62 Tightly Bound: Aus­tralia’s Al­liance-de­pen­dent Mil­i­ta­riza­tion

Global Asia - - CONTENTS - By Richard Tan­ter

how the coun­try’s de­pen­dence on its al­liance re­la­tion­ships helps de­ter­mine the di­rec­tion of its arms mod­ern­iza­tion.

Aus­tralia’s unique mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence re­la­tion­ship with the United States, com­bined with the coun­try be­ing ge­o­graph­i­cally a part of Asia but his­tor­i­cally, cul­tur­ally and in­tel­lec­tu­ally iden­ti­fied with the An­glo-saxon world, have sig­nif­i­cant im­pli­ca­tions for Can­berra’s cur­rent mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion.

Richard Tan­ter ex­am­ines how the coun­try’s de­pen­dence on its al­liance re­la­tion­ships helps de­ter­mine the di­rec­tion of that mod­ern­iza­tion. CON­TEM­PO­RARY aus­tralia is a case of de­pen­dent, high-tech­nol­ogy lib­eral mil­i­ta­riza­tion, but with dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics point­ing to a model that must look be­yond stan­dard con­cerns with in­creas­ing na­tional de­fense bud­gets, more and bet­ter weapons sys­tems, an “ex­cep­tion­al­ist” ap­proach to im­mi­gra­tion se­cu­rity and a predilec­tion us­ing mil­i­tary force in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs.

In a world and time where mil­i­ta­riza­tion is a global norm em­bed­ded in globe-span­ning mil­i­tary al­liances and net­works of for­eign mil­i­tary bases, dis­cern­ing the lin­ea­ments of a par­tic­u­lar na­tional in­stance can be dif­fi­cult and po­ten­tially mis­lead­ing. In lib­eral democ­ra­cies, na­tional self­con­cep­tions re­sist iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the harsh im­pli­ca­tions of re­liance on, or val­oriza­tion of, mil­i­tary force, un­less it can be vi­ably rep­re­sented as de­fense of free­dom, just war, or wars against un­speak­able Oth­ers. and in the case of lib­eral democ­ra­cies orig­i­nat­ing in a set­tler state with on­go­ing un­rec­og­nized con­quest of in­dige­nous peo­ples — think aus­tralia, the us, Canada and Is­rael — the racially in­flected vi­o­lence at the foun­da­tions of state-for­ma­tion and na­tional iden­tity con­tin­ues to ram­ify through the de­fault set­tings of con­tem­po­rary for­eign pol­icy. all three qual­i­ties dis­tin­guish the con­tem­po­rary pat­tern of aus­tralian mil­i­ta­riza­tion from the stan­dard ver­sions of ei­ther ex­cep­tion­al­ist or lib­eral mil­i­ta­riza­tion.

By the stan­dard in­dices of na­tional-level mil­i­ta­riza­tion, aus­tralia is now a se­ri­ous in­stance, al­beit an un­usual one. the world’s sixth-largest arms im­porter, aus­tralia em­barked af­ter sept. 11, 2001, on a large cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture pro­gram on de­fense that will see vir­tu­ally all ma­jor weap-

ons sys­tems and sup­port plat­forms re­placed or up­graded in the next two decades.

De­fense spend­ing has grown con­tin­u­ously since 2000 to a$34.7 bil­lion (us$27.3 bil­lion) in the cur­rent fis­cal year, a 6.5 per­cent in­crease in real terms over last year, in­clud­ing a bil­lion dol­lars for cur­rent over­seas de­ploy­ments in the Mid­dle east and afghanistan. Cur­rent gov­ern­ment plan­ning to bring de­fense spend­ing from 1.9 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct to a sus­tained 2.0 per­cent in com­ing years will in­volve an­nual real in­creases of 4.7 per­cent, mean­ing that de­fense spend­ing will have dou­bled in real terms from 2005-2025, in­clud­ing a$195 bil­lion for in­creased de­fense ma­teriel ca­pac­ity. Over the past half cen­tury or more, the stan­dard his­tor­i­cal pa­ram­e­ters of aus­tralian de­fense pol­icy have fo­cused on os­cil­la­tions around a set of pol­icy-po­lar ten­sions: • Na­tional self-re­liance ver­sus im­pe­rial or su­per­power de­pen­dence;

• Con­fi­dence in suf­fi­cient warn­ing time to pre­pare for emerg­ing ma­jor threats ver­sus iden­tity rooted in fear of in­va­sion;

• Ac­cep­tance of limited re­sources and in­flu­ence ver­sus bor­rowed grandios­ity by as­so­ci­a­tion with im­pe­rial al­lies; and

• Force struc­ture de­signed for the de­fense of con­ti­nen­tal aus­tralia and the im­me­di­ate re­gion ver­sus “op­er­a­tions in dis­tant the­atres.”

these ten­sion sets de­rive at root from the anx­i­eties of a small, set­tler-colo­nial state, un­easily oc­cu­py­ing a con­quered con­ti­nent, iden­ti­fy­ing deeply with its im­pe­rial ori­gins on the other side of the world, and fear­fully anx­ious about its re­la­tions with its ge­o­graph­i­cal and cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment. Iden­tity pow­er­fully struc­tures how the map is read for strate­gic in­ter­ests. On the stan­dard aus­tralian read­ing, “help” looks far away. se­ri­ous pur­suit of “self-re­liance” is seen as a brave gam­ble.

With a nod to the shade of past self-re­liance pol­icy, the essence of aus­tralian de­fense pol­icy af­ter 9/11 and in re­newed fear of China to­day is an in­ten­si­fied, broad­ened and tight­ened ver­sion of the al­liance re­la­tion­ship with amer­ica. now in its sev­enth decade, the aus­tralia-us al­liance is an his­tor­i­cal chameleon, shape shift­ing from its orig­i­nal ra­tio­nale as a us guar­an­tee against post-sec­ond World War Ja­panese remil­i­ta­riza­tion, to an imag­ined south­ern bas­tion of the Free World in the global divi­sion of the Cold War, on to a niche com­mit­ment in the global war on ter­ror, and now a new, if slightly hes­i­tant, role in a us-led faux con­tain­ment revenant against a ris­ing China.

the cen­tury-long tra­di­tion of de­ploy­ment of aus­tralian armed forces in dis­tant the­aters in ser­vice of its al­liance pro­tec­tor — first Bri­tain, then the us — con­tin­ues to­day, with sub­stan­tial ground, sea and air force el­e­ments still de­ployed in the us-led wars in afghanistan (al­most con­tin­u­ously since 2001 to to­day), Iraq and the Western In­dian Ocean (2003-2009; and 2014-to­day) and syria (2015-to­day), and large sup­port el­e­ments in Per­sian Gulf bases (2002-to­day).

ser­vic­ing al­liance re­quire­ments has meant that aus­tralian force struc­ture re­flects these un­der­ly­ing ten­sions, as can be seen, for ex­am­ple, in the roles as­signed in the­ory and prac­tice to aus­tralia’s range of new ma­jor weapons-plat­forms up­graded in re­cent years, in all three ser­vices.

to take the ex­am­ple of ad­vanced mil­i­tary air­craft, aus­tralian doc­trine to­day still nom­i­nally em­pha­sizes de­fense of the sea-air gap sur­round­ing the con­ti­nent, im­me­di­ate south Pa­cific and archipelagic south­east asia. ac­cord­ingly, de­fense plan­ners have al­ways sought a “knowl­edge edge” over neigh­bor­ing armed forces rooted in pref­er­en­tial ac­cess to us mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy de­nied even to other close us al­lies such as Ja­pan as the “re­ward” for a us-de­puted sher­iff role in the re­gion and in con­stant sup­port for us-led wars.

thus the Royal aus­tralian air Force’s large but ag­ing F/a-18 fighter-bomber force, mainly

de­ployed to the con­ti­nent’s north­ern ap­proaches, are to be re­placed in com­ing years by more than 70 F-35 lock­heed Martin Joint strike Fight­ers. But Raaf hor­nets and su­per-hor­nets have also long been de­ployed to Iraq and now syria in high-tempo al­liance op­er­a­tions. For the us, the bomb­ing con­tri­bu­tion of the aus­tralian F/a-18s, while po­lit­i­cally help­ful, has been out­weighed by the util­ity of the ac­com­pa­ny­ing de­ploy­ment of a tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced us-sourced Raaf Wed­getail e-7 air­borne early warn­ing and con­trol air­craft, based on a Boe­ing 737, and de­signed to be highly in­ter­op­er­a­ble with us forces.

a sim­i­lar set of de­fense doc­trine con­tra­dic­tions was em­bod­ied in the pro­tracted and in­tense in­tra-gov­ern­ment de­bate about re­plac­ing an age­ing small sub­ma­rine fleet. this was even­tu­ally re­solved in 2016 with the de­ci­sion to com­mit a$50 bil­lion to build 12 4,000-tonne con­ven­tional diesel-elec­tric sub­marines based on a Dcns-thales de­sign de­rived from the French Bar­racuda-class nu­clear sub­ma­rine. Once again, doc­tri­nal con­cerns for a sub­ma­rine ca­pa­bil­ity de­signed for de­fense of the con­ti­nen­tal sea/air gap and archipelagic south­east asian ar­eas of di­rect strate­gic in­ter­est to aus­tralia ap­peared to be trumped by ad­vo­cacy rooted in al­liance con­cerns for ca­pac­ity to con­duct very long-range coali­tion-sup­port op­er­a­tions cen­ter­ing on a block­ade of Chi­nese wa­ters — a choice with con­sid­er­able con­se­quences for de­sign re­quire­ments and for the aus­tralian strate­gic re­la­tion­ship with China.

aus­tralia hosts a num­ber of us-re­lated mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties. to­day, none are solely us bases, but are joint fa­cil­i­ties, each with a greater or lesser ex­tent of us ac­cess, although in im­por­tant cases such as the Joint De­fense Fa­cil­ity Pine Gap, the de­gree of “joint­ness” is highly asym­met­ri­cal, with aus­tralian staff shar­ing op­er­a­tions of a fa­cil­ity built and paid for by the us and only op­er­at­ing as part of global us space-based sur­veil­lance sys­tems.

Out­side aus­tralia, per­haps the best-known ex­am­ple in­volves the ini­tia­tive of former us Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion to de­ploy up to 2,500 marines to Darwin in the north­ern ter­ri­tory and us air Force fight­ers, re­fu­el­ing tankers and B-52 and B-2 bombers to north­ern ter­ri­tory air bases. the Ma­rine air-ground task Force (MAGTF) is on per­ma­nent ro­ta­tion for half of each year, avoid­ing the trop­i­cal wet sea­son where ma­jor mil­i­tary ground ac­tiv­ity be­comes all but im­pos­si­ble, when its core el­e­ments from the 31st Ma­rine ex­pe­di­tionary unit re­turn to Ok­i­nawa aboard a us navy ex­pe­di­tionary strike Group. the num­ber of marines in Darwin is small com­pared with their pres­ence in south Korea, Ok­i­nawa and Guam, and in some re­spects the sig­nif­i­cance of their aus­tralian pres­ence is as much po­lit­i­cal as mil­i­tary. how­ever, with their aus­tralian De­fence Force (ADF) coun­ter­parts in­creas­ingly highly in­te­grated with us forces through train­ing, doc­trine, lo­gis­tics pre-de­ploy­ment, in­ter­op­er­abil­ity, and com­bined op­er­a­tional plan­ning, in­clud­ing for coali­tion op­er­a­tions in Korea, the mil­i­tary sig­nif­i­cance is be­com­ing clearer. the MAGTF and usaf air­craft uti­lize large ADF ground and air weapons-train­ing ranges in north­ern aus­tralia — one of which, Brad­shaw Field train­ing area, is the size of Cyprus — which are densely elec­tron­i­cally con­nected by op­ti­cal fiber in real time to both ADF head­quar­ters and Pa­cific Com­mand in hawaii to fa­cil­i­tate train­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and eval­u­a­tion. the clear us in­ten­tion is to de­velop the Darwin hub into a com­bined con­tri­bu­tion to us-led re­gional rapid de­ploy­ment ca­pa­bil­ity for east and south­east asia.

aus­tralia in a Net­worked al­liance

to best un­der­stand the im­por­tant im­pli­ca­tion of not only host­ing us fa­cil­i­ties in aus­tralia but also the more gen­eral aus­tralian na­tional pat­tern of mil­i­ta­riza­tion, a wider van­tage point is needed,

shift­ing the fo­cus of mil­i­ta­riza­tion from the es­sen­tially stand­alone char­ac­ter­is­tics of an in­di­vid­ual na­tion-state to the im­pli­ca­tions of that state’s place in a net­worked al­liance sys­tem. these net­works in­volve us and al­lied mil­i­tary bases and de­ployed per­son­nel, glob­ally dis­trib­uted el­e­ments of us-con­trolled but coali­tion-ac­cessed space and ter­res­trial sur­veil­lance sen­sor sys­tems, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and com­put­ing sys­tems — all tied to us and coali­tion mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions.

the phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions of these sys­tems in­clude not only eas­ily rec­og­niz­able con­ven­tional mil­i­tary bases with large num­bers of mil­i­tary per­son­nel, lo­gis­tics and trans­port fa­cil­i­ties and weapons plat­forms, but also us-con­trolled but coali­tion-ac­cessed and hosted bases for space and ter­res­trial sur­veil­lance sen­sor sys­tems and world­wide com­mu­ni­ca­tions and com­put­ing sys­tems that are es­sen­tial to us and coali­tion mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions, and that are tech­no­log­i­cally dense, but per­son­nel light. these make up a glob­ally dis­trib­uted, ma­te­ri­ally het­ero­ge­neous land­scape of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, much of which ex­ists in an in­vis­i­ble hertzian land­scape con­sti­tuted by the elec­tro­mag­netic spec­trum op­er­ated through all-too-ma­te­rial an­ten­nas, ad­vanced com­put­ing fa­cil­i­ties, sen­sors, data banks, com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lites and globe-span­ning webs of ded­i­cated op­ti­cal fiber.

two es­sen­tially us fa­cil­i­ties in aus­tralia re­garded by both gov­ern­ments as “joint fa­cil­i­ties” and gov­erned by agree­ments un­der which they op­er­ate with “the full knowl­edge and con­cur­rence of the aus­tralian gov­ern­ment” ex­em­plify this al­liance-in­duced global as­pect of aus­tralian mil­i­ta­riza­tion: the Joint De­fense Fa­cil­ity Pine Gap in Cen­tral aus­tralia and the harold e. holt naval Com­mu­ni­ca­tions sta­tion at north West Cape in Western aus­tralia.

Be­tween the two of them, Pine Gap and north West Cape are now oper­a­tionally closely in­volved with — and in­deed for the most part crit­i­cal for

— us nu­clear-war tar­get­ing, us-ja­panese mis­sile de­fense, us drone and spe­cial forces ex­tra-ju­di­cial counter-ter­ror­ism killings, the rapidly grow­ing us ca­pac­ity for space war­fare, and di­rect sup­port for ground and air op­er­a­tions in the wars in afghanistan, Iraq, syria, and for us com­bat op­er­a­tions in any out­break of armed con­flict on the Korean Penin­sula.

the idea that an in­tel­li­gence fa­cil­ity in the cen­ter of aus­tralia will be cen­tral to us plan­ning and op­er­a­tions for a Korean war, nu­clear or con­ven­tional, may ap­pear ex­ag­ger­ated from the out­side. this is far from the case. Pine Gap’s long­stand­ing pri­mary role in­volves its mas­sive sig­nals in­tel­li­gence ca­pa­bil­i­ties in space and on the ground, lis­ten­ing to a vast range of ra­dio sig­nals, cell phones, and radars over more than half the world from the west of africa to the mid-pa­cific, and all ar­eas of cur­rent us mil­i­tary in­ter­est and op­er­a­tions.

For half a cen­tury, one es­sen­tial role of Pine Gap has been to pro­vide us strate­gic plan­ners with the lo­ca­tions and char­ac­ter­is­tics of en­emy radars and air de­fenses, the bet­ter to evade, jam, or de­stroy them as a pre­lude to air­borne nu­clear or con­ven­tional at­tack.

In prepa­ra­tion for a pos­si­ble Korean war, Pine Gap’s sig­nals-in­tel­li­gence task­ing sched­ules will have been in over­drive con­tribut­ing to up­dates to the north Korean elec­tronic Or­der of Bat­tle — the key to the ef­fec­tive­ness of us at­tacks on en­emy as­sets. this will in­clude list­ing the lo­ca­tions and char­ac­ter­is­tics of ev­ery north Korean radar, mis­sile launcher, com­mand cen­ter, tank and ar­tillery ar­ray, lo­gis­tics hub, ship and air­craft, and po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship cell phones and bolt holes.

Pine Gap’s sec­ondary nu­clear role in­volves down­link­ing data from us in­frared sur­veil­lance early-warn­ing satel­lites de­tect­ing en­emy nu­clear mis­sile launches, giv­ing the us a few min­utes of warn­ing of nu­clear at­tack — and also prim­ing a sec­ond strike by es­tab­lish­ing which en­emy ICBM si­los have fired, and which re­main to be tar­geted. But be­yond this, through these same in­frared satel­lites, Pine Gap de­tects the first sec­onds of en­emy mis­sile launches and cal­cu­lates the mis­siles’ likely tra­jec­to­ries, pass­ing the in­for­ma­tion to us and Ja­panese and south Korean mis­sile de­fense sys­tems, cue­ing their fire radars to search a tiny por­tion of the sky where the mis­siles are gath­er­ing enor­mous speed. If cued by Pine Gap, and if the mis­sile de­fense sys­tem works as the Pen­tagon and the man­u­fac­tur­ers ad­ver­tise, us mis­sile de­fenses might, just might, have a chance of fir­ing their own mis­siles to hit and de­stroy the en­emy mis­siles. With­out Pine Gap’s con­tri­bu­tion, at the cur­rent stage of us mis­sile de­fense tech­nol­ogy, the chances of suc­cess­ful in­ter­cep­tion are prob­a­bly not much more than zero.

north West Cape, once vi­tal for com­mu­ni­ca­tions with sub­merged us Po­laris nu­clear sub­marines, has a new crit­i­cal role in an ever-more im­por­tant area of us mil­i­tary plan­ning, with en­thu­si­as­tic aus­tralian ac­qui­es­cence. the us has in­stalled two ground-based space sur­veil­lance sys­tems at north West Cape un­der a space sur­veil­lance Part­ner­ship agree­ment with aus­tralia, as part of its world­wide col­lab­o­ra­tive space sur­veil­lance aware­ness net­work. a re­fur­bished Cape Canaveral Mis­sile Range C-band space radar has been trans­ferred to aus­tralia, to be op­er­ated by the Raaf to mon­i­tor space ob­jects in low earth or­bit. and a new highly ad­vanced us space te­le­scope to take ad­van­tage of aus­tralia’s south­ern lo­ca­tion for ob­ser­va­tion of ob­jects in geosyn­chronous or­bit. Both the radar and the te­le­scope are dual pur­pose. Great pub­lic em­pha­sis is given to their util­ity as an un­doubted global good to track space de­bris threat­en­ing the use of con­gested space. Rather less pub­licly, great im­por­tance is at­tached by both the us space Com­mand and the ADF to the role of both in de­ter­min­ing the lo­ca­tions, char­ac­ter­is­tics and be­hav­ior of

ad­ver­sary satel­lites — a crit­i­cal re­quire­ment for us plan­ning for space dom­i­nance. What is strik­ing in this pat­tern of mil­i­ta­riza­tion is the dra­matic up­grad­ing of al­liance op­er­a­tional in­te­gra­tion at the heart of us plan­ning.

a third “joint fa­cil­ity” con­firms this pat­tern of mil­i­ta­riza­tion of aus­tralia through its will­ing in­ser­tion into a wider global pat­tern. the aus­tralian de­fense satel­lite Com­mu­ni­ca­tions sta­tion (ad­scs) at Ko­jarena near Ger­ald­ton in Western aus­tralia was orig­i­nally a solely aus­tralian fa­cil­ity, and still func­tions to­gether with Pine Gap and a com­pan­ion aus­tralian satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­ter­cep­tion sta­tion at shoal Bay out­side Darwin as a ma­jor aus­tralian con­trib­u­tor to the us-led Five eyes global sig­nals in­tel­li­gence net­work. how­ever, in the past decade, two new com­pounds at Ko­jarena have been con­structed to house two ground sta­tions for us global mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems. One houses three gi­ant an­ten­nas to up­link and down­link to the satel­lites of the Mo­bile user Ob­jec­tive sys­tem, or Muos, the us mil­i­tary’s ruggedi­zed 3G smart phone sys­tem pro­vid­ing world­wide ac­cess for in­di­vid­u­als’ nar­row-band (limited vol­ume and speed) voice, data and video com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and mil­i­taryaus­piced in­ter­net-ca­pac­ity mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions. the four world­wide Muos satel­lite ground sta­tions, in­clud­ing Ko­jarena, are linked by a ded­i­cated 29,000-kilo­me­ter op­ti­cal-fiber net­work.

another new Ko­jarena com­pound also houses three an­ten­nas as ground ter­mi­nals for a dif­fer­ent kind of us com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem, the equally im­por­tant Wide­band Global sat­com (WGS) sys­tem. aus­tralia paid for one of ten WGS satel­lites to gain global ac­cess to the en­tire WGS net­work, es­pe­cially for op­er­a­tions in the Mid­dle east and afghanistan, and two aus­tralian WGS ground ac­cess ter­mi­nals have been built for ADF use.

Wide­band com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­works trans­port huge amounts of data and are crit­i­cal to op­er­at­ing and down­link­ing data from long-range armed and sur­veil­lance drone air­craft. In mid2014, the us Depart­ment of De­fense in­formed Congress that “warfight­ers” would be de­nied ac­cess to the WGS sys­tem for “months or years” with­out con­struc­tion at Ko­jarena of a com­mu­ni­ca­tion gate­way known as a tele­port, for which there was “a des­per­ate need” in the re­gion (in ad­di­tion to those in hawaii and Ok­i­nawa). a de­fense depart­ment tele­port en­ables both the WGS and Muos com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lites’ ground ter­mi­nal to con­nect to the ter­res­trial op­ti­cal fiber net­work known as the De­fense In­for­ma­tion sys­tems net­work, and through that to the “net­work of net­works” the us mil­i­tary calls the Global In­for­ma­tion Grid.

such “joint” fa­cil­i­ties in­di­cate a new glob­al­iz­ing di­men­sion to al­liance struc­tures and to what had pre­vi­ously been con­sid­ered as stand­alone na­tional pat­terns of mil­i­ta­riza­tion, in this case of lib­eral demo­cratic states. Co-op­er­a­tion with and re­liance on us-led planet-wide com­mu­ni­ca­tions and sur­veil­lance sys­tems pro­duce a type of de­pen­dent mil­i­ta­riza­tion that is rather dif­fer­ent from, and deeper than, de­pen­dence de­rived from, say, force struc­ture de­pen­dent on im­ported weapons sys­tems.

“en­tan­gle­ment” takes on quite new and bind­ing di­men­sions of link­age mul­ti­plic­ity, com­plex­ity and po­ten­tially un­avoid­able con­se­quences. the im­pli­ca­tions of such glob­ally or­ga­nized al­liance driv­ers of na­tional mil­i­ta­riza­tion may vary in time and place, but as the aus­tralian case shows, war­rant se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion as a new di­men­sion of lib­eral mil­i­ta­riza­tion, and its at­ten­dant dan­gers.

richard tan­ter is a se­nior re­searcher at the Nau­tilus in­sti­tute, and hon­orary pro­fes­sor in the school of po­lit­i­cal and so­cial sciences at the univer­sity of Mel­bourne.

Source: R Tan­ter & J Wadding­ham. Pine Gap im­age by Kris­tian Laemmle-ruff.

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