January 25th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Defence: Time for a reality check

EDITORIAL: The flight from fatherhood

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Iraq another divisive issue for the ALP

IRAQ: The case against Saddam Hussein

STRAWS IN THE WIND: The hard questions

COMMENT: Abortion-cancer row continues

LETTERS: Mutual concerns

LETTERS: Dealing with Asia

LETTERS: Protecting the Australian way of life

LETTERS: Free trade

LETTERS: 'Dumbing down'

COMMENT: Sean Penn, Blue Heelers: the politics of celebrity

PROFILE: Why Belloc still matters

BOOKS: The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, by Keith Windschuttle

BOOKS: Culture of Life: Culture of Death, edited by Luke Gormally

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The hard questions

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, January 25, 2003
The hard questions

North Korea is providing us with an advanced showing of the next stage in global nuclear blackmail: the fruits of nuclear proliferation, a process which began in the 1950s, but which is now beginning to run out of control.

Here is a state in a condition of economic desperation, due to its past follies, threatening to start a war - a nuclear war. That is, unless it is propped up, presumably indefinitely, by enough food and oil to keep its ruined economy from collapsing and its communist dictatorship, with an army of one million - supported by chemical, biological and, apparently, nuclear weapons - in place.

North Korea has to be supported by its enemy, the USA, which will continue to be treated as an enemy. Pyongyang intends to continue its nuclear program notwithstanding, and it demands the right to go on selling arms of the most advanced kind to nations and groups of its own choice, throughout the world.

Indeed, American humanitarian aid, Chinese subsidies, and arms sales are North Korea's main sources of income. That is the script so far.

Pyongyang has already said, a number of times, that "sanctions mean a war" and war "knows no mercy". The US should "offer dialogue" with North Korea, not for war, clearly aware that it will "pay a high price" for such "reckless acts".

The same applies to the UN Security Council. As to arms trafficking, Washington's assertion of the right to intercept ships was proof of its "illegal and inhuman hostile policy" towards North Korea. What matters is that such "piracy is being committed as part of the US-tailored containment strategy" against North Korea.

The piracy referred to is, of course, a Spanish warship, forming part of the UN-sanctioned fleet monitoring Iraq, which stopped a North Korean shipment of missiles destined for Yemen. Missiles which could reach Tel Aviv, Cairo, etc. and which could be loaded with chemical, bacteriological or nuclear charges.

As Yemen is an "ally" against terrorism - for the moment - the US reluctantly had to let this ship continue. This, for Pyongyang, is piracy and a cause celebre.

There is deafening silence from all the friends of North Korea - including those here - at this moment of truth. Like Iraq, Libya, Cuba and old Albania - not to mention those golden oldies, Stalin's Russia and Mao's China - North Korea has been a favoured venue for the Western Left, including many peace-loving clerics. Some friends used to express surprise that I never went to these places; after all, the hospitality and gratitude of some of those governments was legendary.

But Pyongyang's loyal friends here are holding their whist at the moment.

Incidentally, all our obloquy should be directed at the government of North Korea - the people, including the goose-stepping army (copied from East Germany), are beaten down, confined and would dearly love to live in the South, which is one of the things worrying the good people of Seoul. So - blame the Americans. Naturally.

The UN are exquisitely embarrassed - they can do nothing, as usual. Only the US can. In fact, China, whose puppet Pyongyang is, could stop all this if she wished and could supply the food and oil demanded of the US. But this charade was supposed to be an ambush, splitting nations in the region, embarrassing the US, and providing a pressure point in the struggle for the big prize, Iraq. I think it's backfired.

North Korea has been allowed to operate as a rogue state, supplying other rogue states, and groups backed by bona fide states, with arms, for years: it suited too many countries' short-term interests ... the chickens are now coming home to roost. Just as all those mujihadeen and terrorist groups set up to fight proxy wars for big countries like the US and Pakistan have taken on lives of their own, and are biting their creators. But post mortems into spilt milk are a dangerous diversion, for the present threats have to be met, now. And Pyongyang is one of them.

The road ahead

We have some hard choices to make. Here are perhaps three different paths, one of which Australia will have to follow in the future:

1) Become part of Asia: though some say we already are.

2) Rely on the UN, identify with it and act with those who believe in Perpetual Peace, now. To be achieved by voting?

3) Further cement our relations with Britain and America as part of an Anglo-American power system which is attempting to impose - yes, impose - order on at least those parts of the world that affect us and them.

Now, we have tried quite hard to be "part of Asia" for a longish time. For example, we are at present allowing in hosts of Chinese students under the guise of "education". But our incorporation into Asia hasn't happened, and the Asians could have told us so, if we had listened. No more than the US is part of Latin America. A Latino can become an American if he wishes, but it can be hard work the other way.

A Chinese or an Iranian can become an Australian if he so desires, but the reverse is quite complicated. And no one is to blame - or "wrong" - it's the way cultures work. Often asymetrically. Interesting, but no more than that.

Our "Asia" is in flux: the different parts are in different stages of development and going in different directions. Some are failing, some are failed.

These misadventurers, and they include North Korea, are our main dangers - for they can be unpredictable and, even, out of control.

The best hope in the long run seems to be shared values, i.e., capitalism and the English language. In the interim, order has to be kept by someone in those regions now unstable or likely to be warlike.

In our region, only the Anglos can be expected to show the way and to cut us in. Other than being the dart board for unstable and unfriendly neighbours, or, rather later, part of a very large actor in the way that a donkey becomes part of a boa constrictor, we know where our immediate and medium-term interests lie.

Daniel in the lion's den

Tony Abbott is either a man of rare political courage, or imbued with masochistic attitudes, for he has taken on not just one hot political potato, but two.

His drive to reform and sanitise industrial relations in general and the cesspool which is our building and construction industry in particular, should mark him down for non-stop slander by that cesspool's little mates. Mates in the media, in the unions, and judicial friends; and, of course, by his official opponents, the Labor Party.

Considering the treatment of Peter Reith, Abbott is already in high risk country. But now he has been entrusted with reforming and bringing under control the ramshackle, frequently unjust social welfare system: a well-known graveyard for politicians who still possess some concern for the common good (as we know, many don't).

It's not a good career move.

There are plenty of warning examples of societies which haven't checked the rise and rise of government spending as a proportion of the national product, and which allowed the handout mentality to replace the work ethic, and the progressive shedding of all personal responsibilities. An abrogation of responsibility not simply condoned but encouraged by radical political parties.

Swedish example

Thus ... Sweden, when public spending reached 70 per cent of GDP, the result of a welfare obsession - found itself in crisis, economic and social. Its long-prized independence is now gone - exchanged for a kip for the night in the EEC.

Germany, long the giant of the European political economy, is now in a condition which will continue along the Swedish path so long as the old vested interests refuse to concede ground.

Argentina, which showed all of us the way, is having to blame the Americans as their polity dissolves.

So the resistance to absolutely vital change, in attitudes as much as anything else, is going to hit Abbott like a wall as he tries to talk reason to the professionally unreasonable. Their chosen weapons of defence, if the future were to repeat the past, will be misrepresentation, bogus demonstrations - and personal calumny.

I take it we all know Ibsen's "Enemy of the People" ...

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