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Very confused neo-cons « Previous | |Next »
February 6, 2003

The Australian neo-cons have realized that they need to both defend their views on the war with Iraq through public debate, and to publicly address the issue of why the UN should be bypassed in particular.

Peter Reith, a former Defence Minister in the Howard Government, has intervened and an edited version of his speech is published in The Financial Review called, "No more games, Hussein, your time's up', (subscription required). After saying that 'the US has bent over backwards to work cooperatively with the international community and through the UN', Reith says:

"But the UN cannot be the final arbiter of what is rght and wrong. A simple vote cannot determine what is right or wrong. There are some moral absolutes that go beyond numerical accounting. Australians have their own values and their long traditions of basic political and economic rights. These are values and traditions we share with both the US and the UK, which is why have similar views on the issue of Iraq."

Reith is confused. Moral Absolutes are in conflict with a tradition of basic political and economic rights since a tradition is something that has historically evolved. Reith seems to say understand this, because he acknowledges that we share the rights-based values and traditions with the US and the UK. So the Absolutes are quietly shuffled off stage to be replaced by the Anglo-American rights version of the liberal democratic West. Thats a long way from Absolutes.

Nor do Australia, US and the UK have similar views on the issue of Iraq. There governments do but not the public opinion of the body of citizens of these nation-states. A sleight of hand is performed here: the nation state is reduced to the government of the day.

Reith continues:

"As a democracy Australians will be never give up the responsibility, right and privilege to determine such values for ourselves. And certainly, we will not be delegating our assessment of values to the UN."

The implication is that the UN is dictating to Australia its values ---ie., telling Australia what it should believe. Funny, I thought that the UN was committed to western rights and democratic values just like Australia.

The context is that the UN has criticized Australia for not upholding its rights based values and traditions in terms of refugees, mandatory sentencing and indigeneous peoples. This criticism is what is rejected by neo-cons, such as Reith, in the name of national sovereignty.

Here we have the Absolute reappearing in a new guise. National sovereignty is the Absolute. There can be no international authority that stands in judgement of a nation-state.

Of course Reith doesn't really hold this Absolute position either, since he accepts the authority of such internationaal bodies as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO in governing the global market and even in intervening to discipline particular nation states in the name of good governance.

As I said above Reith is confused--just plain confused.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:14 PM | | Comments (1)


Peter Reith and morality in the same sentence? Are you using The Onion or The Chaser to source your blog now? Where's the punchline?