Thursday, April 08, 2004

His Master's voice 

The Werriwa Appeaser last night delivered his first major foreign policy speech, setting out Labor’s vision for Australia’s engagement in the world. No surprises there: deputy sheriff bad, UN good, Iraq bad, Asia good. Let’s look in more detail at the wit and wisdom of the Prime Minister in waiting.

“The conservatives have always positioned the US alliance as some sort of insurance policy, the premium for which is paid through our military commitments. This is how Australia got into Vietnam, and now the same in Iraq, following the US to buy insurance rather than for reasons of policy. In Vietnam, against the downward thrust of Asian communism. In Iraq, as a deputy sheriff.”

Latham would rather have Australia’s insurance policy provided by the United Nations. I guess the millions of dead Rwandans, Bosnians, Kosovars and Iraqis can’t be wrong. And as we all know, Vietnam was a huge mistake because all those commies really had no untowardly intentions at all. Yep.

“The next pillar of Labor's foreign policy is our relationship with the region: with Asia and the countries of the South Pacific. At the core of this policy is a core Labor idea, developed during our last term in government: Australia must find its security in Asia and not from Asia. This means a strong and active engagement with the countries of the region. Not window-dressing or rote recitals of intentions, but wholehearted engagement.”

It’s heartening to know that while many in history – from Columbus and da Gama onwards – tried before, it’s our very own Labor that has in the end managed to find Asia. Never mind Menzies and Casey who had established our relations with Japan and Indonesia, contributed to the creation of SEATO, and defended South Koreans, Malaysians and South Vietnamese from communist insurgency and invasion. We all know that nothing had happened in Australian foreign policy between Curtin and Keating. But thank you for asking, anyway. The last time I checked the Government wasn’t doing too badly, with our two new free trade agreements (Singapore and Thailand), possible beginnings of another one (China), excellent relations with countries like South Korea, Japan and Philippines, and let’s not forget that we haven’t called anyone “recalcitrant” yet.

“If all the time, effort and money used to invade and occupy Iraq had been used to target the terrorists, to hunt down Osama bin Laden, to break up al-Qa’ida, to smash the networks of terrorist activity in South East Asia, then the world would be a safer place.”

That’s all well, but is Latham suggesting that we parachute 150,000 American soldiers and our SAS into Indonesia to wipe out Jemaah Islamiah? The very minor problem that Latham seems to have overlooked is that most of the terrorist activity takes place in other sovereign countries (sovereignty – remember that concept? that’s the reason why the UN doesn’t allow us to touch any loathsome dictators). In the war on terror, once we’re outside our own borders, we largely depend on what other countries want or don’t want to do. Some are pretty good and cooperative (Great Britain, Philippines) other less so (Saudi Arabia, Germany), but it’s nothing that any “redirected” American (or indeed Australian) resources could fix.

“And in the war against terror, it means strengthening the home front: a department of homeland security, an Australian coastguard, improved port and airport security, and upgrading domestic intelligence. Every dollar Australia spends on adventurism overseas, such as the conflict in Iraq, is a dollar that cannot be committed to the home front.”

So that’s the secret of success that has eluded us so far! We need a new government department and a coast guard consisting of three ships. Now, if we really need every dollar spent on home front, then we shouldn’t have been involved in Afghanistan. Just imagine – for the cost of keeping SAS on their adventure in the ‘Stan, Labor would have been instead able to employ 50 unionised cleaners and tea ladies at the Department of Homeland Security.

“Labor has declared its intention of having the Australian troops home by Christmas. Having strongly opposed the war and been proven correct, we see no need for an indefinite deployment, especially when Australia has so many other commitments closer to home. The thing about Iraq is that we had no business being there.”

Ever his master’s voice, Latham is still keen to imitate Comrade Gough and bring the troops home for Christmas. But at last we know that Latham would rather still had Saddam in power. All the opinion polls I’ve seen coming out of Iraq since the liberation show that a strong majority is happy to be rid off Saddam and expects their lives to significantly improve in the near future. Oh well, screw the Iraqis. Naively I always thought that the left sympathises with oppressed people, and champions democracy and human rights. I’m not sure how I’m going to live down this disappointment, so soon after being told the harsh truth about Santa Claus.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?