Bali has led many to urge Australia to forget about Iraq and to
concentrate on terrorism as being more immediate and closer to home. But
this is bad advice.
First, it supposes Iraq and terrorism pose quite different threats. But
True, we have no evidence that Saddam is deeply involved in directing
international terrorism. But he is encouraging these activities –
notably in Israel, by making large payments to families of suicide
More fundamentally, Iraq matters because the Middle East is the centre
of international terrorism; because until the Middle East is radically
changed terrorism will continue and because the place to begin that change
is Iraq, for its own benefit and for the effect on other Middle East
Change almost certainly cannot be initiated without using outside force
to unseat Saddam. But this will not be enough by itself. Outside efforts
will continue to be needed to attempt to make governments in the area
democratic and more sensible economically.
Middle East governments are so stuck in the rut of their ways that an
outside push will be necessary; and that would best be provided in the
first instance by forced regime change in Iraq.
Second, the advice to forget Iraq supposes that our attention span and
our means are not up to dealing with two large matters simultaneously. But
that is nonsense, because our means of dealing with the two are not the
Ridding Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and its regime will
almost certainly require military force. But military force is not
appropriate in dealing with terrorism, except in Afghanistan-type
circumstances where the terrorists effectively took over the government.
That is certainly not the case in Indonesia. Bali requires us not to
draw on our military means but to beef up our non-military means such as
domestic resolve, laws, intelligence, police, better coordination at home,
more cooperation abroad.
So we cannot forget about Iraq and the probable need to use military
force against it. Should Australia join in that use of force?
Some argue against it on claimed principle, saying force should not be
used in any circumstance, or only with UN Security Council authorization
– since to act without that would be to return to the Law of the Jungle.
But the member states of the UN make their decisions in self-defined
national interests. In any case, sufficient "authority" already
exists in previous Council resolutions, and will probably soon be
strengthened by yet another.
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