Tony Abbott is desperate to go to war, but what are the costs Veteran Australian diplomat Bruce Haigh says
The so called Islamic State is a marauding force of Sunni adherents with an ambitious and opportunistic agenda. It seeks to fill the political and military vacuum brought about by the first American invasion of Iraq. Acquiring power behind the shield of religion is its modus operandi.
Commonsense and compassion dictates that the rampaging rebels must be halted and contained. They must be stopped from beheading western hostages, abducting and raping women and executing prisoners of war. But who is it that should stop them?
This is not Australia’s fight.Australia is not threatened in the way Iraq and neighbouring states might feel threatened.This is a fight for a broad coalition of Arab states. In the absence of this why should Australia step up?
Abbott is approaching military involvement as a religious crusade. He has said that anyone fighting for the rebels is against God and religion. The Attorney General, George Brandis, appears to be on the same hymn sheet, describing the “mission” as humanitarian with military elements. They describe the rebels as evil.The original Crusaders saw their missions as an act of love, righting the wrongs of Islamic occupation of the Holy Lands.
As with American entry to the war in Vietnam, this current undertaking is bereft of strategic thinking and planning. There is a forward rush based on emotional footage and commentary.Abbott and his followers are banging an urgent military tattoo, in order to drown out dissent and numb clear thought.
In building the case for war in Vietnam, media outlets in 1963 were swamped with images of village headmen decapitated, hung and disembowelled by the Viet Cong. Emotion and fear was exploited.
The slogan of the time was that it was better to fight Communism in Vietnam than at home. Abbott’s better to fight the Jihadists in Iraq than Australia eerily echoes the propaganda from that earlier ill-judged and failed war. 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam, 521 died and 3,000 were injured.
Nothing was achieved.
America fatally misread the political and social dynamics of Vietnam.Yet here is Abbott, a latter day lap dog, swallowing every grim U.S. ‘intelligent report’ on IS and Iraq, not factoring in the earlier failure of U.S. policy, which has led to the present imbroglio.
How exactly does Abbott believe the U.S. confrontation of IS will proceed to a more successful outcome than Vietnam, the first and second Iraq wars and Afghanistan?
We have gone to war with the IS in conjunction with the Iraqi military in order to support the government of Iraq, but what if the government in Iraq collapses and/or the untrained and uncommitted Iraqi military fades into the desert? Will the ‘Coalition’ continue the war? Will they take over the instruments of the failed Iraqi state?If Vietnam is any guide, the answer is yes — and with predictable and catastrophic results.What if IS should have further success, gaining more ground and assets and, in the process, look and behave more like a functioning state to the point that a number ‒ perhaps a majority of Arab countries ‒ give recognition and trade with the new entity or state.What if they turn against the ‘Coalition’ on the basis that it comprises interfering infidels?
What if the Taliban in Afghanistan use the ruggedness and remoteness of the country to train IS and other fighters?
As the war drags on, or perhaps before even that situation is reached, will the Abbott government introduce a war levy (tax) and re-introduce selective conscription, for what is likely to become an unpopular war? To top off Abbott’s silly and alarming sabre rattling, we have heard little from the immature government he leads regarding the far greater threat to the world posed by the Ebola plague.
Bruce Haigh is a political commentator, conscript and retired diplomat, who served in the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan.