"…a new role for Australian troops and a new challenge for the Labor Party ahead of the election"
Changing role in Iraq | Dennis Shanahan Blog | The Australian
A certain desperation seems to be exuding from some elements of the Mainstream Media in regard to just exactly what the much awaited report from the US Commander of multinational forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, might say. Dennis Shanahan is one dedicated conservative apologist and right-wing pundit who continues to hold the line that invading Iraq was always a good thing, and now has a sniff of some vague sense that a victory of sorts might be in the offing, if Petraeus’s report says what Shanahan hopes it will.
There is – according to Shanahan – ’Good News On Iraq’ and a probable new role for Australian troops, providing the Petraeus report says what Shanahan supposes it will.
"For the Government, it will be a more positive — democracy-building and constructive — image in a generally negative atmosphere about Iraq. For Labor, it provides a much tougher policy choice. Kevin Rudd has made it clear he will withdraw the Australian combat forces from Iraq by the middle of next year after consultation with the US. If a new role does emerge for Australian troops in the next few weeks, Labor will have to address the issue of bringing home troops who are contributing to the rebuilding of Iraq — something the Australian public holds great store in."
As with the rest of the conservative right in this country, Shanahan conveniently loses sight of the realities of the US troop ’surge’, in that it has to date focussed entirely on bringing some form of calm and order to Baghdad alone. Recent atrocities in Kurdish regions in the north of Iraq clearly put a lie to any claims of a successful tactic in increasing US troop numbers by a mere 20,000 combat troops in the capital city and immediate surrounds. General Petraeus openly states that the surge numbers are not intended to be maintained long-term, but would be ’phased down’ within months of a satisfactory level of order being achieved, while still maintaining that level of order. My question would be how is that level going to be maintained when previously lower troop levels couldn’t achieve what is proposed to be maintained? Different tactics, surely, but those different tactics required higher troop numbers. It’s a Catch 22, isn’t it? And aren’t we really only talking about Baghdad and immediate surrounds anyway?
The troop ’surge’ was never intended to be a magic bullet and the US military stated that from the beginning. We need to remember – and this is something Shanahan et al conveniently ignore – that Petraeus is Bush’s man in Iraq. His predecessors were all replaced because they couldn’t or wouldn’t provide Bush with the so-called ’victory’ he so badly needs from a political perspective. This is what Iraq has devolved into. A political war not being fought for the benefit of the civilian populace of Iraq, but for the political future of the US Republican Party and future face of George W. Bush. Lame duck he may now be, but at least with something he could label ’victory’ to take onto the lecture circuit post-January 2009, he could still make a claim not to have lost a war. As transparently false as such a claim would be.
Shanahan himself admits that Iraq has devolved into a political farce with his clear statements on the supposed import any shift in Australian tactical positioning in Iraq might have on the election campaign here at home. Let us not forget that Australia has some 515 troops currently involved in security and peace-keeping duties in one of the least dangerous provinces in that country. Any shift from a security poise to a longer-term ’training’ poise – ala Afghanistan – is hardly likely to excite the average voter come election day, regardless of what spin is placed on the issue. Let us not forget that America currently has some 166,000 troops, including the surge component of 28,500 combat and support troops as at June 2007. The numbers themselves speak volumes and much, much louder than any political spin about re-construction, training or moral allegiance to a country which has already passed legislation within it’s moribund government demanding the US lay down a withdrawal timetable. What Australia may or may not have to offer is less than a flea bite.
Despite his enthusiastic rhetoric, conservative drum-beating and anti-Labor sentiment so clearly on show, even Shanahan himself admits that regardless of what revelations spring from the Petraeus report, "it is unlikely to move votes". Therein lies the real truth of Iraq. A failed piece of expeditionary adventurism driven by a flawed ideology. Should Labor take government by years end, then Rudd will withdraw Australian troops from Iraq. There is really no other path to take. My belief is that withdrawal is now an imperative, given the louder rattling of sabres going on between Washington and Tehran. The potential, and in my mind, inevitable power vacuum America has created in Iraq will be filled by Iran and very little exists to stop that happening. The US military is stretched to it’s capacity and a ground war with Iran while Iraq remains so unstable would be the heights of folly. Strategic air strikes against munitions factories, nuclear industry sites and other military oriented, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Core sites hold only disaster for much needed US-allied Arab states in the Persian Gulf. Iran has already stated that any aggressive action by the US would result in missile attacks against Arab oil states on the western Gulf shores, and possibly even an invasion of Kuwait. Situations the US doesn’t need and simply could not cope with. With those shadows hanging over Australia’s involvement in Iraq, I strongly believe our troops must be withdrawn, and soon.
It’s disappointing really, but none the less expected, that Mainstream Media biases still exist on the Iraq issue, despite the facts of the broader view. It’s clear though, that some in the Mainstream Media aren’t interested in the broader view. Only an ideologically driven narrower view which suits certain biases. Little wonder people like myself have no time for pundits in general.