Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Friday, July 06, 2007

Oil? Not so fast

Actually, Brendan Nelson wasn't being frank about the importance of oil in Australia's decisionmaking on Iraq - he was just flailing around for a reason, any reason, that could explain why we're there. It makes no difference whatever to Australia who controls Iraqi oil - we're a price taker, not a price maker. We certainly didn't have oil as one of our motives for going in; we went in because Prime Minister John Howard was in Washington on 9/11, was caught up in the hype, and is in any case an all-the-way-with-U-S-A conservative. We did it as a comparatively cheap way to suck up to Washington (after all, we've only lost one man there).
That was, however, a motive that Howard couldn't admit to because it makes Australia look weak and silly, so he had to dredge around for others like WMD and democracy, and now they're exploded the government is really scraping the bottom of the barrel - which is how we come to oil, which makes no more sense than the other ones but at least sounds as if the government's calculations are semi-rational.
Correspondingly, leaping on this with cries of Aha, just as we suspected, is missing the point completely. The government isn't being viciously hardnosed, it's just clumsily incompetent.
Which is a reasonable point to bring in another consideration, which is that Howard's calculations on when to hold the election must also take into account the fact that he's entirely hostage to the Iraqi insurgents. Aussie soldiers, and by extension Howard, have been extraordinarily lucky so far, but they (and he) must be really running up against the odds by now. If the rebels take out a carful of Aussie soldiers with an IED Howard's gone in a landslide, which makes every month's wait an additional risk.

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