Following the attacks on Paris by Islamic terrorists, ordinary activity in the city of Brussels has almost stopped because of the acknowledgement by the authorities that there is a serious risk of an attempt to repeat there the Paris attacks. Meanwhile, two copy attacks in Northern Nigeria by the Islamist group Boko Haram added 47 killed to the many already murdered there.
Those who watched this morning’s Bolt report will have welcomed his exchanges with Rowan Dean (Editor of The Spectator) and their correction of the absurd dismissal by Turnbull of the fact that the terrorists are driven by religious motives. The idea that “God” could not inspire killings is not only absurd: it completely neglects history.
Turnbull’s “alliance” at the international meetings with Obama (except over the treatment of Syria) has been much praised by Australian media –or as Henderson put it on Insiders, Turnbull has received a similar “fawning” as Whitlam did after he outed McMahon. Certainly, the general discussion at Insiders failed to deal substantively with some key issues, in particular the religious influence.
Interestingly, Obama himself has not received what one might call a “welcome” home. Polling there shows 57% do not favour his strategy for defeating IS, 60% favour putting boots on the ground, and 53% do not want Syrian refugees (24 State governors oppose them too). The realisation that violent Islamism is not limited to the Middle East but extends to Europe too (and might even be directed at Washington) has started to penetrate US psyche.
The extent of the penetration is reflected in this article by a scholar at the Brookings Institute, a think tank which is regarded as favouring Democrat governments. The analysis by Kagan seems excellent to me, in particular his support for putting troops on the ground (including by initially creating a peace zone in Syria) and his reminder of the extent to which in the past the US has used troops on the ground to defend western values in Europe. This analysis reinforces suggestions I (and others) have been making about the failure of Obama’s leadership, but Kagan is not optimistic about a change of strategy by Obama.
Even so, Turnbull should recognise the desirability of putting Australian policy at arms length from US policy pursued by Obama: the US must remain our ally but even allies do sometimes disagree. This is particularly relevant to the notion that we should not support US boots on the ground (including by offering to participate with more ourselves). As I pointed out in my last note, both the US and Australia are conducting air strikes with a view to (at least) degrading IS and it is absurd to suggest (as Turnbull has done) that the US shouldn’t put troops on the ground because it (and us) don’t know what would happen if IS is defeated!
As one of the participants said in this morning’s Bolt report, Turnbull is a business leader and needs more briefing on foreign policy issues, particularly on understanding the driving forces behind violent Islamism. The article below should be a start. Mark Durie is an Anglican preacher who has educated himself on the Muslim religion and has published an excellent analysis in a book, The Third Choice. As Durie says
“However, the first step in understanding a cultural system alien to one’s own is to describe it in its own terms. We can and must love our neighbour, as Waleed Aly urged this week on Network Ten’s The Project, but this need not prevent us from understanding our enemy, and to do this we need to grasp that this latest slaughter was shaped by religious beliefs”.
It should be a top priority for top advisers in Canberra to update Turnbull and his minister on the Muslim religion.