Friday, May 07, 2004

The war and the voters 

Dennis Shanahan at "The Australian" makes some interesting comments about how the war in Iraq enjoys a highly fluctuating support, but it doesn't seem to be actually shifting votes, either in Australia or in Japan (or for that matter the United States). Shanahan sees the explanation partly in the fact that "there are myriad other things that people consider important - indeed, more important than continued commitment to the rebuilding of Iraq, as distinct from the invasion - when casting a vote."

This is probably right to a large extent. You have to remember that the question of Iraq only truly excites a small group of hard-core lefties who were against the invasion and continue to be against the occupation, and a small group of hard-core right-wingers who are in favour. I underline the word "excites" - because just about everyone has some idea of what's going on in Iraq and has some opinion as to the rights and wrongs of the situation and Australia's (or for that matter any other country's) involvement there. But the average guy and gal in the streets have far more important things on their minds, like paying off their mortgage, getting good education for their kids, and last but not least, keeping up to date with the latest football scores.

For that silent (and largely disinterested) majority, Iraq will not necessarily be a vote winner even if all goes extraordinarily well, and certainly not if it just muddles through. But neither will it be a vote loser, unless things in Mesopotamia go belly up in spectacular fashion and there's some sort of a domestic blow-back. I would venture a guess that this silent, non-excited majority of voters are more process- than outcome-oriented as far as foreign policy is concerned; that as long as they think that their leaders have done what they think is right, done it with the best intentions and based on the best available information, and done it in the best, most efficient and most honourable way, they will not punish the government in Newcastle for the problems in Najaf.


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