STRAWS IN THE WIND: by Max TeichmannNews Weekly
Indonesia and the islands / Victoria's new Liberal leader / More on that second oldest profession
, May 27, 2006
Indonesia and the islands ...
Utopianism and realism. We may think we have bought into a quagmire in Iraq. If so, the whole West is in a quagmire in the Middle East, whether it knows it yet or not.
But the passage of events in our immediate north - viz., the arc of islands and, once again, Indonesia - is extremely unpromising. The doubtless laudable attempts to maintain stability in the small Pacific states - and I include Fiji and Papua New Guinea - and to support what we took to be the democratic forces there ... are visibly failing. As they have been in Africa, the Middle East and most parts of Asia.
As to abolishing corruption, no matter how deeply rooted it might have been in these countries, we have chosen to back, wherever possible, forces that were also opposed to corruption, and averred that they would stamp it out.
We were mistaken. Faced with local ruling elites and deeply ingrained attitudes towards conducting politics and economic and social affairs, we have covertly or, in the case of the Americans, overtly appealed over their heads to the People - the suffering voiceless majority who, we are sure, would like to see their corrupt elite systems removed, and democracy installed.
The trouble is, many true believers - e.g., religious proselytisers, Marxists generally, fascists generally - have also believed this is the way to go, or at least started off believing it, acted accordingly, and produced vast conflicts, increases (rather than reductions) in human misery, and
inequalities. Such operations might be seen as grand essays in social engineering, which make globalism and economic rationalism seem positively benign.
We need to be honest about the peoples we are trying to protect and whose interests we want to advance. Thus, the indigenous people of the Solomons recently burned down most of China Town, and drove most of their Chinese residents back to China. This looks remarkably like ethnic cleansing.
Before that, Malays who had settled in parts of the Solomons had also been attacked and driven out, on the grounds that they were endangering the livelihoods of the locals.
Let us not be starry-eyed here. We should not count on future gratitude, nor
be surprised if locals turn to newcomers with tempting offers. There should be no idealisation, nor general denigration in analysing this otherwise incomprehensible area, just realism, which, incidentally, entails a kind of honesty.
And being realistic, and mindful of our own interests, need not lead to policies very different from the ones now in place. But in another situation they can
differ profoundly. Idealisation, as against idealism, has done us many disservices.
East Timorneeds a separate analysis but it is bitterly disappointing to most of us, as it has almost reached the point where Australian residents and workers may have to be evacuated. And the same may occur in many of the places where we have demonstrated similar concern.
The defence of our basic strategies in intervention is well known, and justified, but on prudential grounds - such as keeping outsiders from establishing themselves there, as we did earlier with the French, the Germans and the Japanese; and at least reducing the dangers of these islands becoming major sites for terrorists, pirates, drug-runners, people-smugglers and other criminals. And sites of lethal epidemics.
These are important objectives which any sensible country in our situation would adopt or seriously consider. But this whole strategy is now endangered - not least by the undermining of our quite legitimate activities, as a nation state, by elements here
, who possess other masters and other loyalties.
The same applies, in spades, to our efforts to settle our differences and broaden our repertoire of cooperation with Indonesia.
Starting with the shameless attempts by some Australians to encourage a revolt in West Papua, as they had earlier attempted in Aceh, our absolutely crucial linkage with Jakarta and its friendly president is souring.
Beset as he is by so many anti-Western forces willing him to fail, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been losing trust and respect for Messrs Howard and Downer.
feel that they have to pander to essentially irrelevant groups in their party, and the ubiquitous community of NGOs, so does President Yudhoyono have to concentrate upon his survival, and with the aid of much political realism.Danger of losing
The appearances of China, and now the Iranians, in the area, have posed challenges and offer short-term opportunities that even the pro-Western Indonesian elites can not ignore. We are in real danger of losing the game. If we do, it would have been our
The conservatives under Downer have tacitly adopted Labor's>
Bush and Blair, the Chinese, the Russians, Koizumi and Singh understand this. But the current Canberra strategies of trying to treat foreign relations as you might handle the budget, trade or health - i.e., every claimant should get at least a bit of what he demands - does not
form the basis of a credible theory of practical international politics.
If we do
have to make compromises or factor in concessions to some other states - and this happens, for we are not a great power - then so be it. But such concessions should take absolute priority over trying to appease or buy off disruptive elements in the local political system.
I think 90 per cent of the problems we
have in dealing with our neighbours are domestically inspired. It's not the other countries' fault at all.Victoria's new Liberal leader
"Ted's stature never in doubt" - headline from The Australian
, May 13, 2006.
The long standoff in the Victorian state Liberals has been broken, with the surrender of Robert Doyle and his supporters, and the triumph of Ted Baillieu and Louise Asher, and, cheering them on, Jeff Kennett.
Labor are delighted at the outcome, for the "me-too-ism" of the now dominant Baillieu faction promises, like Beazley's Labor, not to gain
votes but to lose them.
Just as Victorian Premier Steve Brack's Labor copied Kennett's policies and immediately appropriated the new rich who had backed him and, shall we say, influenced him, so are the state Liberals going to mimic Bracks and his friends and wear their
cast-offs. Policies, tactics and - oh, rapture! - some minor donors.
Although Baillieu says the Liberals haven't had time to prepare specific policies, he had
affirmed much earlier his support for the Northern Territory Euthanasia Bill and its general philosophy. He supports same-sex - i.e., "gay" - marriage, and intends to back Labor legislation to decriminalise abortion. Baillieu says he is not a monarchist, nor a republican, but a "constitutionalist".
The same Labor hack journos, who welcome each new Labor performer who can spell as the next Messiah, are now singing the praises of Baillieu - for reasons that are painfully obvious. They assume he'll lose by a mile, split the Liberals, then face up to post-election meltdown seven months hence.
No wonder John Howard threw his support behind a most unlikely - for the PM - candidate, Jeff Kennett. Kennett might at least have given Labor a run for their money and taken seats from them. And Baillieu could have been saved for the future. Which of course is what Ted had greatly preferred.
And now the remnants of the Wets in Canberra, led by Victorian federal Liberal Petro Georgiou, are being eagerly pushed by a media that has to win something
besides the Walkley Awards.
These Liberal whingers might
damage John Howard. Do not try searching for any principles or any concern for the common good in any of this. It is just attention deprivation. Incidentally, how are you Jackie?
Mainstream Victorians - I'm talking socially and morally, not economically - are now without a major party which will speak for them or govern for them
. And they still see Howard, though not Costello, as doing this.
Ironically, in Victoria there only remains the infant Family First party and, to a lesser degree, the Nationals who still share the moral and social values of most Victorians. Family First has a great, but daunting, opportunity. But they will need much help and pronto
.More on that second oldest profession
It would be one of those great platitudes to say that the contemporary Australian media is probably more poorly regarded than at any time since World War One.
It is customary to blame Fleet Street for providing the models for political vulgarisation and political assassination; and the Americans for grassroots interpersonal parodies and falsifications and the destruction of innocent peoples' lives and reputations - the assumption being that everything churned out here is copied from the Big People over the waters. I don't doubt this.
As Bert Newton said on May 11 at the Logie Awards: "We're celebrating tonight 50 years of Australian television. And concurrently, of course, 50 years of American television on Australian television." Yess
I have just spent a week at a nice respite establishment, following upon a short stay at St. Vincent's Private (a wonderful hospital).
Naturally there was a lot of television being watched around me, and I had forgotten how terrible it is. Terribly boring, terribly predictable and so primitive.
But while I was there, vaguely searching the library, I found a biography of Charles Lindbergh, the great American flyer. His is a sad story.
I'll just say he was an outstanding aviator and a fearless man but someone who should have kept away from politics. Charles was putty in the hands of cunning operators, and with a steadily declining reality sense as the years passed. He was a man who could never admit to being wrong, or even being possibly wrong.
But the great tragedy in his and Anne Morrow Lindbergh's life was the abduction and eventual murder of their baby son - a kidnapping which went terribly wrong, followed by a long trial and the conviction and execution of one Bruno Hauptmann.
Lindbergh and his wife had been pursued by a vile and vulgar core of American journalists from the day he became a world hero. They never let up, even for a day, even though the years passed. The Lindberghs moved from country to country, house to house, to shake them off.
With the disappearance of their child, the belated discovery of the body, the apprehension of the man accused, and the trial and conviction which followed in slow succession, the American and European paparazzi went berserk and stayed berserk. To the sufferings of the Lindberghs was added this horrendous campaign of brutal intrusion. The Lindberghs had no
rights was the journalists' philosophy and still is.
Just to recall one incident: when the dead child was lying in a simple coffin in the local mortuary, journalists climbed the wall, broke through the windows, forced open the coffin lid and photographed the dead child.
How long do you think it will be before Australian journalists, "in search of the truth", do this
? Want a bet...?
I won't bother talking of the instant beatification of recently deceased reporters - the collection of tributes more reminiscent of the tributes to Chairman Mao or Uncle Joe than for any normal person - nor the memorial lectures and plasticine foundations run up in the honour of the late, great N, B, or G.
Nor the continuous activities of our "media-ites" interviewing one another and quoting one another. Who
are they kidding?