One thing that’s striking about our election campaign in contrast to the one being waged in the US, is the almost deafening silence on the war in Iraq; while Iraq dominates the US campaign, there has been barely a word about the war in Australia. Of course, it’s the conventional wisdom that Howard has it all over Latham on matters of defence and national security, and so Latham is sticking to domestic policy basics. But — given the times in which we live — surely it’s in the national interest to debate these issues.
Indeed, on any considered analysis, it’s far from obvious that Howard’s foreign policy has led Australia in the right direction. We’ve written before about the complete loss of our leadership role in multilateral trade reform. And what of the war in Iraq? As the number of US casualties passes the 1,000 mark and US officials concede that insurgents control important parts of country (read here), it’s hard to spin this one. Last week Britain’s prestigous Royal Institute for International Affairs released a sobering report predicting that the most likely outcome is that Iraq will fragment or descend into civil war. (click <a href="http://www.riia.org/index.php?id=189&pid=168&PHPSESSID=d185a1ba95c147db2c41538f476d5045
“>here to read the full report). Voters would do well to ask whether nodding agreement with the Bush administration really does make for a good foreign policy.
From a campaign perspective, Labor strategists should consider challenging the CW and taking up this issue — not because Iraq is high on voters’ minds, but because how we got there plays into an important broader character narrative about Howard and the way he governs. The ALP and others have been pushing this “Howard lies” line. The problem with this line is that — while it’s clearly true — it’s a polarizing argument. Far more subtle and effective IMHO would be the argument that Howard, as a leader, has not been completely “fair dinkum” with the Australian people on this and many other issues — he doesn’t deliberately set out to misled us, but he doesn’t pay sufficient attention to the truth; he plays a bit fast and loose with the facts. And here’s the kicker — after eight years in power he’s getting worse. There are lots of examples that ALP strategists could point to (here’s our own little irrelevant, but funny example). Latham and his surrogates ought to be arguing that surely the Australian people deserve a leader who’s going be fair dinkum with them. Fair dinkum on health. Fair dinkum on education. And fair dinkum when it comes to sending Australia’s young men and women to war.
[Posted by David Madden]