To be blunt, I was bored rigid by recent blogosphere discussions about whether Iraq could validly be characterised as America’s latter-day Vietnam. But Laurie Oakes’ column in this week’s Bulletin seems to me to sum up the situation as succinctly as anything I’ve seen. Here’s the money passage:
All that being said, it is too early to conclude that Latham is on a loser with his decision to tackle John Howard head-on over Iraq and the alliance. He is gambling on continuing chaos in Iraq and a rapid deterioration in public support for the coalition’s role there. This is where comparison with Vietnam may be relevant. “Militarily there are few similarities,” says a Labor elder statesman. “But the politics of the situation make a compelling comparison. Domestic US politics had a profound effect on what happened in Vietnam, and the same could happen this time.” Supporters of US policy produce impressive evidence of progress. But what the public sees in the US, Britain and Australia is death and destruction, explosions and kidnappings.
In Latham’s view of the world, there is no connection between Iraq and terrorism. “The conflict in Iraq has diverted resources from the real war against terror,” he told the Lowy Institute. It may be true despite claims by Bush and British PM Tony Blair to the contrary that the original invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist threat but what is happening now has everything to do with it. Al Qaeda has moved in to exploit the situation. An Iraq that became a failed state would be a terrorist haven. No one could deny that a loss of nerve by the Americans and their allies would provide great encouragement to Osama bin Laden and his ilk. While a Vietnam-type outcome in Iraq might help the likes of Latham politically, the consequences do not really bear thinking about.
I had been seriously pondering making a definite decision to vote Labor at the next federal election after Latham’s impressive first few months as Leader. But his stupidly stubborn announced policy of withdrawing Australian troops by Christmas, irrespective of the security situation in Iraq, has caused me to re-evaluate. I couldn’t possibly vote for a party with such an irresponsible, isolationist policy stance. Nor could I in conscience vote for the Coalition while John Howard remains at the helm, and I never have and never will vote for the Dimocrats or Greens in the Lower House.
At the moment it’s looking like an informal vote, effected by scrawling “Youse are all a bunch of useless cunts” across the ballot paper in crayon. Childish? You bet. But very satisfying. Do they have bumper stickers reading “Don’t blame me. I voted Informal”?