Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Confusion Reigns

Wednesday, 5 February 2003

After checking out the Oz today, I can't resist taking time out from writing episode 2 of my just war series to comment on today's article by my favourite hero-columnist. It begins thus:

FORGET Iraq for a moment. Australia would not commit troops to a war just because the UN told us to. We would decide the case for war ourselves. Come back to Iraq. The logic is strangely different. The Australian's Newspoll yesterday revealed that most Australians will blindly defer to the UN. Seventy-five per cent agree that Saddam Hussein is hiding weapons of mass destruction. Sixty-five per cent say he is a threat to global security. We all know that Hussein is in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Hans Blix told us last week. Yet 76 per cent of Australians don't support a war without UN approval.

Got that? Australia wouldn't commit troops to a war because the UN told us to - we'd decide the case for ourselves. As we are doing with Iraq, where the debate is (in part) over whether we should go as allies of the US or wait for the UN to sanction military action against Iraq. I'm not sure, but I get the impression that the author thinks that the UN security council might dob us in for a nasty bit of peacekeeping that none of the other nations in the world playground are willing to touch. If that happened, apparently most Australians would (grudgingly) accept that we have to take on the job because it came from the UN, although there might be a bit of whinging along the lines of "How come New Zealand never gets picked to do this shit?" How do we know this? Because 76 per cent of Australians don't support going off to do our global yard duty without UN approval. More, perhaps, a case of "Why should we do this shit if no-one else wants it done?"

There's a lot in the middle about the history and charter of the UN, and Robert Menzies' recognition in 1950 that it was basically a flawed body. You can read that for yourselves - I'm going to cut to the chase:

The UN has a useful role in humanitarian work, peacekeeping (once others have created a peace to keep) and providing a forum to exchange views. But it can't guarantee world peace. The UN's prevarication over Iraq shows how it can hardly become more than its members permit. Yet still most Australians defer to the UN. Go figure.

Tough call, isn't it? My guess is that those 76 per cent of Australians aren't rapt in the idea of unilateral action against Iraq on the basis of a questionable justification. Are they deferring to the UN or unwilling to defer completely to the US? Maybe this is the way we choose to maintain our belief that we live in an independent nation.

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