In the United States, a memorial on the National Mall is being planned to honour American soldiers who lost their lives in the US global war on terror. In Australia, a half-billion-dollar redevelopment of the national War Memorial is in the works. While all these expensive and ritualistic remembrances are being planned, the two English-speaking allies are again planning for war or at least risking one – with China and in Asia – by repeating the same miscalculations, misconceptions and self-aggrandisement that led to many of those who were killed now being remembered. They prove once again the correctness of Hegel’s famous observation in the introduction to his Lectures on the Philosophy of History (section 2.2): “But what experience and history teach is this – that peoples and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.” I am, of course, referring to Aukus, the reinforced strategic alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia whereby the latter would be provided with the technology to build nuclear and potentially nuclear-armed submarines. The ugly reality of the American empire Writing in Inside Story , Australian journalist and author Nicholas Stuart offers a good take on the reason why: “The Aukus alliance represents a dramatic step away from multilateral diplomacy. “The only way to make any sense of the move is to understand it as, quite possibly, the most significant strategic decision Canberra has made since the second world war, wedding the country decisively to a US/UK alliance and catapulting Australia into the ranks of potentially nuclear-armed states.” Aukus is the Anglosphere’s way of telling the Asians, the Asean countries, to go home; the white nations of the English-speaking world are still in charge of their region. However, before Aukus, China probably never seriously thought of ever nuking Australia. Now, I bet such plans are being actively worked out. The intellectual calibres of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his cabinet ministers are, I think, plain for all to see It’s very weird for me to think about that, as many of my SCMP colleagues, including several who edit my column, are from Down Under. I am reminded of the opening of Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion , which tells of a true story of a group of friends living on an island who, because of postal delays, didn’t know they had become enemies on the eve of the first world war as their nations – Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Russia – had declared war on each other. A bit more historical context may also be helpful to add to Stuart’s excellent observation. It is that Australia has always, since World War II, been happy to join Uncle Sam in whatever war efforts, however foolish and dangerous, to prove its worth, or to punch above one’s weight, as the Brits like to say. First Australians fought in the Vietnam war. Then, as the influential Australian defence analyst Huge White writes in The Monthly , “supporting America in the Middle East became the foundation of our status as a US ally. “We were always among the first to offer forces to US-led operations in and around the Gulf. The contingents we sent were small and the risks were low, but the speed of our responses gave them diplomatic and political punch far beyond their military weight, and cheaply won us a reputation as one of Washington’s favourite allies. We went along with America to Afghanistan and Iraq without much thought because that is what Australia had done for many years…” The intellectual calibres of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his cabinet ministers are, I think, plain for all to see. Unless, of course, you seriously think they have thought through all the implications of Aukus before greenlighting it, White’s words ring true: “We went along with America … without much thought because that is what Australia had done for many years…” US debacle in Afghanistan is a learning moment for everyone But Vietnam, the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan were relatively minor misadventures for Australia; and they were fought far away. A war with China will be right in Australia’s backyard. White added: “That would be deeply worrying at any time, but especially now, because Morrison and his colleagues confront far more serious strategic choices than any their predecessors have faced in the War on Terror. They may not realise it yet themselves, but Morrison and his people are not exaggerating when they say that America’s strategic contest with China could easily lead to a major war. It could, and even to a nuclear war. “Yet so far Morrison has been content to do again what we did in the War on Terror… And so far Washington is following the same pattern of strategic failure as it did after September 11. As it did with terrorism, it is overestimating China’s threat, and overestimating America’s capacity to respond.” Some people such as White do learn from history. Unfortunately, they are not in charge. He was a mid-level defence official and is now a semi-retired academic.