Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Thursday, January 23, 2003

An Australian explaining why they must be involved in the overthrow of Saddam.

The US and its allies, fighting under the UN's authority, permitted his regime to survive after the Gulf War on the explicit undertaking that he disarm after his invasion of Kuwait was thwarted. He did not and the UN permitted him to escape his obligations then. The UN runs the same risk now if the views of France and Germany, nations that should know better than most the high price of both appeasement and aggression, prevail. To do this will expose the UN to the sorry irrelevance of its predecessor, the League of Nations, which found every excuse to appease tyranny through the 1930s. By striving to enforce UN resolution 1441 on Iraqi disarmament, the US is the last best hope of the UN's relevance. Kofi Annan acknowledged as much when he said last week that UN inspectors would not be in Iraq but for the US military deployment.

Saddam's strategy is to temporise, his tactics are delay and deceit.

Australia can look the other way as Saddam continues to defy resolution 1441 or it can join the US and Britain and add to the existing pressure on the Iraqi regime to meet the obligations the UN has already imposed. The build-up of the most powerful conventional military force in the world's history should surely be enough to convince even the most deluded dictator that his regime would be hard pressed to defy allied air power for very long. Yet if Saddam continues to trust to his luck, the case for correction by force of arms is obvious. To allow him to continue to hold his own people, the Middle East and wider world to ransom by adding to the arsenal of his garrison state would encourage him to escalate his behaviour. It would also encourage other dictators, notably that of nuclear-arming North Korea, to increase the price they will extort from the West for dubious assurances of peace. If the time comes when the US and Britain have no option but to force Iraq to disarm, Australia must be prepared to consider joining them in going to war.

John Howard, he now appears to risk alienating his core supporters, the "Howard battlers", by taking a position alongside the US and Britain which the polls are telling us is deeply unpopular. Why would he do such a thing? This newspaper believes the Prime Minister has adopted a correct and principled position at the risk of political fallout. In other words, Mr Howard genuinely believes what he told our troops in Sydney yesterday: that if the international community walks away from the task of disarming Iraq, and sends a message of weakness to other rogue states, no nation will be secure. For Mr Howard to articulate this message carefully and consistently is his best strategy to win back doubters in the Coalition, given that further progressive revelations of Saddam's duplicity are all but guaranteed.

The Prime Minister has made a principled if now apparently unpopular decision that readies our forces for a conflict which seems increasingly likely. For Saddam to "blink" now would be well-judged, but out of character; for Mr Bush to "blink" would be ill-judged, and equally out of character. We are not at war, but we have signalled to the international community, and Iraq, that Australia rejects the route of appeasement. As an open democracy and a strong but not unthinking ally of the US, the difficult course we have taken provides leadership towards a peaceful world and is in the nation's interest.

< email | 1/23/2003 01:37:00 PM | link

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