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

loving Australia « Previous | |Next »
June 27, 2006

I missed this op.ed. by Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post about why he loves Australia. Why would a neocon, who despises weak-kneed, Islamofascist-coddling countries, love Australia? Because it is not a weak-kneed, Islamofascist-coddling country that's why.

After a section that loves the conservative dismissal of multiculturalism and sharia law to help settle divorce disputes amongst Muslims, Krauthammer lays out his case thusly:

For Americans, Australia engenders nostalgia for our own past, which we gauzily remember as infused with John Wayne plain-spokenness and vigor. Australia evokes an echo of our own frontier, which is why Australia is the only place you can unironically still shoot a Western.

Australia is a place where men are still men and women are still women. White men and women are the good guys that is. And Christian to boot. The blacks are the other and must be dealt with accordingly. So must non-Christians. They are the bad guys. Xenophobic hate and contempt come to my mind when I think of the White Australia policy. The love here is a cowboy love of a good old shootout.

Krauthammer then connects this view of the Other to the world stage. He builds the case. Australia he says: surely the only place where you hear officials speaking plainly in defense of action. What other foreign minister but Australia's would see through "multilateralism," the fetish of every sniveling foreign policy grub from the Quai d'Orsay to Foggy Bottom, calling it correctly "a synonym for an ineffective and unfocused policy involving internationalism of the lowest common denominator"?

I thought that most of the world, apart from the oddly named Coalition of the Willing, the Israeli Lobby and Israeli hardliners favoured multilateralism. That means the Coaltion can stick it up those snivelling grubs who use international law to put constraints on imperial occupation of independent countries. Power is what matters. Power makes right.

Krauthammer loves Australia because it knows its place in the natural order of things of Pax Americana:

Australia has no illusions about the "international community" and its feckless institutions. An island of tranquility in a roiling region, Australia understands that peace and prosperity do not come with the air we breathe but are maintained by power -- once the power of the British Empire, now the power of the United States.

In case you missed the implication of imperial power about fighting the good fight for today, it is laid out:
Australia joined the faraway wars of early-20th-century Europe not out of imperial nostalgia but out of a deep understanding that its fate and the fate of liberty were intimately bound with that of the British Empire as principal underwriter of the international system. Today the underwriter is America, and Australia understands that an American retreat or defeat -- a chastening consummation devoutly, if secretly, wished by many a Western ally -- would be catastrophic for Australia and for the world.

What is good for America is not just good Australia it is good for the world. Hence there can be no "cut and run". You can sense the logic of paranoia: if we "cut and run,then that would provide a launching pad for the terrorists to strike the United States and the West.

Krauthammer ends saying that Australia understands America's role and is sympathetic to its predicament as reluctant hegemon. That understanding has led it to share foxholes with Americans from Korea to KabulThe Bush Administration as the reluctant hegemon? I guess it's a neocon attempt at a joke.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:32 PM | | Comments (29)


"...infused with John Wayne plain-spokenness"

Australia? J-Ho's Australia. The land of spin and misinfinformation where no minister is ever accountable. The nation which get's it's world view from A Current Affair.

"...infused with John Wayne plain-spokenness"


Of course "plain-spokenness" isn't necessarily the same thing as hoesty...

What is interesting to me is that there is a high level of dissent here, the war is not supported by the majority of Australians (and never has been), and that most Australians are entirely cynical of American motives and actions.

It is only our current political masters who fawn about the floor, waiting for scraps from the imperial table (witness the FTA).

Even Beazley, a right wing, pro-US Labor man wants us out of the mess the neo-cons have landed us all in.

Frankly, this guys view of Australia is as delusional as his other neo-con views.

Actually, to follow up, he probably feels that this sort of praise will be building up Australia's opinion of Howard and co., whilst I believe it has a terribly detrimental effect on them among the general populace.

We do not like the thought of our national character being one of unquestioning servility.

re your comment We do not like the thought of our national character being one of unquestioning servility.

That this is required of Australia by the imperial power is laid out very clearly isn't it. It's the bit that John Howard covers up--he has to given that all his appeals to the nation--even the conservative understanding Australian nationality and the national character has to step warily around nationality as self-determination and independence.

"...infused with John Wayne plain-spokenness"

Australia? J-Ho's Australia. The land of spin and misinfinformation where no minister is ever accountable. The nation which get's it's world view from A Current Affair.

"...infused with John Wayne plain-spokenness"


Of course "plain-spokenness" isn't necessarily the same thing as hoesty...

We're not into "unquestioning servility". Do you think so? Really?

I wish someone had told that to the Brits in the first half of last century...

Gary, That op-ed also contained the line "You cant be an 80% ally" or something like that. It is saying Australia's place is as an uncritical ally.

Krauthammer is married to an Australian too IIRC.

I thought it was a dopey op-ed.

Australia's unquestioning servility to the British Empire prior to 1945 was challenged by the Irish, republicans and nationalists.

the line in the op. ed is even worse than that. It reads:

They [Australia] fought with us [America] at Tet and now in Baghdad. Not every engagement has ended well. But every one was strenuous, and many quite friendless. Which is why America has such affection for a country whose prime minister said after Sept. 11, "This is no time to be an 80 percent ally" and actually meant it.

It is John Howard is saying that Australia's proper role in the international order is to be servile to the hegemon- not -the Washington neocon.

There is a lot of silly things being said by the Washington Post's Op ed columnists these days.--some are as bad as the op eds in the Australian mainstream press.

We're fighting in Baghdad?

I think Chuck is over-estimating the straaayn COMBAT role in that magical neocon wonderland. A quick look at out casualty count would prove that.

Our contribution is purely a token gesture for political purposes (here in straaaya and in DC). J-Ho is making sure he gets all the kudos without any of the risk.

"The nation gets its veiw of the world from a current affair" So true,the world according to Mike and Ray my God Im going to be ill just thinking about it.Then we have the shock jocks who spew out their crappola as if they are the designated sage's or the consience of Australia.And the mums and dads and truckies out there in the burbs lap up every word.The muslims are going to destroy us! why?Alan told me so dont cha know.Old Charlie Krauthammer knows the lay of the land, That's gold for Australia gold for Australia,Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh gold for Australia,and that's it lady's and gentlemen plenty of pies,fish and chips,and enough piss to drown in and sport, on the week ends and the world will turn.Charles and all of the other right wing cracker jacks you can think of know this,and unfortunately they are winning.If ignorance is bliss and it is sometimes folly to be wise who wrote that crap.

Australia's proper role in the international order is to be servile to the hegemon

The GAPF doctrine makes Australia a client-state in foreign policy, defence and economics. Though the latter is an absolute fallacy IMO, I have not found any flow-on benefits from the UK or US due to our uncritical foreign policy and defence stance.

When Australia co-ordinated its political message with the US prior to the Iraqi war it could be argued we fulfilled the role of client-state as we willfully made our politics subservient as well.

This is not America's fault. It is Australia's for agreeing to all this. It isnt American strength but Australian weakness.

One of the reasons why I didnt like that 'sir' episode was that it placed Australia, not as a nation-state, nor Howard as head of state meeting the President, but put us as equal to the Bush Administration's secretaries. Such as Porter Goss.

That same language was coming from the secretaries (not cabinet) as part of a co-ordinated media push to make Bush look full of leadership and presidential despite his secretaries dropping like flies and some in scandal.

The Australian Government may see being treated with the same contempt as the Administration's secretaries a move up in the world and a validation of the GAPF doctrine, but it trades Australian power and independence away for no reason or gain.

Greetings from Florida...Coalition of the Willing - indeed a ridiculous name. Even the Brits are very underepresented. It's all about "token gesture for political purposes." Even Kazahkstan sent 29 troops. This likely qualifies them for massive amounts of aid from the US.

The war is not supported by majorities in any of the countries represented there, and despite what our Congress just did in denying a drawdown of troops, 58% of us say the war is "not worth fighting" while 62% of us say we don't like how Bush is handling the war. And the saddest statistic, 74% of us believe the war has "damaged the United States image in the rest of the world." (CNN)

I've long been fascinated with Australia, which is why I check in on Gary's blog, and I think many Americans are, but not for the same reasons as Charles K. But you all do seem to have a sense of civility (and citizenship) that we long ago discarded. And you speak English, which is always a plus for lazy Americans.

For a very good "look inside" the war in Iraq, read this soldier's post:

Radio Free Babylon,
It's strange isn't it--the gap between the public mood in the US and the mood in Washington. Although nearly two-thirds of Americans say the war is not worth fighting, the Bush administration's "new" message is that George Bush will stay the course in Iraq because any joint failure of US power and Iraqi democracy would be catastrophic. The Republicans will campaign aggressively on Iraq, depicting the Democrats as agents of "cut and run".

This exposes the gulf between President Bush's determination to prevail and daily evidence from Baghdad of the deterioration on the ground and in the suburbs.
Washington is increasingly dealing with myths the myth of victory and its opposite-- surrender; myths because they are misrepresentations of the on-the-ground situation in Iraq.

The connection between myth and reality is that the war will continue for as long as it takes to instill order. That means that the US presence in Iraq will go on.

Reduce the US troops, increase the use of Iraqi troops but the US stays. It is a hegemon and needs to ensure its dominance in the Persian Gulf region. It will do whatever it takes to ensure this.


As you point out the difference in the Iraq casuality account between the US and Australia is vast.It highlights the chasm between the Australian and American experiences of Iraq.

In the US, the war is a constant media saga of savagery, scarce political options and brutal deaths of US soldiers. It provokes a range of emotions; anger at the intervention, horror at the depravity of the insurgents; a resolution to win, yet a longing to leave.

Iraq does not rate as a big issue in Australia.


I would put it to you that the political class in Australia have always acted in a servile manner to the dominant Anglo power, however, I don't think that has ever sat particularly well with the general population.

you can probably read the sir in different ways---politeness, charm, servility etc---but you would need to see the body language from the video feed. Context is all in these instances---Howard reckons that Australia's interests lie in being a client state to the hegemonic power.

But then so would the ALP Right--the little Americans like Bob Carr who see the American Alliance as a touchstone for alll foreign policy. What Carr said, after attending a US Australian Leadership Dialogue was that Australia cannot withdraw troops from Iraq because Washington would feel wounded.

This indicates the way political parties supposedly on the left do little to resist the conservative agenda.

re your comment political class in Australia have always acted in a servile manner to the dominant Anglo power
Australia was a colonial society until 1901and the bootlicking servility to the British empire was to be expected. The political class in postcolonial Australia is more ambivalent--after 1945. WW2 was the threshold of chang . How much change is the question.

The conservatives were, and are, servile to the US as a superpower-- --but the ALP is divided between pro- America (eg., Hawke, Carr, Conroy, Rudd & Beazley) and those who want a more independent Australia (Whitlam, Keating, Latham). I guess that deepseated division is the reason why the ALP could not take a strong and well defined position on the war with Iraq (re the non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction), Australia becoming a bigger target in the War on Terror, and bringing the troops home.

Some of the pro-Americans in the ALP are pretty bad -- -they wanted to invade Iraq and beat up the Iraqi's (and other Arabs). Some eg., Conroy, wanted to endorse Howard's deployment of troops and the American invasion of Iraq , irrespective of the UN. He's on the wrong side!

Under the Big Macs (Latham's term for Beazley, Conroy, Smith and Swan) there is tacit support forboth the US strategy in the Persian Gulf, and for the Bush Administration's policy of using the war on terror to expand its power and ensure its hegemony in the Middle East..

OK - I'm not one for "might makes right," necessarily, but I have to ask you Aussies something:

Those who want a more independent Australia; (Whitlam, Keating, Latham) are they ready to go it alone against the obvious evils of this world? (and by obvious, I mean those that, in Gary's words, inspire in us a "horror at the depravity of the insurgents.") Indonesia's not that far away.

Americans have tended to look on our Commonwealth Sister Down Under as one of us - that is, predominantly Anglo yet nobly and ably diversifying, free, and eminating from Mother England - much like our Canadian brethren. We like you, we want what's best for you, and we'd hate to see you "on your own," so to speak. But if that's what you want, we'd sadly walk way and wish you well.

I guess I'm saying the Oz-US relationship works in your favor, as far as we can see - and while we know it must suck to appear beholden to the great
Hegemon, we don't know how to turn you loose - and we don't really want to. Kasahkstan? We could give two shits about them, we only brought them into the Coaltion to show how diverse a Coaltion it was. We regard Australia as a sister, but if Big Sister is starting to be an embarrassment, we totally understand. Or at least 74% of us do.

And you know what? Your "cheers" sign-off has completely taken hold here in the Colonies.



Dave from Radio Free Babylon

No one in the Australian political class wants to dump the Anzus Alliance. An independent foreign policy does not mean doing a Switzerland. It's not an either or, it never has been, and it is unlikely to be so in the near future.

Australia is a middle ranked regional power and that determines what it can do. Some neocons--eg., Alexander Downer, the current foreign minister, --- talk about a global role for Australia. Presumably that strategy means Australia standing side by side the US everywhere. It is delusional because such a strategy is undercut by the country's limited military and economic capacity.

Independence means more along the lines of recognizing those occasions when Australian national interests are not the same as US national interests; and Australia playing more on its own in the Asia Pacifiic Rim, rather than being the deputy sherriff of the US swaggering around the region like some LA cop cracking down on disorder

An example of the former is that it is not in Australia's interests to act to contain China as the Bush administration is doing. An example of the latter is to work to develop a regional free trade zone in the Asia Pacific Rim.

Independence also means working with the UN, multateralism and working within international law.

This more independent role can be done whilst working with at the US/Australia alliance.

"Independence means more along the lines of recognizing those occasions when Australian national interests are not the same as US national interests."

You may mean Bush's interests. There is a growing (74%)"Independence" movement here in the US that would agree with what you describe as "Australian national interests." I hope many Down Under recognize that we among the dissenters in the US, while ignorant of the Australian Plight, as it were, are not at all unsympathetic.

Thanks for the clarification. And good luck to Howard's opposition. The more I hang out here at Public Opinion, the more I long to get involved in Australian politics. But, man...your immigration policies are STRICT!

New Zealand is a model for this.

They maintain security and trade relationships, without subjugating their own foreign policy to the dominant power's.

Of course, they do have isolation and practical irrelevance on their side, we have to tread a finer line.

As to whether we get more out of the alliance than the US, I believe we run a trade deficit with the US, we provide an island of stability in a troubled region, on the border of the most strategically important areas of the world.

We allow practically unfettered access to our ports and facilities to the US.

Strategically, I think the US gains more from the friendship than we do.

Where else in SE Asia can the US base it's response? After their removal from the Phillipines, doubly so.

re your comment 'But, man...your immigration policies are STRICT!

Historically Australia was a white Briitsh enclave in an Asian world.It had an extensive assisted immigration policy after 1945 for displaced Europeans; or those Italians, Greeks etc etc who desired a better life. That was narrowed down to humanitarian considerations and family reunion.

As I observed in this post on skilled migration that is changing to allowing in skilled workers.That can only broaden and deepen as Australia (ie., govt and business) has not put a great emphasis on vocational training.

Gary, but you would need to see the body language from the video feed

It was the sentence around the word. It matched the same language that other secretaries had been using. I am willing to bet he was asked to say it. Howard;

The world needs a president of the United States who has a clear-eyed view of the dangers of terrorism and the courage and the determination - however difficult the path may be - to see the task through to its conclusion. And in you, sir, the American people and the world have found such a leader and such an individual.

Porter Goss the same week;

I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically your goals for our nation's intelligence capabilities, which are, in fact, the things that I think are keeping us very safe. And I honestly would report to you, sir, that we are safer for your efforts, your leadership and for the men and women in the community that are working so hard and doing so well.

Other secretaries said similar language too in different things, and it only starting appearing about two weeks prior to Howard arriving. I think it was a concerted media push.

I notice that Canada is involved in the war on terror in a substantive way given Canada’s new military involvement in Afghanistan.

More than 2000 troops are deployed around Kandahar in active military operations against Taliban insurgents. They are taking the place of US troops, who will be transferred to fight even more Muslims insurgents in Iraq.

Canada has already shelled out US$1.8 billion in 'defence spending' in Afghanistan and only $500 million in 'additional expenditures', including humanitarian assistance and democratic renewal (sic) in Iraq. In other words, Canada has gone to war in the Middle East.

Okay. It confirms that Howard believes in the US Empire and that he would not challenge its hegemony. Presumably, that is why he is widely lauded in elite Republican circles in the US.

Krauthammer's op ed can be interpreted as praise for a subservient foreign policy; one that accepts the realities of the US empire and overlooks the negatives---torture, extra-judicial executions, aerial bombardment and civilian causalities that are the negative side of empire.

I have no problems with the fighting in Afghanistan, especially the initial campaign.

It was a boil that needed to be lanced, unfortunately we became involved in finding other things in the Middle East to deal with, before finishing the job in Afghanistan.

This is one of the saddest facts of the whole mess, if resources and focus had not been withdrawn, then Al Qaeda and the Taliban may well have been crippled or practically eliminated, all without upsetting the entire region for no real gains.

yeah I used to think that way to. Afghanistan was a limited operation to kill the elusive Osama bin Laden and depose the Taliban regime that haboured him. The idea was to get in and then out of Afghanistan as fast as possible. Fine.

Now we know that Afghanistan is not the cakewalk predicted by hawks. Far from "mopping up isolated al-Qaida remnants" U.S. forces and their auxiliaries battled heavily armed forces that included hundreds of new volunteers. Consequently, the present war in Afghanistan fills me with unease, especially if we link it to Krauthammer 's talk about empire or hegemon.

As I see it Bush's transformation of US foreign policy rests on the three major changes he made to U.S. grand strategy after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001:
*reducing Washington's reliance on permanent alliances and international institutions,

*expanding the traditional right of preemption into a new doctrine of preventive war,

*and advocating coercive democratization as a solution to Middle Eastern terrorism.

The Bush administration reckons liberating 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq represents a major, fundamental shift, obviously, in U.S. policy in terms of fundamentally changed circumstances in that part of the world.

Is that right? The US attacked Afghanistan primarily for political reasons focused on reasserting its global hegemony after 11 September. The greater access it gained to Central Asia was an important by-product of the overthrow of the Taliban, not the main motive behind this action.

I reckon the situation today is more like the British and Russians in Afghanistan--the Taliban are becoming nationalists fighting a foreign power and its client state. The US, as a foreign power has established permanent military bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and facilities in Kazakstan. In short, it has a constellation of air and army bases designed for long-term strategic control of the region, under the command of the newly activated U.S. 3rd Army, whose HQ was recently moved from the Southern U.S. to Kuwait.

The war of terrorism masks the hegemonic strategy----that looks pretty much like emulating the old British Empire.

I agree Gary, the over-riding political imperative shafted the Afghan operation.

There was a chance early in the piece to succeed in Afghanistan, lost by following the decision to go for a nebulous hegemony.

I always had doubts about the military operation there, if the local population did not support it. Initially, it looked like there was a large degree of support from the average Afghan.

Now, that is dissipating rapidly, and we are becoming just another superpower occupier.

Thus Afghanistan becomes the neglected child, and will pay us back in measures of pain, if history is a guide.

If we had stayed focussed on Afghanistan, then I doubt there would be the support flowing to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the mountains.

Unfortunately, Bush's blunders just add more fuel to the extremist's recruiting efforts.