Sunday, October 27, 2002

Fish in a Very Small Barrel

Sunday, 27 October 2002

This rousing call to arms from John Carroll first appeared in the Financial Review on October 18th. In it he draws two lessons from the Bali bombing - one for Australia, the other for the entire West. The article doesn't seem to have attracted a lot of attention in blogging circles - perhaps I am the only Oz blogger lacking the good sense to ignore it.

There has been a lot of talk about the Bali being "our own backyard". Dr Carroll finds this golden nugget of metaphor in the mud of cliche:

A landmine has been detonated in the backyard.

He goes on to excoriate John Howard's favourite people:

There are messages here for elites. The inappropriateness of pacifist tendencies in sections of the Australian left, and the churches, is exposed - this is not a moment to "turn the other cheek".

This will no doubt win back for Dr Carroll a lot of the intellectual brownie points his Meditation on Terror has lost him in some circles. I doubt that they will be too pleased by the lesson he wants the West to learn:

If the domestic lesson is for realism and toughness, the lesson for the West as a whole is that a war against Iraq is a diversion.

On the other hand, those lefties of pacifist tendencies who oppose war on Iraq for just this reason will probably find themselves grudgingly agreeing with Dr Carroll at this point. But don't get your hopes up kiddies:

Nevertheless, if the United States does invade Iraq, with or without United Nations authorisation, Australia has no choice but to provide support. Bin Laden has made sure that what we face is a war of civilisations. The West is the target. Consequently the West has to stick together, minimising internal dissension, for the sake of morale.

I'm not going to argue that the threat is not real - this is not Cold Comfort Farm and Al-Quaeda is more than Aunt Ada Doom's "something nasty in the wood-shed". Although you might be forgiven for thinking that a lot of the statements we have been hearing about the world becoming a more dangerous place have precisely the same purpose as Aunt Ada's "something nasty". To just what extent does Dr Carroll believe we should minimise internal dissensions? The least possible dissent you can have in any individual state is none at all, and we all know (from the example of Iraq, as it turns out) the kind of measures that are required to achieve a complete absence of dissent. Or at least its appearance.

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