25 Aug. 2006

Australian militarism: arming for imperialism

As I pointed out last year, Australia spends more per year on 'defence' than India. India is, of course, the second most populous country in the world, is fighting at least 4 distinct internal guerilla movements, has nuclear weapons, and has two nuclear-armed neighbours (China and Pakistan) with whom it has recently fought border conflicts. Given the importance of technology to modern warfare, military spending tends to be the sole determinant of strategic capability – India has vast, cheap manpower, but Australia has the dollars. Still, just to shore things up, Howard has decided to increase troop numbers massively, by about 5%, although they were already increased by nearly 3% last year to make up a shortfall. Not on a par with India, but this is of course hardly necessary given the type of wars Australia plans to fight, and given that manpower is here much more expensive relative to high-tech armaments.

Brutal pic courtesy of SMH

Howard claims that the increase is needed because of 'instability in the region', 'the region' being the South Pacific. Certainly, Australia's military is overstretched. It is part of the occupying forces of two large countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, and single-handedly commited to holding down some smaller countries, like the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. Australia was recently making noises about being part of a Israeli-proxy UN occupation force in Lebanon. To this end not only is the army being expanded, but a police force for deployment overseas – which is to say, a dedicated occupation force – is being massively increased by 1,000 personnel.

This is being sold as an exercise in humanitarianism, as Australia being a responsible regional superpower. This is nothing short of complete nonsense. For one thing, a significant portion of Australia's deployments are not in its region at all, but in the Middle East, in support of naked American imperialism. For another thing, there is, of course, no humanitarian motive behind Australia's 'regional' deployments. Howard's bold prediction that there will be an increased need for troops in the region appears as an assertion of what all Aussies know, that the local frizzy-haired populations are in fact degenerating in their ability to govern themselves, necessitating direct intervention in their savage affairs. Of course, the reality is that Australia's interventions in the region are imperialist assaults on the sovereignty of indigenous populations, aimed not at helping them, but at protecting Australian commercial interests, primarily in the natural-resources-theft industry. Howard's prediction indicates two things: firstly, a prediction of growing resistance regionally to Australian imperialism, and, secondly, a desire for Australia to amp up the level of corporate super-exploitation of the region, something that can only occur with Australian guns to back it.