Taking the Fight to ISIL

With the decision by the Australian government to go to war in Iraq having gained momentum with the recent arrest of alleged terrorists at home, Professor Ramesh Thakur argues that the logic behind this decision may not be so intuitive.

So we are off to war in the Middle East, again; that graveyard of Western interventions for over a century, whether good intentioned or ill. Except no one dare call it war, for fear of stirring up some scary ghosts from recent history.

The military response to the Islamic State (IS) is unexceptionable in principle, given the group’s existential threat …

US allies and its wars of choice

CANBERRA – The by-now defused crisis of threatened U.S.-led military strikes on Syria raised once again the difficult question of how Washington’s allies should deal with U.S. wars of choice rather than necessity.

Should the United States fall under armed attack, Australia would respond spontaneously, wholeheartedly and unreservedly to fight shoulder to shoulder with kith and kin, as it should. Japan, constitutionally barred from providing combat help overseas, could still offer fulsome diplomatic support.

In an unequal alliance relationship, the same does not hold in reverse: The guarantor may not always find it expedient to come to the military defense …

Right way to send a message

CANBERRA – For a U.S. president who first gained prominence for his gift with words, Barack Obama can be remarkably loose with his language no matter how grave the context and potential consequences. His policy conundrum on Syria stems from a casual drawing of a red line at a press conference last year if chemical weapons were used. Now, to avoid red faces — also known as loss of presidential and national credibility — the red line ultimatum requires a demonstration of U.S. military power robust enough to avoid being mocked but not so sharp as to tip the scales …

Is America now becoming an international outlaw?

THE HAGUE – A week has proven to be a long time in international politics. On Aug. 26, arriving in Europe, NATO military strikes on Syria seemed both inevitable and imminent to punish it for alleged chemical weapons use on Aug. 21. On Thursday, the British Parliament rejected, by a 285-272 vote, the government motion that would have paved the way for British participation. Prime Minister David Cameron said he would respect the vote. By Friday, the United States was looking decidedly lonely and exposed in its hard-line stance that military attacks were still necessary and could be launched without …

Substitute question marks for exclamation marks

CANBERRA – A terrible tragedy is unfolding in (fill in the name of your favorite trouble spot). Something must be done. This (choose from sending troops, air strikes, enforcing a no fly zone, arming rebels) is something. Therefore it must be done.

Such is what passes for much of policy advice by some analysts, many unembarrassed by their dismal record on Iraq 10 years ago. The latest trouble spot of choice for their penetrating insights is Syria. And the latest development to have heightened their excitability is claims of chemical weapons — sarin, a banned nerve gas — having been …

Why did we go to war in Iraq?

Taking a country to war is the single most solemn international responsibility of any government. It requires our soldiers to kill complete strangers solely on the authority of the government. It puts their lives on the line. Death and serious injury to the soldiers can mean broken dreams and shattered futures for their families. It can leave families and entire villages traumatised in countries where the fighting takes place. It may sow bitter hatred among peoples and create foreign enemies for generations. It can inspire acts of terror against Australian people and symbols. This is why war must always be …