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The following article was published in Pearls and Irritations on 30 September 2021.

Coercion is the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats. For example, by pointing a gun at someone’s head or holding a knife to their throat.

American diplomacy is conducted under the cute umbrella of coercion. The British called it gunboat diplomacy, American universities and think tanks prefer the phrase Coercive Diplomacy. It is a recognition that all American diplomacy is conducted with the military in the room. Military coercion underlines, supports and reinforces American foreign policy.

Without the presence of coercion Americans can’t negotiate. It is the diplomacy of the wild west, don’t go to town without a gun. It is embedded deep in the white American male psyche.

What does American foreign policy do? It intervenes on behalf of American interests, which are extensive, world-wide, and forever in play. These interests cover perceived and real military threats; trade; access to resources – primarily oil; mouthing democracy even when backing dictatorships; targeting Communism and fundamentalist Muslims and upholding American values through the preservation of American power and influence by the deployment of coercion resting on the threat of military intervention.

At the end of WWII, completely ignoring the contribution of the Russians, the United States declared itself the winner. It set about producing atomic weapons, huge cars, ships and planes and declared war on Communism, which nearly came unstuck in Korea and totally unstuck in Viet Nam. It laid siege to Cuba and was surprised when the Soviet Union challenged it.

America does not like competition, it will do whatever it takes to contain or crush it.  Between 1946 and 1990 the US initiated 191 sanctions against 74 states and between 1991 and 2018, 252 sanctions against 101 states, in those latter years the US was the world’s dominant power. Since then, China and to a lesser extent Russia have changed the status quo. And that is the source of America’s current anxiety, insecurity, neurosis and obsession.

America has sought to change governments in South America, most recently Venezuela and Haiti. It orchestrated a change of government in Chile from the democratically elected Salvadore Allende to the cruel military dictator Augusto Pinochet, a friend of Margaret Thatcher. It has tried for years to bring down the government of Iran.

It used military coercion against Iraq which, although killing nearly a million Iraqi’s, failed to achieve the desired outcome. Afghanistan ended in failure and the return to power of the government they sought to crush. The record is not good, but undeterred America now seeks to coerce China, to contain China, to control China. Why? Rivalry and racism. An Asian ruling elite must in no way end up superior to a white ruling elite.

The pitch, which has been accepted by the white Western male-controlled media, is that China constitutes a military threat. It does not. The US has 400 bases ranged against China, plus spy satellites, drones, underwater listening devices and megabytes of paranoia. On the basis of security, the US got its allies to ban the Chinese communications company Huawei, which had nothing to do with security and everything to do with competition.

China has an assertive and nationalist leader, Xi Jinping, who confesses respect for Mao and contempt for Trump, that does not make him Richard Nixon. He was insulted by Morrison, he took offence and action.

Chinese constructions in the South China Sea constitute less of a threat than Diego Garcia and Pine Gap. Commentary about the China ‘threat’ too often lacks balance and is abusive. It is driven by the US military/industrial complex, Murdoch and the right wing of western politics.

The problem with US coercive diplomacy is that there is always the possibility that the invisible line will be crossed and hostilities occur. In the unfortunate game with China, the West is dependent on the judgement of US naval officers and airman patrolling these ill-defined lines and, on the capacity, and judgement of the US Executive; we are now aware of how close the world got to hostilities under Trump.

Coercive diplomacy relies on fear. It is international bullying. It works when the other side blinks and backs down. If that doesn’t happen the only tool left is to up the ante which could lead to war. It is unsophisticated, crude and puerile diplomacy, yet this is what the US and Australia are engaged in with China.

US coercion toward Australia started in WWII with the Australian based US Supreme Pacific Commander, General MacArthur, when he got General Blamey to sack Brigadiers Potts and Allen on the Kokoda Trail for failing to attack. They had undertaken a brilliant fighting retreat to shorten their supply line and were in the process of bringing up ammunition and supplies from Port Moresby for an offensive. Vasey took over Allen’s plans and received all the credit. Blamey was a MacArthur lick spittle. Curtin did not stand up to MacArthur who gave Australia it’s first taste of US coercive diplomacy, which continues to this day.

Under MacArthur Australia was used as a US launching base for its thrust into the Pacific and South China Sea; the US is positioning Australia for the same role now against China. It is a rerun of history.

Australian compliance with US foreign policy objectives during the Cold War obviated the need for the deployment of coercion throughout the 1950’s and early 60’s. From the end of WWII Australia has been a member of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing arrangement which comprises, the US, UK, NZ, Canada and Australia. Australia signed the ANZUS Treaty in 1951.

In 1966 Australia agreed to the construction of a US intelligence gathering facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs. It began operating in 1970, with the arrival of 400 families from the US. Pine Gap is a super spy facility which monitors global communications. It provides guidance to US killer drones and spy satellites. It operates on behalf of the CIA, US National Security Agency (NSA) and US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). In the past it has been headed by a senior CIA officer. It is a massive complex with 38 radomes. It is estimated to now have 800 employees.

Menzies was cajoled into allowing secret British Atomic tests on Australian soil in the 1950’s and coerced into sending Australian troops to the American war in Viet Nam. Menzies announced the deployment in Parliament on 29 April, 1965 and 1 RAR departed a month later. The decision had been taken months earlier. It was a dirty secret deal, leading to involvement in an unwinnable war that ended badly for all involved.

The coercion of Menzies was nothing compared to that of Whitlam. Shortly after coming to power Whitlam condemned the Christmas bombing of Hanoi, greatly upsetting Nixon. His next transgression was to raid the headquarters of ASIO which caused the CIA concern believing that their secrets might be compromised, including undeclared CIA agents in Australia. But Whitlam’s greatest transgression was to threaten the future of Pine Gap, which played into his dismissal. The CIA was certainly seized with deep concern.

Even before this great challenge to the authority of the CIA, NSA and NRO to operate in Australia there had been US diplomatic and intelligence concern about the commitment of Whitlam to the Alliance. There has been considerable speculation that the Governor-General, John Kerr, responsible for Whitlam’s unprecedented dismissal, may have bent to both the CIA and MI6. Whatever the truth there can be little question that the CIA was a serious player in Australian domestic politics and no doubt still is.

It was said that the leader of the National Country Party at the time, Doug Anthony, was close to the senior CIA operative in Canberra. The Nugan Hand Bank, 1970, in Sydney was a front for the CIA and handled payments for them, until its fraudulent activities were exposed. Brian Toohey details the involvement of the CIA in Australia, and more, in his book, ‘Secret, the making of Australia’s security state’, MUP, 2019. And ‘The Palace Letters’ by Jenny Hocking, published by Scribe, 2020, touches upon their likely involvement in the dismissal of Whitlam.

Australia has been co-opted by the US into their coercive anti-China diplomacy. Morrison was stupid enough to take his marching orders from Trump and lost a significant slice of trade to Chinese tariffs, which the Americans took advantage of. Rather than learn from this, Morrison has sought to curry favour and praise from Biden by taking every opportunity to further bad mouth China.

It would appear that the Americans coerced Australia, during the course of secret discussions, to gazump the French submarine deal in favour of US nuclear submarines, the first of which will not be operational until 2050!

At the same time, in small print, was the announcement that the permanent presence of US troops, naval vessels and bombers in Australia would be significantly increased under a new security agreement known as AUKUS. It seems Britain has become involved to try and boost its prestige after the disaster of Brexit. Otherwise AUKUS is being driven by the US, keen to do whatever it takes to coerce China into accepting American dominance of the world order; a rules-based world order in which America writes the rules.

The US submarine deal does not stand up under any sort of scrutiny; it seems it was the smokescreen to hide a significantly enhanced American defence presence in Australia. The haste in which it was put together, from the time of the G7 meeting in Cornwall in mid-June until the announcement in mid-September, a mere three months, indicates the Americans have got themselves into something of a panic over China’s intentions.

Very quickly Australia has moved to go all the way with the USA. The unprecedented shift into the American defence structure closes options to forge a new and independent relationship with China. In one fell blow we have handed our future defence planning and foreign policy formulation to the United States. Morrison, in his infinite wisdom, has put all our eggs in one basket. The sovereignty that Morrison likes to talk about has been lost. We are about to become a different country.

The US likes to deal with stable countries, particularly if it has invested in them. It does not care whether they are dictatorships or democracies as long as they are predictable, stable and malleable to US needs and requirements. The dismissal of Whitlam is salutary; if the US believes it interests are likely to come under threat or are under threat it will remove that threat. AUKUS means a greater CIA presence in Australia and expanded interference in the political process.

Morrison has ceded a great deal of sovereignty and as a result made himself a puppet. Members of the radical right will no longer have a place in Australian politics as the US moves to alter Australia’s position on climate change. The CIA and its Australian operatives will be the foot soldiers bringing change to the Australian political landscape to mirror that of the US Administration. Imagine the changes to the operational brief if Trump, or someone like him, were to be returned to office. As a captured process, Australian politics would change dramatically, for the worse. As a vassal state, Australia, now more than ever, will reflect the complexities and vicissitudes of US Federal politics. And now, more than before, Australia is committed to going to war alongside the US.

US coercion, our own lack of self-confidence and the fear generated has got us to this point. Having forfeited so much sovereignty to the US, expect their coercive diplomacy to play an increasingly prominent and negative role in Australian decision making and affairs.

Bruce Haigh is a retired Diplomat and political commentator.

The following article appeared in Pearls and Irritations on 12 September 2021.

America, backed by Australian think tanks supporting and supported by the US, has Australia trying to sell stale Pizza in Asia.

The Foreign Minister, Marise Payne and Defence Minister, Peter Dutton, were in Jakarta on 9 September touting security co-operation. Dutton justified the pitch on the basis of, ‘Indonesia and Australia must become anchors of co-operation in the Indo-Pacific region.’ He described the region as ‘increasingly contested’ and the Chinese as ‘coercive and harbouring a zero-sum mentality, aggressive and bellicose’. All of which might have come from an ASPI briefing to whom Morrison is close. It was extraordinary anti-China rhetoric to be dishing up while a guest of the Indonesian Government and no doubt somewhat embarrassing for them. They probably felt the need to apologise along the lines that it the remarks were crude and off the cuff from someone not trained in the arts of diplomacy.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijam, said the remarks were ‘extremely dangerous and irresponsible.’ He said Australia needed to stop hyping up the China threat and seeing China as the enemy Australia will shoot itself in the foot.

After Jakarta, Payne and Dutton will travel to India, South Korea and Washington for the annual AUSMIN talks. China is expected to be a major item on the agenda. Indonesia was aware that Australia came to the meeting wearing its regional US deputy sheriff hat. Indonesia knows how to conduct balanced diplomacy. For years during the Cold War, it played off the US and the Soviet Union, as a non-aligned state. It does not want to get Australia offside but it recognises the growing importance and influence of China in the region and unlike Australia it knows on which side its bread is buttered.

Payne and Dutton met with Indonesian Foreign Minister, Retno Masudi and Defence Minister, Prabowo Subianto. Agreements were signed covering counter-terrorism, cyber security and defence. The first two are already covered in other arrangements and nothing of substance was agreed with respect to defence. The two sides agreed that Indonesian troops, ‘may (at some later stage) join Australian troops on training’. Naval co-operation already exists. The visit was a damp squib, no doubt undertaken at the urging of the US.

Co-operation between Indonesia and China is set to grow. It has entered into important Belt and Road initiatives with China, most notably the Global Maritime Fulcrum which aims to build 24 new Indonesian ports and the construction of a high-speed rail between Jakarta and Bandung. The Indonesian Foreign Minister, Masudi and the Minister for State Owned Enterprises, Erik Thohir visited China in August to discuss extending the BRI. Indonesia is aware that Morrison forced Victoria to tear up its BRI.

China has agreed to make Indonesia the hub for distribution of its Covid vaccines in the region. It has entered into a joint venture with Indonesia’s Bio Farma to produce the Sinovac vaccine and has given 160 m doses.

China is Indonesia’s second biggest source of foreign investment after Singapore. China was Indonesia’s biggest export market in 2019 and the largest source of imports. They have signed an agreement to promote the use of their currencies in trade deals, marginalising the US dollar. Indonesia has resisted pressure to increase defence ties with the US. It does not want to be drawn into the US anti-China campaign.

Defence ties with China are strengthening including the purchase of patrol vessels. The Chinese will raise the Indonesian submarine which recently sank in the Java Sea; an undertaking designed to enhance their standing in the Archipelago.

On the same day that Ministers were meeting in Jakarta, former Malaysian Prime Minister, the venerable Mahathir Mohamad, opined that Australia was needlessly risking its security with the stand off with China. He attacked the use of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue as a vehicle to confront China. He called it provocative and aggressive. He said Australia was responsible for the problems it had with China.

Mahathir said Australia was perceived in the region as an extension of the United States. ‘Americans think of Americans first. America is forever trying to help people but when the help is extended it’s not in the interests of the country concerned.’

Malaysia, like Singapore, has a sophisticated relationship with China. It has a major BRI project, the East Coast Rail Link. The Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, delivered the same message as Mahathir, to Morrison on a Singapore stop over on his way as an observer to the G7 in Cornwall. But it would seem it was in one ear and out the other.

Nothing has been achieved by Dutton and Payne from their visit to Indonesia. Offering stale Pizza was never going to cut the mustard and abusing China was an insult to Indonesia. It would only serve to bring the two closer together. Everyone in the region laughs at the crude barbarians from the south; we unify in the region in their derision.

For absolutely no advantage we have been used by America. Australia has not gone up in the estimation of the Indonesians, rather it has gone down. They fed us hollow words whilst despising our craven US presentation. Their relationship with China is nuanced and sophisticated. They wonder why we cravenly cling to the US, seeing a lack of self-respect and courage. They wonder why we fear China so much, when they don’t?

Bruce Haigh is a retired Diplomat and political commentator.

The following article was published in China Watch, a think tank attached to the China Daily, on 10 September 2021.

America has been forced into an ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan, similar to its withdrawal from Vietnam forty-six years ago. In scenes similar to the mayhem and fear abroad in Saigon as the US withdrew in confusion as the NVA occupied the city, so it has been in Kabul.

There is nothing in the US departure to match the hubris that surrounded their second occupation of Afghanistan couched in terms of assisting the population. The first occupation was to crush al-Qaeda, responsible for 9/11, who had been permitted to use Afghanistan as a base. The second occupation was during the American war with Iraq when it was decided to deny other ‘terror’ organisations Afghanistan as a base and give the US a Central Asian pivot from which to control surrounding regions including the Middle East.

One hundred and sixty years earlier colonial Britain had a similar notion. It wanted to deny Afghanistan as a route to British India for the Russians. That resulted in the massacre of a British Army; later punitive expeditions failed to occupy the country. The Russians invaded in 1980 ostensibly to support an Afghan communist party under domestic pressure but also with an eye to gaining access to a warm weather port, oil and minerals. That resulted in defeat and a withdrawal by Russian President Gorbachev in 1989.

The British, the Russians and the Americans all knew very little about Afghanistan. It was all to do with them rather than the people of Afghanistan and that very quickly became apparent with the consequences now well documented.

America is not motivated by altruism, if it were there would not be the number of people living in poverty in the United States. America is an inherently violent society driven by the need to feel in control. Preparing for war and conducting war is part of the American psyche. Since it became a nation in 1776 America has been at war for 222 of the past 245 years. It has been at peace for 21 years. Since 1945 it has fought five major wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, only the Gulf War can be regarded in any way a success.

Following the need to rapidly arm in WWII, the American arms industry expanded significantly. It made many corporations and people wealthy. Unwilling to forgo these profits American businessmen created what President Eisenhower called the Military/Industrial Complex. It became a very powerful lobby group in Washington. Once created the Complex had to be fed. Vietnam was very profitable for the Complex as was Iraq and most recently Afghanistan. The Complex has no interest in peace. It stokes US rivalry toward China. US Congressmen and Senators are beneficiaries of largesse from the Complex, which reaches into Western countries around the world. It has as much influence over the US as the East India Company had over the British government.

The United States has an unerring ability to mis-read the rest of the world, particularly states it feels are inferior. American exceptionalism is as lethal as Covid 19. The US saw Vietnam as a backward state which could be bombed into submission. Despite the deployment of 500,000 troops America lost the war to a far more determined and skilled army which possessed little of the technology available to the US.

America came out of the war humiliated, its prestige in tatters. However, its self-confidence was soon restored by an array of new products from the Complex. Like the court Jester the Complex whispered in the ear of Washington that Vietnam was an aberration and that the US was a powerful country once more with all the new technology now available to it.

So, it went in hard in Kuwait following Saddam Hussain’s invasion. That worked. The United States followed up after 9/II with a full-scale attack on Iraq which did not work. It created a mess in the Middle East, enhancing the prestige and power of Iran and allowed Israel to move further from US control.

Faced with these complications the US decided to follow up their earlier mission into Afghanistan and reshape the country in its own image to provide a haven for US power in Central Asia and the Middle East. The problem for the US was that Afghanistan exists as a country only in the minds of major powers and the media. To the people that live there it is no such thing. Tribal groupings and villages are of far greater relevance and the centre of their existence, the broader notion of country or nation is not a notion they embrace.

Afghanistan is in many ways the creation of colonial boundaries. The Pathan tribal grouping is arbitrarily divided by a British imperial decision to draw a line through the tribal area. It is known as the Durand Line and was ratified in 1919. The presence of a large number of Pathans in Pakistan with family, friends and commercial ties on the other side of the border gives Pakistan a great deal of leverage in the affairs of Afghanistan, fostered and promoted by the Pakistan intelligence service, the ISI.

There are four major tribal groupings in Pakistan. The Pathans constitute around 50% of the population and are the dominate tribe; they are Sunni and comprise the majority of the Taliban. They oppress and dominate the other tribal groups, particularly the Hazaras who are Shia. Kabul is and will remain a city state, divorced from much of what goes on in the rest of the country.

We have witnessed the Americans scrambling out of Kabul. They have learnt little from their other wars, they seem incapable of doing so. The Complex will ensure that. There is too much money involved. The Complex props up the American Stock Exchange. War is factored into the US economy.

America is a dangerous failing state.

The US has been forced to leave Afghanistan for the same reason it was forced to leave Vietnam; a lack of objectives and strategic plan demonstrated they didn’t know what they were doing. They made-up reasons to justify the needs of the Complex, until public opinion and the ill discipline and weariness of US and Afghan troops forced a decision. In addition, hubris, an over reliance on technology, poor intelligence and the topography all added up to a failed venture. In military terms the US should have left Afghanistan in 2006/7.

American prestige has suffered but the Complex has moved on to what it sees as a bigger prize, China. It has been boosting the confidence and egos of US and allied politicians with talk of the inferiority and weakness of the Chinese system of government and superiority of western democracies in meeting future challenges, a claim that is not upheld in light of their response to Covid 19 and Climate Change.

China is in the sights of the Complex and is a bigger prize than Iraq and Afghanistan. Demonisation of China by the US and its allies promises the construction of many new planes, ships and submarines. The Complex is not noted for its social conscience or considerations of long-term consequences. Climate Change does not figure in its plans for a profitable future. It operates in the here and now.

Bruce Haigh is a retired Diplomat and political commentator.

The following article appeared in Pearls and Irritations on 30 August, 2021.

The largest group of people seeking refuge from the new government of the Taliban will be Hazaras, the majority of whom live in the Hazarajat, an area west of Kabul, including the provinces of Bamyan, Daykundi, Ghor, a large part of Ghazni, Urozgan, Parwan and Maidan Werdak.

Hazaras also live in Kabul and Quetta in Pakistan. When the Sunni Taliban seized power in 1996, they declared Jihad on the Shia Hazaras. There are four major tribal groupings in Afghanistan, Pathans, who are the largest comprising 50% of the population, the Tajiks, the Uzbecks and Hazaras, comprising 9% of the population or around 4 million people. The Taliban are Pathans.

In 1998 the Taliban conducted a regime of cruel repression in the Hazarajat leading to many Hazaras fleeing the country to Pakistan and from there to western countries they thought might accept them as refugees including Australia.

In 2001 the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar instructed that the Hazaras cultural heritage be destroyed plus forced land dispossession. The action of the Taliban encouraged discrimination by the broader Pashtun community and led to the diminished social standing of Hazaras in Afghanistan, many were forced into manual labour.

Improvement to Hazara lives and living conditions over the past 20 years under the Coalition are about to be undermined by the new Taliban government. The offshoot IS K, comprising some of the uglier elements of the old Taliban can be expected to aggressively target the Hazaras. Their emergence has already had the effect of making the Taliban look ‘moderate’ following the bombing of Afghan evacuees and US Marines last week at Kabul airport.

From 1995 to 2000 I was a Member of the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT). In 2000 I made the benchmark decision for the RRT relating to an Hazara seeking refugee status in Australia. Ruddock, the then Minister for Immigration, was not pleased and nor was the then Prime Minister Howard. Typically, they saw the decision as opening up the flood gates. Most other Members of the Tribunal followed the precedent created by my decision, but some, with an eye on reappointment by Howard did not. As a result of the Hazara decision and positions I took toward Tamil and East Timorese refugees I was not re-appointed to the Tribunal.

Howard deliberately set out to muddy the waters with regard to Afghan refugees. He seemed to have a primal hatred for them. There was Tampa and then children overboard and then 9/11 after which he implied that amongst Afghan refugees coming to Australia were terrorists. The Australian community was fed the most awful propaganda about refugees, particularly Afghans, by the Howard Regime making it difficult for refugees to get a fair hearing and settle in Australia.

In 1997 I bought a farm near Mudgee and split my time between the farm and the RRT. In 2002 sixteen Hazara Temporary Protection visa holders came to work at the Abattoir in Mudgee. A branch of Rural Australians for Refugees was already in existence and took them under its wing. One of the refugees was 17; in the three years he was in Mudgee his hair turned white from the trauma he had been through. The dedicated members of the branch put together the necessary paper work and advocated for the Hazara men and all were granted permanent residency. Those with wives and children in Afghanistan applied to Immigration and all were given permission to come to Australia.

None ever applied for government assistance. All have done very well. Some, at least on paper are now millionaires. Children have been educated, gone to university, into the work force and some have married and have children. People in the Hazara community look after each other. They have great pride. They are an asset to Australia. Howard and the Murdoch press said they were doll bludgers.

Howard’s poisonous racism infected the ruling Liberal National Party (LNP) to the point it was impossible to gain pre-selection and preferment unless his irrational and rabid response to refugees was mirrored if not magnified. Abbott was a cruel disciple, along with Vanstone, Morrison and Dutton. Openly expressed hatred of Hazaras and later of Tamils was a badge of honour in the LNP. It is a sick in-house culture which has been encouraged by that sagging racist Murdoch and infected many otherwise good Australians.

Morrison and Dutton, in particular, picked up and ran with the Howard/LNP anti-refugee ethos. Both were Ministers for Immigration. People smugglers were paid off not to ply their trade and refugees who had come by boat were demonised. They still are. It was the flavour of the month to poke fun at refugees, like dwarf baiting. Never mind that 60,000 asylum seekers, many of them not genuine, have come by plane in a huge unexplained racket run under the nose of Border Force and Immigration. They are not demonised. Only boat people in a totally puerile and cruel campaign, perhaps to curry favour with the LNP father figure, the diminutive John Howard. It’s sick.

Refugee haters Morrison and Dutton are being asked to accept refugees from Afghanistan, many are Hazaras, following the unseemly collapse of the Coalition in Kabul over the past week or so. Under pressure Morrison has said he will take 3,000, but this figure is within the existing annual quota of 12,000.

Australian RAAF planes sent to pick up Australians and Afghans, and their families, who have rendered a service to Australian troops over the past 20 years, took out a total of 4000 people. In terms of the short notice, commendable, in terms of what might have been done pathetic. The Taliban had taken most of Urozgan province, where the Australian troops were stationed, by mid-June. The Taliban advance was swift; that was the point at which the Australian evacuation of at-risk personnel and their families should have begun.

Anyone following events in Afghanistan for the past 20 years could have predicted the rapid fall. The exit of the Russians from Afghanistan was a good indicator. Hiding behind ‘intelligence’ is a poor excuse. US intelligence relating to Afghanistan has been as bad as their intelligence on Vietnam.

Canada, the UK and the US have said they will take 20,000 refugees and it looks like the US will take more. There have been calls for Australia to commit to a similar figure. Evacuation flights have ceased. It is hard to know how the Canadians and British will meet their commitment. Pakistan has closed its border, but might be persuaded to reopen for a specific humanitarian intake.

As always Morrison’s words are hollow. There are 4000 Afghan TPV holders in Australia, some have been waiting for up to 10 years to be granted PR status. Their lives have been in limbo. There are 14000 Afghan asylum seekers warehoused on Java, who were on their way to Australia. All of these people should be given a life, in Australia. As my daughters say all Morrison has to do is press the button; but he need not, as they, and none of their friends will be voting for him. Morrison is in the Berlin Bunker and is being fed pap. MSM opinion polls are nonsense, that is not what the street is saying.

Thirty, Forty, Fifty thousand refugees are not a problem for Australia to accept and make a part of the community, there are so many examples before us. The problem is the racism of the people in positions of responsibility who we require to make the decisions. They cannot be relied on to make the right decisions on Refugees, Covid, Climate and China. They are criminally incompetent and morally depleted. They are immature, they believe their own propaganda and the myths of Howards moral supremacy, reinforced by Murdoch’s fear of encroaching mortality and need to control and contain events in the face of that fear. A weak man with a lot of power.

So, the people standing in the way of the issue of visas allowing Hazaras to stay in Australia and for allowing an intake of Afghan Refugees are Morrison and Dutton. Nobody should be allowed such power over desperate and vulnerable people.

This is the email sent by the to frightened and desperate Afghans who were associated with the Australian Government in one way or another.

“Given your links to Australia, while you have not been certified as a Locally Engaged Employee, you will be given PRIORITY FOR CONSIDERATION as part of the 3000 places in our humanitarian program as recently announced by the Government. We have passed your details to the Department of Home Affairs who will be in contact with you directly as soon as possible to gather the necessary information to CONSIDER YOUR CLAIM for protection.”

The weasel words are in caps. The advice is a fob off. An intention on the part of Morrison and Dutton to do nothing. Those poor people conned by the morally bankrupt.

Bruce Haigh is a retired Diplomat, policy analyst and political commentator.

The following article was published in Pearls and Irritations on 20 August 2021.

The American War Machine (AWM) is big and brassy.

Sound and light, chest thumping, shock and awe. It is an extension of the American psyche.

Big, fast, expensive items of metal. Lots of noisy guns, big bombs to ‘lay waste’, the nasties, the goons, the gooks, slope heads, rag heads, kooni’s, rumjad’s and whatever other racist and dehumanising name that is deployed to describe American military enemies.

The AWM is stuck in the 1960’s. It has not moved on from the heavy metal of Detroit. It has to be seen, it has to be admired, it has to inspire respect and fear. It is gunboat diplomacy in overdrive. Pompously sailing around the South China Sea, acres of grey paint. Planes take off from miles and miles of decks. Vroom, vroom, Top Gun.

American diplomacy and negotiating skills are not very good; in the back ground, to back up the brief case and power dressing, is braid, brass, buttons and miles of medals. Americans get medals for killing people, for not killing people, for learning to kill people, for acting like they can kill people, for assisting people to kill people, for identifying people who should be killed, for tracking people who might get killed.

Americans join the AWM to kill people and mostly they are not disappointed. They kill people overseas rather than in American high schools or shopping malls.

Preparing for war and conducting war is part of the American way of life. Since it became a nation 1776 America has been at war for 222 of the 245 years. It has been at peace for 21 years. Since 1945 it has fought five major wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, only the Gulf War can be regarded in any way a success.

Noting America’s penchant for war, American businessmen created the Military/Industrial Complex. WWII made many millionaires. Once created it had to be fed. Vietnam was very profitable for the Complex as was Iraq and most recently Afghanistan. The Complex has no interest in peace. It is stoking the rivalry between the US and China. US Congressmen and Senators are beneficiaries of largesse from the Complex which reaches into Europe, the UK, Israel, Saudi Arabi, the Gulf States, Canada and Australia. It has as much influence over the US government as the East India Company had over the British government.

It is insidious. It provides substantial financial support to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) to act as an echo chamber for views it wants pushed with respect to China. The Morrison government favours ASPI advice over that of its own defence and foreign affairs departments. It would wouldn’t it.

The United States has an unerring ability to mis-read the rest of the world, particularly states it feels are inferior and they amount to a lot. American exceptionalism is as lethal as Covid 19. The US saw Vietnam as a backward state whose ‘problems’ could be solved with a bigger pay load of American bombs, dropped without any interest in accuracy, on Europe by the allies in WWII. Kissinger advised Nixon to go back to the Paris peace talks when twelve B 52 bombers were shot down over Hanoi in a week in December 1972. Millions of Vietnamese were killed, including with Napalm; Agent Orange still kills and maims Vietnamese children. Despite the deployment of 500,000 troops America lost the war to a far more determined and skilled army which possessed little of the whiz bang technology available to the US.

America came out of the war humiliated, its prestige in tatters. Like Morrison and Berejiklian with respect to Covid, it learnt nothing from its ill-judged venture into Asia. After a while, a short while, its self confidence was restored by an array of new products from the Complex. Like the court jester the Complex whispered in the ear of Washington that Vietnam was an aberration and that the US was really a very powerful country, particularly with all the new gear available to it.

So, it had a bit of a go in the Gulf. That seemed to work so it had a bigger go in Iraq and that did not work; it created a mess in the Middle East and enhanced the prestige and power of Iran and allowed Israel to get further away from US control.

Faced with this developing mess, the US decided to follow up an earlier mission into Afghanistan and reshape the country in its own image to provide a haven for US power in Central Asia and the Middle East. The problem for the US was that Afghanistan exists as a country only in the minds of other countries and the media. To the people that live there it is a post-colonial mish mash. The Pathan tribal grouping is arbitrarily divided by a British decision to draw a line through the tribal area. It is known as the Durand Line and was ratified in 1919. The presence of a large number of Pathans in Pakistan with family and commercial ties on the other side of the border gives Pakistan a great deal of leverage in the affairs of Afghanistan.

There are three other main tribal groupings. The Hazaras and Uzbeks make up about 9% each and the Tajiks 25% of the population. The Pathans are 50% of the population and the dominant tribe, they are Sunni and comprise the majority of the Taliban. They oppress the other tribal groups, particularly the Hazaras who are Shia. Kabul is and will remain a city state, divorced from much of what goes on in the rest of the country.

The Americans have had to scramble out of Kabul in the last few days in scenes reminiscent of their exit from Saigon. They lost the war for the same reason they lost in Vietnam. Hubris, an over reliance on technology, a failure of intelligence, US and Afghan troops not committed to the undertaking and enemy troops who were, plus topography, loss of US public support and war weariness. Additionally, the Taliban were receiving increasing support from Pakistan and financial support from Saudi Arabia and China.

Based on what happened when the Russians announced their intention to withdraw, I did not believe the Afghan army would fight for long and that is what has happened. They never had much to fight for.

American prestige has and will suffer but not for long. The Complex is moving on. Boosting the confidence of US and allied politicians with talk of the inherent inferiority and weakness of the Chinese system of government and the superiority of western democracies in meeting future challenges, a claim that is not immediately apparent when response to Covid 19 and Climate Change are factored in.

China is the bright new target in the sights of the Complex. It is a much bigger prize than Iraq and Afghanistan. The Complex is not noted for its social conscience or considerations of long-term consequences. Climate Change does not figure in its plans for a profitable future. It is here and now.

Of course, Australia should never have followed the US into Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. It has cost us dearly in lives lost and hearts and minds damaged as well as money that might have been spent on the greater social good. Australia should certainly not follow the US in China bashing. We are the yapping dog on the US lead. Take the lead off and we will run a mile. We have a lot more to lose than the US should ever we find ourselves arranged against an openly hostile China on the side of the US. Our yap dog follies have already cost us over $50 billion in trade with China. There has been no loss to the US, which in fact actively sought and picked up 40% or over $20 billion of that lost trade.

Afghanistan should demonstrate the Australian need for an independent foreign and defence policy but with ASPI leading the LNP by the nose and it in turn being cajoled by the Complex it is hard to see how reason will prevail.

Bruce Haigh is a retired diplomat and political commentator.