Scott Morrison is not too keen on history.When it comes to politics – or at least the politics of the Liberal Party, which to him is all that matters – history began with his election as Prime Minister. Everything that happened before then, and especially in the three years before then, is utterly irrelevant – it should, must, be forgiven and forgotten.
But one might have hoped that he had at least a vague recollection of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan – the various conflicts in which Australia forgot, or worse, deliberately ignored, its national interest to support American adventures which have led with disastrous unforseen consequences.
But if he has the awareness, he obviously does not care – he is about to plummet from the precipice yet again. History repeating.
The apparent hesitation is entirely confected. Even before Donald Trump’s chief warmonger, Mike Pompeo, arrived in Canberra to issue his marching orders, it was already clear that Morrison was ready, indeed eager, to agree to follow the United States into the forthcoming war with Iran.
Of course, that is not the way it will be spun: we will be told – we already have been told – that it is all about de-escalation. Give us a break – sending a military task force is de-escalation?
And this is a confected crisis, a conflict of Trump’s personal devising. All America’s serious allies – not some, but all – begged him to maintain the nuclear deal with Iran. But alliances and treaties are irrelevant when Trump’s ego is involved. The Iran pact was successful legacy of his reviled predecessor Barack Obama so obviously it had to be trashed.
And the only ones egging him on were, and are, Saudi Arabia, whose murderous Sunni dictators are determined to crush all Shia, and Israel, whose aggressive, authoritarian, ultra-nationalist Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to crush all opposition, whether real, potential or imagined.
And in any case, for Trump conflict is the default position – it is as natural to him as tweeting and lying. And Morrison, for all his phoney amiability, is not far behind him. He may talk of temperance and restraint, but his current mantra is: “Whose side are you on?” When The Donald blows the whistle, ScoMo will be in it with his ears back.
But he will still refuse to talk about the war – it will be all about freedom of navigation, a coalition of the willing to protect our national interest – and Australia’s oil imports in particular, although we won’t hear so much about that. We are defending democratic values, and we have absolutely no intention of actually going to war.
But for those of us who remember a little history, the idea that we can only put it in a little way and if it hurts we will pull it out again is a dangerous lie.
When Robert Menzies sent Australian military advisers to South Vietnam, he solemnly assured us that actual troops would never be involved. But soon, as soon as Washington asked us, he enthusiastically sent in the troops and later, disgracefully, conscripts who were sent to fight and die before they were allowed to vote. We only withdrew from the bloody morass shortly before our great and powerful friend retreated in disorder, defeat and humiliation.
A generation later, John Howard invoked the sacred alliance to embroil us in Iraq after Saudi terrorists domiciled in Afghanistan attacked the United States. This tenuous link was spun as the need to eliminate entirely mythical weapons of mass destruction. And once again it ended in disaster – the rise of the hideous Islamic State, whose aftermath remains today and whose reach now extends to Australia largely because we fell in with the folly. But hey, it wasn’t all bad – it became the phoney rationale for a raft of oppressive laws in the name (as always) of national security.
This is a cause dear to what Morrison calls his heart. So who knows what useful additions may emerge as the forthcoming war against Iran may develop? But it is probably giving ScoMo too much foresight, too much intelligence to believe that he even thinks he know what he’s doing. He is just tagging along, convinced that his quiet Australians are now up for any thought bubble he may float. If he and they can ignore the past, why worry about the future? And a khaki election in 2022 won’t hurt either.
And the real horror is that Iran may be just the entree. Trump’s belligerence against China is rising to a critical point. And the trigger will, as before be freedom of navigation, this time in the South China Sea. If – when – this leads to a serious incident, or one is deliberately manufactured, (as happened in the Gulf of Tonkin back in the Vietnam days), there will be real risk of nuclear war.
Unthinkable? Not for some. Pompeo and his fellow crazy, John Bolton, are already getting close to the ”Better dead than red” mentality of the previous cold war. Trump himself, a couple of years ago, complained that there was no point in having nuclear weapons unless he could use them, and has just ditched yet another disarmament treaty.
And closer to home, Morrison’s hard right ally, Andrew Hastie, has compared China to Nazi Germany and warned that Australia must be prepared to hit back. He apparently casts himself as Winston Churchill in a party of Neville Chamberlains – he can’t wait to fight them on the beaches.
This is the mindset, to give it a flattering term, of those we have just re-elected – a party which, having no discernible agenda for peace, is now preparing for war. And not even its own war – the war now being orchestrated by an idiot egomaniac half a world away, a psychotic who seems to regard Armageddon not as the end of the world, but as some kind of victory. redemption.
From an Australian point of view, it all sounds horribly Pentacostalist. And for Scott Morrison, there is always a bright side: not only does he get to go to his chosen heaven, but he won’t have to worry about climate change any more. That will just about make annihilation worthwhile in itself.