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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