Five days after President Joe Biden’s call to Chinese President Xi Jinping that many thought was a conciliatory gesture, the US announced the secret military pact with the UK and Australia called Aukus, with a deal to supply eight nuclear submarines to Australia. It would make Australia the first country in the world with nuclear-powered submarines that didn’t have weapons, highly suspicious to any intelligent power, especially given the US and the UK record of bombing nonaligned countries. France considered the deal a “backstabbing” by allies and temporarily withdrew her ambassadors from the US and Australia.
To downplay the criticisms that the US “defense” deal is a white man’s club, Biden had his first in-person meeting with the non-Western Quad leaders Narendra Modi of India and Yoshihide Suga of Japan in the White House to line up against China.
Except for the Philippines, Asean’s response was one of wariness.
The Philippines, under Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., took a different tune, prompting some non-US media to call him “an usurper of Asean’s voice.”
The majority of Asean countries, led by Malaysia and Indonesia, warned about the destabilizing effect of Aukus and threat of an arms race, and called for all parties to uphold peace and stability. While Singapore did not oppose the trilateral agreement, it said it “hopes that Aukus would contribute constructively to the peace and stability of the region and complement the regional architecture.”
Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad rebuked Australia: “[Y]ou have escalated the threat. This will elicit a response from China.″ Malaysia immediately announced that it will be sending a ministerial-level delegation to China to discuss developments.
Political analyst and UP Professor Bobby Tuazon warns that the Philippine military’s visiting forces agreement with the US and Australia places the country squarely at the center of this geopolitical stage that may quickly spiral toward a climax that may be hard to control. “Aukus is another irrefutable sign that the region is on its way to becoming the main flashpoint in Cold War 2,” predicts The Manila Times editorial (Sept. 21, 2021).
Why does the US keep creating more alliances — the Quad, 5 Eyes and now, Aukus? To put weapons and bases around China? What can a normal person expect from the invaders of Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria?
One reason is to maintain hegemony and prevent China’s rise to top leadership in the world economy and politics. Another reason is military adventurism, which created Aukus and Quad. A third reason is, as a replacement of the income stream for the Military Establishment of the US.
Aukus will be big business beyond the reportedly $90-billion price tag. It will force other countries, including Asean nations and China, to beef up its military defense capabilities, forcing the region into an arms race. The Aukus deal confirms China’s strategic security concern of the West’s policy of containment, says former Australia prime minister Kevin Rudd.
The lost income streams from Afghanistan and Middle East conflicts the US is withdrawing from goes hand in hand with this “Asia Pivot,” i.e., moving 60 percent of US military forces to “contain Asia’s Rise,” according to Phil-Brics geopolitical analyst Herman Laurel. While millions of lives have been lost since the US-led “war on terror” since 9/11, majority based on Western fake news like Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or WMDs that were never found, the US “defense” contractors made over $7.35 trillion.
The price of blind loyalty
Former Australian prime minister Paul John Keating opined Aukus “would witness a further dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty, as material dependency on the US robbed Australia of any freedom…”
Mahathir says, “Australia keeps talking about being much closer to the region. Yet, every time there is a problem, it seeks friends from the West, not from the East.” This can also be said of Japan that historically has acted and seen itself more as a Western colonial power and tried to colonize all of East Asia, responsible for the killing of over 20 million Chinese and 4.5 million Southeast Asian civilians.
Australia risks its national interest in pursuit of being a loyal lapdog. In recent years, Australia has become the vanguard of the US policy to contain China and has seen $6 billion worth of lost exports, which may go as high as $23 billion by 2021. Ironically, while Australian businesses have suffered amid its deteriorating relations with China, US businesses have gained and replaced Australia as major suppliers of wine, beef, barley and coal to the China market.
“America can’t even take care of itself, how can it take care of the rest of the world? America’s domestic problems — from spate of mass shootings, robberies, homelessness, unemployment, hundreds of ongoing food lines, nationwide — you really wonder if these countries are capable of bringing world peace, laments former senator and educator Nikki Coseteng.
Wherever the US goes, she continues, she leaves a trail of millions of lives lost — military, but mostly civilians. American media calls them “collateral damage” to desensitize and mind-condition the public that these deaths are normal.
Fake news led to the millions of lost lives in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. Millions died in Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos perished in the Philippine-American War when the whole population was around 6 million. Filipinos were treated like rabbits and left with the Howling Wilderness.
In contrast, China’s response to Aukus was: “Faced with the dual challenge of combating Covid-19 and revitalizing the economy, people need growth and employment, not submarines and ammunition.”
Will the West accept Chinese warships in the coast of California, or Russian supplied nuclear-submarines to Cuba or Bolivia? The US supported the assassination of Iran’s nuclear scientists and sent a killer drone from Qatar to take out Iran’s top general, even when European Union allies and former top US defense secretary James Mattis and state secretary Rex Tillerson testified that Iran had been compliant in the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal.
Duterte reminded the United Nations: “[T]he pandemic has upended our lives. The climate crisis has worsened, inequalities have deepened, and the geopolitical balance is in a state of dangerous flux….” Most of the 21st century problems are manmade; we should not add to the likelihood of an accidental or manufactured war.
Our post pandemic recovery will need more scientists, engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs, teachers and innovators. Our preoccupation should be how to minimize the negative effects of the pandemic; keep it short and prepare our people to hit the ground running in an early recovery. We should not be spending so much time as we are doing on electoral politics, much less get involved in geopolitics where the costs and risks are on us but not the benefits.
Also published in Manila Times.