“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it wrongly and applying unsuitable remedies.” Groucho Marx
He may not be able to take a trick when it comes to winning trust or building confidence but Tony Abbott certainly knows how to look for trouble. After threatening to shirt-front Russian President, Vladimir Putin, at the G20 last year, an embarrassingly inappropriate blustering that did nothing to improve his standing as a statesman and everything to make himself look foolish, our bizarrely behaving PM, is like a rat up a drainpipe when it comes to the next big misadventure. You can’t hold him back.
This week he’s sending us into Syria, a nation torn apart by civil war; buying into trouble without explaining why; without bothering to make a case. Does he have even have a case? Or is his move just a cynical ploy to divert us from his failed domestic policies; his disastrous rating in opinion polls? As usual, his government likes to keep us in the dark.
For a man who publicly loves to disparage speculation, the PM does everything to encourage it. Abbott offers no strategy. No analysis. Just more bullshit. We get more empty rhetoric about stopping the ‘evil death cult’ Daesh as if our six thirty year old Hornets are somehow going to make all the difference. The US has failed to halt ISIS so far, despite 6,500 air strikes.
Abbott’s Syrian adventure is presented as a ‘logical extension’ of bombing ISIS in Iraq. Not a word is uttered about its effect on Syria. If we do ‘degrade and destroy’ ISIS, we help Assad the butcher stay in power. Whatever the outcome we have bought into a conflict where we are unwelcome. We have already got up the nose of Syria’s powerful ally, Russia. Iran is likely to be hostile also.
Australia will not increase its troop numbers despite their wider deployment. Australia has 400 personnel supporting aerial missions over Iraq and 200 SAS soldiers training Iraqi counter-terrorism units. Another 300 soldiers are training Iraqi forces at the Taji training base north of Baghdad.
This refutes Abbott’s claim that the US urgently needs us in Syria. If we can manage with our current small troop numbers; with our six planes, there is no operational urgency to enter Syrian air space. Unless we are there symbolically to send a message to Russia and Iran.
In announcing that the RAAF will invade Syrian air space to bomb ISIS military targets, Abbott must now face down both Russia and Iran, nations who are now stepping up their support for Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s genocidal regime.
Just how Australia’s new bombing role will be achieved or at what cost is not mentioned. ISIS is embedded amidst the Syrian people. Bombing raids ignore the hard-learned lessons of Vietnam. A guerrilla army cannot be defeated from the air. So Australia is to provoke other nations by embarking on a futile and dangerous mission. Now there’s a captain’s call.
Russia has already condemned Australia’s involvement. A spokesman for Russian Ambassador Vladimir Morozov told the ABC today that US-led airstrikes on IS targets have not achieved much and that what was required was a broad, international coalition.
In the meantime, the Russians are expanding their presence in Iran, a presence which dates back to the soviet era with military arrivals by air reported and two tank carriers arriving by sea. Lebanese sources say that the Russians are establishing two bases, one inland and one on the coast.
In the last few days, Iran has committed soldiers ‘on the ground’ to help Syria. The troops are there ‘in cooperation with’ Vladimir Putin who is also using the presence of ISIS as an excuse to maintain a Russian presence in Syria. There are strategic concerns, a gas pipeline; access to it naval facility at the port of Tartus.
Australia is not alone in deciding to enter Syria. French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron, have both announced bombing campaigns in Syria. Like Abbott, they have been quick to make claims which justify intervention in Syria as somehow addressing the needs of the mass exodus of Syrian refugees.
Abbott’s solution to the refugee crisis borrows the same crazy logic that the more bombings we conduct over their villages, their homes, their heads, the more likely Syrians will be to decide to stay home.
The Prime Minister has failed to take us into his confidence; failed to explain his real reasons for entering Syria. He cannot say what victory would look like when questioned by journalists. He has moreover, let us know that our presence has no clear end date.
Without aims, without strategy, without explanation, without real political leadership, Australia is being dragged into another foreign conflict which can only end badly for us. Whatever his hopes of improving his party’s chances in Canning, whatever dreams he has of reversing his massive unpopularity, Tony Abbott is looking for trouble in Syria.