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The Pinkerton Effect: The US Marines in Darwin

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The Pinkerton Effect: The US Marines in Darwin

Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, practice proper techniques to clear a stairway during an Urban Operations exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 9, 2014. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Moore/Released)

Submitted by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Subordinates rarely have a good time of dictating matters to their superiors. In the webbed power relations that pass as realpolitik, Australia is the well behaved child in the front of the room, yearning to be caned and spoilt in equal measure.  Ever since Australia’s Prime Minister John Curtin cast his eye to Washington in an act of desperation during the Second World War, fearing defeat at the hands of the Japanese and British abandonment, the United States has maintained its role, a brute to be relied upon, even as it careers into the next disaster.  An underlying rationale since then has been dangerously simple: With the United States, right or wrong, sober or drunk.

An important element in the relationship has been the forced belief that the US has no bases in Australia, preferring the untidy ruse of rotation.  A base implies permanency, garrisons with darkened influences on the local populace, followed by the all-too-predictable requirement for courts martial.  A rotation on exercise suggests a casual visit and a bit of sunny fun.

The US armed forces, as Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, do this with callous freedom under the broader aegis of the alliance with Canberra, fucking the Oriental subject and departing, having impregnated the host, and propelling her to a despair that eventually kills.  The metaphor carries over for what sounds, promiscuously enough, a classic military strategy: rotation, not occupation; movement, not garrisoned entrenchment.  To that end, it follows that the US does not occupy Australia so much as penetrate it with convenience, use it, and discard if and when needed, all pimp, and occasionally reassuring plunderer.

In 2014, US President Barack Obama fluted his views about the Pacific and the future role of US forces on a visit to Australia, yet another notch on the belt of the imperium’s move into the Asia-Pacific.  “By the end of this decade, a majority of our Navy and Air Force fleets will be based out of the Pacific, because the United States is and always will be a Pacific power.”

In 2015, Admiral Jonathan Greenert did his little Pinkerton expedition to Darwin, hoping to find suitable environs to seed further.   The US, in his words, was “doing a study together with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to see what might be feasible for naval co-operation in and around Australia which might include basing ships”.  (The horny Lothario must always sound cooperative and consultative.)

A new port facility, planned to be situated at the Glyde Point area, has been one part of this potentially dubious harvest.  The intention here is to broaden the scope of naval operations, with the port intended for amphibious war ships, while providing comfort to the rotating marine force.  The Australian Defence Department, as is its wont, refuses to confirm this, telling the country’s national broadcaster that it had, at present “no plans for the development of a new naval facility in the Northern Territory.”  The evidence suggests otherwise, given the completion of the recent $40 million road to Gunn Point, near Glyde Point.  (The road to militarism tends to have good paving.)

A few mutterings are available from the Australian Defence Force.  A spokesman explained, noting additions to the infrastructure, that, “The [fuel storage] facility will support training and enable enhance cooperation between the Australian Defence Force and the US Marine Corps and US Air Force.”

It has been a touch under a decade since US marines began arriving in Darwin, all part of the Obama administration’s desire to pivot the imperium. In 2018, Washington sent a contingent of 1,500 soldiers as part of the US-Australian force posture agreement, an understanding said to continue till 2040.  The national interest analysis of the agreement reads like an authorising document for occupation, however described.  Weasel assurances are present to give the reader the false impression of Australian independence; there would be, for instance, “respect for Australian sovereignty and the laws of Australia”, the need to agree to consultation “and affirms that the initiatives will occur at Australian facilities, consistent with our long-standing policy that there are no foreign military bases on Australian soil.”

Such a position did not fool Nick Deane of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network, an organisation that continues to promote the dangers of a continuing US military presence on the continent.  “Having foreign troops on home territory creates a potential breach in any sovereign nation’s defence.  The first criterion of independence has to be the nation’s capacity to look after itself by conducting its own defence.”  The presence of foreign troops should only be countenanced in “the most extreme of situations”. Those had hardly presented themselves, despite the usual psychic pressings posed by a rejigged version of the Yellow Peril.

Groups such as IPAN, along with a few defence contrarians such as Mike Gilligan, argue that Australia simply does not need this added presence for peace of mind, being more than capable of dealing with its own security.

Australia’s problems have been amplified by another player in the crammed boudoir.  The People’s Republic of China is also sniffing, perusing and seeking a foothold.  Darwin’s port was leased to Landbridge Industry Australia, a subsidiary of Shandong Landbridge Group in 2015, which might have been regarded as more than just a tease. Such foreplay did not impress various critics at the time, including the then federal treasurer, Scott Morrison. “They didn’t tell us about it!” he is noted to have said. “Which Australian city controversially leased their port to a Chinese company in 2015?”  Strategy wonks were baffled; this move on the part of the Northern Territory government did not tally.

It would be convenient to deem the Northern Territory government a convenient whipping boy in this whole business.  Australia, thus far, is proving an erratic courtesan on all fronts, happy to provide coal to Beijing in abundance with a certain amoral confidence but abstinent and circumspect on technology.  (Its directions to remain firm against Beijing from Washington regarding Huawei and 5G are clear enough.)

Canberra is also rebuffing various efforts being made by the People’s Republic of China in the Pacific.  The Australian heart remains firmly, perhaps suicidally, in Washington’s embrace, but its politics remains scrambled.  Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent megaphone tour of the Solomon Islands was meant to be a signal to China that the Pacific remained Canberra’s neighbourhood watch zone and, by virtue of that, a US playground by proxy.  Pinkertonism is a hard thing to shake.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

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  • Veritas Vincit

    Australia and the U.S.-NATO bloc:

    – “Australia is in the process of receiving an upgrade to “enhanced Partnership” status, giving greater diplomatic and military access to NATO operations. Australia is represented by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister David Johnston, who have Russian president Vladimir Putin firmly in their sights.” (NATO summit: Australia strengthens ties with Atlantic alliance, but strains of global policing starting to show, [Australian] ABC news, 05/09/2014)

    – “there are indications that NATO will be much more active in Australia’s region than in the past. The Alliance will approve a new strategic concept later this year to guide NATO’s objectives, strategy, and force planning, which will clarify the role NATO may play in the Asia Pacific. The new concept will acknowledge that NATO remains, at its core, a transatlantic alliance.” [Dr Stephan Frühling and Dr Benjamin Schreer are Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University] (Australia and NATO: A deeper relationship?, LowyInterpreter, 11 October 2010)

    U.S.-Australian military build-up:

    – “defense analysts from both countries expect an increased presence in Australia for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines in the form of bombers, nuclear submarines, missiles and troops…. it’s likely the Air Force will begin using runways in the northern part of the country, possibly for the B-52 strategic bomber and B-2 stealth bomber… [missile architecture] cooperation is more likely to speed up….” (Deal likely to bring more US military assets to Australia’, Stripes, June 20, 2014)

    – “The US Defense Department and the Australian Defence Force are conducting a joint study into…. the feasibility of rotating an entire US aircraft carrier battle group to the port of Stirling near Perth… American long-range B-52 bombers now spend up to six months a year at airbases in Darwin and nearby Tindal…” (US military looks to expand use of Australian bases and ports, 16 February 2015)

    – “Airfields in the far north of Australia have been characterised in US strategic documents as “safe havens” for American aircraft, as they are beyond the range of most Chinese and North Korean missiles. F-22 stealth fighters, B2 stealth bombers, and B1 and B52 long-range strategic bombers are among the American assets that have practised operating from northern Australia.” (Australia deploys for war with North Korea and confrontation with China, By James Cogan, WSWS, 11 October 2017),

    Australian considerations of acquiring domestic nuclear capabilities:

    – Report: Renewed push for Australia to build nuclear weapons, By Peter Symonds, WSWS, 30 January 2018 [Excerpts] ” Paul Dibb, an emeritus professor of strategic studies at the ANU, made a similar suggestion obliquely in an article in the Australian last October, entitled “Our nuclear armament position is worth reviewing.” Dibb said Australia did not require nuclear weapons at present, but times were changing and “it would be prudent to revisit reducing the technological lead time.”…… What Dibb suggested is that Australia, under the guise of generating nuclear power or on another pretext, acquire the essential technology to produce the fissile material needed to build a nuclear weapon. The hypocrisy involved is staggering. Analysts making such proposals accuse countries like Iran and North Korea of putting such plans into practice, and support a US pre-emptive attack to eliminate the supposed threat……

    …… Lowy Institute analyst Peter Layton proposed in an article on January 17 that Australia consider “sharing nuclear weapons” rather than developing an independent arsenal. He suggested the placement of US nuclear weapons on Australian soil on the same basis as in Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy and Turkey, or alternatively, cost-sharing with Britain to build its fleet of Dreadnought-class nuclear submarines, armed with Trident nuclear missiles. [End]

    • Veritas Vincit

      – “In a recent essay, Dr Stephan Fruhling, the Associate Dean of the College of Asia and the Pacific at the ANU, contemplated the “unthinkable option”, and suggested that a nuclear-armed Australia is more likely than ever before….” (Does Australia need a nuclear arsenal? And what would be the cost?, By Joey Watson [Australian] ABC News, 24/10/2018)

      Australian preparations for a potential allied military conflict with the PRC:

      -“the Australian military is being integrated into the US military’s AirSea Battle doctrine. Under this plan, US forces will launch attacks on the Chinese mainland, while Australian forces will cut off China’s maritime trade links…. starving its economy of oil, gas and other essential resources.” (Sydney’s week-long military extravaganza foreshadows new wars, WSWS, 11 October 2013)

      -“The report [‘Australia-Japan-US Maritime Cooperation’ by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies] contains specific recommendations to enhance “inter-operability” on intelligence and surveillance, submarine and anti-submarine warfare, amphibious forces and logistics….. The report’s author, Andrew Shearer, is a senior figure in the Australian foreign policy and military establishment…. Shearer is also very well connected in Washington……

      …….Shearer makes clear [the] main “hard security” objective is to prepare for war with China. The Pentagon’s preoccupation with “freedom of navigation” and China’s A2/AD [s[Anti-Access, Area Denial] systems flows directly from its military strategy for war with China—Air Sea Battle. This is premised on being able to launch massive missile and air attacks on the Chinese mainland from warships and submarines in nearby waters, as well as from military bases in Japan and South Korea. Australia and Japan are central to Air Sea Battle and associated strategies, which include a naval blockade of China to strangle its economy……

      ……. “In the event of a conflict with China, the United States and its allies could adopt a range of strategies to counter its A2/AD capabilities,” the report explains. All are based on Air Sea Battle, which “relies on networked, integrated forces to take the offensive across air, maritime, land, space and cyberspace to disrupt, destroy and defeat an adversary’s A2/AD capabilities, allowing friendly forces maximum flexibility to defeat opposing forces.” (CSIS report argues for strong US-Japan-Australia alliance against China, By Peter Symonds, 9 April 2016)

      As Australia is not only hosting (on a rotational basis) U.S. military forces (including nuclear capable assets) and is procuring military technology that has nuclear device delivery potential (F-35s, Mk41 VLS, etc.), in the event of an allied bloc war against the DPRK, the PRC and/or the Russian Federation, it is reasonable to assume nations identified as enemies of the U.S.-NATO-allied bloc will likely adjust policies/calculations accordingly (Australia is not just acting as a regional allied military projection platform but is also a platform that is developing an allied nuclear delivery potential and as is evident by its expanding offensive foreign operations, ‘force projection’ capabilities).

      If a direct kinetic stage of conflict does not eventually occur, the Australia will have little cause for concern. However if active forms of warfare progress to more advanced stages (as is occurring in various locations), the opposite applies.

      Note: The Australian posture towards the Russian Federation is well established as adversarial (Australia being involved in allied economic warfare and proxy warfare operations). Indeed various Australian figures have stated forms of warfare (hybrid/unconventional/irregular warfare) are active and intensifying. The belief allied architecture protects them is the basis of their confidence to engage in such actions. Such confidence is however incompatible with realities as likely approaching events shall clarify (the many globally expanding wars of aggression of the U.S.-NATO-Israel-allied bloc developing into one, a realisation obscured by the staged application of these military aggressions).

  • Paul

    As an Australian I was amazed that when the Government said that US troops would be stationed in NT, no one in the media said anything, no protests, no discussions, complete silence in the face of our apparent sovereignty being jeopardised. Shouldn’t be surprised though, Aussies are an ignorant lot who have been conditioned to dislike talking about politics.

    • Justin

      Jesus they are in Britain too dude!Calm the fuck down!
      What this article is not telling u is that Britain ordered our soldiers to STAY and defend in India rather than come home and protect australia! YES INDIA!
      That is why we called upon our reserves (which were the famous diggers on the kokoda trail that prevailed) the rest is history!

      But who did come?
      THE USA!
      Did they need too? NO!
      In fact it was about the time when the US was expecting a raid on the Midway islands! Japan had more and newer AirCraft carriers and the USA had 5!They sent 2 to Australia! The Japs had 9!

      So do the math and ask yourself, as the battle of the coral sea the defining moment in Australian war? Kokoda? Both saved us!

      So do we owe a debt? FUCK YES!
      So stop your complaining and get on board! top assuming we are occupied! We live a fucking good life over here! We are a nation that carries the largest Uranium stores by far! The nation that comes 2nd to us has 1/3 of what we got! The tHQ for nuclear proliferation IS IN FUCKING MELBOURNE! WE DECIDE WHO GETS NUCLEAR POWER!!!!!

      Also to assume our island 9a british province) doesnt have nuclear ICBM’s is a wonderful trick!

      The world largest rocket base in the 1960’s was in Woomera AUSTRALIA! We got all the uranium and we are an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the southern hemisphere!
      We pretend we are anti-nuclear yet secretly u can bet ur balls we have nuclear ICBM’snot only to protect British interests (singapore straight, malaysia, India, thailand etc etc etc) but Britains as well God forbid they need help within 30 minutes!

      Dude we are and always will be a strategic province of Britain and the USA!

      Fuck China! China is the supposed NEW Zionist HQ for Globalists!

      • Paul

        For a start, I am quite calm, secondly we do not decide who has nuclear weapons, as we have never been a sovereign country that governs itself. Like Germany, Japan bit off more than it could chew and over extension would of made taking Australia almost impossible. I’m indifferent when it comes to China and I don’t trust them but the US is no different, in fact they have proven themselves to be a murderous empire who will stop at nothing to gain hegemony. History shows that those in power always go too far and desire to rule over everything. Propaganda and patriotism don’t persuade me. I’m not one of those morons who post things like, the anzacs died for our freedom BS.

        • goingbrokes

          Completely agree Australia is not an independent nation but part of the British Empire, that never went away. How do we know this? The Queen is the Head of State, and HM Governor General can 100% legally dissolve Australian Parliament at any time. (The definition of an Imperial Colony used to be that it had a Governor General.)
          Also Australia has never had an embassy to the UK. Why is that? It would be entirely inappropriate to send an Ambassador Plenipotentiary to your Queen, as that Ambassador would be the Queens “equal” in status. Instead Australia has always had a High Commissioner to the UK, a courtier to the Queen if you like. (Just as Alfred Milner was a High Commissioner of South Africa during the Empire’s heyday.) It is still firmly living in the Empire nomenclature, and the many Rhodes scholars try to keep it that way. They have succeeded so far.

        • Justin

          We have a strong say since WE have all the uranium. Of course the real decision is made by the 5 super powers

          oh so the anzacz didn’t die for us? Oh ok then. It’s all a lie then. Japan wasn’t in new guineA if U say so. They didn’t bomb Darwin nor attack in Sydney Harbour.

          I’m right and I know I’m right.

          • Paul

            The ANZACS fought in Gallipoli for the interests of the British Empire or should I say British Petroleum. We invaded Turkey, so please tell me our that was for our ‘freedom’? Saying Japan was over extended is not saying those events didn’t occur. As vassal state of the Anglo/Amercian empire, we were always going to be the enemy of Japan. Personally I bitch as you say about the US because they are warmongers. We shouldn’t of got involved in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Did you know that we sat by and did nothing while Indonesia invaded East Timor with America’s weapons and support and let the Indonesians kill our reporters trying to tell the truth? See how your response was emotional. It’s through emotions Governments brainwash people through propaganda and patriotism. Just because I was taught to glorify war when I was in school as a child, doesn’t mean I will blindly do it as an adult.

          • Justin

            All wars are fought for resources. We didnt have a choice. The US fought for us. Luckily we are lucky we are an island. All the wars we fought in were for England and to honour our treaty we signed in blood. The Anglo Empire has managed to hold onto most important sea passages and resources. That’s why U got it nice housebwitha back yard, bar b q, garage, living room, 3 or 4 bedrooms, weekends off with 4 weeks a year, long service leave, retirement package etc etc. They saved us and now we Are their bitch. Buy look at Japan after losing to the USA. Look at West Germany and South Korea. Look how well off they became. They are the top economies. The us saved China from Japan. Transferred our industries to China. How.many losing nations were ever treated so well in history?? Explain that one. All U guys do is bitch and whine. U should not confuse the USA with the CIA. The CIA is the globalist Intel agency and work against the interests of the USA. This year U will hear on the news that Google and the Obama CIA worked for China.

          • Paul

            Yes the US became the dominant force in the world after WW2. But don’t believe the lies about them being some sort of saviour. Those countries you mentioned are prosperous but they don’t have sovereignty, they cannot elect leaders who challenge American foreign policy, they are controlled by the money leaders and geopolitical will of the US. I agree that it has benefited a lot of people, but a lot of others suffer because of it. If you think it’s ok to oppress countries just so you can prosper than I say to you your morals are corrupt. So, do think Vietnam was right? what about the Korean War, where the US bombed all the cities and killed two thirds of the population. What about Iraq, using depleted uranium weapons and killing a million over lies. Mate, you could have easily been born in one of countries and watched your family get slaughtered. Just like that. Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Countries like, Iraq and Libya are being kept in a state of division and war just so Western oil companies can profit. Do you really think they give a shit about you? You exist to pay interest rates my friend, and when technology is so advanced that robots can do your job, then they won’t need you anymore.

        • Justin

          We are literally a colony. Britain has US bases. We have em. And we are an alliance. If we were invaded by Indonesia who would certainly be allies with China, we would have awesome back up. Try to find a country with 24 million people, 3 times the size of Europe and safe from land invasions. We are so lucky and some nations would LOVE to have this fortress. Everyone here will RIGHTFULLY BITCH about the US but never about China. They are so ignorAnt.

      • Sinbad2

        STFU

        • Justin

          Pray to ur Chinese god U traitor

          • Paul

            Ever since Obama arrogantly made the announcement of ‘containing China’, the perception managers (spin doctors, propaganderists) , have been working overtime to convince us China is evil. Although I don’t particularly trust them, I’m well aware of the anti China narrative that is being fed to the Australian public. Once again mate, facts rather than emotion will help you see clearer in a world of lies and deceit.

          • Sinbad2

            The Chinese are just like the Americans, the only difference is the Chinese don’t pretend to be your friend.

          • Paul

            Have to agree with that and that’s what is so deceitful about the Americans.

        • Paul

          Lol