Is Australian support for the War on Terror essential to our ‘national security’? How does this conflict compare to the wars that Australia has previously participated in?
Wow! I have enjoyed reading everyone’s perspectives surrounding this question.
I have to say that I particularly agreed with Student X’s posts on this matter, which inevitably introduces the situation in the Middle East – the can of worms that demands to be opened in this discussion.
Due to Australia’s blind and fervent desire to follow and support the USA in all of its “freedom-fighting” pursuits, we find ourselves in a quagmire of politicians presenting issues like national security in order to glean support for these initiatives to deploy Australian troops into the region.
There are so many issues that arise in this conversation! In order to avoid confusing myself as I write my response, I’m going to try and separate and break down some major elements in this discussion…
1) I do not think that our national security was under any threat when we ran to support the first Gulf War in 1990 under Bush Snr. Saddam Hussein, a former ally of the United States, had gone rogue and scared the proverbial out of the Americans by burning the oil wells in Kuwait. America’s meddling in the nine-year long war between Iran and Iraq prior to the first Gulf War antagonised a fragile situation in the Middle East to begin with. Since the oil wells were under threat, America had no choice but to intervene to save their wealth and future financial prospects, as well as their wonderful alliance with Saudi Arabia.
Did Australia need to get involved in this war? If one believes that we cannot survive without America and has interests in such oil supply, then sure… we need to get involved. If we were concerned about Australia’s national security, I fail to see the connection. America has proved on a few occasions that it would not come to our defence if we needed them to.
I suppose that the current situation with IS, Syria and Iraq demands that we participate – why stop now? Perhaps our consistent involvement and remaining a part of the coalition of the willing demands that we keep doing so in order to protect our national security. Australia’s actions since the nineties have shed enough light on our country as an enemy of the Middle Eastern situation, perhaps we have now truly ensured that our national security is under threat, merely by association.
2) As for who is right and wrong in this situation, I, like Student X, question the origins of the unrest in the Middle East. It is clear that American interference has brought about a lot of the current problems in that region. I think it arrogant of the West to proclaim that they are always right in this conflict. If we separate that idea from the motivations that are instigated by power and greed, I personally see that the holier than thou approach of the West needs to be deeply scrutinised for traces of hypocrisy.
3) Student Y mentioned that we have the right to defend our way of life in Australia – I totally agree with that sentiment. We have that right, as any other nation does. But, do we need to defend our way of life by invading another country and imposing on another’s sovereignty? Is it not the “role” of the United Nations (which was initiated under American auspices anyway) to instigate peace? I keep asking myself this question… how dare we? This, too, reeks of arrogance and imperialism to me. I don’t see too much difference between that debate and the one we had with the recent death sentences of two of the Bali Nine in Indonesia. We are so quick to impose our morals and ways of life on our neighbours, preaching to the Indonesians about their laws on the death penalty (which, for the record, I do not support), when we are consistently and disgustingly violating human rights under the name Operation Sovereign Borders. What did Australia do about the recent discovery of the Rohingya people seeking asylum, floating about on the ocean, being denied access to countries in the region? We aren’t beyond reproach in quite a few situations with neighbours in this Asia-Pacific region. I think we need to acknowledge that we should refrain from throwing stones at others when we live in our own glass house, to use a cliché.
4) As for preventing increasingly home-grown Islamic radicalism in Australia, perhaps we need to question why this phenomena is starting and occurring, than speaking of stripping the citizenship from those Australians who return to their homeland because they made a horrific and terrible mistake. (In this instance, I am wholeheartedly of the opinion that these Australians need to be judged by our judiciary, not our Immigration Minister.) We need to ask why these young men and women are seeking to support the ideologies and radicalism of IS. There seems to be a creeping malaise in Australia – I used to think it commenced during Prime Minister Howard’s time in office. One of this week’s readings took me a little aback, but on further reflection and analysis, I see why such contentions were made to the contrary. I am referring to the following quote from Wiseman (1996, p. 107):
“…anecdotal and opinion poll evidence suggests that the dominant Australian social mood is one of cynicism and ‘sullenness’ combined with fears about the effect of rapid change in a fragmented world in which there are few sources of certainty, faith or inspiration. As a wide range of commentators have noted this deepening sense of risk, anxiety and a collapse of trust in religious and political institutions is a pervasive feature of post industrial, post Fordist societies and has given rise to a variety of responses by political parties desperately attempting to recapture supporters and a sense of direction.”
I would not be surprised if this social mood still exists today. Furthermore, it also would come as no shock if this kind of disquiet and anxiety is also wholly or partially motivating some of our youth to radicalise and seek meaning in IS – it is their youth that leads them to make such massive errors of judgement, in my opinion… not in all cases, but I think it is a factor in most.
Thanks to everyone for such a thought-provoking discussion. 🙂
Wiseman, J. (1996). ‘A Kinder Road to Hell? Labor and the Politics of Progressive Competitiveness in Australia’. Socialist Register, London: Merlin Press.