There is a problem for the world, and for Australia, and it is a deep and serious problem that is not going away. In recent times it has been deepened with the unconvincing words and responses of the current Australian Prime Minister to the equally unconvincing pledges from the US Vice-President, Mr Pence.
By “unconvincing” I am not referring here to North Korea or to an agreed and mutual reliance upon China to insist that North Korea will step back from making the manufacture of mass-destruction military hardware a central feature of how it winds up its nationalist militarist frenzy nor its stupefying desire to attain international prestige by joining the “nuke club”. Nobody should be in any doubt about the manner in which such developments have placed the world on the brink of global disaster. But it is not only North Korea’s stupid efforts to join the “big boy’s” club along with Iran, Pakistan, India … and who else?
But what I am referring to is the inability of both Australian PM, and the US Vice-President, to step away from the mythology of American efforts to manufacture its pre-eminence in international affairs. They are both forgetting that the international reputation of US, and of Australia as well, has nosedived because of US blind faith commitment to the “America First” mythology. These two leading politicians seem to be talking in a word in which George W Bush’s National Security Strategies I & II did not exist. The comment made by the US President at his inauguration is at the root of the blind-faith ignorance. I was reminded of this from an article public in the well-regarded journal Foreign Affairs. The mythology inducing sentences read as follows:
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
“From this day forward…” “From this moment on…”
One has to wonder in what universe this White House incumbent has been living in the 7 decades of his eventful life. So intent has he been on crafting “The Art of the Deal” and making himself rich beyond all comparison, he seems to have grown bored and in need of a new challenge. What better way to give himself an education in politics than take on the “top job”? Even if such statements were speech maker mistake’s they have enormous impact. The mythology I am concerned with here is not that Mr Donald Trump is believable. The mythology I am concerned with is the self definition that is built into these words.
What is truly disappointing, and revealing, in the Turnbull response to Pence – the Prime Minister’s public opportunity to address the US Vice-President while everyone else hears – is what he didn’t say and should have said. There is a deeply ingrained concern among the citizens of this US ally (and since he invoked ANZAC day, New Zealand as well), a concern repeatedly confirmed from our recent history that the “America first” doctrine has been a large part of the cause and further consequence of the very instability the US has failed to maintain. Consider, for starters, the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the fake Australia complicity in this media manufactured event.
But to return to our concern with the US politicians on their “home side” of the Australian-US relationship: where were these turkeys (Trump and Pence) when the US was defeated in Vietnam. Have they ever bothered to learn what “America First” came to mean to US allies in that war when we had to re-assess our own place in the world after Nixon-Kissinger “Guam doctrine”? Does Mr Trump and his Vice President not recall how “America First” was endorsed by Australian obsequiousness when they conspired to quite arbitrarily ditch New Zealand from ANZUS? New Zealand’s Prime Minister David Lange’s speech not only argues that an international ethic of “America first” is ridiculous, it is and continues to be internationally destabilising. What Australia and New Zealand needs is more, not less, of that “direct feed” to the White House with the kind of plain speaking that the Australian Prime Minister was so incapable of giving the other day. David Lange spoke in language that resonated with those seeking to at least say that they did not want a Government that perpetually accommodated a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction.
Recently, we have witnessed world-wide marches on Earth Day by people concerned that the accession of Donald Trump and the mutli-national drift to right populism, are threats to science and to the status of factual knowledge in public affairs. The reports I read did not seem to highlight any concern that the scientific study of politics, economics or ethics is also under threat. But those involved in historical and social research should also be concerned about the threat to their specialist endeavours from nationalist, populist and “alt-right” trends, even as the elitist neo-liberals have hollowed out social science, history and the critical study of political-economy for decades in preparation. Such “protest” also needs to be raised about the re-laundering of the failed America First myth.
In conclusion, let me link to something I published in Zadok Centre News 1982, a mere 35 years ago when Australia was in receipt of another visitor, Jerry Falwell, who was then pedalling this same mythology. I am making this available to assert that, as I have written in that review article, we here as followers of Jesus Christ do have an ongoing responsibility to be faithful to the Gospel and that includes assisting our Christian brothers and sisters, in the US and around the world, who are trapped in the mythological dilemmas of this “America first” heresy. Indeed, the US President may want to intone Psalm 133 at his inauguration to give a veneer of Biblical icing to his civil religious “America First” cake, but the good and pleasant shalom is NOT with this mythology – to place it side-by-side with David’s Psalm of unity before the Lord needs to be exposed of false teaching. Christians are called to rejoice in the liberation of the captives that the Lord Jesus has brought. Our Christian task is to give ourselves to serving also those who are bound up and confused by this heretical mythology that uses the Bible to insist that the US is the hope of the world. The sooner its leading politicians and ours understand that error, that “fake news”, and instead listen to the word of the Prince of princes that to follow him means taking up the cross, the sooner a better path will open for political life here in Australia, within the US and also significant from any US-Australian co-operative contribution to promote international public justice.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,