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

Iraq war: some sense « Previous | |Next »
February 27, 2004

This article by Hugh White in The Age is of interest. It is about the role of the intelligence agencies in the Iraq war. White says:

"They played no key role at all. The Government's decision was not based on intelligence assessments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, or about anything else. It was based on judgements - policy judgements - about our alliance with the United States, and the kind of role the US should play in the world."


And we can put the old furphy of 'significant threat' from Iraq's WMD's aside. As White succinctly says:

" one inside the Australian Government seriously believed Saddam's WMD posed such a clear and present danger to Australia, to our interests or to our allies, that there was no alternative but to invade Iraq. Saddam and his WMD had been successfully contained for a decade by a combination of sanctions and deterrence, and there was no reason to think this would change. Whatever pushed us to war with Iraq, it was not WMD."

White says that were two policy judgements that underpinned the Howard Government's decision to go to war. The first is the one that was argued argued by this weblog: -----support for Washington in Iraq would further strengthen our alliance with the US. Or, as White says, a decision not to help in Iraq would have seemed to Canberra to risk sending a chill through Canberra's relationship with Washington. This is the insurance policy justification.

The second policy judgement was the view that "a quick, clean American victory in Iraq would have some valuable side effects for Australia, by confirming US global pre-eminence. Back then, in early 2002, this was buttressed by an expectation that once the wagon started to roll most countries - and the United Nations - would jump aboard. No one expected that we would end up invading Iraq as one in a coalition of only three."

I'm not sure what White reckons the Ministers had in mind there. A good deal on a free trade agreement?

Once all the spin and nonsense is cleared away the focus shifts to the political decisions made by the ministers. White says that what is uncovered are some the big issues: - about the management of Australia's alliance with the US, about the role of force in international affairs, and about Australia's strategic priorities. These issues are rarely addressed in Australian public debate.

It these that we should be debating.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:58 PM | | Comments (5)


Well, let's debate- did the decision to support Washington help the alliance or not?

Or is it a moot point now that it is all over?

It strengthened the alliance.

But that is not all this issue is about.It is bigger than strengthening the alliance.

We have an alliance between two sovereign nation-states. So how far should Australia relinquish its independence to be an ally of the US?

How far should Australia allow itself to be integrated into the US defence network?

How far shoudl Australia's interstsbe aligned with those of the US?

In answering these we wander over into the issue of Australia's strategic priorities.

Yes, it does. And I guess that is where you would part company from the mainstream opinion. It would be interesting to hear your views of where Australia's strategic priorities should be.

'part from mainstream opinion'?
Take Paul Keatings quip:that Australia's future security should be in Asia not in a flight from Asia.

Is that parting from mainstream opinion in a post Cold-War world?

It means keeping he US in the Asia-Pacific Rrim region without Australia being a spoke of American policy, or its cheerleader.

It means rejecting the US hub (Washington) and spoke(the series of bilateral agreements with its friends)model.

Australia should conduct negotiations without having to go through Washington.

It maens Australia being a part of the collective dialogue in the Asia Pacific Rim region, not excluded from it.

Australia's intersts, in short, lay in developing economic and strategic partnerships in the region.

That's a pretty simplistic set of cliches. I thought you wanted a debate.

It's not a zero sum game, you know. For example, we are developing economic and strategic partnerships in the region, in concurrence with our relationships with Washington.

A typical example of Australian engagement with the region is Australia's trade agreement with Thailand.

I get the impression that you simply cannot accept that Australia can have any common interest with the US, and dismiss them as 'cheerleading'. This doesn't seem to be a broadminded approach to foreign policy.