Women. Power. Peace.

Sayre Speaks: Australia and the U.S. — Our Expanding Military Presence in the Pacific


Written by Sayre Sheldon

On Obama’s recent trip to Australia he announced that 2,500 marines would be deployed there: the first long-term expansion of American military presence in the Pacific since the end of the Vietnam War.

"What is the significance of this move," I asked our Australian connection, WAND’s founder Helen Caldicott, who was visiting her son and his family here last week. Helen was quick to answer that she had predicted such developments in her book The New Nuclear Danger which came out originally in 2002. The answer of course is China. After the end of the Cold War, she said the military industrial complex would want new enemies to justify its continued growth. The “War on Terror” would fill this need after 9/11 but with the winding down of our two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the growing economic and military presence of China would inevitably be used to justify continued defense spending.

And sure enough, Obama addressing the Australian Parliament said, “Defense cuts will not—I repeat—come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific.”

Australia was where Helen began her campaign against nuclear weapons and where she lives today. She is concerned with a growing influence of the U.S. there and discouraged with Australia’s renewal of uranium mining which she had been instrumental in ending years ago. New Zealand, also part of the World War II ANZUS pact with the U.S. and Australia forbids nuclear powered or nuclear weapons carrying vessels from their ports so is no longer clearly a member of the pact. Now Obama has announced Australia will be expanding its bases for U.S. ships and aircraft.

A major reason for this expansion is covered in an important article on our growing naval presence in the world, “A New Era of Gunboat Diplomacy” (Mark Landler, N Y Times, Nov 13) The article describes a growing world-wide hunt for fuel. As countries search for new sources “conflicting maritime claims are helping to fuel a naval arms race.” China is in a big expansion of their navy, and now building their first aircraft carrier. The comparison with our navy’s eleven aircraft carriers shows how wide the gap is.

Helen’s major campaign today is to stop nuclear power--often promoted as a “clean” fuel. On Dec 2 she published a powerful article in the International Herald Tribune, “After Fukushima, Enough is Enough” (Available at N Y Times.com: “After Fukushima, Enough is Enough”)

Once again Helen is saying that it’s clearer than ever world energy needs can’t be supplied by climate-threatening fossil fuels or unsafe nuclear power but only by changing to renewable sources and conservation.

The link between growing U.S. military alliances along with increases in defense spending and unsustainable energy policies is clear to WAND members—one of our jobs is to make it clearer to others.

Written by Sayre Sheldon

Editor's Note: The views expressed by WAND's guest bloggers are not necessarily shared by WAND or part of WAND's official policies.





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