Real Men Go To Beijing

ROSS Fitzgerald had an excellent column in The Australian on Monday decrying the psychological and cultural unpreparedness of this generation to be mobilised for war against China over Taiwan in alliance with the United States, Japan and other nations. The emeritus professor of history and politics argues that young Australians are taught at every turn – and in every amenable forum – to loathe their own country; would thousands of them be willing to die for it? Would any government commit them to such a conflict anyway? The regular soldiery of the ADF was thought too feeble for Iraq and Afghanistan. How likely is it those same troops will be sent to drive the PLA out of Taipei? These are fair and solemn questions, to be sure, but however much I share Fitzgerald’s doubts, I no longer consider them to be uncomplicatedly alarming.

Why? Start with twenty-plus years of phony war-mongering by the military-industrial complex and intelligence agencies – the guardians not of democratic life in the West but of elites disdainful of its liberties. Just because Peter Dutton and the Pentagon-sourced briefs placed before him assert war with China is inevitable, that doesn’t make it true. Second, contra-Fitzgerald, despite the prettiness of its one-child princelings in uniform, Beijing has nowhere near the number of combat veterans at its command as the Anglosphere and Europe. Moreover, if being brainwashed by amoral fascists is disadvantageous to the young-at-arms, we still have the edge. The best thing Mr Dutton can do for national security – cost-free – is ensure a culture of putting the fear of God into our enemies is not merely protected in the SAS but standardised. The eyes for procurement in this country are bigger than the stomach for battle.

If China does conquer Taiwan it will do so by gradually ignoring one line in the sand after another to undermine its rival from within. This is the longer march but is the only realistic option – unless Beijing wants to crash the Chinese economy and its global prestige (such as it is) forever. China is rich and powerful but it cannot beat the world. Contemporary history is strewn with the wreckage of ant culture states that thought otherwise. Growing technical prowess and wealth, martial hubris and the enticement of a myth-fuelled revival of greatness combined to actuate – and destroy – all of the last century’s wannabe imperiums. Only the United States has lasted, empire-like – though it is now Constantinople to its own fallen Rome – and, to my mind, one of the big reasons for that is its avowedly Christian national ethos. As Kim Beazley once observed, the US is the only country in history that made itself a target for complete annihilation to protect millions of people for whom it was not administratively responsible.

What worries me about the AUKUS arrangement – if the noise of a brass band warming up can be called an arrangement – is that it constitutes nothing more than symbolic safeguarding of alliance rather than a commitment to a future war. This week, a Department of Defence review found there was no reason to overturn the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin to a Chinese company (which is to say, the Chinese Communist Party). President Xi may be arrogant but he isn’t stupid. He plays the game of pretending to be outraged by AUKUS – all the better to lull Australia into believing it makes a strategic difference – but he knows a country that will not re-claim its own land is hardly likely to launch missiles on China from a submarine. This is farce so high it could have a near-miss of its own with the Tiangong space station.

Variously attributed to John Bolton or Dick Cheney or ‘an administration official heard to say,’ the neo-con slogan, “boys go to Baghdad, real men go to Tehran,” needn’t be seen as wholly passé. The cold war with China is likely to be a long one; Taiwan might even be ‘lost’ along the way or its allied defenders might win a shooting war. Then what? The contest won’t end in the former case, nor the shooting in the latter. The prize is not an island nation, a sea or a region. It is a world order forever vectoring toward peace, democracy, free trade and individual human rights. Beijing itself is where we have to go – not with armies but with ideas and values that will prevail over the next 100 years. Professor Fitzgerald reminds us the campaign begins in the classroom. It cannot succeed, however, prescinded from Christian culture. We don’t have to be saints – though the more of those we have the better – but we do have to be civilised.

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14 Responses to Real Men Go To Beijing

  1. Ivan Denisovich says:

    Beijing itself is where we have to go – not with armies but with ideas and values that will prevail over the next 100 years.

    Michelle La Rosa:

    A Chinese bishop who has refused to register with the Communist-run Catholic Church in the country has disappeared, with local reports suggesting he has been kidnapped……

    The bishop has previously disappeared for weeks or months at a time, and has reportedly been subject to repeated brainwashing efforts by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPCA)……..

    Many underground priests, and some bishops, have refused to register with the CPCA, citing the requirement that they acknowledge Communist Party authority over the Church and its teachings……….

    Cardinal Joseph Zen, the emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, has been a vocal critic of the deal, arguing that it has contributed to the damaging of the Church’s moral authority in China.

    Cardinal Zen is absolutely correct. As Damian Thompson points out, Chinese Catholics are being required
    – endorsed by the Vatican – to genuflect to Xi while at the same time PF and his henchmen are doing their best to crush TLM. Frankly, PF is a disgrace. The Chinese, with their strong family bonds and work ethic, would find much in Catholicism that would appeal. When the CCP eventually collapses, however, I fear that revulsion about collusion with the dictatorship will result in many rejecting the Church. Peter Kwasniewski and Rodney Stark both make the point that the Church grows through persecution. PF doesn’t seem to understand this, unsurprisingly.

  2. Ivan Denisovich says:

    It cannot succeed, however, prescinded from Christian culture

    We have a way to go, here:

  3. C.L. says:

    Are we even remotely ready for a real crisis?

    Not long ago, federal Education Minister Alan Tudge wondered out loud whether today’s school kids would be willing to fight for a country they’d been taught not to believe in.

    It’s a fair question: why would young people be willing to risk their lives for an Australia they’d been taught to believe was fundamentally illegitimate, had a sub-optimal culture and was helping to destroy the planet by exporting coal to the wider world?

    Yet that’s the intellectual subtext for every course these days, given the national curriculum’s insistence that all subjects be taught from an Indigenous, sustainability and Asian perspective.

    At the close of a year that again has been dominated by Covid-19, it’s not only the erosion of people’s pride in our country that calls into question our long-term ability to defend ourselves; it’s also the culture of safetyism that entirely has driven Australia’s response to the pandemic.

    At one level, it’s laudable that everyone has endured so much disruption to their ordinary lives – with offices closed, travel banned, kids home-schooled, and governments spending hundreds of billions of dollars to sustain people to cower at home – to suppress a virus that largely has been a mild illness to all except the very old and the very sick.

    But how would a country that shut itself down in fear of a virus to maximise the remaining years of the very vulnerable respond to a challenge requiring the possible sacrifice of thousands of young lives?

    At the Battle of Fromelles in 1916, more than 1500 Australian soldiers were killed in a single night. The 1941 loss of HMAS Sydney resulted in nearly 650 dead. Back then, a strong and stoical nation was able to mourn these disasters without losing the will to fight.

    More recently, the loss of only 41 soldiers in more than a decade of combat in Afghanistan generated much national angst, with the prime minister, opposition leader and all the armed forces chiefs attending each military funeral. At one level, that’s exactly the recognition owed to anyone who dies for our country. A country that puts its official life on hold for each combat fatality sure has a big heart; but does it have the mental toughness to fight a major war?

    In World War I, roughly half of all Australian men aged 18 to 40 volunteered to fight. Of the 440,000 enlisted, 330,000 went overseas, 150,000 were wounded and 60,000 never came home.

    In World War II, nearly a million Australians enlisted in the armed forces and about 40,000 were killed. By contrast, about 30,000 Australians served in Afghanistan with 41 killed in action.

    For us, Afghanistan was a war of low consequence: it meant some military casualties but there was minimal impact on Australians’ way of life.

    Any Australian military action against China, by contrast, could involve high numbers of combat deaths, enormous economic dislocation and potential strikes against targets here at home. It would be a war of the highest possible consequence and it’s a prospect that unfortun­ately is no longer remote.

    As the Beijing government ramps up its threats to take Taiwan, it would be a big mistake to think Covid is the worst disaster this generation of Australians could possibly face.

    The recently retired commander of US forces in the Indo-Pacific, Philip Davidson, has warned that China could invade Taiwan within six years. While the US has no treaty obligation to defend Taiwan, the Taiwan Relations Act obliges the US to “resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardise the security or the social or economic system of the people on Taiwan”.

    When asked recently whether he would “vow to protect Taiwan” and would keep up with China’s military modernisation, US President Joe Biden’s instant response was “yes and yes”. Queried a second time about whether the US would respond to a Chinese attack on Taiwan, Biden said: “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.”

    While US State Department spokesmen subsequently said the longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity” was unchanged, they also said the US commitment to Taiwan was “rock solid”.

    And even if the US commitment to Taiwan remains uncertain, its commitment to Japan is not. Former Japanese deputy prime minister Taro Aso recently declared that an attack on Taiwan would threaten Japan’s survival and that “if that is the case, Japan and the US must defend Taiwan together”.

    While Australia has no specific commitment to defend Taiwan – a government, after all, that we don’t officially recognise – the ANZUS treaty has always been regarded as the bedrock of our security. This provides that in the event of an attack on US forces Australia would “act to meet the common danger”.

    The bottom line of existing American, Japanese and Australian security commitments is that any US failure to help defend Taiwan, in the event of an unprovoked attack, would see the end of the American alliance system in East Asia, as countries such as Japan and South Korea made the best accommodation they could with China or armed themselves to the teeth in a bid to be impregnable even to a superpower.

    If the US did intervene against China, Australia would be expected to commit ships and aircraft that would be extremely vulnerable to Chinese missiles and torpedoes.

    In any extended or escalating conflict, it’s likely that the Chinese would try to disable the US intelligence-gathering facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, at first probably by cyber attack but eventually via missile strike.

    Even an America that decided not to go to war with China over Taiwan would almost certainly impose the toughest possible economic sanctions. The world then would be likely to divide into two economic blocs: one led by China; the other by the US. We would be expected to cease selling to China the $180bn a year of strategic materials, such as iron ore, coal and gas, that make up about 30 per cent of our total exports. For much of this, there eventually would be alternative markets.

    Even so, the cost of sanctions on China would trickle down into every corner of the economy and the burden of much greater military self-reliance, in terms of more firepower, greater manpower and higher taxes to pay for it, ultimately would fall on almost every family.

    Are we even remotely ready to face the strategic challenges ahead? When we’re still discombobulated by a virus, even an Omicron variant that’s only half as dangerous as earlier ones, “toughen up” is hardly the message we’re ready for; even though it’s the one we really need.

  4. C.L. says:

    When the CCP eventually collapses, however, I fear that revulsion about collusion with the dictatorship will result in many rejecting the Church.

    Good point, Ivan. The deal with China and the secrecy around it are disturbing.

    This pope seems to have the mission to break as many things as possible in the belief that it will never be put back together again.

  5. C.L. says:

    Frankly, PF is a disgrace.

    I don’t even think that description goes far enough.

  6. Chris M says:

    You fight to protect your own country first and foremost.

    How are the Taiwanese nukes coming on? And the Australian ones for that matter.

    Oh, so we are not that serious then…?

  7. Not Trampis says:

    A war between china and Taiwan.
    If Xi is as stupid as Trump maybe but I doubt it.
    It would cost China billions in trade both directly and indirectly. I do believe they have learned the lessons of WW1.

  8. cuckoo says:

    would thousands of them be willing to die for it?

    I once heard a radio interview with some female intellectual who was declaiming passionately about how important the EU, and its particular idea of ‘Europe’, was to her. The interviewer pointed out that she had two sons: would she be happy for those boys to fight in a war to defend her ‘Europe’? Long pause, then the answer in a smaller voice, ‘Well, no, of course not’.

  9. Boambee John says:

    Non Compos Mentis

    I do believe they have learned the lessons of WW1.

    Do you have any, like, you know, actual evidence to support this belief, or is it purely wishful thinking? You do have a bit of a habit of making evidence-free assertions, is this another?

  10. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    President Xi may be arrogant but he isn’t stupid.

    I’m with Homer on this (except the Trump drive-by). I don’t think Xi is stupid, but he does have serious domestic issues to deal with, and using Taiwan as a unifying nationalist cause has its attractions. Although it also comes with the danger of getting out of control, through PLA hawks or populist pressure.

    What I’ll add is that it’s now fairly clear the mysterious atomic weapons test south of Cape Town was a joint effort between South Africa, Israel and Taiwan, who’ve had a dual use nuclear sector since the late sixties.

    It would be very surprising to me if Taiwan didn’t have at least the number of warheads that RSA had built before they gave them up. Which means Xi will know this too, very well indeed. The art for him is to achieve conquest of Taiwan with having ten or so of his cities turned into radioactive slag.

  11. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Oops that should be without having his cities nuked.

  12. Boambee John says:

    Bruce of N

    Although it also comes with the danger of getting out of control, through PLA hawks or populist pressure.

    One of the lessons of WW1? Xi might be aware of it (not guaranteed, given Chinese ethno-centrism), but even if he is, can he control it?

    As for the nuclear weapons, if he is sensible he will have to accept that Taiwan has them, and will use them in extremis.

  13. Not Trampis says:

    As Keynes pointed out just prior to WWI economic growth was strong and the world economy interlinked.
    No-one thought anyone would attempt to sabotage this.
    It just happened foreign policy went off the rails and the world economy had to wait until after WW2 to recover.
    It is true that Chinese foreign policy has gone off the rails via the ‘wolf warriors’ however there are two things that would stop China.

    Their place in the value chain. That would be destroyed
    The social contract the Party has with the populace accepting dictatorship for increasing stands of living.

    I can also add a third. Just who would be buying chinese bonds

  14. Boambee John says:

    Non Compos mentis

    And yet WW1 still occurred.

    Never underestimate the effect of chauvinism, be it German or Chinese.

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