Tin pot Tony demands entry to Syria bombing

From Fairfax:

Tony Abbott confirmed on Tuesday that “some weeks ago” US President Barack Obama had asked him to consider expanding RAAF strikes to Syria.

But senior government sources have told Fairfax Media that the driving force for the formal request received last week from the United States for the RAAF to join the air campaign in Syria came more from Canberra – and in particular the Prime Minister’s office – than from Washington.

…Mr Abbott and Mr Obama are understood to have discussed the possibility of Australian air strikes in Syria during a telephone call in July initiated by Mr Abbott who had rung his American counterpart to offer sympathies over the Chattanooga shootings.

Government sources say it was Mr Obama who raised Syria as a topic and then made the first suggestion of Australia’s expanded role.

With respect, please explain how is this in the Australian national interest?

In all of its international engagements, the Abbott Government is operating under the broadly disseminated term the “national interest”. It was one of John Howard’s most oft-used and politically impressive rubrics as well. But under Howard it had clearly defined parameters of supporting the US alliance, of ignoring and often disparaging any institutions of “global government” and of being open to international business. As a doctrine it had historic ballast and was supported by the times. The problem is, we still don’t know what the Abbott Government means by it and the times very clearly demand something more nuanced.

The phrase the “national interest” evokes a body a of thought in  international relations known as “realism”. It’s most famous champion is the US diplomat George Kennan and most notorious practitioner is Henry Kissinger. In more contemporary times it is associated with the always impressive Owen Harries, one of Australia’s most significant intellectual exports to the US as the founding editor of the US journal “The National Interest”.

Put simply, as a guiding principle in international relations, realism is to operate in a state of perpetual distrust of one’s neighbors. It eschews values and pursues naked self-interest for the nation lest the temptations of empire overstretch power. A prime example was George Bush senior’s first Iraqi invasion and withdrawal, leaving the tyrant in place to torment his people but leaving the US with a limited bill, cheaper oil and a suppressed strategic threat. Compare this with George Bush junior’s second Iraq invasion, which left the US with paralysing debts, an exhausted military in a quagmire, promoted a new strategic threat in Iran and you get some idea of the value of “realism”.

The primary alternative frame of reference in international relations is “internationalism”. It is a doctrine that holds that national self-interest is advanced more through cooperation than it is contest. Bill Clinton is more an example of this school of thought with his efforts to defuse various global conflicts multi-laterally. For better or worse, using institutions like NATO and UN Security Council to rally coalitions for action. It too had its hard-nosed successes, most notably in the former Yugoslavia, a war which was probably shortened by NATO intervention, even if it was atrocious first.

There are other schools of course, most prominently the neo-conservatives that invaded Iraq a second time in a weird fusion of “coalitions of the willing” and delusional ideas of democratic dominoes etc. But the polarities between which most international relations thought is suspended remains “realism” versus “internationalism”

In the local context these polarities operate somewhat differently. Australia is not a super power. On most measures it’s barely a middle power and it’s influence is shrinking relative as demographically much larger nations embrace liberalisation and their economies catch up. A such Australia has a tradition of operating further towards the “internationlist” end of the spectrum. With some differences, especially during the Cold War, this has been bipartisan for decades, though it was ruptured somewhat by John Howard as he privileged US relations during the War on Terror.

The logic behind Australia’s greater orientation towards internationalism is itself somewhat realist. As a small to middling power, it serves our strategic interests to enmesh larger powers in a net relations. Giving free reign to rule by the biggest stick doesn’t make much sense when you only possess a twig.

The Coalition has involved Australia in a number of wars and incursions in recent decades that have made good strategic sense. John Howard joining the international force in Afghanistan was one. His bold stabilisation project in East Timor was another. Iraq was clearly a bridge too far that did irreparable harm to the internationalist agenda, though Howard did play it well it terms of risk management.

But Abbott and Syria is none of these. Strategic bombing can be used effectively to unseat a regime via demolition of key infrastructure, so it can sit comfortably within an internationalist framework of advancing human rights (say, in the Balkan wars) or within a neo-conservative agenda of unseating a tyrant, as in Iraq. Targeted drone strikes can eliminate enemy combatants with tactical precision.

But openly deploying the airforce against an insurgent army hiding in a foreign nation? That is surely deeply counter-productive in the broader context of combating the ISIS brand. Is there any better way to radicalise disaffected Muslim youth here and abroad than dropping bombs on vague targets from great heights, ignoring sovereign borders and inevitably eviscerating innocents?

Comments

  1. Should rhat last paragraph of the article read “Mr Abbott initiated…”. Article doesn’t seem to make much sense otherwise?

  2. Okay, time for the GG to act, oh, sorry he is missing in action as a political appointment.

    • Terror Australis

      Nope. It’s not the role of the GG to remove a government for being incompetent or even worse.

      You are misinterpretting the events of 1975.

      • Terror Australis

        Nonsense.
        Even corruption isn’t sufficient grounds for the GG or State Governors to remove an elected government. And God knows there has been plenty of evidence of that over the years since Federation, especially the States.

        The ONLY scope for the Queen’s representative to dismiss a government is if there is some constitutional crisis such as the Whitlam dismissal (and even then it’s very controversial), or if he/she doesn’t believe the incumbent government has the “confidence” of the House of Representatives.

  3. It was as plain as day that this so called ‘invitation/request’ from Washington was at the behest of the LNP in Canberra desperate for a bit warmongering to distract the population from their incompetence in government.

    It is one thing for a bunch of clowns to toot horns and sprinkle distraction on the crowd but dropping bombs and firing bullets for naked political advantage is disgraceful.

    As Researchtime notes if Australia wants to look busy in the middle east there are a lot of displaced people of every colour and stripe who need shelter, food and the other necessities.

  4. Australian RAAF pilots are already war criminals, this will make them more so. Crusading around the Middle East in our role as Imperial Satrap is ruining our reputation everywhere.

    The yanks are probably feeling the strain on their airframes, this sort of bombing with these planes is incredibly inefficient.

    This is just the same as using Maxim guns against the African savages before the Boer war, any brown corpse can be counted as an enemy.

    • “Australian RAAF pilots are already war criminals, this will make them more so. Crusading around the Middle East in our role as Imperial Satrap is ruining our reputation everywhere.”

      Spot on Comments – we should also be seen as cowards safely delivering missiles and bombs that indiscriminately kill innocent people. Worse still we are NOT doing it for any right reason as this is ALL Americas doing to enable a Gas pipeline of their choosing from Qatar Via Syria to Turkey — also to STOP the construction of a natural gas pipeline across Syria, which would boost Iran’s economy by sending Iranian gas to Europe. Iran’s economy must be torpedoed. It’s no wonder why Qatar has spent more than $3 billion supporting the rebels in dethroning Assad. Not to mention it is also a proxy war against Russia. America armed & supported Isis in the first place & are using them to try & make their presence in Syria seem righteous.
      America is indeed an evil empire & the thought of Australia being their little mate makes me sick. It has also made World travel hazardous for ordinary Australians – we are not innocent & should leave the Yanks to do their own dirty work.

      • What makes me angry is when i hear some idiot saying our country being involved in these American adventures is somehow keeping us safe from terrorism. It is complete and utter tripe. Such a position gives zero credence to the notion of blowback and causality. It makes my blood boil. Our involvement has done nothing, but make us unsafe.

        There are far more terrorists today and potential terrorists than ever before. That’s because this war doesn’t target the root cause, rather it uses the notion of a “war on terror” as a guise to meet other objectives. This is what is churning out radicalised terrorists at a truly astonishing rate. Number one on this list is the US drone program which has been massively expanded under Obama’s tenure. This is the single biggest contributor to radicalisation in Pakistan and Yemen and everywhere else it is used. It kills civilians who are non-combatants, non-radicals daily, though this is never reported due to the USA’s enduring ability to label something the exact opposite of what it actually is. A man aged from 14 to 70 is legally classified as an “enemy combatant.” It is this indiscriminate drone program which is churning out terrorists. It kills a regular man or child on the street going about his day, and turns his regular father, son, brother, whatever into a terrorist.

      • SupernovaMEMBER

        Well said AR! Is there any truth to a large gas find off Israel’s coast which is why Israel’s so heavily involved in destroying both the West Bank and this deliberate Syrian war?

  5. I am outraged by the US war on Muslims being waged by that war criminal Obama and his fascist cronies and that Abbott is even considering being part of this violence directed at Muslims. Why do we hate Muslims so much? What have they done to us?

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      Because a terrorist attack will allow Abbott to win the next election, so he wants to antagonize them.

      • Good thinking Ronin. I always knew Abbott was a misanthrope but I think you’ve put the pieces together nicely. We antagonize them, they murder us – Abbott wins. He’s not just a misanthrope but also a psychopath. The GG has to act. This stinking, rotten government has to be removed from office immediately.

    • Would it be accurate to say:IS are anti-democratic murderers who need to be stopped, and they just happen to be Muslims?

      I’d hazard a guess that were a Christian, Hindu or other group doing this , the response might be largely the same. (Maybe.)

      (Awkward: Jewish settlements.)
      (Awkward: China and Uighers,)

      • The worst war since WW2 was 6 million killed in the Congo – the US was backing Ugandan and other neighbouring countries with mercenary armies – not one FCK was given about murdering, democracy or anything else.

        It never is.

        ISIS is a creation of the US – pure and simple fact. Blow back. And deliberate. Very deliberate.

        You don’t go into a region and bomb 6 countries into the dark ages, arm, fund, train their most extremist elements, providing them with intel, weapons, training, money and expect them to simply wander back home for a democracy how-down.

        .

      • Sure Voltaire, all that.

        But what do you do, let them just blow everything up.

        I know it’s not a simple answer. Or easy.

        But it’s not a simple case of reap/sow, let them do their thang. That’s just being silly.

        Notwithstanding we should not be there at all.

      • SupernovaMEMBER

        Hmmmmm: This is both a territorial and religious war, so if Syria was a Christian country a pipe line would already have been built. The perpetual wars the US continues with different Islamic countries needs to be confronted and delt with as a war against Islam. The Uyghurs in China reside in multi-ethnic areas and practise their own type of Sunni Islam different to say Saudi Arabia.

  6. Agree with most of that. One caveat – it has become hazardous to the truth to take on face value anything Fairfax says when it comes to Abbott. Fairfax is running its own counter insurgency.

    • bolstroodMEMBER

      It also is hazardous to the truth to take on face value anything Abbott says when it comes to anything.
      This prime minister would ,in his own words , do anything to get(stay in ) the top job, except sell his own arse.
      I have no evidence that he has sold his arse, but he has certainly sold his soul.
      If we are serious about stopping Islamic terrorism we should stop making war on muslims. Bombing is an imprecise activity with plenty of “collateral damage”. The families of those “collaterally damaged” will not look kindly the perpertrators.

    • it has become hazardous to the truth to take on face value anything Fairfax says when it comes to Abbot

      But at least we can trust everything emanating from Murdoch’s organs. Especially trustworthy are the articles in The Australian lampooning climate scientists and throwing poo at any attempt to abate emissions. 🙄

    • FiftiesFibroShack

      Anyone who pays attention to politics in Australia knows Fairfax aren’t making this up – they aren’t the Oz. Abbott has been desperate to get back on the National Security agenda, desperate enough to request we be requested – no doubt.

    • I’m sure you’re aware 3d that Paul Kelly was the first one to raise the idea that Abbott, not Obama, was the driving force behind the idea. Are we able to take News Corp on its face when it comes to Abbott?

  7. “The Coalition has involved Australia in a number of wars and incursions in recent decades that have made good strategic sense.”

    Finally I mildly disagree with h&h on something! I was starting to think I was falling victim to group think or something..

    Obviously we don’t have all the facts for national security reasons, but I’m not entirely convinced the war Afghanistan actually made good strategic sense (although it certainly made political sense). I mean did those involved (including Australia) really get the best result billions and of dollars and numerous lives can buy? Afghanistan is still a mess and personally I’m far from convinced we’re any safer. Sure, we killed a bunch of terrorists (which i have no problem with) and disrupt their operations, but Iong-term I suspect all we’ve done is shift the problem elsewhere- not to mention help create even more terrorists and enemies down the track. Which goes to your last point, which I fear is correct!

    • Afghanistan served absolutely ZERO purpose. None. It achieved absolutely ZERO.

      The only thing Afghanistan achieved was creating a massive army insurgents from the next generation of children, it enlarged the war into the badlands of Pakistan and allowed the CIA to conduct unlimited drone strikes as nothing less than practice just like LAOS.

      I literally have no idea what purpose the US was trying to achieve as the only realistic objectives being control of the $3 Trillion in rare earth metals contained with the region, blocking Chinas massive expansion in the region, or control of the most geo-strategically important region on earth were approached with the same inane, insidiously stupid approach as almost all Americas wars – bomb, bomb, bomb.

      The only possible and clear objective the US had was appeasing donors and the financial military industrial complex lobbyists who once again made off like bandits with an even more impressive booty than the Iraq debacle.

      There was literally ZERO reason to go into Afghanistan, not a single one – the outcomes were always going to be a disaster and history proves this correct – WORSE than Iraq.

      • According to your framing, it served zero.

        In the context of long dated geo political maneuvering and c$ck blocking China and a zillion other hidden reasons, US defence planners and strategists and whomever else thought it in the US best interests.

        You don’t have to like it, no one does, but it is what it is.

      • “There was literally ZERO reason to go into Afghanistan, not a single one – the outcomes were always going to be a disaster and history proves this correct – WORSE than Iraq”

        Agree 100% – – again the reason was to be able to run a pipeline through Afghanistan & thwart Russia.
        – — other than that they had no other interest – – the number of absolute animal despots they have propped up over the years when it suits their interests is proof of that.

  8. sydboy007MEMBER

    Please xplain why the combined armies of the Saudis / Turks / Egyptians of 1.1M active military personnel can’t wipe out 30,000 IS soldiers? The Saudis have the 3rd highest military budget last year after the USA and China (4 times our spending and 25% higher than the UK or France).

    Why is it up to the infidels to do the dirty work that the local countries are generally not willing to do.

    IS is as much a concept or idea as it is a physical group. Unless the local people renounce the ideals of IS there will be no victory. The west can not win this war for the countries affected, they are going to have to do much of the dirty work and change of thinking required to truly defeat IS.

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      IS is Sunni. So is Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. A lot of the Sunni Muslims living in those country sees the IS as heroes who are slaying the infidels. (Shia, Christian, Yazidis, etc).

    • The operations of the middle east are clear. The US is shutting down all points of energy export into Europe in order to maintain European reliance on the US for energy which entrenches the alliance. At the same time it weakens enemies and strengthens US financial interests and control. Destabilising the region also means they no longer have to control the region in an orderly manner while still maintaining hegemony over all the players.

      Libya, Iraq, Iran – EVERY major supplier has been shut down. They are even trying to shut down Russia via Ukraine.

      The US have simply decided to shift their attention towards Asia as the new Asian century approaches, in order to do this they need to minimise their presence in the ME whilest maintaining maximum control – this is best achieved by literally setting the place on fire and letting them fight each other.

      The push through Syria and Northern Iraq from the Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi money was done to push a pipe line through to the med from the worlds largest gas fields to supply Europe. The US armed, trained, funded the almost ENTIRELY foreign fighters who entered into Syria and were slaughtering her people, the Syrian government has spent the entirety of its time fighting not her own people but western / ME backed jihaddists who are patsies.

      ISIS was created by the US, just like the Mujahadeen and even Al Qaeda. ISIS was created by Col Steel in order to spread the civil war in Iraq – almost ALL of ISIS and its equipment is the Iraqi army plus US equipment and training.

      I find it simply astonishing that no matter how often western countries claim they are fighting the good fight, only for us to find out years later it was simply another power / resource / control / geostrategic play of nefarious origins we STILL FALL for the same bullshit every time regarding benign intentions on our behalf.

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/mar/06/james-steele-america-iraq-video

      • “I find it simply astonishing that no matter how often western countries claim they are fighting the good fight, only for us to find out years later it was simply another power / resource / control / geostrategic play of nefarious origins……”

        You can go back as far as you like in history and it’s the same, including ww2 & 1. Trade & strategic wars, one and all.

  9. St JacquesMEMBER

    Australia’s international agenda is FUBAR. Thanks Tony and Co. Worst. Government. Ever.

    • So you are saying we should simply invade a sovereign nation and bomb it part of a wider plan to destabilise a region in order to assert control all for the sake of providing experience to our pilots.

      That is an insanely sick idea.

      • That’s not what I said at all, you have to devoid of logic the conclude that.

        The assertion made in the post there is zero national interest. That is false, experience for the pilots is in the national interest, when viewed from an isolated perspective.

        Does the overall consideration of the mission offer a holistic national benefit, weighing up the national interest of combat pilot experience, versus the fiscal drag, an increased threat from syphilitic goat sexers and the moral downsides, probably not.

        But that’s not what was being expressed. What was expressed was there’s no upside to this, and combat experience is an upside.

    • “RAAF pilots gaining real combat experience is in the national interest”
      What an A$$ hole statement. It is of course one of the cowardly reasons our pilots are there. A 3rd world country with no ability to strike back. Frankly I would applaud if Russia supplied Syria with the best anti aircraft missiles to be able to respond. Maybe then our idiot Govt wouldn’t then be so keen to send “our boys”?

    • RP,

      Sorry, just plain bullshit. Please explain what “experience” the RAAF pilots get bombing targets that involve no missile defence system or aerial defence? This is no different than them going to a bombing range, except it’s real. Hardly worth dragging the country’s rep through the mud for.

      • It can demonstrate who can and cannot follow orders.

        War is a dirty, cold, hard business and some can receive all the training in the world yet freeze when it comes to real flesh and blood.

        Likewise, its a test of platforms and doctrine.

        F4 phantoms were thought to be the ducks nuts prior to Vietnam, until they were getting shot down by Mug 19’s & Mig21’s.

        Curtiss Le May thought guns on planes were redundant, the doctrine and platforms reflected that, exercises probably confirmed that.

        It wasn’t until the real deal tested this to the point of failure that guns installed on F4’s

    • RP,

      Yes, that would be the case re platforms and doctrine, IF, it was anything new, but it isn’t. The FA18s have been doing this for 15+ yrs now and they aren’t facing any real aerial/gnd threat to enhance the training.

      The F4s were newish in Vietnam, as were the ideas of air to air missiles (sidewinders) with the expectation that guns would be obsolete, which experience showed they weren’t. This isn’t the case here, nothing new whatsoever, other than real operational experience. I don’t think we should be involved for that as the sole and primary reason.

      • Everything is new when its new. IED’s gave been an unpleasant shock to western troops and AFV’s in Afghanistan and Iraq. The same sort of principle can apply here, what sort of counter-activity has been initiated? Only one way to find out.

        Read above, I haven’t stated that this is sole purpose, nor purpose that overrides all the perceived negatives. I’ll leave that to the chattering classes.

        What I did comment on was this deployment is not devoid of any interest. The RAAF hasn’t had its fixed wing combat arm deploy since Korea, and tactical strike is an important doctrine of ours.

        If a war is on, it may be beneficial to test our doctrines in it, only the military can safely judge the combat experience. We didn’t start a fight, just pinged some weapons once it started.

    • RP,

      “Everything is new when its new” Yes, when it’s new, but nothing new here! This is a repeat of Iraq without the potential of GND/AIR Radar directed missiles etc and no airborne defence whatsoever, so extremely limited threat unless you’re a low flying chopper.

      As to fixed wing deployment my understanding is that the FA18s were deployed for Iraq and this is so basic an undertaking for them it’s a joke. It’s bomb range training in real life with no threat of any consequence, real operational training is about it, as in logistics and “meshing” experience with the US.

      I guess we’ll just have to disagree. 🙂

  10. With respect, as someone with TWO Masters Degrees in International Relations from global institutions this is the most risible interpretation of International Relations I have ever read. I simply could not continue with such unadulterated clap trap.

    I have studied under Chantal Mouffe, Professor John Keane and many others.

    “The phrase the “national interest” evokes a body a of thought in international relations known as “realism”. It’s most famous champion is the US diplomat George Kennan and most notorious practitioner is Henry Kissinger. In more contemporary times it is associated with the always impressive Owen Harries, one of Australia’s most significant intellectual exports to the US as the founding editor of the US journal “The National Interest”.

    Put simply, as a guiding principle in international relations, realism is to operate in a state of perpetual distrust of one’s neighbors. It eschews values and pursues naked self-interest for the nation lest the temptations of empire overstretch power. ”

    Lets be very CLEAR there are many schools of thought, institutionalism, realism, the “British School”, rationalism etc.

    However this description of “realism” is absurdity in the extreme.

    Realism is the idea that INTRACTABLE SOVEREIGN differences can only ultimately be settled by VIOLENCE. Which stands in contrast to the use of INSTITUTIONS to resolve conflict of interests and more importantly in modern parlance through economic institutions which gave rise to neo-liberalism which means that using economic growth as an incentive to overcome intractable sovereign differences.

    This gives rise to the Fukuyamas most famous International Relations quotation that the end of the cold war was the “End of History”. Fundamentally implying that modern capitalistic western democratic nations do not go to war with each other – because economics, markets, wealth and finance.

    To try and paint realists as operaitng :

    “in a state of perpetual distrust of one’s neighbors. It eschews values and pursues naked self-interest for the nation lest the temptations of empire overstretch power.”

    Is just an absurd and total misunderstanding of the most basic principles of this incredibly complicated subject.

    International Relations is known as the theory of EVERYTHING and comments and statements like this are nothing more than hack.

    Seriously dissapointed in this blog for attempting to diverge into an area it has almost no understanding about at the most fundamental level and portraying it as well informed opinion.

    • What a load of utter waffle. You don’t need two masters degrees from global institutions to know that bombing and murdering innocent people is a crime.

      • You didn’t even read a single word I wrote. I never addressed what is a crime or not, merely that REALISM is not what is being proposed by this blogger.

        As for bombing innocent people I have no idea who you mean – the millions upon million bombed by the US and her allies or the thousands bombed by the mercenaries and proxy guerrilla fighters employed by the US in insurgencies and covert and counter operations – a.k.a – ISIS.

    • “Seriously dissapointed in this blog for attempting to diverge into an area it has almost no understanding about at the most fundamental level and portraying it as well informed opinion.”

      Good points. Your grasp on a lot of this is impressive. I can count on one hand how many people i know who have any real clue about geopolitics. US foreign policy has become increasingly belligerent since 9/11. Think for a moment that Henry Kissinger, the man you call the “most notorious practitioner” has basically publicly called US policy toward Russia (Ukraine) as basically being STUPID and devoid of logic. That gives us all some idea as to how utterly contemptuous the USA has become in its conduct toward foreign nations.

      People who comment on these things should at the very least understand the concept of blow back and have some king of basic understanding of US military doctrines, geopolitics etc. The real issue we have is compliant media. Western media is basically totally owned in a roundabout way by 6 organisations. With respect to reporting on Foreign Policy the talking points come straight from the State Department.

      • Ronin8317MEMBER

        It’s not stupid. For the US, a few million dollars for the Neo-Nazi in Ukraine has caused tens of billion dollars in damage to the Russian economy. It’s a real bargain for the amount of money spent.