Q: Should Australia have taken part in the Vietnam War?
A: I understand all the reasons Australia should or shouldn’t have participated in the Vietnam war… and everyone has, thus far, made valid contentions for either side of this debate. But, no matter which way I turn it in my head, I think that there shouldn’t be any war, not anywhere, or at any time.
Looking at the bigger picture, over much of the history of war in the 20th and 21st centuries, the citizenry were puppets for the rich and powerful. The United States whistles, and Australia comes running. The times Australians have volunteered to go to war were largely due to ignorance and/or a strong sense of patriotism. But, all in all, does Australia really have a choice in the matter anymore?
History has shown that if one does not comply with the political manoeuvres of the United States, one can face less-than-desirable ramifications. The history of many of the South-American regimes that have been empowered (and disposed of) is testament to that. There are many other examples one can refer to all over the world: numerous governments and regimes have been brought down, only to be replaced with corruption. In such situations, the involvement of the USA has been apparent. When a nation does not comply with the United States, there is a price, large or small, to pay.
History repeats. The United States is the example I use here for current times. The British Empire before that. It doesn’t make too much of a difference. Same war games and outcomes, it’s just that the players change.
Yes, I am a leftie… an aspiring socialist who recognises that Marxism, socialism and communism will never work in a world where everyone is different and has a diverse range of collective or individual goals and cultures… I’m one of those weird people that’s not interested in “winning” or “losing” a war – the costs for either side of such wars are so high, financially and socially. I don’t know even know what the definition of “winning a war” would mean. All sides “lose” in some way or another. Some pay with their lives… the victors, with their ethics and morals.
The academic side of me can read, discuss and understand the arguments for and against Australia’s involvement in any war. But, as a human rights advocate and supporter, I find it extremely difficult to reconcile the justification for participation in any military conflict. Ultimately, they only serve the powerful and affluent and do not do much at all for the people – the soldiers who go and fight, the families who wait for loved ones to return home, the populaces of the innocent who are killed in such invasions.
The more I read and learn of all the pernicious intentions behind the beginnings of such wars, I wonder why we, the people, keep falling for all the propaganda and patriotic reasons we enter into such spats between nations and the ruling parties for the supposed betterment of the adversaries we are brainwashed into opposing on matters of principle.
Any imperialistic “empire” enters these conflicts for selfish reasons – I can’t, at this moment, think of a legitimate, altruistic reason why any nation has entered any war throughout history. Before, it was Britain, before that, we can use the Turks, the Spartans, the Romans as examples… races and nations too numerous to mention here. Now, the Americans take the lead… but, maybe one day, they won’t be the world’s superpower. Perhaps China will be… if not China, another power, I’m sure.
Malcolm Fraser’s final book, Dangerous Allies (2014), documents the considerations Australia should be wary of. We conduct much business with China (our economy relies heavily on the Chinese these days), but we are also one of the USA’s official allies. At present, we are entering secret agreements with the countries of the Pacific Rim at the behest of America – some feel that this Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being pushed forward so America can ensure that its interests are protected.
What happens if China and America clash? Some journalists and writers have even proposed that World War III is imminent (e.g. John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges), starting with the current conflict in Ukraine – and with Russia and China being criticised as allies by the Americans, where would Australia stand? Malcolm Fraser referred to Australia as being “the pig in the middle” if we’re not careful. I agree with Fraser’s contention. However, I am also of the opinion that it’s too late to do anything about rectifying the situation – Australia is not even remotely close to considering withdrawal from being involved. Our xenophobia, our perpetual fear of being invaded throughout our history since “Invasion Day” will ultimately be our undoing. That’s my two cents worth…
Fraser, M. 2014. Dangerous allies / Malcolm Fraser with Cain Roberts, Carlton, Victoria Melbourne University Press.