STRAWS IN THE WIND: by Max TeichmannNews Weekly
Goodbye to all that? Surely!
, October 5, 2002
Goodbye to all that? Surely!
Watching Simon Crean and his party struggling with foreign policy and strategic military issues - which have become far more challenging and complex than for many years past - demonstrates yet again how little time and thought mainstream Labor has devoted to these momentous matters.
If few votes are hanging on them, or no prospect of a pork barrel for someone or other offers itself, then
the Labor managers have usually been content to let the recidivist Left hold the floor while the principal players get on with more serious work. Nowadays, this can mean diverting as much of the social product their way as the system can bear; number crunching; padding the public payroll; and branch stacking.
So, when a foreign military issue that can't be ducked turns up - as it does - it often seems more good luck than good management when Labor gets it right.
The post of Foreign Minister has not been held in especially high esteem in the ALP, nor has that of Defence. Only in wartime, or in a situation of generally recognised national danger, does the Labor Party feel it is safe to mobilise its faithful, or support strong international action.
Splits are likely to emerge, usually triggered by radical groups who've previously done most of the talking and most of the lobbying. When outside reality overtakes their talk-fests and Party leaders move in to take over, the radicals can be reluctant to surrender the microphone. They can usually count upon maximum sympathy from radical journalists and grandstanding clerics. So all the pressure is for doing nothing.
Thus, it's London to a brick that had the ALP been in power, there would have been no East Timorese independence. No pressure on Jakarta to allow the East Timorese vote for autonomy, or independence, and had there been an attempted rising by frustrated Timorese, no Australian military intervention would have appeared.
In addition, the Labor Party did
have a very warm relationship with the old Indonesian regime as did many of our journos. They were in no hurry to vacate that cosy nest.
And with Tampa
- a quasi-foreign affairs issue - all the faults in Labor's decision-making processes became apparent. On the afternoon that, Tampa
having breached Australian territorial waters, and the Government having announced that it would not accept such tactics, nor Justice North's overruling of its policies, Kim Beazley pledged support for the Government position, and for foreshadowed legislation to close the legal loophole created by North.
But, that same evening, when the Government duly produced the legislation, poor Beazley had to eat his words and announce that he and his party would be voting against it. He had been snowed by the gung-ho factions in his party, factions which are much stronger now.
If Labor really
lost the election over Tampa
, it was on that night - for Beazley, thereafter, was stigmatised by the voters as a weak leader who could not even rule his own party, and deliver on his commitments.
Crean has been displaying the same vulnerabilities - in spades - so he and Labor are tempted to gamble on Iraq. Whether a particular foreign policy, or military policy, is right or not, whether later consequences of particular decisions taken now may not be damaging, even extremely damaging, to our future interests, are questions not up for discussion, in caucus, or in the land of the spin doctors.
The polls, the task of somehow giving the appearance of unity - and fighting off the Greens - is all that counts. But the real polls are nearly two years away, and this current melodrama may be only the first of a series.
But let us stand back and consider where Labor has been positioning itself:
1. It has been attacking the American alliance, and almost literally abusing the US President and his Government - while expecting no harm is going to come of this.
2. It has ignored, yet again, the pro-active role of Britain in this whole affair; and the implications of Britain's stand. Britain and the USA are the only two countries in the world with the slightest interest in our future survival: or even what we do in our spare time. So this anti-Anglo-Saxon bias is a peculiar strategy for self-preservation.
3. Remaining silent while the visiting Chinese leader -.the man, incidentally, who originally signed up for a $25 billion gas deal - was insulted. I suppose it's good that our new Left, in particular our public media, should have become interested in the kind of society Communist China has been since 1949.
It's rather late in the piece - for the real butchers are still being officially honoured in China, and still spoken of in tones of respect by our own illuminati
But the new Chinese leaders are capitalist roaders enjoining everyone to get rich. China is still a shoddy and unjust society, but a wonderland compared with the structured sadism, and bursts of lunacy, which used to operate under the Great Helmsman.
The Australian Left swallowed a whale - and pronounced it good - and is now straining at a carp. China could be the principal threat to Australia in the future, along with Indonesia.
Labor was in the business of sucking up to both, but only appears to have earned patronising or quietly contemptuous treatment (the pig farms aside). Howard has got China on side without appeasing them, so has greatly eased our political and strategic problems - at least for the present.
But it should have been expected that new Labor would seek to undo all this progress, out of spite and a sense of irrelevance. These emotions are driving more and more Left behaviour.
Labor appears willing to undermine our now far more realistic relationship with Jakarta which Howard has forged. Admittedly - no freebies - few trips for journos, but as good as one can expect. Yet elements of Labor and, of course, the public media, are banging the drum on behalf of breakaway groups in Aceh and Irian Jaya.
I heard someone on SBS suggest that if war broke out there, we would have to consider sending a military force. Would they be allowed to carry arms or shed blood (other than their own)? These antics have very little to do with foreign policy or military reality - and they come over as exercises in infantile communism: urging discord for the sake of discord.
In the Middle East, the most vocal of the Left identify with regimes most hostile to the West - no matter what their
views be on, say, human rights, their treatment of women (and homosexuals), their definitions of criminality and their treatment of those "criminals", their attitudes to non-believers, etc. An example of the principle of "The enemy of my enemy is my friend", and many on the Left have moved from being anti-Israel to verging on the anti-semitic.
For their part, the Americans must be on a learning curve: realising how many people resent them for being powerful, affluent, for being successful at things at which so many others are failures. While having plenty of failures themselves, they are being blamed for the failures of others.
The Americans probably didn't realise how decadent, opportunistic and lifeless Europe, in particular, had become - and how many fair-weather friends the USA had accumulated. And the reactions of the Africans and Muslim states must make them realise how important race, race hatred and creed are
, for many. Far more important than such matters had become to Americans. By the end of this, the American may just tell their fair-weather friends to eat cake, and settle their own disputes over it.
We, for our own sakes, shouldn't want to be seen as fair-weather friends, for the Anglo Saxons, like Life, may possess many imperfections, but they may be all we've got.
Finally, we can see why America uses double-standards with Israel. Despite all the trouble the latter is causing, Israel emerges, once again, as America's only real friend and ally in the region, as she is Britain's.
America must dearly want to get out of this area - for keeps - but does anyone suppose peace would then break out, were she to exit? In fact, the area would slide into further chaos.
Just as its predecessor, the Holy Roman Empire (not Holy, nor Roman, nor an empire) is part of history, so the United Nations, which is not united, and contains, among its 200 nations, a mass of non-nations - figments - but each with a vote ... is treading the same road. Such non-nations are, too often, poste restantes for money launderers, drug lords, people smugglers, arms and diamond smugglers, terrorist stopovers, and little else. More and more of the tourists are dodgy.
Each non-state has a great national leader - a caudillo - with bodyguards; with advanced views on racism, imperialism, global capitalism, human rights, and who runs his suffering territory like a bucket-shop. His vote is for sale ... on whales, Kyoto, Iraq - whatever. If African, he recently helped to nominate the next Chairman of the UN Commission for Human Rights - it being Africa's turn to propose. The choice? Colonel Gaddafi. Will Oceania, when its turn arrives, nominate George Skase?
Having absorbed the ambience of the recent global conferences on racism and world development, we can now enjoy the approaching performance of the Commonwealth in tackling Mugabe.
Maybe some Australians, like most Americans, are also on a learning curve concerning all these global pyramid schemes and their feel good sales representatives; schemes which all seem to start with the word "united".