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

Little Mr echo man « Previous | |Next »
October 20, 2006

The Coalition of the Willing is rapidly changing tack in Iraq against the backdrop of a deteriorating situation---see Riverbend President Bush talks in terms of parallels with the Tet offensive in the Vietnam war, whilst the Pentagon admits defeat in its strategy of securing Baghdad. Tony Blair now says his policy is for the UK to leave Iraq within the next 16 months.The implication is that the US and UK military are not defeating the guerrillas militarily and they have not succeeded in bringing stability to Iraq and democracy to the Middle East.

So what does 'stay the course ' mean now?

Peter Brookes

Suprise suprise. John Howard is saying the form of democracy in Iraq is a matter of the Iraqi's. That means achieving democracy is no longer a goal for staying the course; it is not even a precondition for withdrawing allied troops. Howard's retreat is covered by raving on in Parliament about Beazley's policy of withdrawal from Iraq giving victory and inspiration to Islamist terrorists everywhere, especially those in Indonesia. Howard and Downer are starting to sound very shrill as the Australian public deserts them on Iraq, and they run to keep up with the "cut and run" of the US and the UK.

What then is the strategic and geo-political significance of this retreat?

Richard N Hass in an article entitled The New Middle East in Foreign Affairs says:

The age of U.S. dominance in the Middle East has ended and a new era in the modern history of the region has begun. It will be shaped by new actors and new forces competing for influence, and to master it, Washington will have to rely more on diplomacy than on military might.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:54 PM | | Comments (2)


Why all the Howard rhetoric about not cutting and running when Australian forces are holed up in the their base in southern Iraq passing the time playing cards. It appears that an Australian soldier has just as much chance as dieing from boredom (a la Private Kovco) than from an Iraqi insurgent’s bullet. The question the press have failed to ask Howard is, if this war is so important to Australian national security, why aren’t Australian troops in the front line with the Americans, patrolling the volatile streets of Baghdad, falluja and Ramadi? Why the token presence? Why aren’t British troops being thrown into the frontline of this war? What deals were done with the US govt? What commercial benefits is the Australian Govt expecting to get out of this highly risky venture aside from guaranteed Iraqi wheat sales (no kick backs needed)?

The Govts of Britain and Australia place supreme importance on maintaining a strong and close relationship with the US as they have done since the end of WW2. This means upholding America’s imminent position in the world as the global hegemon. No doubt, both govt’s would have had reservations about joining the invasion, the fabricated evidence on WMDs, questions on the legality of the invasion, strong opposition from regional allies.

Albeit intensely loyal, the British govt unlike our own, has occasionally criticised the Americans on issues such as inept post war planning, heavy handedness of counter-insurgency operations and the use of torture. Earlier this year British and German govts jointly criticised the US for human rights violations at Guantanamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib (American Gulags).

Having lent the US their support, the Govts of Britain and Australia see no alternative but to support the US to the very end regardless of increasing domestic opposition. Regardless of Howard’s rhetoric, I think members of the Liberal govt are smart enough to see that Iraq is not worth a single Australian casualty.

Here in Australia, the right often criticise the left for being anti-American. This is false, the left is not anti-American, it’s anti-imperialism. Why would the left be anti-American when their views are shared by ten's of millions of Americans. Nor is the left anti-British. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, opposition to the war in Britain was a strong as in the continental countries.

Australia is just a provincal ally of a global hegemon and so it has little choice but to trim its sails to the winds blowing from Washington. The bad news from the quagmire of Iraq puts the Howard Government on the defensive, even though Iraq is not an election wining or losing issue.

Howard is on the defensive because, as you point out, he was too willing to echo US neo-con policy of a great and powerful friend. There was no critical distance or even a willingness to criticize the darkness in the neocon policy.

Thr flaw in Howard's politics of fear is the assumption that the West is always the victim of terrorist attacks,never the perpetrator. The reponsibility for terrorism resides solely with militant Islam, which is full of cultural hatred that seeks to destroy our way of life and values (freedom,liberty and democracy) etc etc.

It is a flaw because it disconnects Islamic militancy from the US/UK/Australian occupation of Iraq; or their backing of Israeli unilateralism and state terrorism in Palestine; or the US seige of Fallujah in 2004.

To argue thus, of course, about Western behaviour and policy (the blowback thesis about unintended consequences)invites the response from the Howard Ministry that such a line of criticism simply constitutes self-hatred, racism, anti-Americanism etc etc. Terrorist attacks have no link-- to historical grievances for which the West bears some responsibility.

Therefore there is no reason for academics and intellectuals to scrutinize the actions of the Howard Government.