The decision to deploy the Australian Defence Forces to the ‘Middle East’ in the middle of the war in Gaza puts the Albanese Government into the same category as many appalling predecessors.
If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, the cynical exploitation of patriotic fervour means that a government has reached the lowest levels of unethical behaviour. Following the attacks by Hamas, the prime minister of Israel has exploited the mess to bolster his standing domestically and internationally. The president of the USA has literally and metaphorically patted him on the back, allowing him to play the strong statesman.
Predictably, AUKUS partners England and Australia have rhetorically offered support to Israel. Meanwhile local populations are aghast at the imbalanced attitude of our supposedly democratic governments. Demonstrations have erupted expressing support for the oppressed people of Palestine.
Now comes the decision to ‘deploy’ Australian defence personnel to the conflict zone. It is understandable that the government would want to be on hand to help evacuate Australians from the killing zone. It has not been made clear exactly where the military will be based. Presumably, the only safe place is in Israel. Again this suggests bias for two reasons: first, it will not be easy to help evacuate Palestinian-Australians and second, it appears as though we will be helping the Israelis in their attacks on Gaza. Given that serious questions are being asked about the lack of restraint shown by Israel and the growing fears that human rights of civilians are being abused, Australia’s reputation as an honest broker is in tatters.
Meanwhile there have been calls for the resignation of the UN Secretary General for daring to state the simple fact that the war did not start in a vacuum. And Palestinian children are having their names inscribed on their forearms. Why? So that their bodies can be identified if pulled from bomb-ravaged rubble. It would be more appropriate to send envoys to urge restraint on the government of Israel than to send the ADF with confused and confusing instructions about the role the Albanese government sees them playing.
Because Australian executive governments do not need to seek parliamentary approval to commit the military overseas, over the years they have cynically used deployment as a means of stifling domestic opposition. Numerous polls have shown that while initially most Australians have opposed commitment to overseas adventures, once our troops are involved in hostilities, the majority tend to place our opposition on hold so that we do not present the military with the image of a country divided and unsupportive. The assumption is that this would be bad for morale, give comfort to the enemy and make us appear unappreciative.
In other words, our politicians exploit our patriotism. Anthony Albanese really should give away the John Curtin/ Doc Evatt glasses. They seem to give a rose tinted view from the inside and give him a perpetual frown. Despite the Coalition’s enthusiasm for overseas adventures, the government should consult parliament more widely in 2023, lest we see a repeat of the disastrous decisions made in 2003.