Australian Prime Minister, John Howard made a presentation to the Institue for Public Affairs last Wednesday night. We believe it was a missed opportunity. PM Howard likes to see the world purely in terms of right or wrong. This might be morally upright but it is not going to solve the complex and seemingly intractable problems in Iraq.
Given Mr Howard’s obvious belief system and world view it would be unrealistic to expect him to have announced that he was going to pull Australia’s troops out of Iraq anytime soon. But the situation in Iraq has gone way beyond an argument about whether the troops should stay or come home. The argument is, having got ourselves involved in the mess in Iraq what do we do next. Just to say we are going to keep our troops there until the job is done is totally inadequate to the current situation. Just keeping on doing what we have been doing, just harder, is not going to solve anything.
Mr Howard had the opportunity to outline a new strategy for Iraq. That might have involved some original thought on how the UN could be incolved. It might have involved a greater role for Australian diplomats. Our diplomats have got the runs on the board in nation building within our region.
The PM had a responsibility to show intellectual as well as moral leadership on this issue. It is a matter of national regret that he missed that opportunity.