The Courier-Mail

PM must curb en­thu­si­asm to ramp up terror war


score and the de­li­cious idea of see­ing for­mer premier Camp­bell New­man in the wit­ness stand.

A Gov­ern­ment ten­der for wooden stakes has prob­a­bly al­ready been or­dered so this witch hunt’s burn­ing can be­gin. It will no doubt be won by a La­bor donor, so ex­pect an in­quiry into that too. UESDAY next week is the day pen­cilled in for the Gov­ern­ment to give the go-ahead for Aus­tralia to use some of its fighter jets op­er­at­ing along­side the Amer­i­cans in Iraq in sim­i­lar bomb­ing mis­sions over north­ern Syria.

Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott was asked to help by US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama late last month and a for­mal re­quest came from the Pen­tagon soon af­ter.

De­fence Min­is­ter Kevin An­drews will take a sub­mis­sion to the na­tional se­cu­rity com­mit­tee of Cab­i­net and an an­nounce­ment is ex­pected by Tues­day.

There’s been no doubt­ing Ab­bott’s en­thu­si­asm for back­ing the US-led mis­sion to “de­grade and de­stroy” ISIS who cur­rently con­trol about a third of both Syria and Iraq.

While there has been plenty of talk both ways be­tween Rus­sell Hill in Can­berra and Ar­ling­ton, Vir­ginia, the Amer­i­cans were never left in any doubt they would get a quick “yes” if the re­quest was made.

Some de­fence sources in Can­berra in­sist Ab­bott’s of­fice – backed by of­fi­cials close to An­drews – were push­ing for a re­quest but this is noth­ing new in the history of our mil­i­tary co-op­er­a­tion with the US.

The “for­mal” re­quest to join Amer­ica in Viet­nam came af­ter an in­for­mal ap­proach from Robert Men­zies to Lyn­don B. John­son and Ge­orge W. Bush knew for months be­fore a de­ci­sion was made that John Howard was on board for the in­va­sion of Iraq in 2003.

It will not be an in­crease in our ef­fort in the re­gion as it is us­ing air force as­sets al­ready de­ployed to Iraq. It’s likely any mis­sions into Syria will be staged out of Tur­key.

The in­ter­est­ing as­pect of next week’s likely an­nounce­ment will be how Ab­bott frames it. In the past few days he has again ramped up his rhetoric against ISIS, sug­gest­ing their “evil rat­ing” was higher than that of the Nazis in World War II.

Aus­tralia needs to curb its en­thu­si­asm a lit­tle as the US is main­tain­ing its lower-key strat­egy of deal­ing with Mid­dle East ter­ror­ism gen­er­ally and es­pe­cially ISIS.

This ap­proach has at­tracted much crit­i­cism, which is shared by Ab­bott, who pri­vately be­lieves Obama needs to do more and show more com­mit­ment to the fight.

The latest edi­tion of For­eign Af­fairs, out this week, has an es­say from Har­vard’s Jes­sica Stern which takes a counter view that Obama has got the mix about right.

The com­bi­na­tion of “tar­geted killing, se­cu­rity as­sis­tance and in­ten­sive sur­veil­lance” is an “ef­fec­tive, low-risk tool kit”, says Stern, ar­gu­ing this is “prob­a­bly the best way” to com­bat ji­hadism in the long term.

Stern says Is­lamist ex­trem­ism can­not be de­feated through force alone but soft power doesn’t do the job by it­self ei­ther. She says those fight­ing ISIS are “con­strained by the dy­nam­ics of ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence, the per­sis­tent ap­peal of ex­trem­ist ideas and the lim­its of state power”.

It’s un­likely Ab­bott will be this mea­sured.

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