By Hamish Chitts
While the ALP and the Liberal-National Coalition put on grand theatrics on how different they are from each other (usually with no actual basis) when it comes to foreign policy neither party seems willing to display any difference. When Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott had their televised debate on July 25 both leaders proclaimed their support for the war on Afghanistan and both dodged any questions about setting a withdrawal date for Australian troops.
Some mainstream media commentators, like the Australian’s Paul Kelly, have said that this identical policy is a result of both major parties relying on similar market research on what voters want. But this cannot be the case with the war in Afghanistan. The latest opinion polls indicate 61% of voters want Australian troops out of Afghanistan. The “popular” thing to do would be to announce a withdrawal yet this is not happening. Neither the ALP nor the Coalition will do anything that may upset one of the cornerstones of Australian capitalist foreign policy — the US-Australian military alliance. Due to Australia’s relatively small military and geographic isolation from other First World countries, the Australian capitalist class has identified its interests with its US counterpart. This is why successive Australian governments, on behalf of the capitalist class, have used their resources, including the working class, for almost every US global misadventure in the last half century.
The unanimous ruling class support for the occupation of Afghanistan seems to have waned and at least some capitalists in Australia no longer see their best interests served by it. This is reflected in the recent rise in corporate media questioning of the involvement of Australian troops in Afghanistan. It is worth noting that such ruling-class dissidents don’t call for immediate withdrawal but merely that some arbitrary date is set. Some capitalists know when to cut their losses and they know they have been beaten by the resistance of Afghanistan’s people. Even as the resistance goes from strength to strength and the troop casualties mount, for the sake of the US alliance both major parties will ignore this and will continue this war for as long as they can.
While the Labor government has withdrawn most of its troops from Iraq, both major parties still support the US-led occupation of Iraq. This is reflected in bipartisan support for Australian aid to Washington’s puppet Iraqi regime. As AusAID’s website states, “Australia has continued to support international efforts to assist Iraq’s complex transition to a democratic society with an open market-based economy”. One of the main concerns of this government agency is Iraq’s openness to Australian capital. The Iraqi insurgence still continues and the US government has committed to keep 50,000 US troops in Iraq even after the phoney August withdrawal date.
Both Labor and the Coalition are firm supporters of the Israeli state. Israel is not just a rogue nuclear state it is an apartheid state. There are two sets of laws, two sets of rights, discriminating against the indigenous Palestinian population throughout Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel currently occupies the territories of Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, and has committed nearly every human rights violation imaginable. Of over 700 UN General Assembly resolutions passed since 1945, nearly 450 condemn Israeli actions. When Israel dropped white phosphorus (which burns to the skin) on Gaza, one of the most densely populated places in the world, in late 2008 and early 2009, then acting Prime Minister Gillard defended Israel’s actions. According to Abbott, recently “Australians should appreciate that a diminished Israel diminishes the West; it diminishes us”. When Abbott says “us” and “the West’’ he means the interests of the First World’s capitalist rulers. Israel is the big stick that is used to threaten Arab countries to comply with the interests of First World capitalism.
The “war without end” that is a feature of this century is nothing more than the US and allied governments attempting to maintain their dominance of the decaying global system of capitalism at the expense of the working people at home and abroad. Capitalism is unsustainable socially, economically and environmentally and requires more and more state resources to keep it limping along. The parliamentary system in Australia and the major parties that dominate it are firmly committed to capitalism — the system they derive their privilege from. Bipartisan warmongering will continue as long as this system of privilege exists. Only through the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the building of socialism can we rid ourselves of this “war without end”.