Forget about the Alamo

Mexican_War.jpg

Alexander Downer’s recent comparison of the Timor Sea to Texas is a little disturbing… but only if you’ve studied American history.

Australia has been negotiating with East Timor over rights to revenues from yet to be developed gas fields in the Timor Sea. According to an ABC news report, $40 billion worth of resources are at stake. Not surprisingly both sides have been playing hardball.

With negotiations at such a delicate stage you’d think that Foreign Minister Alexander Downer would be choosing his words carefully. But a recent interview with David Koch on Seven’s Sunrise program might make you wonder. In this interview (and others) Downer compared Australia’s relationship with East Timor to the United States’ relationship with Mexico:

DOWNER: Look, just because a rich country is next to a poor country doesn’t mean the rich country has to cede territory.  It can cede cash.  It can provide financial support, but…

KOCH: Okay.

DOWNER: …United States didn’t give up Texas because Mexico is poorer than the United States.

KOCH: Okay, with that which I can’t quite see the connection, with that we might leave it there.  Foreign Minister, thanks very much for joining us…

DOWNER: Well it might be a bit intellectual but it’s an important point.

What’s unsettling about Downer’s analogy is that in 1846 the United States settled a dispute over the Texas/Mexico border by force. Here’s one account:

The conflict between the United States and Mexico in 1846-48 had its roots in the annexation of Texas and the westward thrust of American settlers. On assuming the American presidency in 1845, James K. Polk attempted to secure Mexican agreement to setting the boundary at the Rio Grande and to the sale of northern California. What he failed to realize was that even his carefully orchestrated policy of graduated pressure would not work because no Mexican politician could agree to the alienation of any territory, including Texas.

Frustrated by the Mexican refusal to negotiate, Polk, on January 13, 1846, directed Gen. Zachary Taylor‘s army at Corpus Christi to advance to the Rio Grande. The Mexican government viewed that as an act of war. On April 25 the Mexican troops at Matamoros crossed the river and ambushed an American patrol. Polk seized upon the incident to secure a declaration of war on May 13 on the basis of the shedding of "American blood upon American soil." Meanwhile, on May 8 and 9, Taylor’s 2,200-man army defeated 3,700 Mexicans under Gen. Mariano Arista in the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma.

So, as Downer says, the "United States didn’t give up Texas" to Mexico.

Probably nobody’s going to get too worked up about the connotations of Downer’s analogy. As the Voice Of America’s Maura Jane Farrelly says, the Mexican War was "a bloody, mid-19th century conflict that was provoked by territorial greed … and is today largely unknown to Americans."

Note: Before anyone points it out in the comments thread, the Battle of the Alamo was not part of the 1846–48 Mexican War. It was part of the Texas Revolution of 1835.

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David Tiley
2022 years ago

Does this mean we are going to occupy East Timor? That would be a turn up for the books.

Robert
2022 years ago

Yes, I just about spat my coffee across the room when I heard him say that!

Alan
Alan
2022 years ago

Downer probably had no idea what he was actually saying. Like our royalist prime minister who thinks Elizabeth II is descended from the virgin and unmarried Elizabeth I, Downer just doesn’t know. Next question, if a conservative does not know what he is trying to conserve…

WB
WB
2022 years ago

Gee, do you think maybe the whole US Mexico reference is not a reference to the 19th C but a reference to the 20th C and the whole US support of Mexico via aid and immigration openness?
Plus who the hell does Koch think he is? He went on and on with that toady Lisa Wilkinson beside ihm as if he, Koch, knows how to settle the timor Gap gas matter and Downer doesn’t.
Koch is so lightweight but he thinks he’s heavy. It is just embarrassing. You’re better off watching Nine.

WB
WB
2022 years ago

Gee, do you think maybe the whole US Mexico reference is not a reference to the 19th C but a reference to the 20th C and the whole US support of Mexico via aid and immigration openness?
Plus who does Koch think he is? He went on and on with that toady Lisa Wilkinson beside ihm as if he, Koch, knows how to settle the timor Gap gas matter and Downer doesn’t.
Koch is so lightweight but he thinks he’s heavy. It is just embarrassing. You’re better off watching Nine.

Abdul
Abdul
2022 years ago

I agree with WB. Koch is a sucker, & a lightweight. He has merely jumped on board with the other do gooders who are more than willing to sacrifice a part of this country’s future so they can feel warm & fuzzy. If we need to enforce our territorial integrity by force so be it. The best thing that could happen for Timor Leste is if it became a Territory of Oz. Given the corrupt little hell hole that it is, it would mean vast improvement in the delivery of all services & their general std of living.
Do these dimwits really think that if we hand over our oil to ET that the wealth generated is somehow going to percolate down to peasants & increase their lot in life. Ha. I’ve been to the god forsaken place 9 times & I tell you that the controlling elite: hate our guts because of our percieved wealth; have no gratitude for this country’s help over the last few years; are determined to extract every cent they can from western suckers, whether by fair means or foul; are in it for their own aggrandisement & don’t give two figs for the great unwashed; if given half a chance will steal every cent they can for deposit into their private bank accounts in Mozambique or wherever; are scared shitless of the Indon military & civil elites & are desperate to kiss their arses every chance they get, despite history; are generally involved in organised crime in one form or another(ask the Federal Police).
There are some notable exceptions to what I’ve said, but such persons are a minority & unfortunately will not have much impact on the future of Timor Leste.
The joint is a basket case & there are now many on the streets of Dili who would favour the return of the Indons, now that they have tasted independence at the hands of the ruling class.
So I’ll be buggered if I’m going to support the handing over of the wealth of the relevant oil basin to a bunch of crooks to be squandered on pet projects with their mates or otherwise stolen. Most of the shitheads who want to give our oil away to these pricks wouldn’t know anything about the true state of affairs in ET & don’t really want to know anyway.

simonjm
simonjm
2022 years ago

Abdul wrote
He has merely jumped on board with the other do gooders who are more than willing to sacrifice a part of this country’s future so they can feel warm & fuzzy.

Abdul it not about sacrifice, it is about fairness and a strong wealthy country looking to use use it’s advatage over aweak impoverished one to get more that its fair share. Something that conservative moralists like Andrew Bolt and others fail to understand.

Shit their poor people are probably just potential dole bluggers anyway and all their politician are corrupt to boot.

Yes foreign aid is just a waster of time, let them eat cake!

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

It’s not about fairness. The Australian offer is already fair.

It’s about mindless Australia-bashing by the usual haters from the Left.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Abdul’s right that ET is already showing signs of the kind of systemic corruption that will cripple its chance of becoming a viable nation state any time soon.

A leading Oz strategist not long ago described ET as ‘a perpetually-impoverished, broken-backed, non-viable micro-state’. I hope he’s wrong, but the signs are not too good at this stage.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Known person + huge rant = worth reading

Unknown person + sensible discussion = worth reading

Unknown person + huge rant = doodling on the walls of the asylum.

Sorry Abdul, but how am I supposed to evaluate the veracity of those remarks? And if you don’t want me to, why did you bother?

I think it has been demonstrated on this site in previous threads that the current goverment position on East Timor oil is the best that can be evolved, given the actual income and the possibility of Indonesian concerns if the borders are moved sideways.

But I haven’t noticed the mainstream press putting this point so the position continues to seem tacky. Pity.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

My CDU colleague Dr Juan Federer has a soon-to-be published book, of which I read an early draft, about East Timor’s recent history and current developments. He also points to significant elements of corruption, but expresses it in considerably less extreme terms than Abdul.

I haven’t been to ET in the last 18 months, but the seeds of corruption were already evident last time I was there. I suspect that it’s still less extreme than Abdul claims, but the situation is undoubtedly worrying. It’s surprising that there hasn’t been more mainstream media reporting of it. Perhaps they think they’re doing a struggling emerging nation a favour. If so they’re badly mistaken; it’s a situation that merits exposure and international public scrutiny before it’s too late (if it isn’t already).

LHM
LHM
2022 years ago

the Mexican War was “a bloody, mid-19th century conflict that was provoked by territorial greed “

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

LHM, weren’t the Mexicans there first?

Steve Edwards
Steve Edwards
2022 years ago

Handing the entire $40 billion (and possibly much more) Greater Sunrise field to East Timor is just asking for trouble. There is no evidence that they have the infrastructure to absorb that type of money, nor the financial system capable of dealing with it in an accountable manner. It will literally be spent on booze and whores, and possibly lead to armed factions seeking control of the oil – courting an Indonesian intervention.

We should turn East Timor into a legal protectorate, fly in a few hundred lawyers, accountants and engineers to set up an effective shadow government, and rule their country with an iron fist. That would be more fair and just than the insane plans to hand over massive resource endowments to a bunch of crypto-marxists with guns.

simonjm
simonjm
2022 years ago

Instead of setting the border half way between the two countries(which one would think would be the fair position) I thought that the Australian gov wanted to have it pushed closer to ET so that the majority of the natural resources where on the Austrlian side.

Could someone enlighten me otherwise?

If this is the case, EP going half way wouldn’t have been the fair and moral thing to do or does this conception of ‘fairness’ only peculiar to the “mindless Australia-bashing by the usual haters from the Left”?

Steve Edwards
Steve Edwards
2022 years ago

The Australian government did not “push” the border closer to Timor. That’s where it was already, having already been negotiated to our continental shelf with the Indonesians. East Timor wants us to rescind that agreement and “push” our boundary to the median line.

Andrew Reynolds
2022 years ago

Nabakov,
No, the native Americans (current PC phrase, I think) were there first. They were conquered by the Spanish (if the right of conquest is recognised) and Mexico declared independence in 1814, but was recognised generally in 1822. So, no, the Mexicans were not there first – but I do not think that we should be looking to re-arrange the world’s borders today based on any misty-eyed view of who was there first – it might provoke a little controversy and perhaps some bloodshed.

harry
2022 years ago

“The Australian government did not “push” the border closer to Timor. That’s where it was already, having already been negotiated to our continental shelf with the Indonesians. East Timor wants us to rescind that agreement and “push” our boundary to the median line.”

Steve, Is it any wonder the East Timorese would rescind an agreement made between us and the Indonesians?

In response to most of what is written on this thread, I have to ask what the point of us going into East Timor was?
If it was to make a viable country, was this ever a likely outcome?
What measures were implimented to stop the country falling into the state it’s in now?

harry
2022 years ago

“It’s surprising that there hasn’t been more mainstream media reporting of it.”
Probably because East Timor is a great success story. Most successful UN intervention ever; without flaring off a war with Indonesia; and only two(?) Australians killed.
Everyone will remember the roar from the crowd when the three East Timorese athletes entered the Olympic Stadium in 2000. Australians, in general, feel good about East timor.
It would be poor form to then report that it was pretty much all a waste of time.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

“It would be poor form to then report that it was pretty much all a waste of time.”

I don’t think it was all a waste of time at all. East Timor isn’t a lost cause, it’s just that there are some seriously worrying signs that need to be faced up to and acted upon. We don’t do anyone any favours by ignoring them; that just helps the crooks and incompetents.

harry
2022 years ago

“We don’t do anyone any favours by ignoring them”
What are/were our obligations?
I was under the impression that the UN sanctioned us going into East Timor to defend the results of the election. That would be a fools errand unless there were plans for making East Timor into a viable country. Foreign capital to ET can only really come from two sources: tourism and natural resources. And the only resource they seem to have is oil and gas at Sunrise.
Clearly we have a vested interest in preventing ET becoming a failed state or from progressing too far down that path – which is why our stance on Sunrise has confused me.

What do Steve, EP, Rob and Abdul think the plan was?

At the back of my mind on this is how every so often Quebec has a vote on whether to cede from Canada and become it’s own nation. Great feelings of Quebecois nationalism flare before enough people realise that they would have a greatly reduced standard of living if they did so, ie they have a better deal being part of Canada.
It was ET nationalism that drove the independance vote. This nationalism will presumable resist attempts to bring it under an Australian umbrella of fianancial protection.
At the turn of the 20th century there were many who expected (even assumed) that there would shortly be a country called ‘Australia and New Zealand’. The Kiwi’s told us to ‘Git stuffed’ and that was that.

Steve Edwards
Steve Edwards
2022 years ago

As I stated earlier, there is no evidence that East Timor will be better off from having Greater Sunrise. They do not have the financial infrastructure to deal with that kind of money. We will have another Nauru on our hands within two decades.

If we give any ground on the continental shelf, we will have to renegotiate with the Jakartan militarists – a giant leap backwards for our relative position. There is no compelling reason why we should do such a thing when there is the more humane alternative of keeping our territory and turning East Timor into a benevolently administered protectorate.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Simply having natural resources is not a guarantee of national wealth. PNG has an abundance of natural resources – gold, gas, copper, etc. – but its endemic corruption, hopeless infrastructure and levels of communal violence deter foreign investors and prevent the country from capitalising on its only real assets. As a consequence PNG has become a political and economic basket case.

I agree with Steve that simply turning over the pot of natural resources to ET to manage will likely do more harm than good. The Nauru analogy is an interesting one.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Yes, ET can’t trusted with great wealth. So what do you suggest?

The Saudi Arabia solution where ruling dynasties on both the supply and demand end spend megabucks of taxpayer money and bribe terrorists to keep it a stable pumping station. Until now?”

The Iraq/Iran gambit, where your install an autocratic regime to keep the oil moving, only to have it backfire in ways your intellience community never saw coming?

The Venezuela defence, where you buy up the economey and try to destablise anyone with power who objects?

Or Borneo, where “representitive democracy” is the name of a cocktail served on the Crown Prince’s 240 ft yacht.

Or perhaps the Russion Advance, turning the wild east back into a totalitarian state, albeit one run by an accountant, that’s re-nationalising all its oil oligarchies by hook and crook?

Controlling oil, and natural gas, is the ace of spades in today’s global p*k*r game. No way is Australia gonna lose this dispute with ET.

Whether you like it or not, I reckon Australia will end up as the defacto sheriff, big brother, nanny, exploiter and protector of the Pacific. It’s already happening stealthly in PNG and the Solomons, where seconded public servants/top cops/military advisors are slowly but steadily taking over management of everything that impinges on our economic and security interests in the country.

I don’t have any long term problems with the Pacific’s basic economic, security, political and environmental benchmarks and enforcement processes co-designed and underpinned by Australia. It’s gonna happen anyway and all other first world powers that could do it would fuck it up much worse than we ever could.

My point above does rest on two provisos:

Firstly, that’s it’s a two way thing. Australia is rich enough to afford getting a bit more Pacific “X factor” about life. Eg: We work too hard, for starters. They don’t. Some sorta ‘goofing’ off trading market could be set up here.

Secondly, that the US folds in on itself in a menopusal maxed-out credi card crisis over the next few decades. And, as it does so, hands off to Australia its keys to the Pacific before retreating to growl at and lick its genitals.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Borneo or Brunei, Nabakov?

On the larger point, it seems the current government would agree with you. We’ves seen an extraordinary about-face in policy towards the South Pacific in the last couple of years. From ‘let them stew in their own juice’ to ‘we can’t afford to let these fledgling states fail. Go Oz!’

Not sure what the South Pacific makes of it, though. As with most strategic voltes-faces, only time will tell. We’re cordially disliked enough as it is, as an interfering European big brother.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Sorry, Brunei. Touch of the White Rajas there.

Rob, for various reasons I know rather a lot about what makes the Pacific tick. And yes, Australia’s looming presence is much resented. But they’d much prefer a mixture of Aus and NZ to all the other western powers which do have the clout to keep the basics civilised and operational when the Pacific Island states can’t.

The Pacific is a major economic, strategic, biomass and cultural resource -and a prime gateway/staging post to Antarctic. And full of lovely bits that remind us of what life is really all about.

I’d rather have Aust and New Zealand as head prefects in the region than anyone else. As I said before, the US, China, India, Brazil or the EU would screw it up even worse than we ever could. We’re already a couple of hedonistic island nations, soaking in the region.

It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

harry
harry
2022 years ago

I agree with what Nabakov wrote 100%.
“I reckon Australia will end up as the defacto sheriff, big brother, nanny, exploiter and protector of the Pacific.”
It is interesting that a couple of Pacific states already have the Aussie dollar as their currency.

Certainly as far as being perceived as arrogant imperialists go I would rather it was NZ and Australia being the nanny states rather than just us.

It does beg the question though, what the UN intended to happen to East Timor.
If they go down they are, by default, our problem. I mean, we are the most stable rich country in the region so who else can they turn to? Either we fork out money now to prevent the slide, or we fork out more money later to rescue the poor country – ala what is happening in the Solomons and Fiji. By all means use it as leverage with the UN ie ‘We’re doing our bit to help our neighbours’ but bring in the Kiwis for god’s sake.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

We’re rich. Our pacific neighbours aren’t. Sure they’re messy, unfocused and have lots of noisy domestics. On the other hand, they throw great parties, can be trusted with the kids, very handy for a rumble and have a wonderful backyard with a great pool and sound system.

So you trade off the permantly “borrowed” lawnmover against the surprise lovo-powered mekes. Perhaps not an ideal situaton for the more anal-possesive early risers amongst us westerners.

But hey! Like we gotta choice anymore? Every stakeholder and player is basically hoping in one way or another that Aus and NZ get to run the region’s Neighbourhood Watch, infrastructure and financial systems and pick up the garbage and bills.

*Anthony Robbins voice*
“But it’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity ”

Or to put it another way. I never watch sport on TV, except when the All-Blacks are playing. Their pre-match haka is another priceless example of how our pacific neighbours can seriously vibe up our global attitude in ways you can’t put a price on.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

What are we saying here? That Australia *ought* to be the regional imperial power? Because it’s rich and basically ‘Western’? What what whaaaaaaaat? Or am I missing some irony here?

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Yer missing nothing Rob. My view is that it will happen anyway. And rather us than anyone else.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Well, bless my rags of long-dead left-wing outrage (I thought).

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Bless all you want of your colourblind vision. Rob.

If you wanna assune everyone else sees the world in left and right stereovision too, then knock yerself out.

The rest of us will just get on with getting on – cheerfully boogieing right across the heads of dogmatic and farcical Pharisees like you.

And hammering nails in your big black dog.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

I’d thank you for that, Nabakov, if I knew what on earth you were talking about.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

That’ll be the Macallan kicking in. It does that.

harry
2022 years ago

“What are we saying here? That Australia *ought* to be the regional imperial power? Because it’s rich and basically ‘Western’?”

More because it’s rich and stable, rather than western. Not many other countries fit the bill in the region. It is, as Nabakov, suggests pretty much a default position for Australia and New Zealand (poorer but also stable). When any Pacific island nation goes bung via a cyclone or corruption or collapse of a natural resource then the aid/help/men-with-guns will come from or through Australia and NZ.

“Because it’s rich and basically ‘Western’?”
…or imply because _somebody_ has to.

“regional imperial power?”
I prefer the term “co-prosperity sphere”.
Ok, so that was irony.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Australia and NZ already kind of have those positions by default with a rough split of Oz looking after Melanesia and the Kiwis, Polynesia. In the latter case it’s made moreso by the fact that many thousands of Samoans and Tongans call NZ home while Cook Islanders and Niueans are automatically Kiwis for all intents and purposes. Tokelau, a group of 3 tiny atolls north of Samoa has been prodded towards independence by NZ for many years but they’re far too sensible to give up quasi-colonial status for the sake of NZ feeling good about it’s post-colonial image :)