21 July 2003

Sinking in the mire of a messy peace
In other words, there is no end in sight. There is no exit strategy. Rumsfeld and his fellow cowboys in the Pentagon not only spurned the UN, insulted "old" Europe and generally wrought diplomatic mayhem in the lead-up to the war, they also ignored the (Colin) Powell Doctrine, articulated by the man who used to head the US Armed Forces, who supposedly learned the lessons of Vietnam and who is now Secretary of State.

The Powell doctrine says that a country should avoid intervening in international conflicts unless there is a vital interest and a clear, achievable goal.

If the clear goal in Iraq was to get rid of Suddam Hussein, that has only partially been achieved. His government is gone but he appears to be still around, distributing inflammatory tapes and, for all we know, orchestrating the guerilla resistance from a bunker somewhere.

When you look at the costs, the lack of end in sight and the likely need to bring in more and more troops, the war they said would never become "another Vietnam" has all the hallmarks of already being another Vietnam. The US has been desperate to increase the presence of soldiers from other nations, as only 13,000 of the 160,000 troops in Iraq are not American. It has tried to get India to commit 17,000 but they, like Russia, France and Germany, refuse to do so unless there is a new UN mandate.

Australia had no such inhibitions before the Iraq war, and as our thinking is unchanged this could clear the way to our troop commitment increasing further if the Prime Minister's good friend George Bush requests it.

It is a new and unsettling trend for this country to have so many military engagements of this scale and risk. Have we been adequately prepared for it? No. How much consensus is there that it's what we should be doing? Very little.

I guess the US really is dependent on the decisions of others, after all. If only Powell had followed his own doctrine.

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