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Our biggest problem is ignorance

By Reg Little - posted Wednesday, 4 September 2013

"Our biggest problem is ignorance; we're pretty ignorant about Syria," said Ryan C. Crocker, a former ambassador to Syria and Lebanon, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and is dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University.

If these words from one of America's most experienced and qualified authorities accurately describe American understanding of such a critically placed nation in the Middle East as Syria, how much more would they apply to Australia.

Yet Prime Minister Rudd has rushed in almost as rashly as the British Prime Minister and American President to endorse the rhetorical outrage provoked by still poorly understood and widely disputed "poison gas" attacks in Damascus. In this, he is repeating the appalling role he played in supporting the destruction of what was, whatever the fabled failings of its leader, the best functioning state in Africa, Libya. This was achieved, of course, under the rubric of R2P or humanitarian intervention. He was fortunate to be protected at that time by the profound ignorance of the Australian electorate. One might recall also that the futile loss of Australian lives in Afghanistan took off under his and the Labor Party's enthusiastic support for the NATO intervention.


The seriousness of this level of incompetence in foreign policy might be best captured by a commentator on the precious metals, Bill Holter who writes for the Miles Franklin daily newsletter. On 28 August his following words were published:

….. we shall soon see what happens if Syria goes live. This one will not be a "made for television" event and has all the potential to become something far larger than planned. Will Iran become involved? Israel? It will test everything. Will the UN even survive this if it begins without their vote of "approval?" If there is a vote, Russia will veto any way... does international law still prevail? Is the UN even relevant anymore? Will markets stay open? How about banks?.....

This really does not smell like Iraq or Afghanistan and the hope for this to be a 3 day strike and we're out of there is wishful thinking in my mind. For the most part, "life" in America did not change during Iraq or Afghanistan, but now so many markets are set up for change and our "lifestyle" (standard of living) seems ready for a big change. Syria may just be the black swan right in front of our noses that sparks the change that we all know is coming. A real war will shake the status quo...and if we now do not follow up on our threats and the "red line" in the sand we will look weak which will bring change on its own. Unfortunately we seem to be painted into a corner and have no other choice than to do "something"... one way or the other life in the U.S. is about to change.

Of course, the writer has an interest in highlighting a sense of crisis to emphasise the value of gold and silver in uncertain times. He would fail, however, if his readers were not persuaded by his arguments. If "one way or another life in the US is about to change", what are the likely ramifications for Australia? What are the ramifications for the American pivot to Asia where a resolute China carefully avoids counter-productive involvement in small, unwinnable wars and bides its time? In fact, careful attention to Chinese progress in military, electronic and space technology raises serious questions about future US military capability and much of Australia's defence culture.

To better understand this situation, we need to return to the title of this piece, "Our biggest problem is ignorance", not just of Syria, but of the changes taking place in the broad global community. Simply put, America can no longer do what it pleases as the world just watches.

Australia does not have an active and informed media, academia and commentariate. If it did, a report on another site dedicated to developments in the precious metals markets would be the subject of heated contest in the present election campaign.


On 30 August 2013 King World News carried an article by Dr Paul Craig Roberts, a distinguished economist who held a senior Treasury position in the first Reagan Administration. Roberts concluded with the following paragraphs:

The situation today is in no way comparable to 1980. When you've got 3 or 4 American banks with derivative exposure that is three of four times larger than all of the wealth in the world combined, these bets can't be covered. No amount of money can be printed to bail that out.

It's the Americans that deregulated and destroyed their own financial system. It will have repercussions worldwide because, to varying degrees, every part of the world is connected to the American financial system. The ones most connected will be hurt the worst.

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About the Author

Reg Little was an Australian diplomat from 1963 to 1988. He gained high level qualifications in Japanese and Chinese and served as Deputy of four and Head of one overseas Australian diplomatic mission. He is the co-author of The Confucian Renaissance (1989) and The Tyranny of Fortune: Australia’s Asian Destiny (1997) and author of A Confucian Daoist Millennium? (2006). In 2009, he was elected the only non-ethnic Asian Vice Chairman of the Council of the Beijing based International Confucian Association. His other writings can be found on his website:

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