Although a bit player in the Iraq war and only contributing troops to Iraq to affirm the Australia-US alliance, Australia’s policy towards the Iraq war is one of the key elements in Australian national politics, and it will probably be one of the core elements in this years federal election, if not directly, then as a proxy for the ability of each party to make good decisions in government.
I don’t know what a good approach to the situation in Iraq is, but the recent Parliamentary stoushes on the Iraq war offer an opportunity for the ALP. Howard is clear on what he thinks constitutes a bad policy on the Iraq war (withdrawal of coalition troops), but he doesn’t know what is a good policy, ie how to win it.
The following electoral lines immediately emerge: “Howard’s way to win in Iraq: hope” or “Hope: Howard’s policy on Iraq”.
Howard’s failure to state that the war hasn’t gone well makes him appear out of touch. Electorally, it doesn’t matter whether the decision to go to war was right or not, what matters is whether the right decisions are being made now and in the recent past in the effort to reduce the violence in Iraq, and Howard is offering no such arguments. All he is saying is that withdrawing troops would be catastrophic, that the policies of particular US Presidential candidates are wrong (a stupid thing to say – play the policy and not the person) and that the Labor Party wants to withdraw Australian troops.
But Howard has a problem – people aren’t interested in the ALP’s position as it isn’t in government and what it would do with Australian troops if it wins the next election may well be quite different to what it now says it would do with them. Instead, people are interested in what is happening in the Iraq war now.
Howard’s rattled. Nice to see!