Aussies Standing Firm
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has a piece in today’s WSJ pledging to stand firm in Iraq:
One of the front lines in this unconventional war is Iraq where terrorists seek to destroy the freedom offered by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Whether you agree with the decision to invade Iraq or not, there is no denying that there is a job to be done to ensure that the Iraqi people have a future.
Currently Australia is one of 35 countries that have troops deployed in Iraq. The work they are doing is vital and practical. They are helping to secure essential services for the people of Iraq and to train the new Iraqi police force and army. For the most part, the Iraqi people understand and appreciate the role these foreign forces are playing. It is not surprising that an Oxford Research International Poll commissioned by the BBC found that only 15% of Iraqis want the coalition forces to leave.
Of course, they do not want them to stay indefinitely, and none of the governments that have contributed to the coalition want their troops there any longer than is necessary. But right now we do not know when the essential job being done by coalition forces in Iraq will be finished. Talk of an early withdrawal, or arbitrary deadlines, undermines their role and gives comfort to those who seek to thwart the creation of a free and democratic Iraq.
It sends precisely the wrong message at a time when we need to be underlining our resolve to stay until the job is done. It sends the wrong signal to the people of Iraq and to terrorist groups operating in Iraq at a time when we need to demonstrate maximum unity.
Of course, Americans pretty much take it as a given that the Aussies are going to remain solid. There hasn’t been a substantial military campaign that the U.S. has been involved in over the last century or so where Australian troops weren’t shoulder-to-shoulder with ours. They were even in Vietnam, where their stake was even less obvious than ours.