Australia’s incremental steps to war: Part 2

On 11 October 2014 I wrote an article ‘Australia’s Incremental Steps to War,’ which analysed the Australian government’s gradual escalation to committing troops to fight Daesh in Iraq. I concluded with this:

The government’s expansion of Australia’s involvement in Iraq from humanitarian aid drops to the spectre of sending in soldiers has occurred incrementally. At each stage the government has refused to rule out further involvement… With further incremental advances, and without clear and defined goals, it is inevitable that Australian will become more involved.

Less than five months later Prime Minster Abbott has indeed further involved Australia in Iraq, by confirming the deployment of another 300 troops, to help train the Iraqi forces.

This decision marks the next phase of Australia’s contribution to the international coalition to disrupt, degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, or Daesh, and follows requests for our participation from the Iraqi and United States Governments.1

Abbott’s choice of the words ‘next phase’ seem to indicate there will be further involvement in the future, which is all but confirmed by Michelle Grattan in the Conversation:

Abbott denied the deployment was ‘mission creep’ but declined to guarantee it would be the last escalation of Australia’s commitment. ‘…it would be wrong of me to say that this is the last that we will do here.’2

Once again the prime minister did not rule out further involvement. And yet the situation in Iraq is more positive than five months ago, with Iraqi forces successfully combating Daesh, taking the fight to them and capturing Daesh-controlled sites. For example, the city of Tikrit fell to the Iraqi forces on the same day Abbott announced the commitment. Furthermore, it is difficult to see what difference a small Australian contingent will make to training the Iraqi forces.

The real reason for Abbott’s decision to send more troops likely comes from domestic reasons, such as his low popularity, which he has tried to increase by playing the national security card. For example, only eight days earlier he declared Australia’s anti-terror laws need strengthening and announced the proposed changes.

Further on committing troops to Iraq:

‘The decision to prepare for the [Building Partner Capacity] mission underlines Australia’s commitment to supporting stability in Iraq and the Middle East and helping to stop the spread of violent extremism to Australia and our own region. This decision is in Australia’s national interest. Recent attacks in Australia and elsewhere around the world show that no country is immune from the threat of terrorism.3

If Abbott truly believed this, the question should be asked why we haven’t offered help to Syria in its battle against Daesh. Of course, in Abbott’s words, Syria is a battle of ‘baddies’ vs ‘baddies.’

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Abbott 2015, ‘Building partner capacity in Iraq’, 3 March 2015
  2. Grattan M 2015, ‘Abbott denies “mission creep” as more Australian troops committed to Iraq’, The Conversation, 3 March 2015,
  3. Abbott 2015, ‘Building partner capacity in Iraq’, 3 March 2015

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