Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr., Georgia State University
I suppose it was inevitable. Since nature and the military both abhor a vacuum, the recent announcement of the military draw-down in Iraq almost inevitably meant that we’d soon be re-deploying our military forces somewhere else.
Still, the northern coast of Australia came as something of a surprise. President Obama announced yesterday that 250 US Marines will soon be shipping off for rotating six-month tours at an Australian military base on the north central coast of the island, near a city called Darwin. Their numbers are expected to escalate to 2500 in fairly short order, along with military equipment and long-range aircraft.
Since they’re headed to Darwin, it was also probably inevitable that this announcement, something of a curiosity on the evening news cycle, would be read as an exercise in the geopolitics of “survival the fittest.” In this case, the new troop deployment is seen as a symbolic check on growing Chinese influence in the region, especially noteworthy after several recent incidents prompted by the Chinese Navy’s intrusion upon the territorial waters of several neighboring states.
So the whole thing has been read as a check on Chinese power.
Perhaps it is that, but it is surprising that no one consulting the map has noticed what stands in between Darwin, Australia and the Chinese mainland… namely, the most populous Muslim country in the world, Indonesia.
It is unclear that the Australians would accepted a deployment that had been framed for them in anti-Chinese terms. China is one of Australia’s biggest trading partners and they seem far less worried about an emergent China than American pubic officials have been of late.
But the Australians have been active and enthusiastic supporters of the War on Terror, and this deployment–assuming it is aimed at Indonesian-backed South Pacific terrorist networks more than the Chinese Navy–serves that purpose nicely.
This is not about a new threat but an old one. It is not about an emerging Chinese threat, whether miliary or economic at all.
No, this is about al-Qaeda and Islam.