RICHARD WOOLCOTT. The US has ‘wasted $6 trillion’ in the Middle East without achieving any success.

In a statement on 27 February President Trump said that the United States
had spent $ 6 trillion in the Middle East and had ” got nowhere “. It had produced  a “mess” and a ” hornet’s nest “. In a conflict United States must always be “winning ,or not fighting at all”.  

I have been recommending for a year now that Australia must focus on our region of the world,and end our military and Air Force involvements in the
highly complex conflicts in the Middle East.   President Trump’s frank assessment on this particular point reinforces my attitude .

Trump may suggest a much greater defence budget could turn the tide against the I S group in the Middle East and the Yemen. However,the only viable solution, distasteful as it has been to the Turnbull Government and the Shorten lead  Opposition, is the return of authority to Assad in Syria. We need to accept that Australia cannot make a meaningful contribution to the resolution of the awful situation in Syria without Assad.

President Trump may also think he can influence the Middle East situation by the promotion of a Sunni front against Iran and we should play no part in any such activity. The United States must also re-assess its unwillingness to accept any role for Iran in the ongoing conflicts and tensions throughout the Middle East.

I have always sought to determine my attitude all our policies in  our – Australia’s – national interest . Unfortunately ,our present political culture seems to have drifted into trench warfare. As Paul Kelly noted in today’s Australian a chasm has opened up between our domestic politics and our real national interests. The Coalition ,and especially the ALP Opposition,are waging populist campaigns.

In this serious situation Australia faces the very real danger of finding itself being left behind and being less relevant in our own region.

So! I worry for my children,grandchildren and great grandchildren .

Richard Woolcott is a former Head of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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