Temporal Foreign Policy

This week saw three curious events in Australian foreign policy. First, the Prime Minister’s attack on a US Presidential candidate, the release of allegations against David Hicks, and a letter from the US Department of Defense stating that the F22 Raptor will not be made for export. Two of those can be assumed to be mere administrative functions of government, but they aren’t. All three are inherently political. These events also point to the framework of the Great and Powerful Friends doctrine of foreign policy [GAPF] no longer being suitable in describing the Liberal Party’s foreign policy.

The GAPF doctrine has dominated Australian foreign policy since Billy Hughes. It is the policy of making Australian foreign policy subservient to the current hyper-power in return for security and economic benefits. Prior to 1942 the friend was Britain, since then it has been the United States. Whenever the doctrine has been tested, or placed under stress, it has failed. However it remains popular with the two major parties and much of the electorate. The latter is partly the fault of politicians who have built the ‘US Alliance’ into almost mythical terms in public.

So where does Howard’s approach differ from the standard GAPF doctrine? Allan Gyngell and Michael Wesley write that the Howard Government have worked “to focus foreign policy more openly on the national interest and link it more directly to the domestic political agenda.”

The original GAPF doctrine was developed over fears of Australian weakness, in defence and economic clout, consequently the government sought to advance the powerful friends interests in return for security and economic benefits. The Howard Government’s focus on a domestic political timetable, where foreign policy becomes another political tool, has meant that the GAPF under Howard now represents Australian domestic political weakness – but not just that – it means domestic Liberal Party political weakness.

This makes the national interest part of Gyngell’s and Wesley’s statement no longer valid. Judith Brett has also commented on the focus of the Howard Government:

I get little sense from the way Howard governs that he thinks of the future much beyond the next electoral cycle. … In keeping its eye so firmly on the ball of the present, the future seems to elude the government’s view …

This interpretation of Howard’s policy making fits with the three events in the opening paragraph of this article. Since the lead up to the Iraqi conflict, the Howard government has approached the Bush Administration in a meta-national political relationship. The purpose has not been Australian advantage, but domestic political advantage for the Liberal Party. The only argument for this approach is that what is good for the Liberal Party is good for Australia, but I suspect many voters in Australia repudiate that statement.

I originally thought that Howard’s comments on Barack Obama were unfortuitous errors, but with the release of the particulars against Hicks and the letter from Gordon England on the issue of the F22, I am now of the opinion that Howard was deliberately trolling the media in order to shore up his flagging political support.

His comments have no care for the future nor a possible Obama Presidency and a Democratically controlled Congress in the United States which is why they are such diplomatic idiocy. Yet the media has focused on the war on terror and national security, an area where the Liberal Party always polls well in public opinion. It has also kicked climate change and global warming off the front pages.

The other areas in national security and defence where Howard was carrying political liabilities are the problem of David Hicks and the Capability Gap between the retirement of the F111 and the procurement of the Joint Strike Fighter. In both these cases the GAPF has not been for the national interest, but for fending off domestic Liberal Party political weakness. The Hicks particulars of charge come undated, unsubstantiated, after five years of detention in an off-site holding camp, and with no guarantees of a trial date or a hearing in a civil court. This is not to solve the problem, but to deflect political concern in the population.

The same with the letter from Gordon England, who is the US Deputy Defence Secretary. The letter stated that the F22 Raptor will not be for export. This is another area of Howard Government weakness, the management of Australian capability between the retirement of the F111 and commissioning of the JSF is looking more and more like a massive screw up.

Again this is Liberal Party weakness, but in the US system it is Congress that places restrictions on exports. The US House of Representatives has already voted to export the F22 and the bill (AFAICT) is waiting to be voted on in the Senate. Japan and Israel have also expressed interest in the platform. Kim Beazley, Robert McClelland and some defence specialists have also advocated using the F22 to fill the capability gap while more recently an ASPI policy report projected that buying a full complement of F22s is as cost effective as the temporary measures the Howard Government is planning.

So how do you define the ‘US Alliance’ now? It is temporal too, and cannot survive in its current form beyond the Bush Administration and the Howard Government. The relationship is purely political and between the executives in the two nations. It is not about nation-to-nation relations or diplomacy, it is about solving domestic political problems – the relationship is a transnational or globalised politicisation of the nation-state. Globalised politics is nothing new, Greenpeace has been doing it for years, what is different is that the executives of two nation-states are not representing their nations, but instead their party machines with the power of the state behind them.

Update: It seems the US Senate and House in a joint committee in September 2006 upheld the ban. Under the US Arms Export Control Act the Department of Defense and Department of State can veto military exports.

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40 Responses to Temporal Foreign Policy

  1. Kevin Schnaper says:

    The mass of Democrat machinery over here is mostly in Hillary Clinton’s camp, (although an Obama insurgency is clearly afoot albeit one that seems to be losing ground rather than gaining it). And if she gets the nod with aid of a snarky comment from Howard, how would that hurt Australia?

    Having said that, Howard’s remarks about Obama haven’t made the slightest dent over here. I haven’t heard even an allusion to them.

    I disagree that the US-Australia alliance is temporary or merely political. Outside of the economic and military benefits for both sides, there is enormous affection for Australia in this country and I doubt it is going to go away. It existed long before this current war, and I assume it will continue long after it.

  2. Link says:

    I think that was last week Cam (its Monday). This week, did I hear this correctly, Howard has pledged another 70 Australian troops to Iraq (or was that Iran, it definitely wasn’t Afghanistan),not because it was requested of him but because that’s the kinda guy he is and with Dick arriving anytime soon, truckloads of public mutual admiration will go down a treat as his new best pal Dick will undoubtedly be mighty appreciative.

    It just gets weirder and weirder, especially as last week, the US senate, headed up by the very strident, go-girl-go, Nancy Pelosi knocked back requests from Bush and Co. for more troops to be sent to Iraq.

    Howard is determined to be the last man standing who’s silly enough to be supporting this war with greater gutso than the main protagonists who are clearly losing it hand over fist and slowly beginning to realise it. Bloody hell and WTF.

    Good post, too, by way.

  3. Cam says:

    Link, I wrote it over the weekend and didn’t publish it until Sunday night. The news-cycle is faster than me …

    I think the 70 ADF folks going to Iraq only enforces my thesis. They aren’t for a policy, for Australia, the ADF, they represent domestic political weakness. Not cool that the defence forces and foreign policy are being used so blatantly for domestic political manoeuvring.

    It undermines what the ADF and foreign policy are intended for.

  4. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Pelosi and company passed a non-binding resolution about the latest troop deployments. But she specifically said earlier she “would not cut off funding for the troops.” The vote, then, meant next to nothing, except as a pacifying signal to the left of the Democrats. There has been some talk about this resolution being “the first step” in a long march toward Congress funding being withdrawn. But the political wind in this country seems to be swinging away from Congressional micromanagement of the war. So if there is going to be some kind of forcing move from the Democratic congress, I don’t think it’ll be any sooner than September, if at all.

    If indeed Iraq becomes wholly untenable, Howard won’t be the last man standing in support of the US led effort in Iraq. Britain will. And probably Poland too.

    If you understand this global struggle to be a serious one, then you would naturally understand how the morale of the US electorate is central to the continuance of the struggle. Thus Howard’s move to give additional troops to the struggle makes sense in terms of the intended shoring-up effect on America. Not everything is domestic politics.

    I hope the additional troops from your country get the credit in America that it deserves. Its a nice symbolic counterweight to the non-binding vote we just endured. Thank you to Austrailia!

  5. David Rubie says:

    The 70 extra trainers is a shallow domestic solution. It’s intended to make the new Labor party policy of making the Iraq government more responsible appear dishonest. Here’s how it works:

    1) Kevin Rudd insists all troops are to come home, partly to force the Iraqi’s into helping themselves.
    2) Liberal party squirms at this popular notion until they promise (uninvited) 70 more trainers – to “help the Iraq people help themselves”, aka fulfilling the premise of the Labor party policy, while simultaneously firming up support amongst their own chickenhawk ranks. Genius.
    3) Labor party checkmate? Or will Australians see through this callow, empty gesture?

    It’s real bottom of the barrel stuff from a government so reliant on racism and fear for popular support that they’ll shamelessly use foreign policy and the defence forces as pawns. Will Australians fear for their ability to own a home or hold a job overcome their fear for terrorists? Stay tuned.

  6. Kevin Schnaper says:

    I guess I don’t understand what you mean by racism. Do you consider participation in the Iraq war de facto racist? Or the very idea about a war against radical islam?

    Is it your opinion that the entire jihad thing has been blown far out of proportion for the sake of political control?

    And by “chickenhawk” do you mean someone who believes war is necessary or at least strategically intelligent yet does not actually have a child or relative in the war?

  7. Amused says:

    Kevin,
    With respect you are out of your depth here. Domestic politics in this country will always trump the grand geostrategic visions that entrance the US political elite. In this place, the US alliance has been used as a rhetorical device ever since the cold war. This latest foray by Howard has nothing whatsoever to do with anything that is really happening in Iraq, and everything to do with what is happening in the opinion polls.

    The ‘racism’ referred to here, is the tactic of the Right in this country to mobilise support for otherwise unpopular policies, by demonising minorities living here, notably, muslims. I realise the situation may be different in the US, but in this place, it is a familiar if distasteful strategy and everyone is simply tired of it.

  8. Kevin Schnaper says:

    From what I understand from what you are saying, the muslim community in Austrailia is generally benign and well integrated into the Australian economy. And the right-wingers over there don’t agree with that assessment. So when Howard offers help in the war against Islamism he’s really only doing it to assuage the xenophobic hatreds of his main constituency? I was under the impression that there had been some attacks in Austrailia and some problems in nearby lands, like Indonesia. Were these generally isolated incidents that required only policing in your opinion?

  9. David Rubie says:

    Kevin Schnaper wrote:

    From what I understand from what you are saying, the muslim community in Austrailia is generally benign and well integrated into the Australian economy.

    They are at a similar stage to Greek and Italian migrants in the 1960’s and Vietnamese migrants in the 1970’s i.e. enclaved, largely trouble free, blamed for petty crime,lawlessness and welfare cheating on a disproportionate level by a media eager to sell papers. There really isn’t a “muslim” community per-se, there are different muslim communities divided along cultural lines (Indonesian, Lebanese etc.). Lots of attempts to paint them all with the same brush, but within the community itself there appear to be significant variations in culture (especially attitudes towards women).

    So when Howard offers help in the war against Islamism he

  10. paul walter says:

    Yes, Kevin.
    Howard is a true chicken hawk. His soul-brother, Dick Cheney, is due to meet him shortly to issue further riding instructions.
    But in the meantime, the new opposition leader, Kevin Rudd ( there’s a nice nice coincidence! ) belled the cat today, by blurting out something the educated half of this country has known for many years already, that Howard is a “National Security Threat”.

  11. derrida derider says:

    I see the Brits have now set a timetable for their withdrawal from Iraq. The Man of Steel is being left behind by events – lets see him talk his way out of this one.

    It’s very reminiscent of the way the McMahon government was left high and dry – they called Gough Whitlam an appeaser for his trip to China, only to have Nixon’s visit occur three months later.

  12. D B Valentine says:

    To John Howard pre-2007: “In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king”
    To John Howard 2007 : “In the country that has sight the one-eyed man is an offence, a deviation”
    The Howard Government is about to be relentlessly savaged by the Australian people via the media and voting booths.
    History will damn this Government.
    To paraphrase Peter Finch in the 1976 seminal classic ‘Network’ – “We’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore”

  13. Kevin Schnaper says:

    David, thanks for the Australian history lesson. Very interesting.

    Putting aside disliking the political exploitation aspects of all this, what is your perception of the extent of the problem with Salafism, and what would you personally sanction to combat the threat you do percieve.

    On Britain pulling out of Iraq, its only been a BBC report so far, unconfirmed. Among the details, again unconfirmed, is that only 3000 out of the 7100 forces there would be removed by the end of 2007 and that “Blair is going to tell the Commons that if the situation worsens on the ground on Iraq, his new game plan could change. ” So this is neither a full pullout strategy nor a fait accompli.

  14. whyisitso says:

    Kevin, the main British effort has been in and around the Shiite city of Basra. It does appear their job really has largely been accomplished, because of the relative absence of the worst of Baathist Sunnis. As well, I do think British troops are possibly much more professional than the US troops, in no small measure because their smaller (proportionate to population) number means they are drawn from a better trained elite, whereas the Americans have to draw on much more basic level GIs.

    Despite the crowing of ABC journalists this morning about how bad this is for Howard and Bush, the opposite is true. The really difficult areas are in the more mixed (shia and sunni) Baghdad and similar areas which is where the US effort has been concentrated. It is highly simplistic to present this as policy divergence between Britian and the US.

  15. David Rubie says:

    Kevin Schnaper wrote:

    Putting aside disliking the political exploitation aspects of all this, what is your perception of the extent of the problem with Salafism, and what would you personally sanction to combat the threat you do percieve.

    I wish I knew the answer Kevin. Religious fundamentalism has been with us in various forms for a long time, I can only assume that it serves a purpose in a particular section of each community that benefits from ultra-conservative views. I view the physical threats of terrorism to be largely overstated and best addressed as law and order rather than military issues.

    However, in our rush to protect and police ourselves against the threat of terrorism we’ve been steadily abandoning the very convictions we pay lip service to defending (aka “Freedom” – freedom from oppression as well as freedom of expression). Ultimately, Salafism in the west can be defeated by opening up to Muslim communities so they see they benefits of social liberalisation. They’re smart, they’ll work it out for themselves pretty quickly. At worst the salafists will end up like conservative Catholics, who few people take the time to complain about.

    The middle east I forward no answer for. It’s no use crying over spilt milk, or demanding apologies from the neo-conservative fools who initiated the latest disaster. However, it is time to shunt them out of the way for a LONG period of reflection and allow the UN to start policing the trouble spots. Then we all need to take a deep breath and allow Israel to be reasonably criticised without the constant call of anti-semitism. We might be served by allowing Iran a slightly longer leash before accusing them of nuclear weapon development. Reducing our dependence on oil might make all of this possible.

  16. Kevin Schnaper says:

    David,

    Thank you for your response. I find it very hard to offer prescriptions for the future when I’m not even sure I understand fully what’s going on right now.

    Clearly becoming energy independant must be a priority. Unfortunately, so far, unless we all ride bicycles, the technology just isn’t there. An all-electric culture run via Nuclear power plants might be an idea. Although people in this country are still spooked to death about Nuclear Power and Tesla Motors’ great new electric car, is priced a bit too up-market for the average consumer at a quarter of a million dollars. The Prius hybrid seems to have been created more a to allow forward thinkers to feel good about themselves rather than to solve the actual problems at hand. Ethanol and Hydrogen seem like they’re not as viable as they once seemed, requiring just as much energy to move the fuel as is provided by the fuel itself. And I don’t know if Carbon taxes to push along these alternative technologies will do anything except annoy everybody and hurt the economy.

    It seems like the future must be lossless solar cells, which would have to be a nanotech venture. My understanding is that this research is going quite well but is at least a decade off from viability and another twenty from nationwide implementation. I guess geothermal energy might be a possibility too, although not much is being done in that field at all because its just too monumental. An enzymatic engine might be great too, also way way down the road. And I suppose someone might come along with new magnetic materials that change our paradigm about what an engine mechanisms might look like.

    In the meantime, though, we’re still stuck with at least 30 more years of consuming oil, I think.

    But even if we cut off our oil consumption tomorrow Salafists will still be able to make all the bombs they require. And they probably will still have all the Russian made weaponry they could possible dispense with. And nuclear science will still be out there. And the very rich and consistent tradition of Jihad will still be there and the Islamist conception of Martyrdom and Dhimmitude and honor killings and genital mutilation and hatred of western values and all that… And China and Russia would probably grab all the oil we don’t use, because it’ll be a lot cheaper. This will allow those countries, whose human rights records are worrisome to say the least, to become world-players in record time.

    You say the way to defeat salafism is to open up Muslim communities so they see the benefits of social liberalisation. I’m afraid you lost me there. Sayyid Qtub, Osama Bin Laden’s near-direct progenitor, was absolutely horrified at the very social liberalism you suggest would be the West’s selling point. Social liberalism is a main selling point of Salafism. The whole point of the much hated neoconservative philosophy vis a vis the middle east is that Islamists are the gatekeepers of those societies. If we want to show Muslims the benefits of social liberalism we have to remove the gatekeepers first. And the gatekeepers do not want to go. My understanding is, these Salafist gatekeepers would rather their people suffer under Islam than prosper under the aegis of the infidel. I’ve met quite enough ex-Palestinians here in America who have told me exactly that.

    Israel is a ten mile strip of land. A drop of water in the ocean of Islam. Blaming Israel for much of anything wrong in Islamic-western relations is to play the PR greivance game the Islamist way. The problem of Israel mostly has to do with Islamist supremacy and sharia-sanctified Dhimmitude and the conflation of the political with the religious in Islam. Most people can not fathom these zealous aspects of political islam so they don’t seed them into the equation when thinking about Islam’s attitude toward Israel.

    Besides that, it couldn’t be just the west’s errors, or Israel, or the west’s social liberalism that is causing the problem. Islamists have massacred every religion and creed under the sun, from Coptic Christians to Animists to Hindus to Zoroastrians to Africans to Armenians to Jews to Bhuddists to the various competing sects in their own religion. At Islam’s edges there is always warfare and if they in fact believe their creed as much as they seem to, there always will be warfare at the edges of Islam. Islam was at war with the west and everybody else long before oil was discovered in the Middle East.

    Your idea about “allowing the UN to start policing the trouble spots” is baffling to me. The UN has no such interest as far as I can discern in doing any such thing. Islamists used the UN as protective sheilds in Lebanon because they knew the blue-helmets wouldn’t get involved. As much as I wish the UN was a positive force in the world, I see absolutely no evidence of it. From the Oil-for-Food joke which gave a great reason for the UN to sit-out Iraq to the sexual abuse in Africa, I think its all of a piece — corruption.

    Just look at the reception Chavez got in New York. Brandishing Chomsky’s book to general delight in the Assembly Chamber. Now Chavez is destroying Venezuela’s economy the same old way every tin-pot socialism-infected dictator with populist dreams has destroyed his nation through the last 100 years. He’s printing money like a madman and Inflation is flying through the roof. If only someone had handed him Freidman instead of Chomsky!

    All to say, the UN is feckless, Islamists have a very long history of antipathy toward the west and want to destroy it, and opening Islam to western liberalism is part of the problem.

    The question then becomes, should Islam just be contained? And if so, how?

  17. David Rubie says:

    Wow Kevin,

    That’s a very negative reading of the history of Islam. You might as well condemn the modern day British for being a brutal seafaring nation of third world exploiters if you want to trawl back through the centuries.

    Israel looms as a larger problem than it’s geographical size suggests, simply because they have been used as a proxy for every belligerent position the US has taken in the region. It is this reason far more than any other that contributes to the antipathy towards it in the middle east. I’m in no doubt that middle eastern leaders like to stir up popular hatred of Israel via religion, but that happens in reverse in the west, and nobody bats an eyelid.

    Chavez? Idiot dictator. Pity we can’t ignore him. Oil again.

    The appeal of social liberalism to ordinary people in Iraq and Iran cannot be understated. Iran was a fairly liberal country until we started screwing around with it (it is no coincidence that the same fools that ran Iran-Contra are now back screwing around again). Result? Disaster.

    The major mistake has been to think we can deliver democracy by external force. It’s never going to happen. We should have been flooding them with cheap Toyota’s, Happy Halal Meals and no-money-down plasma televisions. Perhaps instead of destroying their infrastructure and leaving them in a 3rd world state, we might have been better off giving their brutal dictator a billion dollars to live somewhere else. When the population is fat, happy, stultified in front of a TV and up to their eyeballs in debt they will leave the Kalashnikov to gather dust on the wall and the Koran will take pride of place, unread, in hotel drawers across the whole damn place. We have no need to contain Islam, it will rot from the inside. That is why the Islamic leaders need to demonize the west – they know it represents the end of their religion as an overriding force in peoples lives. We just need to gently facilitate it. At the moment, we are doing exactly the opposite and the result is as expected: more fanatics created every day.

    UN corrupt and useless? It would help if we could get the US to send a non-belligerent ambassador in there, just for starters.

  18. derrida derider says:

    whyisitso repeats the spin that the war party is putting on the Pommy withdrawal. But if it was really so that these troops could be spared from Basra because they’re not needed there, the obvious thing would be to redeploy them to other places in Iraq (Baghdad, Anbar) where all agree they are needed. And BTW 1700 is just the first tranche – the UK govt has moade it perfectly celar that more will follow later in the year.

    Nope, they’ve declared victory and gone home – as we should do.

  19. Kevin Schnaper says:

    David,

    Very interesting response. It would be fun to agree with all your assessments.

    You wrote:” That

  20. David Rubie says:

    Kevin Schnaper wrote:

    I think Bolton had every reason to be belligerent towards the UN. To blame Bolton for the long-term failings, corruption and fecklessness of the UN seems to put the cart before the horse. He went in there to clean house, but he encountered the Chavez fan club instead. I think by now it is common knowledge that Iraq was the near-solo project it was for the US because key UN allies had illicit oil and arms deals with Saddam while he was under sanctions. That says about all that needs to be said about that organization.

    Shamefully, Australia holds the record for corrupt dealings with Saddam Hussein’s regime, despite numerous warnings to our useless foreign affairs department that it was happening. We didn’t need the UN to help us with it either. To put Bolton in perspective, he was widely regarded as being anti-UN to start with (hence the Democratic filibuster which failed to endorse his nomination).

    There

  21. derrida derider says:

    “I think by now it is common knowledge that Iraq was the near-solo project it was for the US because key UN allies had illicit oil and arms deals with Saddam while he was under sanctions”

    Yet another straight lie that the war party has tried to make “common knowledge”. As a matter of public record the biggest single contributor, by far, to the corruption of the oil-for-food scheme was the Australian Wheat Board – read the Volcker Report if you don’t believe me (the same report implicates plenty of American firms too, BTW). As for arms, the Americans were shot at mainly by old Russian and British hardware, with a relatively small amount of new Chinese stuff smuggled from Syria. If the Europeans had been selling arms on any scale to Saddam he’d have killed a lot more GIs.

    Friend, the French and Germans opposed American adventurism with the clear understanding that unprovoked aggression founded on a crock of lies would be very likely to end in tears. Why can’t you accept that events have proven them dead right?

    And the stuff about Islam is also simplistic bullshit. You’ve clearly been reading too many right-wing blogs.

  22. Kevin is devoting lots of time to trying to sort us out. I’m not sure why, but various people – like me occasionally get drawn into his net.

    His interventions leave me with several impressions.

    1 – he’s very emotional. You can’t argue with him without paying obeisance to his list of baddies. And yes Kevin, I think most of your baddies are my baddies too – like the Soviet Union. Corrupt states.

    2. – he’s American (Well I presume he is). That’s great by the way – I like America and Americans. But like all us nationalities they have their failings. I’ve been struck by how the Americans take 9/11 as some kind of personalised attack on them. Well of course it obviously was. But the Bali bombings were an attack on us and the West and produced a roughly proportional loss of life compared with our population. But we tend to think of what happened as the result of crazies. We think we should do what we can to fight them but I think there’s a much greater appreciation that it will be hard to fight them because they’re guerillas and they’re crazy. So getting emotional about it and ensuring we’ve bombed someone – even if it is the wrong people – well we don’t have the power to do it anyway, so we don’t make that kind of mistake. I remember someone I didn’t know in America emailing me with SHOUTING capitals saying he was a liberal too, but people in his neighbourhood had been killed in 9.11 and HOW WOULD I LIKE IT. Well I wouldn’t like it, (and I knew someone killed on 9/11) but you’ve got to try to stay rational and do what you can – not charge around like a Bush in a china shop.

    4. I have little sympathy for Boulton himself and for the Republicans trashing of anything that gets in the way of their class/culture war. I thought Bush’s almost threatening lecture to the UN was a disgrace. But that’s in the same way that I would regard discourtesy to a judge even if I thought the Judge was a lousy judge or discourtesy to a house of parliament. I think if we have the UN it is important to show it some respect. On the other hand (like a bad or even a corrupt judge) that’s quite different from coming out and speaking the truth – which is where I support Kevin. In many ways the UN is a massively dysfunctional institution and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. I note Fukyama’s observation that the neo-cons were big on trashing the UN with little to offer in its place while trashing Clinton Admin efforts to do something of that kind with the Community of Democracies or whatever it was called. Anyway Kev, you’d know more about the details than I do and no doubt you’ll fill me in plus some.

    And I just want to say in closing that the Soviet Union was very very nasty indeed. Very nasty.

  23. I think the Londoners are more like us. Nothing to do with icy rationality. Just a little more sane. A little more able to appreciate the difficulties of the actual situation they are in. More laconic, more sceptical, less arrogant, less simplistic, less grandiose etc.

  24. whyisitso says:

    Just as well you’re not talking about Muslims, Nicholas. You’d be called up before the anti-discrimination people for blatant racism!

  25. whyisitso says:

    And your house would be bombed!

  26. David Rubie says:

    Nicholas Gruen said:

    Kevin is devoting lots of time to trying to sort us out. I

  27. Yes David, I agree. Perhaps we do.

  28. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Fellows (Nicholas, David),

    There’s nothing sinister in my efforts. On the matter of Islamism, its threats and realities, I simply would like to know what is going on. The dialogue available through the ClubTroppo population is my current favorite way of both finding the cracks in the arguments to which I’ve been exposed and getting exposed to new arguments which test my overall conceptions of the conflict.

    I think some information sets are inherently “emotional.” If one is to approach reality with an open mind, there must be an intersection with the inherently unspeakable. Obviously, some people can not or will not address certain issues. I consider no issue out of bounds.

    I have a fascination with the spread of memes and propaganda and how they are used not merely to garner votes, but also to protect or destroy the powerful who contend for the valuable resources of the world, and to warp the minds of the sympathetic to create ideoogical foot soldiers for the “cause”. Tracing these memes back to their sources is quite a task. But once one spends a great deal of time in the effort, certain encountered thought patterns begin to be categorizable and, to some degree, source-able. I include some of my own thoughts as well.

    This brings me to my main annoyance, which is the pretense to existential knowledge about the inner working of the current US administration and the various agencies of the US government involved in the Iraq war. I submit that I don’t know exactly what went on, and nobody else does either. What the public believes generally falls into the following categories…

    1.) Statements put out by the US government that are either true, false, or partially true.
    2.) Leaked information from the US government that is either true, false or partially true.
    3.) Narratives put out by Think Tanks and Connected Authors that strive to arrive at truth, but nevertheless contain some falsehood and partial truth.
    4.) Narratives put out by ideologically-driven periodicals, websites and other information networks that provide some subset of available facts and rumors which confirm the ideological narrative to which the source and its consumers subscribe.
    5.) Narratives offered by Foreign Governments in public statements that are either true, false, or partially true.
    6.) Leaked information from all other sources outside the US that is either true, false or partially true.
    7.) Simplified Narratives put out by Media Outlets and Unconnected Authors that contain sensationalized versions of the various Narratives and Fact Sets available on short notice.
    8.) Personal Experience Testimony which, although Irrefutable (unless character is an issue, or co-witnesses dispute the testimony), is by definition subjective and thus de-contextualized.

    Now, if there is some agreement that the above categorizations resemble the reality of our information culture, it will be obvious that there is precious little confirmable “truth” available to be had.

    If I were to pick a source set to hang my hat on, it would be number 3 in my above list. When those in government now (1s and 2s and possibly 8s) get their chance to be number 3s, then I will feel like I really know what the hell happened. Until then, I’m just asking questions and positing answers for the sake of argument.

    Having said all that, the case for a French and Russian effort to derail the Iraq invasion is very compelling to me. Derrida Derider’s protestations notwithstanding. There are quite enough clues, suggestions, facts, business connections, motives, news stories, indictments, etc. to at least begin an inquest. Unfortunately, the fact that spy agencies of foreign governments are involved makes clarity on the matter a near-impossibility. And the US has enough of a problem on our hands without calling out Russia and France, (as some “insider” books have remarked). Especially with the American media, in my humble opinion, being against the administration and Republicans in general and generally in favor of French-centric “Old European” cafe society and faux civility. (The independant studies about the partisan composition of US news agencies seems to support this suspicion.)

    In light of all that I have written above on the vagaries of our information culture, I should have written that “Russian and French involvement in derailing the Iraq war is a common suspicion” rather than a bit of “common knowledge.” What can I say, nobody’s perfect.

    P.S. The Soviet Union was very very very bad.

  29. whyisitso says:

    “The Soviet Union was very very very bad” That was history. This is now:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200702/s1854662.htm

    Yeah, I guess I’m just too emotional. The Egyptians have every right to protect their culture without disapproval from Westerners!

  30. David Rubie says:

    Kevin Schnaper wrote:

    This brings me to my main annoyance, which is the pretense to existential knowledge about the inner working of the current US administration and the various agencies of the US government involved in the Iraq war. I submit that I don

  31. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Do you have the link to the public acknowledgement that the Iraq project is a failure?

  32. whyisitso says:

    “What is relevant is that it has finally publically been acknowledged as a failure”

    …by the Left.

  33. whyisitso says:

    “I just want them gone so we can start fixing it”

    “I” “we” of course being the all-knowing, all-wise, all-moral, Left. Just how are “we” going to solve the problem for and on behalf of the Iraquis, other than the Iraquis once the coalition are gone? Just who the hell is this arrogant “we”?

  34. David Rubie says:

    Let’s see:

    Bad and/or misinterpreted intelligence failure (although I noticed Bolton on Lateline last night still conflating WMD’s, terrorists and Saddam Hussein in a single sentence – perhaps he hasn’t got the memo yet). Even the US administration admitted fault with this one.

    Administrative failures resulting in the Rumsfeld sacking. Helluva job rummy.

    Repeated failure to listen to defence personnnel resulting in too few troops.

    “Mission Accomplished” – Very reassuring.

    “…months, not years…” – How’s that prediction working out for J.Howard?

    Still no Osama Bin Ladin.

    Man up and grow a pair Kevin and whyisitso. Something you both obviously hold dear to your hearts has failed. Deal with it and move on.

  35. whyisitso says:

    You avoided the question: How are “we” going to solve the problem?

  36. Kevin Schnaper says:

    David, I’m surprised at your emotionalism. I think it is pretty clear that there has been no admission that the Iraq project is a failure, as you had stated. It is okay to be wrong on such a minor point.

    Clearly Baghdad is in tough shape. Undoubtably “mission accomplished” was a foolish PR stunt and Bremer was a disaster. What’s the old saying, “The battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy.” Very true in this instance. Either way, the battle continues — one hopes, for the better. Certainly lessons learned will fill many books.

    I think we can all join in wishing that success will come from the coalition efforts in Iraq and that some kind of arrangement will be reached by which that war-torn country can find peace.

  37. whyisitso says:

    David Rubie would have thrown in the towel in WWII when the first bomb fell on London.

  38. David Rubie says:

    O, I die, Whyisitso.
    The potent poison quite o’ercrows my spirit.
    I cannot live to hear the news from England.
    But I do prophesy the election lights
    On Fortinbras. He has my dying voice.
    So tell him, with th’ occurrents, more and less,
    Which have solicited. The rest is silence.
    O, O, O, O. (dies)

  39. David, come back. Come back!

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