Two weeks ago in NewMatilda.com, I talked about the post 9/11 US strategy that has seen China sweating and America returning to the Pacific in numbers. As the USA’s good ally, Australia has played a large part in this. I looked at the use of phony wars (Chechnya, Kosovo, Sudan, etc) to achieve geo-political ends that have littered the last 10 years, and I questioned the silence from the plethora of good folk who are party to these strategic designs.
But what if I turned the Weet-Bix box around? What if this strategy has indeed saved us from the economic and military might of the Chinese? What if we argued that these phony wars are necessary to preserve Western power and the freedoms we enjoy?
Hasn’t it been brilliant strategy? Hasn’t it allowed us the prosperity that has made our lives so comfortable in fact, enabling the very dinner parties that are the stage for the anti-US bashing that predictably comes after main course and begins with Iraq?
Strategically speaking, Iraq has not been a disaster for the United States far from it. The US has now settled comfortably into the Middle East and Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iraq allowing them visibility in Mackinder’s Heartland (Eurasia) and the Rim countries. Iraq’s oil and Central Asia’s crucial positioning on the doorstop of China make this a geo-strategic and economic coup allowing the West to control and monitor China’s access to energy in this crucial area.
The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, comprising Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and the Kyrgyz Republic and founded by China in 2001, indicates how important that region is to China and its future economic growth. Western diplomatic and political inroads have attempted to checkmate the ‘peer competitor’ (China) in this vital sphere, ensuring that China’s needs are vigorously challenged.
And while many Australians choose to bash our defence buddy on a daily basis, it’s unclear just how Australia’s own defence strategy could survive without the USA. Should we align ourselves with the Europeans, whose space and military technologies are not as advanced as the superpower’s? Would the Europeans or any other power create better foreign policy options than those currently in place in Asia? With the burgeoning intelligence-sharing agreements between the US and Australia allowing us to remain privy to crucial global developments, it seems unlikely that we would choose a less powerful partner than Uncle Sam.
Asia too is very happy to have the US’s military and intelligence presence, keeping an eye on the 800 kilo panda that has made vast economic inroads, and in the past thrown its weight around most notably in 1996 during the Taiwan Strait Crisis.
Since 9/11, the US has inked new treaties and understandings with countries that in the past it has had difficult relationships with such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. The US would not have been able to forge these new relationships if not for a real fear of Chinese designs economic and otherwise and a belief within these Asian countries that such relationships with the US are necessary and crucial to national security and economic policy.
The idea that the US is blathering around hopelessly in Iraq is a fiction and the idea of the ‘stupid American’ at the helm of the world empire is a fantasy. It conveniently glides over the advent of ‘Strategic Thought,’ which came out of the US, post World War II, and from US universities today.
Today, America’s jumbo fleet of strategists and ‘think tankers’ spend their time doing nothing else but test theories on how to checkmate the ‘peer competitor’ (China) economically and politically. No other country has the resources to fund such intellectual endeavours. Rand, MIT, Harvard, Yale and the Silicon Valley (that includes Google, Yahoo and other big names) have jumped on board to advance the technological prowess of the world’s largest power. In a commercial globalised world, the economic interests of a nation and Western multinationals are considered worth fighting for.
To argue against this development, you have to ask what the alternative is and if that alternative is worth fighting for. What country today can take the place of the United States, with its brains trust of international academics and ability to take economic blows?
The idea of a ‘stupid’ American approach to foreign policy, or even the idea of a ‘stupid’ President (who is surrounded by brilliant advisors), reflects ignorance about the US’s great leap forward in areas such as IT, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology which are passed on to allies and are clearly making a mark in places such as India, Singapore and Australia.
This War, like all wars, allows profits to be made and largely it is children from poor households who are doing the fighting for Western power. This is money that could easily be spent on healthcare and infrastructure in a country where the disparities between the haves and have-nots are obvious. And, of course, the Iraqi death toll is an unnecessary tragedy.
But in the context of China-US relations, there are few in the foreign policy elite who would see the past seven years as a disaster. All in all, it has been a strategic triumph, with a few PR issues on the side.
I may take potshots at the US, but I am not jailed or harassed, and my personal freedom is ensured. Media freedom in the West is sufficient to allow a whole community of bloggers to speak up for whom and what they believe in, cultivating a whole new round of critical thought strategic or otherwise.
Criticising the US and its decision-making is important: like any other government or nation, it should be held accountable for its (mis)adventures in foreign policy. But the reality is that fears of China mean that many countries in the Asia-Pacific will side with the US.
Anti-US sentiments on Iraq ignore the big picture and the strategic realities in our immediate region, today.
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