AUKUS

Arena Quarterly’s 14th issue features an extended special section critically examining the AUKUS deal from multiple angles. This page showcases Arena articles on the topic, and is thus something of a ‘reading list’ for those seeking a deeper understanding of the present, and functions as a component of our broader campaign to increase public debate and opposition to these dangerous developments.

The world is entering a new era in which great power blocs are emerging as the new foundation of geopolitics. At one level, this marks the end of the era inaugurated in 1991 with the US-declared ‘New World Order’, which mandated total US dominance globally. The process of global integration via high technology’s steady transformation of human social life continues, but the new blocs are now reorganising within this to contest US ‘Empire’. AUKUS is our response to this reorganisation, imposed on us as a fait accompli by the Albanese Labor government working in fluid movement with the right-wing Morrison government before it.

As the articles in this special section show, AUKUS will deliver a new regime of the everyday in Australia. What we can call, with some caution, an Australian way of life will be recomposed by the integration of our defence with the US military, with the demands of the scientific-industrial-military complex and the aggressive posture that military preparation brings. The shift to ‘forward defence’; nuclear technologies; the reshaping of northern Australia as a US garrison; military-led economic and industrial policy: this cannot but reshape who we are and the relations between us.

The growing resistance to AUKUS, represented by the recent public letter signed by Labor, Green and progressive figures, is welcome, but it does not fully grasp the degree of transformation AUKUS brings, or the degree to which it will be presented and accepted as natural and inevitable by a population already geared towards instrumental high-tech solutions to social and cultural dilemmas. This process has already begun. Legitimising discourses range from the ‘master and commander’ sub-imperial style of Richard Marles to the militarised human rights discourse of progressives, attached to ‘boutique’ nations abroad. At home, the question of settler and First Nations relations is being drawn in. We are rebranding ourselves as a reconciled settler nation as we join an Anglosphere alliance that revives notions of global right.

There is no need for this. As Clinton Fernandes makes clear, an independent defence is possible. While it has its own complexities, it is the only way to regain democratic control of our defence while rebuilding sovereignty based around a renegotiated existence on this continent. It may eventually find support among a population whose initial support for expansive notions of a grand alliance has turned sharply before, and can again.

Arena Quarterly, Issue 14: buy it online, ask your local bookshop, or subscribe…!

Illusory Imperatives: AUKUS commits us to futile wars; an independent defence is possible

Clinton Fernandes, Jun 2023

AUKUS is an investment in US shipyards rather than the Australian economy. We are not buying submarines so much as subsidising the US Navy’s submarine budget.

The New Washington Consensus

Alison Caddick, Jun 2023

The United States will still be a civilisation in decline, except for the massive power of its capacity for surveillance, war and social terror, which may hold it together before e unum pluribus.

Rainbow Gunboat: Progressivism in the service of Western geopolitics

Simon Cooper, Jun 2023

Progressive politics has become increasingly accommodating of state power in the last two decades, reversing positions that have historically underpinned left-liberal politics.

Highway to Hell: We are being AUKUStrated!

Alison Broinowski, Jun 2023

AUKUS makes Australia a US garrison, and locks us in with US warfighting so securely that we will be unable to stay out of any American war.

The ‘China Threat’: Can we escape the historical legacy of anti-Chinese racism?

Marilyn Lake, 29 Jun 2023

The ‘Chinese threat narrative’, as it has recently been labelled, was constitutive of Australian nationhood.

See our related campaign raising critical questions about the resurgence of nuclear power.

AUKUS from the Archives

The Subs and the Next War

Samuel Hume, 8 Feb 2024

AUKUS is a poor investment even when judged by the irrational standard of its proponents.

PODCAST: Bombs Bursting In Our Air: AUKUS, Australia and the course set for war?

Clinton Fernandes, Jenny Grounds, Nic Maclellan, Guy Rundle, 26 Oct 2023

An audio recording of the Arena public discussion hosted by the Institute for Postcolonial Studies (IPCS).

Outside In: AUKUS and the contradictions of sovereignty

Guy Rundle

Arena Online, 2 Jun 2023

The dilemma for Australian First Nations people is that they are getting a foothold on sovereign claims within the nation, at the same time as the sovereignty that was to be divided is being given away as a whole package.

AUKUS, Nuclear Technology and Australia’s Future

John Hinkson

Arena Online, 6 Apr 2023

To survive in this region Australia has to change its spots profoundly. It needs a form of cultural re-generation, in significant combination with its First Peoples, to justify its presence outside of the strategies of colonial power.

Preparing for the Next War: Subordination, escalation and the Battle for Ukraine

Timothy Erik Ström

Arena Online, 24 Feb 2023

The US and its allies are backing Ukraine to the hilt in order to further subordinate Europe to NATO in preparation for a possible war with China.

The Wolvadoodles: A Review of Sub-Imperial Power

Richard King

Arena Quarterly no.13, Mar 2023

The ‘rules-based international order’ is not a set of rules at all, and still less a set of principles. It is a set of material military arrangements that seek to ensure and enshrine US dominance.

Pacific Moves: France and Australia in the Age of AUKUS

Nic Maclellan,

Arena Quarterly no.12, Dec 2022

The notion of France as a Pacific country surprises our closest island neighbours. Members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, for example, see it as a European country and a colonial power.

Forever Partnership, Forever War

Alison Broinowski

Arena Quarterly no. 8, Dec 2021

…if the next war is against China, over Taiwan, the South or East China Sea, or some contrived event, Australia will become involved, will be a principal target, and will lose the war. China is not the Taliban.

What Are the Submarines Really For?

Clinton Fernandes,

Arena Quarterly no. 8, Dec 2021

The decision to acquire nuclear-powered boats reflects what has been the Australian Way of War for more than a century: to operate inside the strategy of a superpower by contributing a well-chosen, niche capability to augment the larger force.

Trade routes or War Games?: Subs and the geopolitics behind the China threat

Clinton Fernandes

Arena Online, 1 Oct 2021

Australian strategic planners are well aware that it would be absurd to protect trade with China from China… In the real world, the military build-up is about whether foreign military and intelligence activities can be conducted in another country’s exclusive economic zone.

AUKUS: It’s about Sovereignty, not Submarines

Binoy Kampmark

Arena Online, 30 Sep 2021

AUKUS is also a screeching message to powers in the region that the Anglophone bloc, with its vast historical baggage, intends to police the region against a country never mentioned in the joint statement but crystal clear to all present.

Sub-Imperial Australia

Guy Rundle

Arena Online, 16 Sep 2021

Our focus on subs has long been an expression of our idea that any defence would involve us contributing a subordinated part of a giant US-led naval force in the region.