By Tom McTague Defense One
The White House wants to build a new world order, all in an effort to preserve the old one.
A new world is beginning to take shape, even if it remains disguised in the clothes of the old.
The United States, Britain, and Australia have announced what is in effect a new “Anglo” military alliance. The basics are these: In 2016, Australia struck a deal with France to buy a fleet of diesel-powered submarines, rejecting an Anglo-American alternative for nuclear-powered vessels. In March this year, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (or, “that fellow down under,” as Joe Biden referred to him), began talking with Washington about reversing its decision. Then, last night, in a live three-way public announcement, Biden, Morrison, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that the Australians would scrap their agreement with France to team up with Britain and the U.S. instead, forming a new “AUKUS” military alliance in the process.
The French response has been apoplectic. The country’s minister of European and foreign affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, called the decision a “knife in the back.” Benjamin Haddad, from the Atlantic Council, in Washington, said it had set relations between the U.S. and France back to their lowest point since the Iraq War. Bruno Tertrais, of France’s Foundation for Strategic Research think tank went even further, calling it a “Trafalgar strike.”
Yet behind the soap opera of French anger and the quiet crowing of les perfides anglo-saxons, sits something much more important: the faint outlines of a new world order, or at least an attempt to start drawing one.
As Karl Marx observed, leaders who try to create something new “conjure up the spirits of the past to their service.” Old language, slogans, and costumes are deployed to present the new scene in time-honored disguise. As such, President Biden went out of his way to praise France and to claim that it remained a “key partner” in the Indo-Pacific. He was also at pains to point out that the submarines that would eventually patrol Australia’s coastline were not nuclear-armed, but nuclear-powered. The U.S., Biden stressed, was not breaking its nonproliferation commitments, but simply strengthening existing alliances.