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US Nuclear Submarines – A Dangerous Nonsense

September 18, 2021

By Stuart Rees

Unless you think that force of arms gives security, that revival of alliances with far away governments makes sense, the decision to own and operate US nuclear submarines should be judged a dangerous nonsense. There are four reasons for making this claim.

Foreign policy in search of an enemy, in this case China, looks like a guarantee of conflict if not war.  Polarisation with little room for dialogue only benefits the arms industry, US corporations and those in the US, UK, Australia and China who think a taste for militarism and masculinity will show the benefits of violence. Capacity to learn from the devastation of the past is once again shoved aside.

A second reason for my submarine despair concerns Australia’s geography. As though days of empire must not be forgotten, a country located in South East Asia and the Pacific chooses an alliance with elderly friends in Washington and London. Such a decision reeks of cultural disdain for diverse countries. Even if dialogue with chest beating China seems currently blocked, it should make diplomatic sense to communicate about security by being at coffee tables and in tea houses in Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, even Cambodia and the Philippines plus Pacific Island nations.

Such communication would be about Millenium goals, Covid vaccinations and the future of planet earth. Alliances with those countries about those issues would make sense.

A third reason concerns the continued use of military might as the way to address conflicts. Bellicose, top-down exercise of power demonstrates a fascination with violence and a corresponding illiteracy about non-violence. You have to ask whether men in suits, in politics, corporations and in association with media acolytes, ever learn. At a time when surveys of young people record their fear of the future and their despair that powerful, inaccessible men refuse to hear them, they are offered a massive bill for nuclear operating submarines.

AUKUS - the triliteral security alliance between Australia, US and UK grants Australia access to nuclear submarine technology
AUKUS - the triliteral security alliance grants Australia access to nuclear submarine technology. Photo credit: Wangaratta Chronicle/Facebook

Indifference to contracts and derision about trust is a fourth and final reason for disdain about the nuclear submarine alliance. Whatever the merits of building even one submarine, at least there were years of agreement with French companies to undertake that ship building task. I understand there are up to sixty Australian naval personnel in Cherbourg who have been taken by surprise at this Biden, Johnson, Morrison announcement. Who cares? Trust is of no consequence. Contracts can be torn up. Promises were never meant to be kept. Besides, in Morrison’s case an election looms and boasting about national security by having US submarines gives a potential war like platform for winning.

There are and there will be no winners. As a post mortem remark can anyone forget the very recent US betrayal and refusal to consult friends and allies in Afghanistan. To distract from that debacle, just pretend that Washington will provide strength and trust in submarines. This is a dangerous nonsense.

Stuart Rees

Stuart Rees OAM is Professor Emeritus, University of Sydney, recipient of the Jerusalem (Akl Quds) Peace Prize and author of the new book “Cruelty or Humanity”. A human rights activist, poet, novelist, and Founder Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation.

Feature image: US nuclear-powered submarine, planned for Australia by Aukus, a dangerous military alliance between US, UK and Australia. Photo credit: US Navy/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock.com

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    5 comments on “US Nuclear Submarines – A Dangerous Nonsense”

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with Prof. Rees’ concerns about the dangerous AUKUS pact between Shirko, Bojo and doddery Biden, none of whom have the competence to even fight the pandemic which has skyrocketed the casualties of their own people-

      I agree except for two comments…

      1. The inclusion of China in "and those in the US, UK, Australia and China who think a taste for militarism and masculinity will show the benefits of violence. "

      2. "chest beating China" in " dialogue with chest beating China seems currently blocked"

      I wrote a piece a couple of years ago about my government induced ignorance (Tudge maintaining the censorship tradition) on Indigenous history and matters and my journey to remedy that. I realise that I have a similar ignorance about China and have been driven for the past few months to learn the truth behind the China bashing by the US & Australia knowing full well that US campaigns of bashing ie propaganda, misinformation and outright lies led to unjust wars that had a two inone goal- the expansion of the US Military Empire.profits for the military industries. The US, like Israel, is a military economy hence wars are sine qua non.

      It doesn't take much researching to debunk the histrionic falsehoods about Chinese aggression. The Chinese BRI wins hearts and minds with investment and infrastructure while the US and allies win hearts and minds with shock and awe. I recommend James Bradley's China Mirage and watching Prof.Deborah Brautigam, China and the World: Africa.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJYiSROjrxI

      This relentless anti-China bashing has been going on for years, and I fully understand China’s cutting dialogue and some trade with the US’s subservient attack mongrel- Australia.

      We urge women to leave abusive relationships, -I need say no more.

    2. Stuart, as ever a concise succinct assessment and appraisal of this latest debacle. Aside from the folly of getting further emeshed with the ageing US for at least the next 50 years with its own profoundly divided society, the caviler treatment of the French and the breach of trust is astounding. It must have implications for the confidence or lack there-off of any county dealing with Australia in the future. Bugging East Timor anyone?
      Smug Morrison figuratively wrapping his arms around Macron in June? Turnbull anyone? This man is a duplicitous piece of work who claims to be sanctified by a God who seemingly approves of this kind of behavior - I think not. Be afraid, very afraid

    3. Thank you, Stuart, for this sobering summary of what Australia's latest military agreement with our 'elderly northern friends in Washington and London' means. You made me think about what the decisions to procure US/UK submarine technology, as well as extend US military use of Australian facilities, will mean for COP26 in Glasgow in Nov. COP26 is a hugely important international meeting and requires strongly co-operative and respectful relations among nations in order for negotiations on climate to be successful. To what extent will these agreements that Dutton and Payne have come home with worsen the already fragile relations between China and US (plus allies), and between Australia and our region, and contribute to a sabotaging of COP26 negotiations?

    4. Thankyou Stuart for articulating the powerlessness and fear many of us are currently feeling. The man in the suit - err, what’s his name, from Down Under, and his suited female Minister for Foreign Affairs, have probably alienated us from our neighbours, created distrust within the EU, and enabled intentional gains to US but also unintentional financial losses to our farmers & producers.
      Let’s hope Donald Trump doesn’t return to the Oval Office!

    5. as ever, Stuart makes absolute sense in what he writes. However, it's what he doesn't write that's of concern. China is determined to remove rights of passage through the South China Sea by employing fleets of ships, including "fishing vessels and by building landing strips on coral reefs in disputed territory. here's no way of maintaining traffic rights than to utilise them, risking confrontation with PLA Navy ships. I hate the Military Industrial Complex as much as Stuart - and Eisenhauer whose phrase it was - but what, short of a show of force, will keep that essential waterway open?

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