26 July 2003

Operation Helpem Fren II

Mike Carlton writing on the Solomons exercise in the Sydney Morning Herald:

The hype is ridiculous. The bloody fight for Guadalcanal began with 11,000 US marines and ferocious sea battles which saw five Allied cruisers sunk, including HMAS Canberra with the loss of 84 lives. It ended, three months later, with some 25,000 Japanese dead.

Helpem Fren, by comparison, is a police operation to restore law and order which, with any luck, will not see a shot fired by the 1500-odd defence personnel sent in support. The Prime Minister has properly and peaceably committed us as the foremost power in the region.

So what, then, prompted his Foreign Minister, Lord Downer of Baghdad, to write the following for the News Ltd papers back in January? "Sending in Australian troops to occupy the Solomon Islands would be folly in the extreme. It would be widely resented in the Pacific region. It would be very difficult to justify to Australian taxpayers. And for how many years would such an occupation have to continue? And what would be the exit strategy?

"The real show-stopper, however, is that it would not work - no matter how it was dressed up, whether as an Australian or a Commonwealth or a Pacific Islands Forum initiative. The fundamental problem is that foreigners do not have answers for the deep-seated problems afflicting the Solomon Islands."

I think Lord Downer should tell us what has changed in six months. Or does he simply spout whatever nonsense enters his silly head?

I've already blogged about how Howard is clearly getting his jollies bestriding the small pond of the South Pacific like a colossus. Bloggorhea bags the whole project comprehensively. While I accept much of their argument about the causes of the collapsed civic order in the Solomons I do not see any way to restore that order without foreign police assistance.

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