US Defence/Military Policy
Today’s news suggests that the US has made an important change in the handling of the Syrian/Iraq war. The US Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, is reported as stating that the US will “deploy a specialized expeditionary targeting force to Iraq to launch unilateral raids” and “put even more pressure” on ISIS. U.S. special operation forces will conduct operations in Iraq “at the invitation of the Iraqi government” and be in position “to conduct unilateral operations into Syria,” Carter said. “We’re at war. We’re using the might of the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” Carter told the House Armed Services Committee. “Tens of thousands of U.S. personnel are operating in the broader Middle East region, and more are on the way. ” (see “US Policy Change on Syria/Iraq?”).
As yet, the background to this decision is not clear. But the implication is that after Paris Obama has been forced politically to agree to put troops on the ground. Whether it is coincident or not, today’s Australian has published an extract from a speech in the US by Rupert Murdoch on Monday emphasising the recent failure of the US to play a leadership role and the development of ‘a deep distaste for the slow descent of the country” (see “LET US CELEBRATE, NOT SNEER AT, AMERICA’S CONTRIBUTION TO A BETTER WORLD”).
The potential implications for Australia are considerable if the US is effecting a changed military policy and Turnbull feels obliged to follow suit.
In my previous Commentary on Sunday I referred to the TV interview by Josh Frydenberg acknowledging that Australia has a “significant minority of extremist” Islamists and that “religion is part of the problem”. Several colleagues subsequently supported his remarks.
Today’s Australian runs a generally supportive article by editor-at-large Paul Kelly which implies the need for policy changes by the Turnbull government viz, “the public feels under threat. It has every reason for this sentiment” (see “Honest Discussion On Islam’s Role In Terror Is Needed”). Note also the reference by Kelly to the statement by UK PM Cameron at the UN, made even before the Paris attacks, that “we have to root out the extremist preachers that are poisoning the minds of young Muslims in our country”.
By contrast, although French Premier Hollande has received considerable TV coverage for his world-wide visits which supposedly attempted to persuade other leaders to put troops on the ground, he has apparently done nothing domestically to tackle the Islamist problem. The attached article reports that a clear majority of French voters want to put troops on the ground and that 60-70% French see their Islamists as “unwilling to commit to the rule of law … and as responsible for their own failed integration”(see “Hollande’s choice war in Middle East over battle on homefront”).
It is a bit early to predict the outcome of the Paris conference on Climate Change but one cannot by-pass the comment by an SBS reporter last evening that the 80 page draft communiqué is a shambles. Two aspects are worth noting.
First, it appears that a decision has been made that the draft will not be finalised by major world leaders. They seem to have already gone home and there is no indication that they will be coming back in a fortnight’s time. In short, those world leaders want to avoid the shemozzle that occurred five years ago at Copenhagen when according to Kevin Rudd the then Chinese Leader then refused to play ball on the final day and left Kevin, Obama and other looking very foolish indeed (presumably Rudd managed to secure attendance at the first day of this year’s conference because he might be in line for a UN job).
Second, it also appears that the main aim is not to obtain agreement on emissions reductions but to achieve what Hunt describes as “the important thing is the five-yearly reviews” (see “Carbon target review ‘a win for Paris’”) . The realisation that India had already refused to agree to an arrangement that might require a start point of reduced emissions, and that China will not start reducing the level of emissions until 2030, has presumably signalled to participants that no meaningful global agreement can be reached to reduce emissions.
Interestingly, the best PM Turnbull could tell the conference was that “our 2030 target represents real economic effort, and will halve our per capita emissions – one of the biggest reductions of any G20 country. We will meet and beat our 2020 emissions reduction target”. He made no reference to the stated aim of reducing emissions by 26-28 per cent by that time and, because his government is unable to make any criticism of “the science”, proffered no excuse for adopting a lower target than Opposition Leader Shorten’s 50 per cent reduction other than “it is heroic”.
Worth noting is that the only interviewees the ABC decided to have to tell its audience were Kevin Rudd and Erwin Jackson. No serious question was asked of either and no sceptic was interviewed.