Monday 20 September 2021

A Coalition Of The Waning.

The Sunset Of Anglo-Saxon Imperialism: To join this “Coalition of the Waning”: this AUKUS pact composed of the three military aggressors of the Iraq War; would not only be folly – it would be criminal folly.

THE FORMATION OF AUKUS, the new military pact linking Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, is a mirage. It’s most important element, the arming of the Australian Navy with 8-12 nuclear-powered attack submarines, will almost certainly never happen. The Chinese Government, against which the agreement is aimed, will not be daunted. Indeed, in a shrewd diplomatic manoeuvre, Beijing has applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) from which the USA remains self-excluded, and of which New Zealand remains the “secretary”. What other word except “mirage” is fit to describe this latest, rather desperate, fantasy of Anglo-Saxon imperialism? Long-term strategic decline cannot be wished away by dreaming up a new acronym.

Not that New Zealand’s foreign affairs and defence “establishment” (FADE) will understand AUKUS in such terms. To the contrary, it is already mounting a full-court press to convince New Zealanders that their country has been slighted and snubbed, and its long-term national security imperilled, because their government has not sung along lustily enough in the new “Indo-Pacific” chorus-line. Over the next few weeks and months FADE will attempt to apply maximum pressure on Jacinda Ardern’s government by wheeling out every academic expert, former military officer, US-aligned politician and journalist at its disposal.

The first of what promises to be a great many of these AUKUS promoters appeared on the Q+A current affairs programme just yesterday morning (19/9/21). Former New Zealand Deputy-Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, with the sparkling waters of the Bay of Islands as his backdrop, was interviewed with uncharacteristic deference by the programme’s presenter, Jack Tame. Absent entirely from this encounter was the hectoring tone usually reserved for the NZ First leader by mainstream journalists. What viewers saw was a senior New Zealand statesman invited to shed light on New Zealand’s disturbing exclusion from this new and important security agreement.

Peters, naturally, did not disappoint. Indeed his performance was excellent – full of gravitas and more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger exasperation at the failings of his former Labour colleagues. He didn’t quite say Si vis pacem, para bellum (he who desires peace, should prepare for war) but that was clearly the message delivered by this antipodean Cincinnatus. Peters also made it plain that words have consequences: a not-so-subtle reminder that while his speeches as Foreign Minister only strengthened this country’s relationship with the United States, the speeches of Nanaia Mahuta have produced the opposite effect.

With the National Party locked in what Matthew Hooton calls a “death spiral”, and Act out of contention as a coalition partner for Labour, NZ First presents the Americans with a tempting prize. Subject to proper nurturing, and the right kind of advice, Peters’ party could once again find itself in a position to dangle the keys to the kingdom in front of a desperate Labour caucus. As the price of opening the castle gates, Peters could demand – and would, almost certainly, be given – both the Foreign Affairs and Defence portfolios. The chances are high that, very soon thereafter, the doors to AUKUS would also swing open.

The next New Zealand General Election is, however, still two years away, and much can change in two years. Beijing has just handed Wellington an extraordinary opportunity to place itself at the head of those Indo-Pacific nations that would much rather expand the opportunities for economic co-operation and trade, than join in ratchetting-up the tensions of a new Cold War. Imagine the diplomatic awkwardness for Canberra if Washington made it clear to “the fella down-under” that he was expected to blackball China from membership in the CPTPP. A China seeking to increase economic opportunities across the Indo-Pacific region would have been frozen-out by an Australian government more interested in the prospects of war than the benefits of peace. The contrast between the policies of Wellington and Canberra could not be rendered more starkly: to New Zealand’s Pacific neighbours, her trading partners, and, not least, to Beijing.

It is also quite possible that, by 2023, the United States will be embroiled in domestic strife bordering on civil-war. By fair means or foul the Republican Party appears poised to seize back control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in next year’s mid-term elections. With both the Congress and the Supreme Court under their effective control, the possibility exists that the Republicans will attempt to depose President Biden and replace him with Donald Trump. The Trump-dominated Republican Party is certainly crazy enough to try. The real question, then, will be: who, in a constitutionally compromised United States, possesses both the means – and the will – to stop them? Is the American military prepared to destroy the American republic in order to save it? If it is, then AUKUS will be the last thing on its mind!

As for those nuclear-powered submarines the Americans have promised their Australian “mates”. To employ a popular Australianism: “Tell ‘em they’re dreaming!” The six diesel-powered Collins-class subs the Aussies already possess have been one long pain in the Australian Navy’s arse. Plagued by repeated breakdowns and difficulties in accessing spare parts, the Australian submarine fleet is almost never fully functional.

When it is ready for action, however, the Collins-class submarine is considerably nimbler and harder to detect than its larger, nuclear-powered, counterparts. Having only just learned how to get the best out of their current fleet, the idea that their incredibly hard to recruit submariners will have to master an infinitely more complex boat must be seriously depressing Australia’s naval commanders.

And that’s not even factoring-in the white-hot fury of the French – who have just been stiffed out of $93 billion!

All of which suggests that, upon hearing the news about AUKUS, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and Canada’s Justin Trudeau would have both breathed huge sighs of relief. There is something ever-so-slightly bonkers about this supposedly “new” security arrangement. For a start, what, exactly, is new about cobbling together military alliances against surging nation-states threatening to up-end the status quo? Isn’t that the sort of carry-on that led to World War I?

More to the point, how is anyone supposed to take Boris Johnson and his brand new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth II, seriously? A man so enamoured with the life and times of Winston Churchill surely cannot have forgotten the fate of the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse – sunk, almost casually, by Japanese bombers in December 1941? Surely, someone has told him about China’s hypersonic, carrier-killing missiles?

And what are the Chinese supposed to make of British warships in the South China Sea? Johnson may have forgotten all about the Opium Wars of the mid-nineteenth century, but Xi Jinping has not.

Surely, it is time for New Zealand to break free of the imperial project in which it has been enmeshed for the past 181 years? Surely, as an independent nation, it is in our long-term interests to recognise Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States for what they are? The three countries which, in March 2003, and in blatant contravention of international law and the United Nations Charter, attacked and invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq. In planning and unleashing aggressive war upon a country which had not attacked them, the leaders of the US, the UK and Australia were guilty of the same war crimes for which the leaders of Nazi Germany were tried and convicted at Nuremburg in 1946. To join this “Coalition of the Waning”: this pact composed of the three military aggressors of the Iraq War; would not only be folly – it would be criminal folly.

The shimmering vision of Imperial Hegemony Regained: the mirage which leads Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison deeper and deeper into a waterless diplomatic desert; will be the ruin of them all.

This essay was originally posted on the website of Monday, 20 September 2021.


Wayne Mapp said...

On what basis do you think that the nuclear sub deal will never happen? Wishful thinking?

All three countries have invested way too much political capital to see this deal fail.

Australia has two options to get the submarines, either the UK with its Astute class submarine, or the United States Virginia class submarine.

Some commentators think the Astute option more likely. There is a huge incentive on the British to make that happen. Presumably it was the whole basis for the British involvement in the deal. The Astute programme is winding down. The prospect of building more, at least providing the core expertise and technology will be enormously tempting. Thousands of UK jobs will be involved along with $10's of billions of export revenue. That will not just tempt the existing conservative government, it will also tempt Labour. I am sure the Australian government will be sounding out Labour about is attitude to ward such a deal. The Astute class is also more Aussie sized. The submarine is 7,000 tonnes and has less than 100 crew.

In contrast the Virginia submarine is much larger at 10,000 tonnes and has a crew of 140. The Virginia programme is fully engaged with US Navy orders. It is less likely they will have the spare capacity to substantially increase production over the next 15 years

Odysseus said...

Australia has become the indispensable nation in the Indo-Pacific as a bulwark against China's ultranationalism and aggressive intentions against its neighbours in the South China Sea, Taiwan and Japan. Virtually all nations in Southeast Asia and major actors like India and Japan will seek to deepen their relations with Australia. New Zealand has become even more irrelevant to its region.

Unknown said...

Brilliant Mr. Trotter. One of your best

Wayne Mapp said...

On the broader point of alliance relationships, do you think it is really credible for New Zealand to back out of its alliance with Australia? If we did so so, you could probably say goodbye to the almost free access that New Zealanders have to Australia. We would have to take our place in the immigration queue just like everyone else. How many New Zealanders would think that a reasonable price to pay to abandon our alliance with Australia?

Similarly with the UK, what would our prospects be of getting a free trade deal with the UK if we backed out of our alliance commitments? Not just to Australia, but also to Five Eyes and the FPDA, the latter of which includes Singapore and Malaysia as well as Australia, NZ and the UK. It is the FPDA to which we are currently sending a frigate and a tanker, just as we have done since 1975. Also look forward to more restrictions for young New Zealanders to travel and work in the UK if we turn our back on the UK.

In any event, what we have to do is not as onerous as you seem to think. In my view it will probably be focussed on replacing the Anzac frigates. The NZ government has yet to make a decision on this. It is not a decision we can continue to duck. It now seems clear that we will have to replace the Anzac frigates with ships of similar combat capability. Realistic and affordable choices exist, most notably the Type 31 frigates that the UK is currently building.

Nick J said...

When Britain joined the EEC in 1972 NZ was thrown to the outer economic darkness. That logically should have been the moment to cut loose from any defense obligations with both the UK and USA who were showing us no economic preference for our fealty. Yes there was a Cold War going on but even that ended in 1991.

Clock forward 50 years and here we are still caught up in ANZUS and 5 Eyes, regular stooges for UK and USA whose financial imperialism has us by the balls. Making the cash to send back tribute to these overseers means trading with China, their "enemy" and economic co-dependant.

Ideally we would sit independent of international finance, trading on mutually beneficial terms with world markets. That however is not how empires work. Whoever we align with will demand tribute at the risk of being excluded from their imperial system and markets. Looked at realistically we have no friends, only competing overlords.

John Hurley said...

If I understand you Chris you seem to be suggesting Winston is being shallow. I was perhaps projecting but I don't think you should underestimate ethnic attachment. It is only in the West that we have this thing where we seek status by being post-ethnic.

greywarbler said...

What is a good book about the Weimar Republic that neophytes can learn from?
It seems important not to let earwigs rush into spaces and get control.
I must look at Sun Tzu's thoughts. I wonder if the Chinese hierarchy still hold him in veneration?

Your thoughts were most interesting Chris and also what will come out in comments. How do the forces practice 'Katipo' etc now and USA and other internationals fit with us now? Bet France won't participate to put down supposed dissidents to keep in practice at interfering in small countries doings. What about larger ones - can anyone tame Brazil?

Tom Hunter said...

... it is already mounting a full-court press to convince New Zealanders that their country has been slighted and snubbed...

Well we have been, and we will continue to be so because Australia and the USA know from three decades of experience that we're a lost cause in their eyes, with only Five Eyes in the mix and perhaps not even that for much longer.

But if "FADE" couldn't restore ANZUS in any meaningful way in the last thirty years how much of a chance do they have now when the whole thing is weaker than ever, especially in its hold on New Zealanders?

Most Kiwis, if they think about it at all, are more concerned about China "taking us over" via influence on National and Labour. Both of the now ex-China-MP's have not been hiding their beliefs since they were quietly booted from their respective party's. A military threat? Pfft!

Subject to proper nurturing, and the right kind of advice, Peters’ party could once again find itself in a position to dangle the keys to the kingdom...

There's always a small percentage of people who will vote for Winston, but he burned the Nat supporters/Winston voters in 2017 with his promises of giving a "spine" to National and then totalling screwing them, so they're not coming back. Plus the Nats now knowing that the best way to crush him is not to pussyfoot around but tell voters that a vote for Winston is a vote for Labour, which is what they did in 2020. Sure, I've learned not to dismiss Lazarus but rising from the dead has to end sooner or later.

It is also quite possible that, by 2023, the United States will be embroiled in domestic strife bordering on civil-war.
It increasingly seems that way but I'd pick post 2024 and beyond, especially when all that debt starts crowding out Medicare/Medicaid and possibly Social Security, all bound up with an increasingly toxic hatred by Mill-Gen Z of the Boomers enjoying those things.

with both the Congress and the Supreme Court under their effective control, the possibility exists that the Republicans will attempt to depose President Biden and replace him with Donald Trump. The Trump-dominated Republican Party is certainly crazy enough to try.
Now this is utter bilge. Trump may try again for the Presidency in 2024 but there is zero chance of getting him in before then. The system simply doesn't work like that.
Hell, at this stage they're not even sure if there's any point in impeaching Biden, even though they've got more on him than was had on Trump, the key telephone phrase "whether it's true or not" being just one thing. They might just do it out of revenge and to put Biden on the back foot for two years, but he's dead meat for 2024 and why give Harris more oxygen?

No Chris, you have these wild flights of fancy, but this is too nutty. As for this...
Surely, it is time for New Zealand to break free of the imperial project in which it has been enmeshed for the past 181 years?

Yeah, yeah. The Lefty dream of the ages. Except the reality of small nations is that they usually come under somebody's thumb. In our case it'll be the Chinese, who have already made solid inroads to the extent that we're frightened of criticising them and do so in a half-hearted manner at best. After all, those two MP's I mentioned were far more vociferous in their defence of China than any MP has been of Britain, the US and Australia in years. It shows the future and China just has to get a few truly Kiwi MP's on its hook rather than relying on more obvious tools as they've had.

thesorrow&thepity said...

Nuclear powered submarines are far far quieter than any diesel electric.... a bit of straw grasping in this article, especially with that 'deposing Biden' paragraph, what a slice of overripe Epoisses left out in the sun that was.

As for AUKUS, will be more interesting to see if India gets invited

Guerilla Surgeon said...

" If we did so so, you could probably say goodbye to the almost free access that New Zealanders have to Australia."

Given the way that New Zealanders are treated in Australia, particularly migrants, we are already at the back of the queue.

Nick J said...

What is a good book on Weimar? Cant help but if you want to put Weimar into context read AJP Taylors Course of German History. Eric Hobsbawm, a Marxist historian writes brilliantly about the rise of Nazism, he saw it first hand as a youth (and Jew).

Wayne Mapp said...


I know that is the received wisdom, but it is wrong. New Zealanders are the only people who can enter Australia, live there permanently and work wherever they like and in any job they like. Their children get free education at school level. They have the same access to medical services as Australians.

I appreciate it is not the same as is was prior to 2000, when New Zealanders had virtually identical right as Australians, but the rights that New Zealanders currently have are vastly more than anyone else in the world.

The alternative, which you seem to be OK with, is for New Zealanders to only be able to live and work in Australia by meeting the standard immigration points system. That would be an enormous reduction of existing rights.

CXH said...

This is entirely our own fault. We became an easy backdoor into Aus for those it had turned down. We were continually warned to do something about it, but in our silly belief in how important we are we refused to change. So Aus did it for us.

Now we bitch like little children about how unfair it all is, rather than take responsibility for our own actions.

Anonymous said...

My answer to Wayne Mapp, is it is fairly obvious that Australia does not have the capacity to build its own version of the very large and dated mix of 1940s steam tech and 1980s naval design that is a Virginia SSN, a far less automated or modern SSN than current French or Russian designs. Tony Abbott called for the rapid simplification of the process and simply obtaining the Virginia or Astute class blueprint design and building copies in Australia at the backwater Adelaide site, for what purpose and at what cost. The French Rubis design offered to Australia off the shelf in 1984 was the sort of small simple 25 knot SSN that Australia could practically have run. The Collins class 2o knot sub was really based on non tropicalised European Swedish designs and ignored the fact a conventionald diesel submarine cannot be like a nuke submarine with large crew, multiple screens and divisions which impose to much demand for electricity and generator strain. However a fast diesel anti ship submarine like the TR 1700 , or Kilo with a burst speed of 25-28 knot smight be effective enough in the anti ship role which were the Chinese threat actually exists. China has so far failed to develop fast silenced nuclear subs and denying them the capability in other ways is a better answer. Playing around with unrealistic plans for nuclear subs or sending rather unsupported carrier task forces on trade missions does not really press China in the way sustained US presence and obstruction around the Spratterlys and Scarborough reef and economic sanctions to prevent the development of real Chinese ICBM and SSN capability in the next five years not twenty five years from now

Anonymous said...

In a strategic sense NZ is just two USN aircraft carriers itself and WW2 showed that the presence of raiders was detected by the RNZAF and RAN who also tracked the odd U boat and Japanese sub. The many British model radar stations did not find the targets that were there and the local branch of the RN mainly deployed overseas without the ships for coastal defence, Cpt Phipps luck in getting to ram a Jap sub was a one off success giving him priority as a RNZN officer post war, and he was not a good choice. Serious defence of NZ and Australia rests on airforce capability and expansion of P-8 and in the RAAF case serious long range fighter bombers and airfields for the USN and USAF.
The Anzac frigates and Collins class were largely developed to waste the Australian defence budget and provided no cold water capability or any ability against Russian Chinese submarines. The Anzus access ship issue was debated by both sides by avoiding the issues. NZ faced no requirement to admin SSNs and any chance of the US converting the fleet other than carriers and subs, had long passed by the 1980s. THe NZ nuclear ban was immediately breached in 1985 by the French sending a Rubis SSN into local waters to support the attack on the Rainbow warrior and later to rescue the agents responsible. A RAN Charles Adams which went into Timaru port for emergency refueling lasting 3 hours one day late in 1985 was also a technical and deliverate breach, as the RAN and FFG Charles Adam DDgs were the only Nato warships duel classified as USN fleet warships and operated under USN codes and setting. Its visit to Timaru for 3 hours could just as well have been an USN CHarles Adams the RAn considered those destroyers there most capable warships till the end of the century and a DDG is not a low capability warship

The Barron said...

We should never lose sight that aside from Chernobyl, the indigenous people of Oceania have been the main victims of post-WWII nuclear radiation. Australia Aboriginals (Maralinga) - victims of the Australian and British Governments, Micronesians (Bikini) - victims of the USA, and Polynesians (Moruroa) - victims of the French.

Wayne Mapp said...

Assuming both posts are from the same person, it looks like it.
All nuclear submarines, in fact all nuclear power plants, are a combination of reactor and steam technology. The reactor is the heat source to turn the water (closed cycle) into steam to drive a steam turbine. Actually a very efficient system. The key advantage of both the British and American subs is that the reactor does not need refuelling throughout its life, unlike the French nuclear subs. I done know any commentators who would suggest US and UK subs are inferior to French or Russian subs, quite the reverse. No refuelling means Australia does not need a nuclear industry. The reactor is essentially a sealed unit that would be delivered prefuelled and at the end of the life of the submarine (circa 2060 - 70) would be removed and taken back to either the UK or the US.
The RAN Ship entering Timaru was not a "technical or deliberate breach". RAN frigates are neither nuclear powered or nuclear armed, and never have been. Therefore there was no breach of New Zealand's nuclear free legislation.
In any event, the main issue that Chris raises is the way AUKUS raises the stakes with China, and the implications of that for New Zealand. He thinks we therefore should abandon all our defence partnerships (and alliances) with these countries. I do not agree. Which is not to say we march in lockstep. Clearly we don't, and neither should we.
However, I am of the view that defence partnerships and alliances (in this instance with Australia) have some obligations. We have to be credible partner, with credible capabilities. Hence my view about the Anzac frigates, and the need for New Zealand to have a plan to replace the existing two frigates with ships of similar capability.

Nick J said...

Interesting about design and cost. Can't help thinking that the whole exercise merely lines the pockets of defence contractors whilst delivering worthless capability.

If you wish to patrol sea routes against civil and military shipping it would be cheaper to deploy hypersonic rocketry and drones. The added benefit is that the operator could work from home when not in the concrete bunker, and go to Mackers for lunch. Much nicer than being cramped at 100 fathoms.

greywarbler said...

Thanks Nick J for Hobsbawm note; a man who has wide interests. While looking him up I could also access a colouring book of swear words, so my spectrum is constantly widened through ideas from Bowalley.

greywarbler said...

Wayne Mapp I think you are mistaken concerning the NZ advantage in Australia, but I guess some of your best friends are there.

Anonymous said...

In reply to Wayne Mapp. Admiral Rickover always said the difficulty with nuclear submarines was not the nuclear reactor part it was steam part that was difficult to design and the full intergration of the steam system with the nuclear system was the tricky and dangerous part anw why everbody working at a nuclear power station had to be intelligent and competent. Rickovers concern and supervision was because of the inherent danger of the steam nuclear installation not the actual nuclear weapons. Rickover particularly made that point at the time of the deal with the RN in 1958 to supply the UK/ RN with USN submarine reactor's amd again in Rickovers report on Three mile Island in three mile island.
Given the end of steam turbine intallation on merchant ships and surface warships in the 1970s nuclear steam power would seem obsolete and unsustainable technology. Indeed that was the reason in part for the ferocious oppostion to the Rn introducing the all gas turbine TYpe 21 and the USN the similar FFG7 they were not only considered cheap nasty and completely inadequate warships by the senior naval staff if actually loved by the officers and crew that served on them - they spelled the end of the steam turbine production which is why in the US and UK the Naval staff and Rickover regarded the end of the production and orders for the steam powered Leander and USN Know class as a catastrophe.

Anonymous said...

In terms of the anti nuclear ban fiasco in 1985 the issue was over access of nuclear armed ships. All USN and RN frigates were nuclear wired for delivery of NDB nuclear depth bombs by 1973 the only exception were old Forrest Sherman GFS destroyers mothballed in 1979 and the similar RN Type 41 diesels and HMS salisbury and HMS Lincoln ideal long range diesel frigates which the RN made repeated efforts to sell to the RNZN. Any serious study of the nuclear issue required reading the various Rand Corp, Santa Monica on the UK RN astute class and RAN Collins if you read beyond the executive summary you will find that the Stangelove think tank descrives both projects as catastrophic disasters and the Asute as 50 years out of date, the lead RN SSN taking 20 years to build finished off by former USN shipyard workers from Electric boat in Connecticut and the British nuclear industry as collapsing under Blair. All reliable sources say before the introduction of the USN Type 48 torpedo in 1972 no conventional anti submarine weapon existed capable dealing with nuclear submarines or any submarine faster than 20 knots. In the accepted History of the RN submarine service. Hennesy & Jinks , RN submarine commanders described there SSNs as armed with bows and arrows not capable of dealing with any submarine more capable than a Soviet 1950s diesel. Even with the introduction of the Type 48/50 it was not available to the UK/ RN even at the times of the Falklands war and while it armed the RAN and RCN Oberons a 17 knot diesel could only be a floating mine on the bottom of Bass straight or Cook Straight and the fact as US Navy Sec John Lehman said, and USN Historian Norman Friedman confirmed USN weapons usually entered Soviet Naval service 4 years before they entered USN service