A critical evaluation of Australia’s role in the campaign against global terrorism – the case for a more neutral role

Academics within the Social Sciences and Humanities departments have put forward a broad range of views on the Twenty First century affliction that is global terrorism. While the United States has taken upon itself the prime responsibility of waging “war on terror”, the rest of the world is not so sure about its intentions. There are exceptions, of course, and there is no surprise in the fact that Britain and Australia have continued their long standing position as junior partners to American initiatives – diplomatic or military. This is a tradition that has its origins in the common Anglo-Saxon roots of the respective nations’ elite. While joining the American led ‘Coalition of the Willing’ might help boost the Australian economy, there is more to the issue than just prosperity. In the course of the essay I will be arguing that the status quo lacks prudence and how a neutral stand on the war on terrorism will augur well for Australia’s long term future (Lee, 2007, p.601).

The foremost argument against Australian participation in the war on terror is a simple one – that terror breeds more terror. The two nations targeted for terrorists or their perceived threats are Afghanistan and Iraq. Both the nations are now in dismal social and economic condition. Its civilians are drenched in conditions of poverty and a state of misery and despair. For people surviving in refugee camps the idea of being agents of terrorism is very appealing. It is understandable: rather than dying of starvation after being humiliated and dispossessed, it is far nobler to give up one’s life voluntarily (Bendle, 2004, p.115). There is pride in martyrdom for the surviving Afghans and Iraqis (although there is no evidence of Iraqi hand in any of the terrorist acts of the last few years). So, the Australian mission of curbing terrorism by bombing innocent civilians will only lead to escalating terrorist acts. This self-defeating logic employed by the Australian government is bound to back-fire sooner than later. Rather, the Australian policy makers will be better advised to wage wars on poverty eradication, for environmental protection, etc, which are more pressing necessities that the one in discussion (De Castro, 2004, p.193).

Moreover, the benign façade of the “free market” has been exposed in case after case. The Australian foreign policy of trying to spread “democracy” and “free market capitalism” to the third world does not hold much merit, in that, what is good for trans-national corporations like Halliburton and Chevron is not necessarily good for a majority of people. To the contrary, “free markets”, as defined by the WTO, have only increased economic disparities across the world. In the context of the impoverished people of Afghanistan and Iraq, they would choose the religious solace provided by “jehadist” martyrdom than wait for “extravagant promises of earthly riches” that free-market capitalism proposes to offer but seldom delivers on the promise (Pilger, 2003, p.19).

The Australian government should also keep in mind that the electorate is increasingly gaining a broader awareness of geo-political situations. It can no longer hope that conventional policy frameworks (that were essentially based on imperialist lines) will get electoral approval. A good example of discerning electorate can be found in Spain. In spite of the Aznar government’s official propaganda, its citizens threw Aznar and his cohorts out of power, in light of the Madrid bombings. This suggests that the Spanish populace is aware of the connection between Spain’s involvement in the war on terror and the Madrid bombings; they also knew if they had distanced themselves from the masters in Washington they could have avoided this tragedy. I personally feel that the Australian government should learn from the Spanish example. This sentiment is also expressed by John Lee, a respected political commentator, thus:

“The idea that geopolitical strategies should be polluted by a crude popular fear of attack, and that gangs of outlaws should influence democracies, may be abhorrent. But the grisly truth is that poor people in Iraq and Afghanistan have achieved a kind of equality with rich westerners. Both now know fear. Our lives may soon prove as cheap as theirs. That is the progress made so far in the war on terror.” (Lee, 2007, p.602)

The policy makers in Canberra should also remind themselves of the Bali bombings and its causes. The Establishment press, most of it owned or controlled by Rupert Murdoch and keen on promoting its own interests had presented a blanket view in its Bali reports. For example, the Australian mainstream media wants its citizens to believe that the terror attack in the Indonesian island was a sequel to the campaign of hatred against western way of life that was kick-started with September 11 attacks. But this view-point is not accurate. If only the Australian press will see the attacks as an act of retaliation against Australia for its alliance with the United States, its citizens can have more peaceful holidays (Razack, 2006, p.12).

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