An independent policy
Sir: James Curran’s review of my book Dangerous Allies (‘Radical nationalist’, 17 May) showed a significant and detailed knowledge of events that have occurred over the last 40 years, in relations between the US and Australia. He did not, however, demonstrate an understanding of the wider strategic issues involved. Since 1990 the strategic context has changed in substantial ways. The Soviet Union no longer exists and there is no global communist threat. China’s economic power is rising and must be given adequate respect and recognition. Meanwhile, the US has changed in substantial ways: she is supreme in her own right, a primary, economic and military power.
When the Soviet Union existed, both superpowers restrained each other in significant ways. Now the US can exercise power without restraint. In these circumstances, American exceptionalism has reached new heights. The US has become more autocratic and unilateral. She is not prepared to give China space in the Pacific, as has been suggested by such strategists as Hugh White. After 1991, Australia had an opportunity to establish strategic independence and act more in our own interests. Instead, as a result of changes in the detailed relationship with the US, we have become more dependent than ever on that power
The powerful and offensive Marine Air-Ground Task Force has been placed in Darwin. The purposes for which Pine Gap are used have been greatly expanded. No longer a purely defensive facility, it is used for targeting modern and offensive weapon systems, including drones. There are other detailed matters. Major General Burr is second in command of the US Army in the Western Pacific and is, therefore, privy to their plans. We have a frigate for part of each year as part of the escort for USS Washington, home-based in Japan.
Australia has followed the US into three wars in the post-second world war years: Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. I do not want to see Australia follow America into a fourth disastrous war. Many have written that an armed clash between a resurgent and newly militarist Japan and China is possible. The most likely flashpoints would revolve around the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.
If America supports Japan in such a war, we would be involved. James Curran and the leading article both imply that whether we stand aside or not, it is an Australian decision. But on current policy settings, that cannot be. Because of the Marines in Darwin and the purposes for which they can be used, without any prior approval from Australia, and because of the new offensive functions of Pine Gap, we are automatically complicit in US actions. We cannot limit the purposes for which those Marines are used or the way in which Pine Gap is used. While technically an Australian government could make a decision to stand aside — as Canada did in Vietnam and also in Iraq — because of those facilities, that would not be believed by any country with whom the US was in conflict. It is that linkage that makes the present relationship with the US inappropriate. We are complicit in what they do.
Mind your language
Sir: I arrived at the Spectator offices on Wednesday as part of the protest against Rod Liddle’s article of October 2013 (‘What do we call the people who abducted Maria?’). Your editor was kind enough to share some of his birthday cake with us — but that was, I’m afraid, no substitute for the apology we are still due. Rod Liddle proposed that in the absence of a better word to describe people like me, the terms ‘pikey’ and ‘gyppo’ should be used. These are terms of hate, pure and simple. They leap out at me and hurt me. Only last week your columnist Taki referred to ‘the n-word’. Why didn’t he spell it out? Out of a basic sense of decency, I imagine. A decency seldom afforded to communities like mine.
So what is the correct term? Those gathered outside your office last week were Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers. I consider myself an English Gypsy. I am also a police officer, and the truth is, I’m sometimes confused by the issue myself. ‘Gypsy’ is a word used to describe people of many ethnicities: maybe finding the right word is something we have to work on. But every Spectator reader will recognise that ‘gyppo’ and ‘pikey’ are derogatory terms. I would have hoped that neither word had a place in a publication like yours.
Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association
Rod’s next job
Sir: Although Rod Liddle makes a strong case for being appointed chairman of the BBC (17 May), he does not go nearly far enough. As well as reducing drastically the numerous tiers of management, he should also cut the total output, much of which is duplicated. It is not clear why it is necessary to provide 40 different local radio stations as well as ten national and five regional stations, each with its own hierarchy. It may be in the interest of managers to expand their own empires, but none of this adds to the quality of any of the programmes. Does the BBC need to offer Radio North Scunthorpe, Radio West Scunthorpe and others in competition to numerous commercial stations providing similar content? The adage ‘more is worse’ is proved every day throughout the land.
There is some excellent output on Radios 2, 3 and 4; once Rod has pruned the management he should direct his attention to maintaining and improving the best of the BBC: cut at least half of local stations, restore output of drama and science on Radio 4, and commission more quality radio programmes such as Americana.
Sir: Dame Helen Ghosh says that the National Trust is considering investing £35 million in renewable energy ‘to combat climate change’ (Letters, 17 May). What difference does she think that will make to the global temperature? Or is the Trust, a corporate landlord, just as keen as any rent-seeking private landlord to maximise income from the huge subsidies, ultimately paid by the consumer, for unreliable solar and wind-generated electricity?
Molly and the wolf man
Sir: Alexander Chancellor may scoff at Veronica Maclean for believing that lion dung would keep the deer out of her garden when the local deer had never seen a lion (Long life, 10 May), but her thinking cannot be so easily dismissed. Our local Shropshire pub had an Irish wolfhound called Molly. It is hard to imagine a more gentle beast, so the locals were surprised by her reaction to a young man who came into the pub one day. Molly turned on the poor chap, pinning him to the wall. The reason? The visitor had come straight from work at the nearby Bishops Castle wolf sanctuary. Molly had never seen a wolf in her life.
Low life for A-levels
Sir: Has Jeremy Clarke ever written a better piece than his beautiful account of his Sardinian holiday with Sharon (Low life, 10 May)? His description of Italian women ‘chatting’ would be a far better study for A-level English students than the work of the ridiculous Russell Brand.
West Norwood, London