The following article appeared in Pearls & Irritations on 29 June, 2022
Professor Hugh White argues, in an essay, ’If growing US-China rivalry leads to ‘the worst war ever’, what should Australia do?’ published in Pearls and Irritations on 26 June, that, ‘..the very real possibility that a war with China launched to preserve the US’s position in Asia might end up destroying it, just as the First World War destroyed the empires that went to war to preserve themselves in 1914.’
He contends that decisions taken in 1914 were critical in terms of going to war. They were not, the path to war had been embarked on much earlier, there was a dreadful inevitability about the likelihood of war, rooted as it was in the rivalry between Great Britain and Germany. From 1890 Britain became increasingly concerned that its monopoly of naval power and therefore of trade routes could come under challenge from Germany. It resulted in a naval arms race which became intense after 1906, resulting in war in 1914. The poorly negotiated settlement of World War One led to World War Two.
The rivalry and jealousy between Germany and Great Britain led to a complex arrangement of treaties designed primarily to shore up the power of Great Britain in much the same way as the Quad, Five Eyes and AUKUS are designed to shore up the power of the US with respect to the perceived threat from China.
Professor White contends that, ‘Washington has made clear that it has no interest in seeking an accommodation with China…” and observes that, ‘In fact, the risk of war is probably higher than the government realizes, because China is harder to deter than they understand.’
He ponders what Australia should and will do in the event that the US does go to war with China. That decision has already been taken. As with the First World War the die is cast. AUKUS ensures Australian involvement, just as it helps progress the inevitability of war between the US and China.
The US is a failing state, wracked by increasing internal division and breakdown of social cohesion. It has every reason to seek, indeed to foster, an external threat in the hope of drawing attention away from an inability to address let alone solve increasingly pressing and complex domestic problems.
Another reason for the inevitability of going to war with the US is the inability of the Australian political and military elite to see the US for what it is aided by their lack of leadership and moral courage. They are unable to resist US bullying and blandishments.