interview Donald Trump told Time Magazine that if local police and the National Guard couldn’t handle the round-up and expulsion of illegal immigrants, he “would have no problem using the military”. To facilitate local implementation of the round-up of illegal immigrants he plans “to give police immunity from prosecution”. Asked if he would pardon all January 6 offenders if elected he answered “yes” (Read here). Political violence not simply tolerated but facilitated.

Biden’s attitude to the police actions against students confirms that political violence is endemic in America irrespective of who is in power. This violence is a pathological symptom of continued decline into illiberalism and authoritarianism. Biden’s statements accord no weight to the student protesters’ legitimate dismay at American support for war crimes and for potential genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

The President’s law-and-order justification of police brutality can been seen simply as camouflage for suppression of dissent. Were images similar to those of police in riot-gear assaulting unarmed protesting students on American university campuses to come out of Hong Kong, Teheran, or Moscow, they would have been condemned as violent suppression of the students’ civil rights. The hypocrisy is clear.

The most important reason, however, is the deleterious impact the alliance is having on politics and society in Australia. The government might deny that AUKUS infringes on Australia’s sovereignty, and especially on its capacity for making the war decision, but the facts speak for themselves.

Two things are irrefutable. Australia has become a rear-area resupply base for American forces operating into the South China Sea; a situation that will become more embedded as the armaments industry in Australia develops along the lines set out in the National Defence Strategy (NDS). What the NDS promotes as National Defence is simply the militarisation of a significant sector of Australia’s economy, under the AUKUS arrangements, to supply, maintain, and facilitate US forces.

Also, it can only be the case, as is strongly implied in the NDS, that Australia has now outsourced its defence to the US for at least the next two decades. This circumstance puts Australian governments in an unavoidable submissive position in relation to American interests. The lauded ‘enhanced lethality’, ‘impactful projection’, and conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines will emerge, if ever, only in the second half of the century, leaving Australia reliant on decrepit platforms and the kindness of America.

Both of these facts tie Australia unbreakably into the American decline. Already as a consequence of the AUKUS arrangements Australia will not be able to field any semblance of a viable defence force until the late 2030s – early 2040s at best. To fit in with America’s force positioning in the Asia-Pacific, Australia has become the supplicant vassal in the ANZUS alliance.

It has been observed that extracting Australia from the alliance would be an inordinately difficult task, and one that it seems very unlikely that any government would attempt to do on its own initiative; currently it would be electoral suicide. Public opinion in Australia generally favours the alliance, although probably in an inattentive and unreflective way. The Washington-drafted talking points on the China threat, and on the centrality of US hegemony to… well, everything, are dutifully repeated by Australian politicians, fed to think-tanks, and echoed by the mainstream media without much scrutiny or critique.

However, anecdotally it seems that much of the serious analysis by academics, and retired professionals, and independent experts, is awake to the dangers posed to Australia by America’s foreign policy and its influence over Australia defence, security, and intelligence thinking; not to mention the danger from America’s steep descent from the democratic and liberal principles it purports to maintain at home and pursue internationally. Over time this insidious influence has suborned Australia’s policies and Americanised thinking in Canberra.

The impetus to escape from ANZUS will have to come from the voters. New political voices will need to be heard and to persuade the electorate of the loss of Australia’s sovereignty and of the potential disaster that will come from having no other choice but to follow a fading, corrupted, and illiberal America into a pointless and disastrous war with a nuclear-armed nation. This is a message that can be explained clearly and unambiguously if accorded the exposure by the media.

It is imperative for Australians, now and for decades hence, that the ANZUS links be broken. Australia has a great many more urgent priorities for scarce funding – mitigation and adaptation to climate change, health, infrastructure, education, food security, etc – rather than allocating obscene amounts of national treasure to bolstering the American war machine under the auspices of ANZUS.

Copyright Mike Scrafton. This article may be reproduced under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence for non-commercial purposes, and providing that work is not altered, only redistributed, and the original author is credited. Please see the Cross-post and re-use policy for more information.

Also published in John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations.