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

Foreign policy matters « Previous | |Next »
July 15, 2003

Margo Kingston has posted an article from Geoffrey Barker from the Australian Financial Review, called Let loose the dogs of war on her Webdiary. (Scroll down the page).

Barker opens with this:

"Australia under the Howard government is drifting dangerously towards aggressive military adventurism and the establishment of a repressive national-security state."

I think so too. It is what this weblog has been arguing. Barker continues:

"The most dramatic manifestation of this trend is the federal government's enthusiasm for military deployments to meet what it perceives as its obligations under the US alliance and to deal with regional and domestic security issues."

Spot on. There has been a fundamental rupture with the foreign policy of the past. It is a retreat from Australia's commitment to multilateral diplomacy, international law and working through the UN. It is a turn to joining coalitions of like-minded nations willing to fight to achieve outcomes with or without UN backing.

As Hilary Charlesworth observes such a policy "asserts the right to intervene in other countries on the basis of Australia's own assessment of its national interest, and rejects the constraints of the collective views of the international community."

It's might equals right. As Scott Burchill notes Bush, Blair and Howard decided to invade Iraq then hunted around for the justifications:

"Bush, Blair and Howard assembled arguments to support a case for war after they had decided to attack Iraq. They did not arrive at a conclusion after a judicious evaluation of the evidence. Like barristers, they selected and highlighted material favourable to their argument and ignored anything that undermined it."

The justifications selected were the ones most likely to persuade public opinion and they were ones based on arousing fear.

Barker then introduces a new theme. He says:

"Most disturbingly the drift is occurring with little comment, little debate and apparently unconstrained by the countervailing pressures that limit policy extremes in fully functional liberal democracies."

No doubt about it. Few care about foreign policy in Australia. And you can see what passes for debate here. with Piers Ackerman 's response to Malcom Fraser's criticism of the Howard Government's foreign policy. And you don't hear much from the academics.

Barker finishes on this note:

"With independent public service advice compromised, academic criticism muted and much media inquiry limited, the Howard government's remaking of military and human-rights policy is a cause for grave democratic concern."

And few seem to be guarding democracy.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:41 PM | | Comments (0)