June 28, 2003

DANGER! DANGER!

Did you know that itís dangerous to mock the United Nations?

The federal government's United Nations bashing was today attacked as hypocritical and dangerous.

Labor said Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was suffering from amnesia, former Australian ambassador to the UN Richard Butler said he was displaying breathtaking double standards and the Greens said his approach could make Australia a regional mini-imperialist outcast.

If Labor, Butler, and Brown all oppose this, it is almost certainly a sound notion deserving of our complete support. Letís see what Downer has to say:

Mr Downer, citing Rwanda and Kosovo, said yesterday that Australia was more interested in results than in preserving the multilateral principle embodied in the "behemoth" UN or the notion of sovereignty.

Whatís not to like?

Posted by Tim Blair at June 28, 2003 11:52 AM
Comments

The UN's main priority is criticising easy-targets like Australia (eg, asylum seekers) and pretending to be "deeply concerned" about real problems.

Posted by: random_proser at June 28, 2003 at 12:49 PM

The UN's main priority is jobs and power and power-tripping for UN bureaucrats.

Posted by: Tim Shell at June 28, 2003 at 01:23 PM

"Mr Downer, citing Rwanda and Kosovo, said yesterday that Australia was more interested in results than in preserving the multilateral principle..."

No shit! Well, at least he got that right, and thank goodness - and Australia - for it. The last thing the UN is ever interested in is RESULTS.

Pfui.

Posted by: Barbara Skolaut at June 28, 2003 at 02:00 PM

They can't win!

One minute they are accused of neglecting our 'asian/pacific neighbours' and the next they are war mongering puppets of the US who at the same time have delivered a blow to the UN.

And where did this diatribe spring from? Ah yes, the Greens party. Its sooooo much easier to pontificate about rights and feelings when you never have to take action yourself.

Its funny, the one thing that Iraq has taught the government is if you want to do a good job, you're better off doing it yourself.

Think of the many african nations 'still' waiting for some UN involvement that will actually have an effect.

Posted by: nic at June 28, 2003 at 02:45 PM

Bob Brown said yesterday that an intervention in the Solomons was long overdue. Can anyone remember him even mentioning the Solomon Islands in the last 5 years?

Posted by: Mike Hunt at June 28, 2003 at 03:35 PM

"Mike": Yes, Brown's backed some form of intervention in the Solomons (in addition to West Papua and various Indonesian provinces that no right-thinking person could possibly care less about) for years. Google it if you're interested; should have no trouble finding scads of info.

Posted by: thesaintlyalangreenspan at June 28, 2003 at 04:49 PM

thesaintlyalangreenspan

"(in addition to West Papua and various Indonesian provinces that no right-thinking person could possibly care less about)"

And how do you know that?

Posted by: Gary at June 28, 2003 at 05:39 PM

"Brown's backed some form of intervention in the Solomons (in addition to West Papua and various Indonesian provinces that no right-thinking person could possibly care less about) for years."

I guess he must be in favour of unilateral action and a decent defence budget then.....

Posted by: wilbur at June 28, 2003 at 07:23 PM

Or maybe you need to broaden your definition of "intervention" beyond "bomb the living f*** out of".

Posted by: thesaintlyalangreenspan at June 28, 2003 at 07:47 PM

And if an intervention in West Papua and various Indonesian provinces, which would presumably be without a UN resolution, caused a major war between Indonesia and Australia you'd be happy?

If Brown wants us to intervene in these places, do you honestly think no one will get hurt? Or do you think that sometimes the end justfies the means?

Posted by: wilbur at June 29, 2003 at 01:43 AM

"And if an intervention in West Papua and various Indonesian provinces, which would presumably be without a UN resolution, caused a major war between Indonesia and Australia you'd be happy?"

Much as I love a good war, I'd be a bit worried about having one with Indonesia, as my girlfriend is from there. I might wake up one day missing stuff.

That's much more frightening than the "danger" of offending the United Nations. OH NO! They might send unarmed Belgians after us!

Not even Alexander Downer would be scared of that. He'd be an action superstar in Belgium.

Posted by: Yobbo at June 29, 2003 at 02:34 AM

Downer and Howard are right - the UN *does* have its uses, sometimes. UN Security Council support and authorisation was damn handy in East Timor but only became possible after Indonesian actions (or non-action or complicity, whatever) had made a "multi-lateral" UN-authorised response possible. Although our intervention caused smouldering resentment among many Indonesians, the involvement of the UN actually helped to keep Indonesia in its place. Downer and Howard know this and were quite prepared to use the opportunity that circumstances presented to get the UN involved. UN idealists should still note - all the "heavy lifting" (as Howard like to call it) and all the lives on the line nastiness still had to be done by Australia, so lets not get too excited about the UN's role even here.

However, Downer and Howard are also right (and Labor, Butler and Brown are wrong) - the UN is *not* the answer to every international situation. As Downer points out, it was f***ing useless in Rwanda and Kosovo (worse than useless, actually), is f***ing useless even as I write this in half a dozen or so African hotspots (Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe etc) and is f***ing useless to all of us in the Solomons. The fact is, we just don't *need* the UN's approval to do what we have to do in the Solomons, the people there and all our regional neighbours want us to get involved, Australians themselves think we have a responsibility to the region, and it will all pretty much come down to us in the end, anyway. Why tf do we need the UN? All it can do is delay us at best or obstruct us at worst.

All Downer and Howard are doing here is stating a pretty clear and obvious truth. Their comments have been sensible and measured. The squeals from the likes of Brown (apart from a never-missed opportunity to attack the hated John Howard) are because he sees yet another sacred cow going under the knife. I for one am truly glad that after 7 years of the Howard Government we can have honest discussions of important issues like the value and role of the UN, where once the left would try to shame people into silence (and often succeed). They were crushing my dissent! People like Brown are frustrated and angry because shaming doesn't work any more.

TFK

Posted by: Bob Bunnett at June 29, 2003 at 09:33 AM

If Australian soldiers and police come under attack in the Solomon Islands from militia groups, will Bob Brown be recommending non-violent forms of resistance?

Posted by: Mike Hunt at June 29, 2003 at 12:09 PM

In 1991 Bob Brown called for the overthrow of the Iraqi regime which didn't happen because the Doves (Colin Powell, UN) thought that the regime would collapse on its own and overruled the Hawks (Rumsfield). 12 years later when it was obvious that something had to be done, history had been re-written and now it was the evil Hawks doing it all for oil. Bob Brown has done a complete 180 degree turn and is now a compassionate voice trying to hold back the warmongers. What a hypocritical joke! Why would any sane person care what this dill or the UN have to say and why would we go looking for their permission?
Oh and UN sanction had little to with Indonesia not declaring war on Australia over East Timor. At the time Indonesian newspapers reported that Habibi was outraged and was going to declare war and it was General Wiranto who talked him out of it. Possibly something to do with a large US fleet just off northern Oz, taking part in exercises with the ADF.........

Posted by: Huddo at June 30, 2003 at 03:56 PM

Huddo, we are not going to disagree on this - the UN is no good at the systematic application of force. Ultimately, that is the language that all nations understand, including Indonesia. However, the UN *did* play an important role in the liberation of East Timor. I can't imagine the original act of "self-determination", the independence referendum that set off all the nastiness, being iniatiated through any other means.

Here is a personal admission, too. It was only the outrageous behavior of the pro-Indonesian militias that made intervention essential, in my opinion. If it was just a continuing, relatively quiet oppression, I would have been tempted by the classic realpolitik approach - what is more important to us, a good relationship with Indonesia or East Timorese independence? A no-brainer if you ask me. Until the paramilitary thugs started butchering people by the hundreds and we just couldn't let it continue, that is.

TFK

Posted by: Bob Bunnett at June 30, 2003 at 06:37 PM