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Looking after our own backyard

May 15th, 2006

Glenn Milne has a piece in today’s Oz making a clear and convincing argument that Labor’s strategy of focusing our defence efforts on our immediate neighborhood is right, and the government’s expeditionary force strategy is wrong. He endorses all the key arguments of opponents of the Iraq war:

• Iraq: Our involvement has compromised, not improved, Australia’s security. We have no rational exit strategy because there is no political or military solution in sight.

• WMDs: They didn’t exist, undermining the single most important rationale for going to war.

• The terrorist threat: Howard argued that our involvement in Iraq would reduce the threat to Australia. Instead Iraq has become the training ground for the next generation of terrorists, to be deployed at will. …

• And finally the AWB: Stripped of the niceties, we bombed Saddam one day and bankrolled him the next[1]

I can’t recall anything at all like this from Milne in the past (feel free to correct me), which raises the question of whether there’s some sort of hidden agenda. The obvious explanation, given that Milne is normally viewed as a spokesman for Costello, is that this is something to do with the latest leadership rumours, though it’s hard to see exactly what.

A more Machiavellian explanation occurs to me. Howard’s visit to Bush is not going to be as cosy as usual, since Bush undoubtedly wants yet more troops and we are, as Milne points out, already overcommitted. How better to stress this point to Bush than to have it being made (in effect) by Costello, in a way that suggests that Australia could be looking at pulling out of the Coalition of the Willing. On this view, the two are now working together.

Does anyone have any other ideas, or has Milne just seen the light?

Update Tim Dunlop has more

fn1. Actually, the other way around, I think. But the point is right, however hard most supporters of the war here have tried to ignore it.

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