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

Howard's historical hand « Previous | |Next »
March 18, 2003

War weighs heavily on my mind these days; even when I'm painting the electronic cottage, walking the dogs in the parklands, or relaxing with a glass of wine. My sentiments are similar to those of Timothy Burke over at Easily Distracted. In his March 11 post, Crazy Taxi, he says:

"I had not meant to write as much in this space about the coming war as I have written. It is on my mind more than any event or issue has been in my life, including September 11th. But the coming war, well, I am having trouble sleeping because of it.

What haunts me is an overwhelming feeling that everything about our lives is about to change, and a strong sense of certainty that whatever the short-term results, the long-term changes are going to be for the worse. Perhaps in subtle ways, perhaps in gross and obvious ones.

What grips me is the sense that an extraordinary compound mistake is about to be made, the kind that shifts the forward motion of history onto a new track. It is like being a passenger in a car driven too quickly and erratically by someone who wonít listen to anyone else in the car. Even when you want to get to the same destination as the driver, you canít help but feel that thereís a way to go there which doesnít carry the same risk of flying through the guardrails and off a cliff."

The melancholy cultural critic over at a heap of junk for code uses the terms 'the hand of history', or the world spirit for this sense of history. He not only sees world history in terms of the catastrophe that has been and is to come: as permanent catastrophe. It is a form of thinking otherwise to those neo-cons who a think that their plan for a better world is manifest in history and unites it.

John Howard, the Australian PM, has a hand of history. It is about the special relationship and closeness between the American and Australian people; the close connection between the US and the UK as nation states; the sharing of common culture and values; and it being in Australia's 'national interest to remain a close ally of the US.

But Howard's hand includes a joker. His version of the special relationship not only insists on being the closest ally of the American people or the US state; it involves identifying with the current neo-con Bush administration that is in power in Washington. The joker in the hand says that Howard would stick by the Bush Administration, even if it were opposed by the American people.

What is the point of Howard's commitment to the Bush Adminstration. Unlike Tony Blair it has nothing to do with influence to broaden the neo-con agenda:---say developing a new basis for international law, reforming international institutions with which to apply them, ensuring a world ruled by law and by international co-operation, and supporting the UN as its central pillar. Nope Howard just goes along with Bush. He declares his intent to engage in aggressive military war in the name of a pre-emptive strike. and then inviting the UN to choose between sanctioning the inevitable action or standing by and watching it happen.

The point of Howard's special relationship is to take out a simple insurance policy. We need the US because we cannot face the tricky issues in our region alone. And, these days, with the insurance market being what it is, Australia has to pay a high premium for that insurance. John Howard travels to Washington to take his instructions on to to assist the US in an aggressive military action that will take place thousands of miles from home.

This is how the joker in John Howard's hand understands 'the international community' and Australia's special relationship with the US. It is one that says John Howard would stick by the Bush Administration's war in the Middle East even if it were opposed by the Australian people.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:50 AM | | Comments (2)


Howard needs to realise that in fact he doesn't hold all the cards, and that Joker is useless. Last time I checked, he didn't control the Senate, which must authorize his war budget. The antiwar majority of the Senate certainly must refuse to pass the budget, if legal advice they obtain shows the war violates Australian law (which it does). This will mean a repeat of 1975, where the G.G. will be forced to resolve the constitutional crisis by sacking the Government.

I'm not sure about your scenario.

Not that I don't agree with it--I hope that it will happen.

I just do not think that the ALP has the political courage to take such a stand.