Howard To Iraq : We're Not Leaving Until You Say We Can
Howard Shoots For National Security Poll Rise In Desperate Attempt To Stave Off Leadership Challenge
Update : According to this story from the Melbourne Age, on today's speech by PM Howard on national security and the Iraq War, detailed below, Howard will say that Australia has a "major stake of oil dependency", and this is one of the key reasons why we had to become involved in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. So it was a war for oil after all.
Perhaps by no coincidence, The Australian newspaper also features a major story today on how we are now entering an age when Australian will suffer from major oil deficits, where in the past we had enjoyed locally sourced oil supply surpluses.
Update II : Both John Howard and defence minister Brendan Nelson discussed the need for Australia to continue the occupation of Iraq to secure future oil supplies, and all hell broke loose.
Original Story Follows :
John Howard will move today to dispel any doubt about his intention to keep more than 550 Australian combat troops in Iraq until the Iraqi government says they can go home.
Which raises doubts about this story from last week, which claimed Howard had a secret plan to pull out most of Australia's fighting forces from Iraq in early 2008. The doubt raised, then, is that the leak used in the story was a plant, a set-up to gauge the public reaction to a withdrawal of Australian troops. The reaction from most Australians was "yeah, so what?" Howard can now dismiss any notion raised by Labor on the way to the federal election that he is planning to pull troops out once the election is over.
Off the back of the currently very weak links between the spectacularly hopeless car bombing attempts in London and Glasgow and an Australian-based doctor, Howard is expected to ramp up both the threat of homegrown terror, and the threat of terror attacks from non-Australians who are visiting, or working, here.
Howard's core message will be simple : Australia is not pulling its fighting forces out of Iraq, and Australia is not withdrawing from Afghanistan. Not until the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan say our troops are no longer needed :
In a major security speech, Mr Howard will stress the stark consequences of a failure by the US and its allies to secure Iraq.
He will argue that the military coalition cannot allow weariness, frustration or political convenience to dictate strategy in Iraq.
Mr Howard today will launch a new defence policy statement, which underscores the strategic importance of the Middle East to global security and Australia's broader national interests.
The document warns of a far more complex and challenging global environment facing Australia's military.
It says Australia's new security challenges dictate a military force able not only to play a lead role in the region, but also to operate in an expanded range of operations further afield with close allies.The 65-page defence update declares that violent extremism will remain a threat around the world for a generation "and probably longer".
It says the stakes are high in Iraq and Afghanistan, not only for the peace and stability of those countries, but also because the outcome will influence how the US will deal with future global security challenges.
A critical danger remains the prospect of terror groups such as al-Qa'ida getting hold of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.
Increasingly, military technology once available only to nation states is being used by terror groups and other non-state actors. Organisations such as al-Qa'ida are unlikely to be deterred from using WMDs by the threat of military retaliation.
The update says extremist terrorism continues to draw funding, support and people from Middle Eastern states.
"For as long as that is true, Australia and like-minded countries need to fight terrorism at its source rather than wait for it to come to our shores.
"To help defeat terrorism Australia must have patience, a sustained military commitment, a willingness to adapt to conditions on the ground and work closely with our friends and allies."
It forecasts the defence force will increasingly be called on to fight irregular opponents and be capable of mounting counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.
In short, Australia will keep fighting the 'War on Terror' for as long as the 'War on Terror' helps to keep spawning new terrorists.
Which also means Australia will keep spending more than $23 billion a year on defence, the second highest per person defence spend in the world (after the United States) for years to come. Not much is expected to change on that front even if Kevin Rudd, and Labor, win the federal election later this year.
Don't expect Howard to do much talking up of the Australian-United States alliance between now and the federal election. He will acknowledge it, but he is unlikely to be seen publicly praising President Bush. At least if his advisers have any say in it.
Pledging a strong and ongoing commitment to fighting the 'War on Terror' is now a coded way for Howard to say that he will continue to support Bush-led American military misadventures around the world for the foreseeable future.
It will be surprising if Howard has anything to say about Australia's involvement in the US 'missile shield' between now and the election, or Australia's involvement in helping the United States to 'encircle' China, in anticipation of a coming trade war between China and the US.
Howard's speech today on Australia's future security "challenges" and his government's role in helping to fight the 'War on Terror' will be seen as probably Howard's last major chance to buzz up his own dismal standings in the polls before Parliament resumes, and to tamp down the grumblings within the Liberal Party on whether or not Howard will destroy their chances of holding onto power in the coming elections.
There was speculation a few months back that Howard had to score a decent rise in national polls, like Newspoll which will begin collecting data on Friday, after Howard's key speech today, or he could be rolled by his own party and removed from the leadership. If Howard was replaced, the coalition government could delay the federal election until early 2008 to give themselves a fighting change. But they still need someone to replace Howard. Someone from the front ranks of the government who doesn't make most Australians wince every time they open their mouths.
Howard may see a slight rise in the polls from today's speech, partly due to unease caused by the, however weak, Australian links to the London car bombing attempts, but he will really have to rally the nation to knock Rudd and the Labor Party off their election winning perch, which they have enjoyed for all of 2007. This seems incredibly unlikely.
The chief problem for Howard today is that while he can pledge to try and keep Australians safe from terror, Australians are more concerned about who is going to keep them safe from Howard and his dishonest, double-dealing, secret agenda heavy, gang.
March, 2007 : Howard Sees Only "Faint Glimmer Of Hope" In Iraq
February, 2007 : Howard Keeps "Own Interest" Option For Early Troop Withdrawal From Iraq
Australian Defence Minister Says There Is No Hope Of Victory In Iraq War