The situation in Syria is tragic, and it’s not surprising that people who see these tragedies on their television (or more likely, these days, YouTube) want to Do Something. Maybe there’s a point to American, or British, or French, or Russian, or Iranian, or Israeli breast-beating over what is going on. I’m not so sure. I was in Belgrade a few weeks ago and saw the site of the NATO bombing in 1993. Did it really change anything on the ground?
Here in Australia, though, there’s no point. We have no strategic interest in Syria, and even if we did, for good or bad we can have no impact on what is going on. Australia is a modest country, with much to be modest about – and thank goodness for that. I doubt if there are many Australians who want to join the Great Powers, especially on yet another expedition of gunboat diplomacy to the Middle East.
Unfortunately, one of them is Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. In the middle of an election campaign he is highly likely to lose, the ex-diplomat, ex-foreign minister, takes time out from cooking or campaigning to speak in sober, measured and above all pompous terms about his consultations with Barack Obama and David Cameron and – who knows? Ban Ki-moon?
The excuse for this self-importance is that Australia is currently one of the non-permanent members of the Security Council and this weekend takes over the rotating presidency. The real reason is that Rudd loves this sort of stuff.
It all feels to me a bit like ‘We warn the Tsar!’ Continue reading