Australia Blindly Follows the United States, Regardless of National Interest

One of the more disturbing features of Australian foreign policy is engagement in foreign military activities of minimal importance to Australia’s real military needs. It is a policy that has been pursued by both Liberal and Labor governments and it has a very long history.

In the post-World War II era Australia first became involved in the Korean war from 1950 to 1953. As has been well documented, the United States took advantage of the temporary boycotting of the Security Council by Russia, and that the Chinese seat on the UNSC was occupied by the Nationalist regime that had the previous year lost the Chinese Civil War and moved to exile in what had been previously designated the Republic of Formosa during resistance against the Japanese takeover in the late 19th century.

The second foreign military adventure that Australia would eagerly join its American masters, yet again, was the war in Vietnam. As with Korea, this was essentially a civil dispute between competing factions. Australia’s involvement in that dispute lasted 10 years until the Whitlam Labor government withdrew Australian forces in 1972, thereby earning the lasting distrust of the Americans. Even the now revealed secretive linkages of the Bob Hawke Labor government to the Americans never fully regained American trust.

The Vietnam misadventure was followed by Australia’s involvement in the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. That has only just ended with an unseemly Australian withdrawal from that country hot on the heels of President Biden’s announcement that United States troops would be withdrawn by September of this year. Such was Australia’s unseemly rush for the Afghanistan door that they had failed to make proper provision for the hundreds of Afghanis who had loyally helped them and whose lives are now in danger.

Whether the United States withdrawal actually occurs remains to be seen. The regular force troops are to be replaced by mercenaries, at least 10,000 at last count. An important part of their role will be an attempt to cling onto the lucrative Afghanistan heroin trade, a hugely significant contributor both to United States power and the CIA’s illicit coffers for the past two decades.

The Australian withdrawal from Afghanistan came immediately after Biden confirmed that United States troops would be withdrawn. Without United States approval it is impossible to believe that Australian troops would have been withdrawn. A likely fatality of the withdrawal will be the abandoning by the military prosecuting services of any trial against the Australian soldiers reported to have been involved in serious war crimes. The explanation for abandoning the prosecution will be the Taliban and the difficulty of working with them. The Taliban are advancing at the speed that apparently even they did not anticipate, and their taking effective control of the country can now only be a matter of weeks.

The Taliban were initially overthrown because of their alleged refusal to surrender Osama bin Laden, for his equally alleged role in the events of 11 September 2001 in the United States. In fact, the invasion of Afghanistan for multiple reasons was discussed at the first cabinet meeting of the new Bush presidency in January 2001.

Bin Laden was never more than a smoke screen to obscure the real reasons for invading the country which among other reasons including its vast natural resources, and its geography

The Labor Party, which had opposed the initial invasion of Afghanistan, did nothing to withdraw Australian troops during their six years in power. This is a measure of the extent to which Australian governments, regardless of party affiliation, obey their American masters.

The other war that Australia willingly joined despite the complete absence of any identifiable vital Australian interest, was the invasion of Iraq in 2003. They are still there, despite a unanimous resolution of the Iraqi parliament in January 2000 and all uninvited foreign troops should immediately leave their country. Again, the Australians took their cue from the Americans who simply ignored the demand of the Iraqi parliament that they should leave.

There is a similar, but almost completely unmentioned involvement of Australian troops in the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq’s neighbour Syria. Despite the demands of the legitimate Syrian government, United States troops continue to occupy the oil producing areas of Syria and are stealing their oil on a daily basis.

There is absolutely no justification for United States troops to be in Syria, and their continued occupation there is a perfect illustration of the point that United States concern for what they are pleased to call the “rule of law” is utterly meaningless when their geopolitical goals clash with the rights of the offended country.

It has now emerged, again without Parliamentary debate or even any adverse comment by the Labor opposition, that Australia is involved in the NATO military exercises currently underway in the Black Sea.

It is almost impossible to be further from Australia’s territorial waters, let alone being able to identify a legitimate Australian interest in this clearly provocative baiting of Russia in that country’s territorial waters. As with almost every other Australian military venture, and especially when it totally lacks any real relationship to Australia’s national security interests, discussion on the point is completely absent from the parliament and from local media.

The United States is desperately trying to put together a quartet of countries (with India, Japan and Australia) to pursue its interests in the region of the world they call the Asia Pacific. In truth, it is no more than an anti-Chinese coalition cobbled together to assist United States geopolitical interests in a region of the world in which they have no business.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner, taking 40% of all its exports. It would be difficult to imagine any action more contrary to its own vital interests, than for Australia to join such a manifestly anti-Chinese grouping.

Unfortunately, as Australia’s entire post World War II history amply demonstrates, when the United States says “jump”, the only Australian response is “how high”? It is a policy choice that is beneficially not in Australia’s interests, yet one they are intent on pursuing. There will inevitably be a day of reckoning.

James O'Neill is a retired Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. He can be contacted at Read other articles by James.