AUSUK : A Trilateral Pantomime and a Dance Down History [Updated: 2021-09-22]
A Trilateral Pantomime and a Dance Down History
Publication date: 2021-09-17
Updated: 2021-09-19. Having re-read “Tobruk”, I have adjusted the section on it to be more historically accurate, and particularly to give credit to the British forces there, as acknowledged by the Australian troops themselves. There is also a new final comment with reference to Mercouris’ newest publication.
Updated: 2021-09-22. New MoonOfAlabama source added which hints at a deeper objective.
The alliance between Australia, USA and Britain officially labelled AUKUS was just announced and has been receiving plenty of attention.
Caitlin Johnstone rightly questions the expenditure and points to the political threatening happening in the diplomatic and defence spheres. MoonOfAlabama provides us with a detailed background of the now scraped deal for France to supply Australia with the upgrade to its existing submarine fleet. Andrei Maryanov provides some military analysis as to how relevant or effective these new submarines could be. Alexander Mercouris provides us with an overview of diplomatic and international treaty implications (see sources).
The new AU-SUK, sorry AUKUS, alliance is just rebranding. The US and UK are allies via NATO and Australia and the US are allies via ANZUS. The new boss is the same as the old boss, as it were.
An aside: Kerr's Cur
In 1975 when Australia's then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam implemented a whole slew of social policies including universal healthcare and free tertiary education, the US was alarmed. He then began directing Australia's foreign policy in a more independent direction and had the audacity to question whether the "secret" USA military observation (long range radar, satellite links etc.) bases, particularly Pine Gap, should continue to be allowed and/or what price the USA should pay for them. Together with support from the UK, Gough Whitlam was removed from power by the Governor General in consultation with the House of Windsor. Although many outside Australia may not know of this, it is a political event in Australia's history that in popular reckoning stands with legendary moments like the Eureka Stockade. It remains the only time an Australian Prime Minister has been sacked by the Crown's representative.
The speech that the Prime Minister, just sacked by the Govenor General Sir John Kerr, made on the steps of parliament is one of the most famous made in Australian political history. It also provides a window into Mr Whitlam's rhetorical skill:
Ladies and gentleman, well may we say God Save the Queen because nothing will save the Governor-General.
The proclamation which you have just heard read by the Governor-General’s official secretary was countersigned ‘Malcolm Fraser’ who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as Kerr’s cur.
Note: 'cur' is a mongrel dog.
Nuclear Powered Submarines
Mr Martyanov's analysis is that while SSN (sub-surface, nuclear) class submarines provide for the ability of the vessel to remain under water nearly indefinitely, thus giving them a global reach, they are just a "platform". What matters is what you arm them with. Obviously, that will include torpedos for attacking other submarines and surface ships. As for sea to land missiles, existing Russian integrated missile defence systems have recently shown their efficacy in removing 90 to 95% of missile attacks from Israeli jets in Lebanese airspace against Syrian targets. Thus, Andrei concludes that while the offensive capability of the to be acquired submarines are unknown they are unlikely to include super or hypersonic missiles (as the USA has none demonstrated) and thus do not pose a significant threat to land based targets.
Mr Mercouris (and MoonOfAlabama) directs our attention towards the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which the USA is signatory. Does the provision of nuclear powered (but not armed) submarines to a non-nuclear country contravene this treaty? The provision of nuclear weapons to add to the submarines certainly would, and would be idiotic from the perspective of both the USA and Australia. It should not be expected, and thus, Mr Martyanov's analysis stands.
MoonOfAlabama draws our attention to the differing fuel types of French or USA/UK nuclear powered submarines, with the French being low enriched uranium and the others being highly enriched. This creates a fuel dependency for Australia, and to my mind a more insidious required foreign military personnel to service the submarines. Australia has no experience in nuclear powered submarines, and highly enriched would seem to require even more expertise. This just extends the already extended USA foreign military personnel located in Australia.
Finally, these submarines will not arrive for years, a decade perhaps. Thus, there is no immediate change of forces. Nonetheless, the Chinese are alarmed and making their concerns well known.
Trading in Politics
Australia's recent belligerence towards China at the behest of the USA was elevated when Australia led the charge for an investigation into the "Origins of CoVID". This latest PR stunt of announcing AU-SUK, sorry AUKUS, is a continuation of this political poodle barking at China on the USA's behalf.
Following the "Origins" stupidity, China responded with strong diplomatic language and some trade sanctions. Australia did not back down. This has lead to a low level trade war which from Australia's strategic actions are downright idiotic, as China is Australia's largest single nation trade partner for both exports and imports. A former Australian Prime Minister, and Treasurer before that, Mr Keating decided to pen some cautionary words to the current government.
An Historical Meandering
While settled 60 000+ years ago by its native population, European interactions with the smallest and driest continent began in the 17th century with Dutch explorers discovering the west coast, and possibly Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land). Better work was done by the quite amazing Captain Cook on a voyage firstly to Tahiti to perform an observation of the transit of Venus at which time he opened his "secret orders" which were to find the "Great Southern Land". The ship's journey is most amazing, with his Botanist Mr Banks documenting and collecting samples of plants and animals never seen (in Europe) before. Cook's charts of the eastern sea board are treasured in the nation's national archives and are still some of the best, despite using plumb bobs and line rather than laser air-born depth sounders. The first colony was established with the First Fleet in 1788. After visiting Botany Bay (where Mr Banks had had much fun) they moved northward to a far superior harbour, Port Jackson, which is more widely known as Sydney Harbour.
The colony struggled due to the native population not liking having their fishing waters and other foodstuff providing lands supplanted by people who had no idea how the whole thing worked and trying to do stupid thinks like planting non-native vegetation and introducing non-native livestock. The "settlers" were, of course, criminals removed from the overcrowded barges on the Thames sent as convicts to Australia to serve 7 (or 14) years of penal servitude for such horrific offenses as stealing a loaf of bread. The ensuing genocide and forced removal of the indigenous peoples goes without saying. The tragedy, as we now know, was not just the loss of life and culture, but a tragic loss of knowledge developed over a time since Europeans were still banging rocks together, and perhaps starting some cave paintings just as their antipodean cousins were.
The second colony is unknown even to most Australians. It was at Port Arthur, one of the most extreme penal colonies every devised. Residing on a peninsular, chocked off by an extremely thin stretch of land, Eaglehawk Neck, it was for the worst of the worst. The amount of brutality delivered there can be felt by visiting the well preserved site. Its stones speak. A nearby settlement at Hobart was established and contributed towards the whaling trade. The treatment of Tasmania's different aboriginal population was grotesque, even by Australian standards.
The Australian colonies continue, with Melbourne on Port Phillip by a magnificent, huge, almost enclosed bay, but with a treacherous entrance from the Bass Straight. Another little known fact is that South Australia was settled by free settlers only -- no convicts.
The westward expansion from Sydney over the Blue Mountains, an amazing story in itself, and the northern expansion from Melbourne accessed the rich farming lands and Australia's wealth grew on the back of sheep. The gold rush in the 1830s in Victoria lead to much of its wealth and still magnificent 19th century architecture, and contained the aforementioned Eureka stockade event. During the industrial revolution ships would arrive in Australia from Britain with trade goods like Sheffield cutlery and ballasted by ornate metal fencing that can still be seen today fronting the terrace houses in the now affluent inner eastern suburbs of Sydney. Once unloaded, the ships would be loaded with Australia's wool and other primary produce to return to England to fuel its industrial production. Interestingly enough, great profit could be obtained by gaining first access to these ships coming in to Port Jackson, and a class of most exciting boats, the 18 footers, were developed for exactly this purpose.
The modern version of these boats are still racing, for different prizes:
The Australian nation was created in 1901 with the declaration of the Commonwealth of Australia, as a unification of the six States, with a provision therein to have New Zealand later join, which to the benefit of both, never happened. Instead, a rather lovely tender and jealous local rivalry exists.
From the Boer War before the unification of the Australian States, through WWI and WWII Australia had been a vassal of Great Britain. It provided troops to all of the Empire's wars. Australia's "birth of a nation story" is Gallipoli, an ineptly mismanaged landing of Australian, British and French troops in the Dardanelles during WWI. The end result of the campaign is a complete defeat by the defending Turks. Hundreds of books have been written about this campaign. Brave soldiers suffering horrid odds struggling to support "mother England", are led by not oft much mentioned British imbeciles. In this cauldron of hell the bravery and determination of Australia, typified by its soldiers, are mythologied. This use of an absolute military defeat by Australia as a creation myth is emblematic of its subservience and deep sense of humor. "Too bloody right". (It is important to note that while the Australian contingent at Gallipoli was significant for herself, it was massively exceeded by both British and French numbers in the campaign).
The tragedy and determination are culturally placed aloft by one of Australia's great film directors, Peter Weir, in the 1981 "Gallipoli", Mel Gibson's first major film. An event that almost nobody knows about, but by Australian military historians, is the withdrawal from Gallipoli. The "invasion" (or landing) is an abject study in how to not do such a thing in that terrain and with those forces against a dug in enemy. The evacuation, planned by Australian Lieutenant Colonel Charles Brudenell White is conversely an exemplary study of a naval supported land withdrawal under fire, which is still taught at military academies. To quote the final sentence of the referenced piece:
It had been estimated by the British Generals that half the force would be lost in an evacuation attempt – history now shows that, in the end, the Turkish were so deceived that 80,000 men were evacuated with only about half a dozen casualties.
The most wonderful, but oh-so-understated War Memorial have really underplayed this. Instead of "half the force" of 80 000 “be lost” (i.e 40 000 dead), this little Australian Lt. Colonel gets 6 INJURED. Not mentioned, is that they evacuated all of the horses too!
Often ignored in Australia are its soldiers' suffering with so many other British allied troops, and those of Britain herself, during the horrific "Great War" in Europe.
Australia was there again at the beck and call of its Imperial master during WWII. There are many heroic stories of the ANZAC's fighting the Japanese on the Kokoda Trail, participating in the defeat of Rommel at the battle of El Alamein, and suffering horribly in Japanese prisoner of war camps in Burma and Thailand, and at the fall of Singapore. Australia was also there in the battle of the Coral Sea, a precursor to the wholy USA fought and Pacific War winning battle of Midway. For me, its another little known story, beautifully told by Peter Fitzsimons in "Tobruk" (ISBN 978 0 73227 645), which needs a little elevation. Australian Lt. General Leslie Morshead's defence of Tobruk against repeated attacks by "Desert Fox" Rommel is far too little known or appreciated in its contribution to the North African campaign. The book contains the character of the language of what I imagine the Australian “Diggers” (troops) used. Its a good yarn.
Much respect is given to Rommel via interviews with the soldiers who served under him, or their relatives, and original hand written documents by Morshead uncovered fortuitously in 2005 inform the narrative, along with an archival reference list. The summary is that against rather difficult odds, Tobruk is held under Morshead’s leadership. Australia troops, half of the 27 000 defensive force, manned the forward defensive lines and were ably supported by determined British artillery and anti-aircraft batteries, including some tank and anti-tank units . A tiny contingent of RAF and RAAF pilots blaze incredible bravery, as do the captains and crews of the Australian and British naval supply ships running “Bomb Ally” to keep the troops at the only large deep water port between Alexandria and Tripoli fed and armed, while removing the hundreds of captured German and Italian soldiers on the return journey. It is at Tobruk, over the Easter weekend of 1941 that Germany with its Panzer tanks suffers its first defeat (halted in advance by stationed defensive formations). Requested to hold Tobruk for 8 weeks, Morshead holds it over triple that time.
An unreferenced, and perhaps apocryphal, vignette reflects the Australian character of disrespect for unearned authority. An English Public School spoken Captain in boots and belt polished bright, no doubt by his aid who walked beside him, approached a bare chested Australian deepening the defensive trenches with spade in hand. After waiting for acknowledgement, the British officer clears his throat and asks the Digger if it is customary in the Colonial forces to salute an officer? The Digger puts down his tool, grabs his shirt and puts it on. Aghast, the British officer sees the marks of a Major on the Digger’s epaulettes, as his aid shimmies to vanish into the sand behind him. The Digger replies:
“They don’t salute me either. Piss off.”
It is important to note how relieved, proud and confident the Australian troops were to be led by Australian military command. In a very limited military sense they were “free”. The "Aussie’s” name for Morshead, the strategist that coordinated the defense and essentially delivered them, and their British brothers in arms, from death or capture was “Ming the Merciless”, the classic villain in the Flash Gordon comics. When labelled by “Lord Haw-Haw”, a radio delivered English language propagandist for the German forces, as “rats” in Tobruk, the Aussies grabbed that with both hands and capitalised it as “The Rats of Tobruk!”, by which they are still known in colloquial and official military annals. Morshead directed detailed and predictive defense planning without which the endeavour would have failed. However, and to my view, his parallel achievement was maintaining the morale of Australian (forward defense), British (rear defense) and limited auxilliary Indian forces. It is a story of military planning and cultural awareness, entwined, par excellence.
The Axis forces recaptured Tobruk in June 1942, seven months after the last of the Australian Diggers were withdrawn, following the defeat of the British 8th Army at the Battle of Gazala.
Allied with Great Britain, Australia had done its part, suffered horribly and demonstrated determination, humor, valor, and not-being-stupid. Things would soon change under USA leadership.
[But what about the Sub-marines?! Cool down, we’re getting there.]
Alternative Anglophile Alliences
The ANZUS Treaty was signed in 1951. I presume Australia had some involvement in the Korean War, but have not researched it. Australia did contribute to the USA-Vietnam war and suffered just as the USA troops did (not to mention the millions of Vietnamese). Thereafter Australia's involvements in the USA's offensive wars tend to involve the Australian Special Air Services (the elite branch, like the Green Beret's or Rangers and whatever they call the wet troopers) and the odd logistical or technical support capacity. In 1991 Australia supported the USA relief of Kuwait/attack on Iraq. Again in 2003, Australia was a partner in the "coalition of the willing", with SAS representing. The same is true in Afghanistan.
The Iraq War 1.0 (i.e Kuwait) was a success, but leads to more and less controlled radical Islamic insurgency (see previous articles). The rest are complete failures, Vietnam, Iraq 2.0 and Afghanistan.
Now Australia wants to box itself in, become dependent upon and admit more USA military control over its armed forces, and sabotage its trade relations with its most significant trading partner, China.
The transcript of the address by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing AU-SUK contains a plethora of politi-speak, but this sequence is classic:
A partnership that seeks to engage, not to exclude. To contribute, not take. And to enable and empower, not to control or coerce.
The first major initiative of AUKUS will be to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia.
The key term/lie/escape-clause is “seeks”.
Political not-quite-nuclear Fallout
Mercouris’ most recent piece (see sources) notes the anger of the French. It should be observed that they found out about the cancellation of the submarine contract and the newly minted alliance via news sources, rather than ahead of time via diplomatic channels. For a potential 50 billion dollar defense deal, which may have lead to other contracts, this is a major slap in the face. The French have recalled their ambassadors from both the USA and Australia “for consultation”. They are extremely annoyed.
Alexander makes an interesting observation that while the USA plays rebranding alliance games (my words, not his) they risk offending their allies in other alliances, as is obviously the case here. In the end this is just another footnote to the “not agreement capable” label that Russia and China have stamped on their USA diplomatic dossiers.
Addendum: Perth as a Nuclear Powered Submarine Base
MoonOfAlabama provides a perhaps deeper window into what is really going on. It seems more about Australia paying to upgrade its submarine facility at Perth to house rented nuclear powered US/NATO submarines, potentially partially crewed by Australian submariners. This is “Lend Lease” gone wild.
Australia Continues Its Plunge Into Authoritarianism And Military Brinkmanship, Caitlin Johnstone, Her Blog, 2021-09-16
To Protect Itself From U.S. Hostility Australia Decides To Buy U.S. Submarines, MoonOfAlabama, MoonOfAlabama, 2021-09-16
(See also the embedded video by Andrei)
My Fast Input,. Andrei Martyanov, Reminiscence of the Future..., 2021-09-15
US Nuclear Submarine Deal Enrages China and France, Deepens US Strategic Problems, Alexander Mercouris, His youtube channel, 2021-09-16
Dismissal Speech on the steps of Parliament House, Gough Whitlam, Australian Government, Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 1975-11-11
US-funded facility under USFPI opens at Darwin Base, Australia, (no author), Airforce Technology, 2019-12-03
Australia started a fight with China over an investigation into COVID-19 — did it go too hard?, Stephen Dziedzic, ABC, 2020-05-20
Australia's trade in goods with China in 2020, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020-09-03
Provoking China to please the US., Paul Keating (former Prime Minister, and Treasurer before that, of Australia), Pearls and Irritations, 2021-09-06
The Gallipoli Evacuation, Australian War Memorial, ANZAC-2014-2018-Centenary, (no publication date)
Address: AUKUS - Canberra, ACT, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Prime Minister's Office, 2021-09-16
France Recalls Ambassadors from Washington & Canberra as European Allies Doubt US Long Term Promises, Alexander Mercouris, His youtube channel, 2021-09-18
The Fallout From The AUKUS Deal, b., MoonOfAlabama, 2021-09-20
Galaxy Song - Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Monty Python, Their Youtube channel, 2008-11-13
It makes you feel so small, doesn’t it?
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