Flat White

Paper friends vs blood brothers

8 April 2022

1:00 PM

8 April 2022

1:00 PM

Forget Klaus Schwab’s harmonious ‘world without borders’ and the fanciful global monoculture than can be ruled over by a panel of elites clutching their champagne flutes. Whatever banknotes they’re smoking in Swiss ski lodges has left them detached from reality.

War is coming. Peace – if it emerges – will be at the expense of innocent lives.

Geopolitics is a movable feast held together by two forces; paper treaties and familiar blood. Neither are unbreakable, but nor are they equal in strength when large nations upset the balance on their way to dominance.

We add to this dynamic digital veins that wrap around the world set to be sliced open and bled out just as the old ribbons of trade were in previous centuries. Our servers are owned by corporations; the Silk Road was dominated by traders, and the seas were ruled by privateers. The digital landscape will adapt to – not prevent – conflict.

It can no longer be denied that China and Russia are on the rise. They have colluded through economic and military alliances to usurp America and its slumbering European predecessors as the world’s conjoined superpower. India is caught between them as the second most populous nation on Earth. Scattered around the edges we find increasingly radicalised Islamic states run by a collection of dictators, psychopaths, and terrorists mixed in with the usual trigger-happy despots like North Korea and Pakistan.

Together these regimes embody the ‘second sons’ problem – countries denied power by the longevity of the world order established at the close of the second world war. America is the king that simply won’t die and pass on the crown. As with every empire, the disgruntled children have taken up arms, leaving the lords and nobles to decide whether or not they defend the king or pick a new leader.

Biden is a difficult figure to rally around, but there’s a consensus that neither Xi Jinping nor Vladimir Putin represent a good replacement for the rambling wreck. Humanity has a habit of fleeing collectivist regimes. This poses the question, where do we run once the great empires of liberty are felled with the sickle and beaten by the hammer? A weak America is better than no America.

The defenders and aggressors of the next war are not obvious – nor are the ultimate ambitions of the charismatic madmen vying for power. What a nation wants and what it can reasonably achieve remain key to predicting conflict, but our leaders too often focus on what they want instead. It requires empathy with the enemy to survive, but arrogance, nostalgia, and naivety walk the halls of Canberra.


Does Australia have reliable alliances? Which of our strategic partnerships is destined for betrayal? Scott Morrison has been given plenty of hints, but he made his first serious error in December 2021 by helping quash a rebellion against the China-backed regime in the Solomon Islands. It demonstrated to China that Australia hasn’t found the game board, let alone picked up a piece.

Fumbling in the Culture Wars can be corrected, but an error of judgment regarding the shuffling of empires could kill a country or collapse the dominance of democracy.

Those comfy in their Western privilege would do well to remember that the survival of political systems mimics evolution in that there is no guarantee the ‘best’ option for ordinary people will win. Socialism is ruthless, swift, advantageous in battle, and preferable for dictators – and so humanity may lose democracy entirely if socialist empires are allowed to prevail.

Young generations are gravitating toward subjugation, idolising regimes that tell them how to think and what to say. The human dream of liberty may finish as a fleeting flirtation, murdered for the ‘greater good’ and general intellectual laziness.

Losing the next war is guaranteed if politicians place their faith in bits of paper signed at bureaucratic love-ins. Liberal and Labor wrongly assume a treaty penned between strangers can overturn the instincts of millions of people with shared history.

How many times must we hear, ‘China is Australia’s biggest trading partner’ as if it were some sort of protection against Xi Jinping? This mirage has been cracked by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but the lesson remains unlearned. The world slammed its doors on Russia in an act of self-harm to prove a point. If the West is capable of this strategy, so too is the East when it comes to conquest. China will feel as guilty about breaking trade deals and UN treaties with Australia as we do blocking an anonymous troll on Twitter.

Ordinary people are not stupid because they live closest to the sword. They have shown renewed interest in strengthening relations with America and the United Kingdom. Canada and New Zealand’s leaders are a bit mad, but they remain inside the familiar fold of brotherhood and empire. Great-grandparents, fourth cousins twice-removed, siblings, children – the spread of families has always played havoc with the ambitions of emperors trying to move lines on the map.

Australia is critically undefended by generations of political oversight, but it has a powerful family…

Understanding this is crucial. For the last sixty years, the world has been governed by the unstoppable force of commerce. Booming business has falsely exaggerated the strength of ‘contracts’ and ‘agreements’. It has given bureaucrats a misunderstanding that they hold power over nations and can manipulate people for profit. Worse, some organisations imagine they can control (what they see as) archaic dictators with real armies and sinister ambition.

Humanity will always be at war with itself. Pacifism and politics work – until they don’t. Plenty of Hitlers, Stalins, Alexanders, Napoleons, Caesars, Xerxes, Catherines, and Khans are born every day. The World Economic Forum, United Nations, and European Union are in for a shock when they realise that someone has struck a match to the corner of their paper empires.

Do not overlook the influence of ghosts. The dead empires. Those monsters of previous Ages that built the scaffolding. We will never be able to trace the outlines of the oldest human civilisations. Those that did not write have left us pictures to muse over. Their reigns were underpinned by conflicts whose philosophical disagreements are buried. The story of humanity is mostly lost. If something remains, it is in our genes – a faint biological variance between geographic communities that survives as a fingerprint of ancient crimes.

Geopolitics sits on a thin crust of diplomacy drifting over an endless mantle of conflict. The rifts, fissures, cracks, and violence come to the surface along the boundaries of the largest empires – weakened by the stresses of forgotten wars. Where they clash, nations are devoured.

To survive, Australia has no choice but to renew its historical alliances – bind itself to the shadow of empire while the embers our paper friends dance off into the night.

Alexandra Marshall is an independent writer. If you would like to support her work, shout her a coffee over at donor-box. She is also a young ambassador for the English Speaking Union and Australians for Constitutional Monarchy.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.


Show comments
Close