There is a fundamental lack of understanding of why we are committed to supporting the US and other allies in Afghanistan, writes John Miller.
While much concerted effort and time have been spent on covering the recent G20 meeting in London and proposed plans for the world economy, other matters bubble and simmer beneath the surface in international politics.
London was the first venture for the new US president Barack Obama. It was inevitable that the media would devote much attention to his supposed crassness in dealing with the British Establishment, including the royal family, and to the massive street demonstrations so beloved of our television news programmers.
The current world economic situation, fraught with uncertainty though it is, has tended to obscure other events of global importance that are bound to test the new US administration.
It is not possible to cover everything that President Obama has done or promised to do. Instead, I will briefly outline some of his more noteworthy decisions:
• President Obama made a personal appeal to the people of Iran calling for greater understanding and a new relationship. The response from Tehran was rather cool, at least through official channels.
• Contemporaneously, he made overtures to the Russian government by way of “pressing the reset button” in US-Russian relations, an action presided over by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Meetings with President Dmitry Medvedev at the G20 produced an appearance of bonhomie for the media, but, in terms of practical effect, we will have to await further developments, especially as Iran and nuclear weapons constitute part of the greater problem.
• Having inherited the shambles in Iraq and Afghanistan from George W. Bush, Obama has decided to formulate a new policy towards both countries.
It is the policy on Afghanistan that I wish to discuss briefly, as space permits, because Australia may be asked to send more troops and, as The Australian pointed out last week, our defence forces are run down and have problems with both equipment and manpower. We need larger armed forces – better trained and properly equipped.
The tragedy of the current situation is that government-inspired recruitment drives will go nowhere while the same government persistently refuses to accept responsibility or show a duty of due care for its servicemen, especially veterans returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among our returning soldiers proportionately match US levels.
Delivering Australian sufferers into the hands of Comcare, the Commonwealth Government’s workers’ compensation insurer, is no solution. If the government expects people to fight and risk dying or suffering injury, including being traumatised while on active duty, then it should be prepared to treat them with the respect and care such self-sacrifice deserves.
There are already signs that the war in Afghanistan is unpopular. People continually ask why anybody from the West is in Afghanistan. As casualties mount and more body-bags return, political parties are bound to seek to capitalise on the misfortunes of others.
There is a fundamental lack of understanding of why we are committed to supporting the US and other allies in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda have declared war on us, just as they have on every other Western country – and have specifically named Australia as one of their targets.
Apparently, it is politically incorrect to speak of radical jihadists and Islamist terrorists for what they are – that is, murderers in the name of “Allah, the wise and the merciful”. As usual, the gullible left and those that Lenin once described as useful idiots are planning more demonstrations as they attempt to de-legitimise the democratic West’s life-and-death struggle with terrorism.
Opposition to this struggle is found, not only in political parties, but within the legal system, the so-called civil liberties movement, among the chattering classes and would-be opinion-formers, the churches, academia and a series of what we used to call in the days of the Cold War, “front organisations”.
All have one thing in common: an unremitting hostility towards the United States (an unchanging mindset originating in the Cold War) and a desire to sympathise and even identify with those who have been prepared to be martyrs or murderers.
These are the misguided people who will tell you that Islam is a religion of peace and that, as such, it could not possibly pose any threat to our way of life; that the anti-terrorist laws are therefore unwarranted; and that we must reach an accommodation through negotiation with the purveyors of terror.
The basic problem is that they are wrong: the only dialogue that fundamentalist Islamists want to discuss is the terms of our surrender.
That is why Afghanistan is so important, and I propose in my next article to examine the fundamentals behind that statement.
– John Miller is a former senior intelligence officer.