'Tolerance has never brought civil war; intolerance has covered the earth with carnage '- Voltaire
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When the French philosopher Voltaire coined the above statement, he may have had in mind a situation similar to the current global tensions that seem to be ripening at a rapid pace.
In recent times, we have seen the escalation and sharpening of global contradictions in the geo-political landscape. Painstakingly, we have seen the power balance shifting more equitably to check what previously appeared to be an unchecked dominance of the United States. We seem to be faced with the real possibility of a meaningful realignment and repositioning of power in the global landscape; this cannot happen without a commitment to the delicate ‘balancing act of tolerance’ that Voltaire speaks of above. We must be careful not to allow an unchecked intolerance of some to set the field for chaos and undermine the need for international collaboration towards peace and stability.
The sharpening of these contradictions can be seen most vividly in two recent events.
The first is the long-overdue withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan and the second is the Cold War like Australia-U.S.-U.K. defence alliance predicated on the provision of nuclear vessels to Australia by the United States and the United Kingdom. The move has been seen as an attempt by the U.S. to strengthen its position around the fractious Indo-Pacific region.
The most critical of these above-mentioned events is the second; as Australia announced it would join the U.S. and the U.K. in a trilateral security partnership, AUKUS, which lists the development of nuclear submarines for Australia as priority No. 1. over the next 18 months.
Australia's Department of Defence will establish a task force to guide the coalition's goal to become a "reliable steward" of nuclear technology. This was done despite Australia being in advanced talks with France regarding the provision of the required submarines. The short-changing of the French has led to outrage by French decision-makers. Besides this indignation from the French that resulted in the withdrawal of the French Ambassadors from Washington and Canberra, the situation is also quite reminiscent of the kind of power plays synonymous with the inwardness of the Cold War. What should undoubtedly concern all of us most though, is how the nuclear-powered submarines will undermine the global pursuit for peace and stability.
The export of highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology to Australia by the United States and the UK will prove once again that they are using nuclear exports as a mechanism for geopolitical posturing. This is within a context of continued calls for de-escalation of all nuclear capabilities.
Australia is a non-nuclear weapon state under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and a party to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNFZ) Treaty. We must all look on critically when such a move is made as it tends to not just undermine the above-mentioned treaty, but also creates a precarious slippery-slope for continued nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
With the current global economic recovery efforts, one would think that values of collaboration, communication, and cooperation would be apex priorities for the global community. All efforts should be geared at building synergies as we pick up the pieces and begin a new road towards confluence for shared growth and prosperity. We should be tearing walls not erecting them. Disarming, not arming.
Extending hands of friendship and not fists of anger. The approach that seems to have been primed by the Australia-US power play is not one that seems to be in keeping with creating an amicable environment for peace, stability, and cooperation. To quote another French write Victor Hugo, who wrote, “Vous voulez la paix, créez l’amour” which means “if you want peace create love.” Certainly, the above-mentioned antics by the US are not in keeping with not only global values, but the principles of the very country it muscled out of the deal in order to fight its own self-defeating delusions of grandeur.
We have observed disparagingly as the current dominant powers, the US and China, seem to have very different approaches to world issues. We need to draw a definitive line about what we as a global community will tolerate and what we will be intolerant of. In all this, peace and stability must continue to be apex priorities.
In relation to the above US power play, China believes by their own admission that, “any regional mechanism should conform to the trend of peace and development of the times and contribute to enhancing mutual trust and cooperation among regional countries, and should not target any third party or undermine its interests.” To this end, I think it would be fitting to end with a quote by the Spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian, regarding the Australia US UK defence alliance.
"Relevant countries should abandon the outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception, respect the will of the people of regional countries, and do more to contribute to regional peace, stability and development. Otherwise, they will only end up shooting themselves in the foot."