I’m writing this at 10,000 metres, a dangerous place to write. There’s something about thin air on a plane and a couple of glasses of wine that moves the bladder closer to the eye.
If you watch They Shall Not Grow Old, Peter Jackson’s devastating (though deficient because of its compression) BBC/Imperial War Museum documentary, you will be undone.
And with America’s current crop of neocons tightening their sights on Iran, you wonder if the next war could be the straw to break the American alliance, to force Australia to become an independent nation for the first time since 1788.
As Donald Trump’s America belittles allies, undermines international institutions, extends extraterritoriality, creates divisions, champions nationalism, declaims American exceptionalism, rattles sundry sabres, erratically tweets, denies history, constantly lies and misleads, bullies and feints, when does the rest of the world decide, enough?
The United States’ unilateral trashing of the Iran nuclear treaty was a first test of allies’ independence – would Europe and Australia allow the Trump administration to ride roughshod?
With the US using the reach of its financial powers to enforce its well, the answer has been yes.
The rest of the world offered no unified resistance to President Trump’s protectionist tariff barrage.
Instead, individual countries scurried to beg individual favour rather than unite for the greater good. Australia was at the front of the queue seeking exemption from steel and aluminium tariffs.
Surrendering principle always creates a later cost. Every bull push by Mr Trump sets up another.
The current triumvirate of Middle East warmongers – the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel – each have their historical reasons for antagonism with Iran.
The US has never forgiven the Iranian revolution for rejecting the puppet dictator America installed by overthrowing Iran’s elected government in 1953, never mind the humiliation of the US embassy hostages.
It blames Iran for Hezbollah’s suspected attacks.
Given President Trump’s fawning over the Saudi and Israeli regimes, they have found a president willing to hear and believe the worst about their mutual enemy – to believe anything he wants to believe, it seems.
In such a climate, it’s easy to prod potential conflict along with dangerous hawks having the president’s ear.
Four Corners’ PBS report on the US/China trade war last week pulled up well short of the full extent of that growing conflict, but it did demonstrate the effectiveness of the warmongers in the administration.
Steve Bannon’s boasting about the “nationalists” successful plan to undermine the White House globalists and launch an open-ended economic war against China was chilling.
Much the same lobbying is at work against Iran, working up an excuse for military action.
The presidential election campaign already under way adds motive.
One casualty of our major strategic partner’s own making is the loss of its credibility. The US, like other great powers on the make, has always lied to further its own ends, to provoke or excuse wars it wanted to wage.
That hasn’t changed in our most obvious lived experience.
Three presidents lied to continue the Vietnam war for domestic political reasons. Another administration conspired to produce the calamity of Iraq – the greatest crime of the century, so far.
And even on a good day, the current administration has no apparent relationship with truth or facts.
So there is no reason to take anything the US claims about Iran at face value. Yet, as belled by Paul Keating, our security community remains in America’s thrall and our mainstream media is sadly lacking in healthy scepticism about that security community.
Worryingly, our government has already shown a willingness to follow the Trump line, as demonstrated by Scott Morrison’s Jerusalem embassy stunt during the Wentworth by-election.
Would our pro-Trump, pro-Saudi arms sales, pro-Israel Prime Minister resist a call to join a war, the calls our governments enthusiastically answered in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria?
Or could an American attack of dubious parentage on Iran become the bridge too far, enough to form a broader Coalition of the Unwilling?
Mr Trump’s China policy is already on course towards a defining moment for Australia, forcing us to make a decision between last century’s dominant power and what will be this century’s – what is already our key economic partner.
That decision won’t be forced by steel tariffs or South China Sea defences or China’s human rights violations, but by America’s push to create a technology wall around China – the heart of the Sinophobes’ plan to restrict the rise of China.
As others have canvassed, nations could be forced to choose whether to go with Chinese or American technology, Chinese or American artificial intelligence and communications.
The Huawei battle is only the first skirmish in that war.
America’s growing urgency is because it can see itself losing the technological advantage it has enjoyed for the past century.
The danger for the US now isn’t China stealing US technology, but that China doesn’t need to steal US technology.
Moving beyond the US with its 5G leadership is the obvious example.
As demonstrated in the Four Corners program, Washington claims Chinese state support for new technology is unfair competition.
The American critics overlook that their country’s massive military and space programs have amounted to the same thing.
Our local security cheer squad willingly promotes America’s claims about Chinese communications equipment, but consider the issue from the point of view of a third party, like Germany’s Angela Merkel: If Germany goes with Huawei 5G gear, China might be able to spy on her calls, but she knows the US has already used its technology to bug her phone.
Closer to home, non-Chinese gear has been perfectly good for Australia to bug the Indonesian first lady’s phone and the Timor-Leste government.
The much-promoted bigger threat is for the possible use of “back doors” to control equipment and machinery. The US and Israel are themselves hard at work at it. And our own government has legislated to demand communications back doors – that’s so much more discreet than AFP raids.
There is little that’s black-and-white about the current tensions, not much clarity.
In this opaque climate of dubious motives and weak credibility, who wants to support another American war, to Go All The Way With The USA, to put Australian lives at Donald Trump’s disposal?
As the credits roll for They Shall Not Grow Old, the soundtrack is a version of Mademoiselle from Armentieres. It’s taking it out of context, but at 10,000 metres the unintentional prescience of one verse haunts me: “Blow your nose and dry your tears, we’ll all be back in a few short years.”
Inky pinky parlez-vous.