Australia’s new Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson, acknowledges that fighting in Iraq is essential to our country’s security:
“Australia’s security relies as much on us being participants with our major partners and alliance partners like the United States and the United Kingdom in other parts of the world,” he said.
Nelson seems to misunderstand the role of a small power like Australia. Invasions and occupation like Iraq – and Afghanistan, in my opinion – only raise the risk of attack against Australia. If we are merely participating in Iraq because the Howard government hopes and prays we’ll get kudos in the corridors of Washington and London – and Nelson doesn’t articulate any other reason – it proves the moral bankruptcy of the mission. By all indications, Iraq has become a magnet for Islamists the world over. What will it take for an Australian government to refuse a military request from an ally? We’ve spent much of our history fighting other people’s wars. It looks like our colonial dependency isn’t ending any time soon.
I’m not calling for an isolationist foreign policy, quite the opposite in fact. But current governmental thinking – and Labor is little different – seems to believe that helping allies, no matter what the mission or consequences, is the way forward. It’s a shame our “leaders” take direction from elsewhere. The concept of an independent foreign policy is alien to them all, too fearful of saying “no” to our allies.