Bombing Syria: What’s in it for Australia?


By CJ Werleman

August 30, 2015 “Information Clearing House” –  Australia’s isolation from its western (white) allies has bestowed on the Australian people a deep insecurity that long ago metastasised into a permanent siege mentality – the belief that “uncivilised” hordes from the Asian continent will invade, conquer, and colonise the Australian mainland the same way the British usurped indigenous Australians 227 years ago.

For the first half of the 20th century, Australia turned to its colonial master – Great Britain – for its national security blanket. For much of the first half of the 20th century, Britain was the world’s unrivaled naval superpower, which assured Australians that no potential foe would “mess with the South Pacific” – equivalent of Texas.

When the natural resource hungry imperialist Japan swept China, and the respective colonial militaries of Thailand, Burma, and the Philippines aside, only Singapore and the British military stood between the Japanese military and Australia.

Long story short: British guns were pointed the wrong way. Expecting a naval invasion, British artillery faced the sea, but the Japanese invaded overland via the Malay Peninsula. And when the British signed the surrender of Singapore on 15 February 1942, what was once Australia’s security blanket had been fretted away into a flimsy white sheet.

Out of strategic necessity, Australia promptly adopted a new big brother: the United States of America.

For the past 70 years, Australia has acted like the wimpy kid who sucks up to the schoolyard bully for the purpose of ensuring his own protection. While the US media lavishes accolades and praise on Israel and Britain for their respective “special relationship” with the United States, Australia is the only country to have followed the US into every international conflict it has fought since and including World War II.

When the US invaded the Korean Peninsula, Australian troops were there. When the US invaded Vietnam, Australian troops were there. When the US invaded Iraq in 1990, well, you guessed it – Australian troops were there, and my countrymen were also there in Afghanistan, Iraq 2003, and Iraq 2014.

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a conservative, was so lock step with the US Administration during the early years of the War on Terror, that some in the liberal press anointed Howard with the embarrassing, yet comically accurate, nickname – “Bonsai” – as in a “little Bush”. Get it?

Living up to his nickname, Bonsai Howard, speaking at an Asia-Pacific Summit, boasted Australia is America’s “sheriff” in the South Pacific region.

“I suppose America wants a puppet of its own in this region whom they can trust who will do whatever they wish,” responded Malaysian Deputy Defense Minister Shafie Apdal.

There was no justifiable or valid reason for Howard to follow Bush into a war of choice that was Iraq. All it did was put a target on Australia’s back. Australia’s involvement in Iraq made it precipitously more dangerous for Australian tourists abroad – and several al-Qaeda led attacks specifically targeted against Australian interests and people in Indonesia in the years 2002 to 2009 speaks to that assertion.

The right-wing led argument for supporting the US invasion of Iraq was built upon the contention that read, “If we (Australia) don’t support America over there, America might not support Australia the day the ‘enemy’ comes here.” An absurd argument given Australia and the US share a NATO like treaty (ANZUS), and equally absurd given a number of US dependent military allies sat out the Iraq invasion – including Canada, France, and Germany.

When America rings, Australia answers.

A couple weeks ago, the Australian prime minister’s phone received an incoming call from the office of the US president once again. Obama asked Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a conservative, to increase its commitment towards the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.

Australia already has six fighter jets and a number of support aircraft involved in the effort to defeat IS, and Abbott has said he is “seriously considering” Obama’s request to expand its role into Syria, and that he’ll make his decision in a “couple of weeks”.

A decision that, as Australian journalist Peter Hartcher contends, has already been made. “In truth, Australia engineered the request from the Obama administration, according to sources involved,” writes Hartcher. “In the customary way, the matter was closely coordinated in secret well before the formal American request arrived last week.”

In other words, the Australian prime minister is so eager to please his American master that he has orchestrated and engineered a narrative that allows Australia to actually volunteer for what amounts to an air invasion of Syria.

In a recent interview, Abbott illustrated his argument for expanding Australia’s airstrikes against IS: “Whether it’s operating in Iraq or Syria it is an absolutely evil movement and in the end, when they don’t respect the border, the question is why should we?”

Wait, what? I can think of at least one reason why we should “respect the border.” That reason is a little notion commonly known as international law. You know, it’s actually quite illegal to invade a sovereign nation. But Australia’s equivalent of secretary of state, Julie Bishop, echoed Abbot’s line of reasoning when she said, “Under the principle of collective self-defence of Iraq and its people, the coalition have extended that self-defence into Syria because the border between Syria and Iraq is no longer governed.”

It’s extraordinary that Australia’s political leaders are suddenly so indifferent to international borders given said leaders have been incessantly banging on about Australia’s “immigration crisis” – a manufactured pseudo-crisis manufactured by the right to whip Australia’s deep rooted fear of brown-skinned immigrants.

Allow me to put it bluntly: Australia is an isolated Pacific island at the bottom of the earth that shares a border with dolphins and fish. It will never have an “immigration crisis”.

In returning to the overarching point, however, what can Australia possibly gain by bombing yet another country in the Middle East? I mean, what’s in it for us? And more importantly, why aren’t an overwhelming number of Australians asking, “What’s bloody in it for us?”

You don’t need to be a military analyst to know that America is the world’s unrivalled military superpower taking on a terror group that gets around the mostly desert wasteland of Iraq and Syria in the back of pick-up trucks. A Toyota Hi-Lux is the IS equivalent of a F-18 fighter jet. If America needs our airplanes to defeat an enemy like this – maybe Australia needs to remember Singapore – and then appoint China as its new big brother.

Moreover, there is no shortage of fighter jets and bombers in the region. US allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Qatar are armed to the teeth with US manufactured military aircraft. These allies can see the Islamic State from their backyard. Australia can’t even see New Zealand from its.

Notwithstanding the fact that US led coalition airstrikes against ISIS have been ineffective. In an interview with VICE News, Paul Stanley, director for a private security firm in Iraq, said, “The air campaign has the appearance of being reactive and opportunistic… but the overall impression is that they are not the force multiplier that was anticipated.”

Australian airstrikes in Syria would be especially counterproductive given the Iran nuclear deal has opened a path to diplomacy with the Assad regime – an opening that has already kick started talks between Assad, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.

Clearly, Australian military involvement in Iraq and Syria offers no measurable or tangible benefit to the US led coalition effort to defeat ISIS. Clearly, there is no measurable or tangible benefit to Australia for bombing another country in the Middle East.

Clearly, Australia’s ever reliable eagerness to please its military minder is yet another reminder that Australia remains an insecure country ever fearful of its brown skinned neighbours.

CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America, God Hates You. Hate Him Back, Koran Curious, and is the host of Foreign Object. Follow him on twitter: @cjwerleman

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