Labor and the world
By Mark Latham
One of Labor's first tasks will be to extract Australia from the Howard government's failed policies in Iraq.
This has been one of the great debacles of Australian foreign policy - a war conducted for a purpose that was not true, a war conducted under the banner of the Doctrine of Pre-emption.
This was supposed to be the great conservative contribution to the struggle against terrorism - a new way of thinking about and running the world. In practice, the Doctrine came and went with the blink of an eye.
Most Australians now acknowledge that the Howard government's policy in Iraq has been a contributing factor to the terrorist threat in this country.
The government's recent abuse of Australia's intelligence agencies has also increased the level of risk for Australians in Iraq, both military and civilian.
So, too, the conflict in Iraq has diverted resources from the real war against terror. If all the time, effort and money used to invade and occupy Iraq had been used to target the terrorists themselves - to hunt down bin Laden, to break up Al Qaeda, to smash the networks of terrorist activity in South-East Asia - then the world today would be a safer place.
The Doctrine of Pre-emption failed in Iraq because there was nothing to pre-empt.
"Labor has declared its intention of having the Australian troops home by Christmas."
No weapons of mass destruction were used during the conflict and none have been found since. We now know that Western intelligence in Iraq was quite limited. In reality, the scientists who were supposed to be developing WMD spent the money elsewhere. As ever, in a Third World nation, chaos and corruption prevailed.
There was nothing to pre-empt.The Howard government sent young Australians to war based on a hunch. Having got it wrong, the thing that I find most disturbing is their lack of remorse. Or sense of apology.
As with other international engagements such as Afghanistan and Somalia, Australia needs an exit strategy from Iraq.
The most appropriate starting point is the transition to a new sovereign Iraqi government in mid-2004.
On this basis, Labor has declared its intention of having the Australian troops home by Christmas.
Having strongly opposed the war and been proven correct, we see no need for an indefinite deployment, especially when Australia has so many other commitments closer to home.
The thing about Iraq is that we had no business being there.