July 16th 2005

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Federal Labor's crisis of identity

EDITORIAL: Decisive shift in US Supreme Court

LABOR PARTY: The lesson Labor still has to learn

WORKPLACE RELATIONS: No more hurdles for Howard's dismissal laws

RURAL AFFAIRS: Confronting the myths about agriculture

CENTRAL ASIA: China's march on central Asia

REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY: The dark downside of donor insemination

PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY: Defending the role of parliament

STRAWS IN THE WIND: US fury at Israeli arms sales to China / Not helping the poor / Turn of the tide? / Government's embarrassment

OPINION: Free speech under attack in Victoria

Howard Government's attack on Australian workers (letter)

Why the silence over abortion? (letter)

Ignorance no excuse (letter)

High price of extra water (letter)

To rule or to govern is the question (letter)

Malaria worse than DDT (letter)

BOOKS: THE CUBE AND THE CATHEDRAL: Europe, America, and Politics without God, by George Weigel

BOOKS: MAO: THE UNKNOWN STORY, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday

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US fury at Israeli arms sales to China / Not helping the poor / Turn of the tide? / Government's embarrassment

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, July 16, 2005
US fury at Israeli arms sales to China

The sale of the most advanced weapons systems to countries which are obviously engaged in major increases in their military capacity - so as to underpin their plans for political expansion, either regionally or globally - is always discouraged, in principle, by those concerned to maintain the status quo, and those who see the seeds of future conflicts in arms build-ups, which duly produce arms races.

The US - and theoretically the UN - has been concerned to check or stop nuclear proliferation, but also the unhindered arming of China.

The US is mounting an embargo - which ideally would be worldwide - on selling arms and nuclear know-how to China. Washington was able to secure this ban following upon Beijing's behaviour at Tiananmen Square, her long persecution of dissidents, her ongoing suppression of human rights in China and Tibet, and her blocking of any moves towards political democracy in her own country.

There has also been on China's part an unbroken campaign of threats, warnings and interdictions against Taiwan: an old friend of the West, a supporter of democracy and a well-behaved international citizen. The US obtained the general consent of her allies and friends for this embargo - including the EU and Australia.

Recently, the EU - eager for more arms sales, and possibly more favoured access to the Chinese markets generally - spoke of lifting the ban.

Washington succeeded in warning them off. To my surprise, at least, our Government at this time expressed some sympathy for the EU proposal. I assumed that we were just appeasing China, to our shame. But there may have been additional reasons.

The US and Israel have been quietly conducting a fierce dispute over Israeli arms sales to China. (See Jerusalem correspondent Abraham Rabinovich in The Australian, June 27, 2005.)

US arms sanctions on Israel have been in effect for six months, and this is seriously damaging Israel's large, aggressive and long-standing armaments industry. Israel has been eyeing off China as a prime market for her expanding arms export industry. Washington is now making her choose.

America has severed working relations with the director of the Israeli Defence Ministry, Amos Yaron, calling for his dismissal.

Israelis sold China an unmanned aerial vehicle, called the Harpy, in 1994. A ground-launched system, it seeks out enemy radar-signals, automatically confirming them as hostile by comparing their signals with a database, then going on a near vertical dive to destroy the radar with a warhead. Smart.

Americans found that China had been deploying these in an exercise near Taiwan just recently, and began asking questions. They then found that China was returning Harpies to Israel for refitting so that these devices could identify and attack enemy radar - even when shut off to avoid electronic detection. Super-smart.

The US have demanded that Israel not refit the Harpies and keep the ones they now have from the Chinese. These are items forbidden under the understanding in place between the two countries, the US and Israel. China is livid.

And an Israeli delegation is in the US to draw up a memorandum of understanding with Washington on weapons exports.

The US is right. These weapons could easily be used against Americans in Asia. Furthermore, if China runs true to form, the know-how of how to make these weapons finishes up with the Iranians, other Middle East "friends" and Africans. If any of our forces were to be in one of these areas in the future, this is what they might expect to meet.

Why should a small state such as ours have to keep upgrading at great expense our equipment because of state-of-the-art sales to potential opponents by outsiders, or even friends?

I am sure that the US-Israel alliance will survive this kind of stand-off. After all, the US has played these same clever-silly games in the past.

Both they and we have had our Pig-Iron Bobs - and, so it seems, has Israel. They should jump on theirs.

Not helping the poor

The latest attack on his own people by Robert Mugabe - looking more like Emperor Jones every day - proceeding without a word of reproof from the Organization of African Unity, a solid, impeccably racist bloc of 54 black countries - demonstrates yet again the sad failure of the Western colonial experiment in Africa, and the self-defeating but emotionally-gratifying practice of pouring Western aid into such dysfunctional societies as black-hole states.

As Dr Helen Hughes of the Centre for Independent Studies points out in an opinion piece in The Australian (June 28, 2005), the evidence that aid flows are inversely related to growth and development are incontrovertible.

Countries receiving the highest aid per capita have had the slowest growth. Just think of our local succubi: Nauru, Papua New Guinea, East Timor (where there is now a major famine, according to News Weekly, July 2, 2005), and, quite possibly in the future, the Solomons.

What, exactly, has the $70 billion we have spent on indigenous Australia over 30 years done for our Aboriginal friends? (Putting aside what it did for the middle-men, mainly whites, who dispensed this $70 billion).

Tony Blair's "Make Poverty History" campaign might have begun as yet another of his thimble-and-pea exercises. It puts him on the side of the poor and suffering, and against the hard-hearted ones of the EU, the IMF and the World Bank.

It stole the moral ground from the Greens, local social democrats and the teeth-gnashing Left who dream of overthrowing him to replace with the Hampstead-Islington Soviet.

Blair would know Helen Hughes is right. The extra money will be eaten up by black African leaders and bureaucrats, with some going to Western friends, the UN, NGOs and so on.

But the bulk, up until today, has been wasted - in a sense, embezzled.

Hughes gives a few examples. Thus, Ghana, one of the law-abiding good guys (and Kofi Annan's state of origin) does have democratic elections and some growth.

But, says Hughes, "It has 88 ministers and deputy ministers - all with a car, secretary, other staff and other perquisites - heading a vast bureaucracy.

"Not much government expenditure percolates to health and education in the villages." And so on.

But better to spend it on expensive Western consumer goods than on foreign arms, as many others are doing.

The phenomenon of a ruling elite and a vast voracious bureaucracy - which, between them, eat up so much of the social product as to keep the masses in needless poverty, while hamstringing growth - is something we associated with communist states in their decadent stages, or post-communist states which won't change their culture or allow the formation and circulation of new elites; and, of course, stagnant failed states, like the Philippines.

But I ask you to consider the changing patterns of the Australian polity since the advent of Whitlam.

Tony Blair's initiative lets the World Bank and international financial organisations off the hook by wiping out their bad debts, so that they can escape the accusation of bad-lending policy.

The overall aim seems to be to make it possible for indebted countries generally to move into a position where they can service their debt.

So then the bankers can start lending again - and lending more - to clients made newly respectable. The old game can start again.

The only question marks are: Will Bush and the US Administration allow this hopeless old charade to start up again? Or does the new World Bank chief, Paul Wolfowitz, intend to try to do things quite differently from the failed policies of his predecessor James Wolfensohn?

Of course, the rockers and permanent demonstrators aren't interested in any of this and never ask why Africa's poor and deserving never seem to benefit from Western aid. If they did, they'd blame the "West", as the African dictators and one-party politicians do. And our journalists.

Helen Hughes' article's headline, "Rockers deaf to aid realities", and the sub-headline, "The world's Bob Geldofs are facilitating another betrayal of Africa", both seem accurate.

However, Blair and Brown are not finished. British Labour Minister, Mr Hilary Benn, is calling for an end to EU and non-EU subsidies, whereby rich nations subsidise their farmers by £154 billion (i.e., A$400 billion) a year, while Blair for the first time is calling for the end of Europe's Common Agricultural Policy.

This, of course, is the nub of the whole matter, as News Weekly has already pointed out.

So, when the rockers and the rent-a-rebels turn up to howl at the G8 summit, their new heroes and spokesmen will be Blair and Co., not Geldof and Mandela.

Will they like the change?

Turn of the tide?

Kim Beazley seems to have turned an important corner in his quest for the Lodge. His performances during the week of unionists/student marchers were skilful and to the point. So far, he has avoided making himself prisoner of any of the elements making up the marches: a constant danger for Labor leaders during the Vietnam War.

I'm sure that Kim, a student leader at that time, knows the score. But from now on, any challenges to his authority from within the party seem unlikely.

The Liberals and Nationals now have a real fight on their hands, not simply to win the federal election next time, but just to push through their program for this parliamentary session.

Some of the anti-Howard dissidents on the party fringe - at last realising that Costello is box office poison - are concentrating, out of spite, on making things really difficult for their leader. They can, of course - and they can also lose the next election for the Libs.

Then, presumably, back to the good old days of the 10-year rift between the Wets and the Dries, which still facilitates Labor winning in every state now.

Quite apart from these conservative recidivists, it was always clear that if Labor went back to its original raison d'être, e.g., secure available jobs, decent working conditions, quality (as against the quantity) of life - and I don't mean drugs and abortion-on-demand - they would prosper. They now have that chance once more.

I would be surprised if the Government got its industrial relations legislation through without substantial concessions; and I think they are going to be disappointed over Telstra. As they deserve to be.

But one undesirable consequence of this coming Senate confusion would be the sabotaging of Brendan Nelson's planned reforms in education, which are desperately needed.

I think the Liberals' hex over the electorate was broken, first, by the humiliation inflicted on Tony Abbott over the Gold Card by the Treasurer, and allowed by Howard; and, second, the disgraceful imbalances in the budget tax cuts, from class to class, and the growing suspicion in the electorate that the Economic Right has seized control of the Government agenda.

Government's embarrassment

Labor is going to be far more bipartisan on foreign policy and defence, possibly to the Government's embarrassment and they have the chance of adopting a more dignified, hands-off approach to Beijing - less supine than we are seeing from Howard's Government, dancing as they are to the tune of some of our mining, industrial and media giants; but this could be a difficult one for Labor - under those circumstances.

Then, there is what may be a situation of permanently high petrol prices, with the new big rake-off in excise flowing to the Government. They say they can do nothing. Except pocket it.

Can't they do anything? High fuel prices are described as inflationary. So won't the additional top-off on excise, to be paid by the motorist, feed inflation? Beazley has another issue here - and damn the oil companies.

Philip Adams has been writing about the unreconstructed Stalinists and Maoists in some of the public media programs (some!). And they would not be happy with a sensible, principled social democracy such as Beazley envisages; with which Labor supporters, former and present, would be delighted.

  • Max Teichmann

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