31 March 2023
The word ‘defence’ seems innocuous enough, and discussion about is generally starts with a diatribe about the threat of Russia or China.
But just as the tobacco industry was responsible for the smoking epidemic, so the Arms industry is responsible for military spending and the consequent need to have wars to justify that expenditure.
The US has had continuous wars for many years; when one ends, another starts. The wars are not because of a threat to the US, but represent the US exerting global influence, and selling weapons to itself and others.
US foreign policy is hugely affected by its military and a perceived need for global hegemony. There is pressure on countries that seem susceptible (like Australia) to buy weapons systems (like AUKUS) to fit into this hegemonic world view. How long this can be afforded by US taxpayers is a key question; the Roman Empire imploded when its tax base could not pay for the mercenary armies that guarded its frontiers.
A list of some of the wars is; The Cold War 1945-1989, Korean War 1950-55, Vietnam 1955-75, Lebanon 1982-84, Libya 1986, Panama invasion 1989-90, 1st Gulf War 1990-91, Somalia 1992-95 and 2007, Bosnia and Croatia 1992-95, Kosovo 1998-99, Iraq War 2003-2010, Afghan war 2001-2021, North West Pakistan 2004-2018, Libya 2011 and 2015-19, Iraq intervention against ISIL 2014-2021, and now Ukraine 2022-.
Obviously one can argue about the merits of any of these wars, but the success rate of them is not good from a US foreign policy perspective. The returns to the arms industry, however, are always positive.
But the opportunity cost of these wars in terms of the possibility of diplomatic settlement or the use of monies to address the problems in the warring parties is considerable. The loss of social services and infrastructure to the US population is probably the most critical part from a political level. Inequality and polarisation in the US are increasing with consequent social disharmony.
The arms industry has to be reined in. Its subsidies to the Australian War Memorial have tended to make this a temple of militarism rather than a place for regret and remembrance.
There was a book, ‘The Secret State- Australia’s Spy Industry’, by Richard Hall which came out in 1978 and compared the reports of the intelligence agencies of 25 years previously with the current affairs commentaries of the major daily newspapers of the same time. (The 25 years was the time for the release of the spy agency documents). The rants of the intelligence agencies and their fear-mongering were almost comic and the predictions of the major newspaper editorials were largely proved correct.
It seems that as ‘Security studies’ replace ‘History ‘ in university courses likely to result in graduates getting jobs, the people who teach world events are changing their perspectives, and not for the better. Our current policies with AUKUS would seem to derive from a believing a current spy’s paranoid world view. The Arms Industry is to be feared and opposed in Australia as well as the US.