by James O’Neill*
The election of Donald Trump as the next US President contains some valuable lessons for Australia. One can have no expectation however that those lessons have been learned.
During the course of the campaign the mainstream media were unanimous both in their support for Hillary Clinton and their conviction that she would be the winner. As late as 9 November 2016 Paul McGeogh in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) had a lengthy article, the headline for which read “How will Trump Handle Being the Biggest Loser”.
The biggest losers from this election were the self-referencing cabal of mainstream media commentators and the “experts” upon whom they invariably draw to reinforce what they had already decided was the received wisdom.
It was, the consensus ran, “Hillary’s turn”. She was the one with a track record of 40 years in public life. She had been the wife of the Governor of Arkansas. She served two terms as First Lady to her husband Bill’s presidency. She had been a Senator from New York and Obama’s Secretary of State.
Trump by contrast was almost invariably portrayed as an uncouth buffoon. He was misogynistic and had never held public office. Australian commentators, politicians and “experts” alike unanimously supported what Peter Martin’s headline (SMH 10/11/16) proclaimed, that a Trump Presidency would be “disastrous for Australia.”
The mainstream media and their commentators carefully ignored analyzing just what Clinton’s 40 years of public life had actually achieved. They could have started with her looking the other way as the CIA flew South American cocaine into Arkansas’ Mena airport while her husband was governor. They could have discussed the destruction of Africa’s most advanced economy, Libya, and her pathological glee at the murder of its President. Her advocacy for the bombing of Kosovo was surely worth some discussion. That was a “humanitarian” bombing is support of Kosovo’s desire for self-determination, a right she was not prepared to concede to Crimea. That Kosovo now houses a huge US military base (Camp Bond Steel), is a failed narco-state, and serves the valuable US purpose as a distribution house for Afghan’s heroin is apparently not worth discussing.
One of Clinton’s avowed aims was to create a no-fly zone in Syria, ostensibly for the “safety” of its citizens, even though the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, General Dunsford warned her that such a policy would mean ‘war with Russia.’ That the real reason for a northern Syria ‘safe zone’ was to facilitate the transit of Qatari gas to Europe and thereby undermine Russia as Europe’s principal supplier was again not worthy of discussion.
When Wikileaks released batches of Clinton’s emails (themselves evidence of among other things criminal conduct), the mainstream media carefully avoided analyzing their content. That content confirmed among other things what a corrupt individual she was and the flag bearer of a profoundly corrupt Democratic Party.
Perhaps the worst feature of the numerous scandals emerging about Clinton was her desperate attempt to blame the Russians, likening Vladimir Putin to “Hitler” and to smear Trump as “Putin’s puppet” and a “Manchurian candidate”. Clinton’s efforts in this regard echoed the worst excesses of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy.
The Australian mainstream media willingly and enthusiastically endorsed this approach. Peter Hartcher of the SMH is one of the worst practitioners of this latter day McCarthyism. Russia’s President Putin, who has three times been elected in free elections as Russia’s President, and who enjoys popular support at levels (80%+) that Turnbull can only dream about, is described as “thuggish” (SMH 10/11/16).
Nick Miller, also of the SMH on the same day, thinks a Trump Presidency will give Russia what it wants, a “weaker less assertive NATO” and “capitulation in the face of Russia’s Crimea land grab.”
Former NSW Premier and Foreign Minister under Rudd, Bob Carr, lamented that Clinton should not “overlook the consensus of US intelligence experts that the Russians were behind the hacking of her campaign emails.”
There was no such consensus and to assert otherwise is typical of the fact –free propaganda that masquerades as analysis in our mainstream media. Similarly, the Crimeans voted overwhelmingly (96%) to rejoin the Russian Federation from which Khrushchev had arbitrarily separated them in 1954 is never discussed.
If there is ever an example of “thuggish” international behaviour then that surely lies at the door of the Americans. Since World War 2 they have bombed, invaded and “regime changed” more than 70 countries, killing more than 30 million people in the process. Is there any other nation on earth that remotely approaches that record? Yet we are constantly treated to a diet of ‘Russian aggression’ or China flexing its muscles in East Asia and the South China Sea.
For all his manifest character flaws Trump at least espouses a willingness to talk to the Russians and others. Although there some obvious contradictions in his public statements, there is also an apparent willingness to scale back the US’s self selected role as the world’s “policeman” although that term has always been a poor adjective for actual US conduct in the post World War 2 era.
All of which strikes fear into the hearts of the Australian foreign policy establishment. Their thinking has been predicated on a number of delusions for a very long time. Experience has done nothing to disabuse them of those delusions. Hence, Malcolm Turnbull was quickly on the telephone to reassure President-elect Trump. He was undoubtedly genuflecting at the feet of his new master and pledging Australia’s undying fealty to a continuation of the failed policies of the past 70 years.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was singing from the same song sheet. “It will be the responsibility” she said, “of the Australian government and other governments in the region to impress upon the new administration the importance of US leadership in our region.”
Unfortunately for the group think mentality of Turnbull, Bishop and the entire array of Australia’s foreign policy establishment, include the ‘think tanks’ (there’s a misnomer) ‘our region’ has changed and will continue to change at an accelerating rate.
The western Pacific is not an American lake. In the past month alone the political leaders of the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam have visited Beijing. They recognise, as do other nations in the region and Australia manifestly does not, that their peace, security and prosperity lies within the region and that China is central to that progress.
Those nations, and others in the region, are or will benefit from participation in for example, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership; (RCEP) the Eurasian Initiative of South Korea’s President Park; and above all the One Belt, One Road initiatives of China’s President Xi Jinping.
The latter program is the world’s largest infrastructure program. When completed in a few short years from now, it will involve 65 countries and two-thirds of the world’s population. Through linkages to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) it has the potential to totally transform the Eurasian geopolitical and economic landscape.
The implications for Australia, as I pointed out in a recent article for New Eastern Outlook, are enormous.
It is obvious from the Australian reaction both to the US election campaign and its outcome that our leaders are still locked in a mindset that is less and less appropriate with each passing day.
As Paul Keating pointed out in the 7.30 Report on Thursday night, Turnbull genuflecting and saying his Hail Marys to Trump does not resolve the central issues facing Australia. As Peter Jennings of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute pointed out, ”Plan A was to make the (American) alliance work. But if it starts to unravel we need a Plan B. We don’t have a Plan B.”
In my view, that Plan B is to recognise the realities of our geography, our trade patterns and our true national interests. Such a recognition necessarily requires a fundamental rethinking of our strategic posture. There is no evidence that such a process is underway in Australia. That is likely to have far greater deleterious consequences for Australia than any Trump presidency.
*Barrister at Law He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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