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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

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March 23, 2003

I'm slowly getting around to reading the weekend newspapers. I refused to watch television last night. I wanted a break.

I read Paul Kelly's 'Fight of their Lives' in the Weekend Australian (no links) this morning. Kelly's text is good on the domestic side of the conflict of the war with a militarily weak Iraq, and poor on the international side. Kelly says about Howard's speech justifiying war that:

"Howard did not argue that Iraq posed a real or immediate threat to Australia or the world. He did not argue any serious link between Iraq and al-Qa'ida....He made no effort to relate the decision to Australia's regional position and interest. He made no reference to the split in the Western allaince but, significantly, neither he endorse Bush's doctrine of pre-emption that Iraq symbolizes. His speech was devoid of strategic evaluation."

Kelly puts his finger on Howard's reason for Australia marching with the US to Baghdad: it is for the US-Australia alliance. So what have we signed up to? Kelly is thin, waffly and evasive at this point. He says:

"The question for Australia is whether the Iraq war heralds a new order or whether it is an aberration. The US under Bush is a more demanding alliance partner but Iraq is a test of whether his demands work for Australia's national interest. The truth is that Australia needs a US that works with the world community, not against it; a US that is liked, not hated."

This leads to an evaluation of where is Bush going in the Middle East; it requires an assessment of the neo-con strategy in this region. But Kelly is silent. He evades any assessment of the neo-Bush policy of helping Israel against the Arab states overturning the current regimes in Iran, Syria and Saudia Arabia through the preferred instrument of force; extending US power in the region and the globe and checking the rise of any competitor state (eg. China). This is a lot more than the US just being global cop protecting the status quo. As Peter Hartcher in the Australian Financial Review says this is The first of many wars.

Brian Toohey in the Australian Financial Review(subscription required) asks the right question: whats in it for Australia? What do we Australians's get for paying the premiums on our insurance policy for future securitywhen payout time comes. What's our payout, if Islamic fundamentalists ever come to power in Indonesia? That is the unspoken Australian neo-con nightmare---it is where the long road to Baghdad leads for Australia. Forget the free trade stuff: its a side issue. Target Indonesia is the real game in town.

Will Australia ask the US to confront a hostile Indonesian state and not accommodate them? As we all know there are no guarantees that the US will come to Australia's rescue. If the US-Australia alliance is not a contract, so does the US as a close friend and ally have an obligation to attack Indonesia to protect Australia? Doubts flow freely on this one.

Similar reasoning about the national interest can be found in Britain, where Tony Blair also claims a 'special relationship' with the US. David Carr at sums this up pretty well:

"But there are others on the British right who are vigourously opposed to Britain taking any part in the attack on Iraq not because they harbour anti-American sentiments (indeed, they heartily reject such nonsense) but because they believe that it is not in British national interests to do so. They are far from confident that any US administration would go to bat for Britain in the way that Britain has gone to bat for America..."

Such considerations of national interest take us a long aay from the Australian neo-con claim (eg., C. Pearson, in his 'Rebels as gullible as before' in the Weekend Australian, no link) that, for the left, the inviolability of Iraq's sovereignty is of more consequence than the Iraqi regime's brutal and repression practices.

Remember what we are seeing in the mediascape's representation of travelling on road to Baghdad---lots of wreckage and collatoral damage. Remember how the Arab media and Islamic groups see the US---as a big, uncivilized bully trampling all over improverished and weak Arabs. Canberra should be in the grip of strategic anxiety.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:08 PM | | Comments (3)


Canberra IS in said grip, Gary. The intelligence community; the Strategic Studies boffins at the ANU; senior uniforms; the Greens, Dems and Labor; and a few dozen ambitious-thus-quiescent Libs. Howard probably is, too - but he'll pay any price to nail down the rest of his political career. At this stage, his hope is no doubt that the chooks'll come home to roost when he has his pension and his gold pass - when our nurtured ignorance of historical context can be relied upon to gloss over his role in the mess.


I am sickened by the number of commentators in our media who gladly cheerlead an international war of aggression that has no legitimate basis in either morality or law. Even the Age has shilled for Howard's flagrant violation of the UN Charter.

I missed the Age shrilling. Where was it?