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Bad habits die hard in Australia and Syria

  • 18 September 2018


What do the Liberal leadership spill and the Syrian War have in common? I would suggest that both demonstrate how force of habit, like any other force built up over a long period of time, is very difficult to stop, even when the results are plainly self destructive.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly battled to explain why it was necessary to oust Malcolm Turnbull — sending his party's poll ratings off a great height in the process — with a variety of answers culminating in an exhortation to his opposite number in the Opposition to 'get over it'.

Of course, Parliament is of its nature a place for political point scoring rather than reasoned reflection and any number of other explanations might have legitimately been proffered: poor poll ratings, incompetence or a lack of a legislative agenda. Nevertheless (as even Christopher Pyne has noted), the fact is that the shifting sands which chart the motions of the coup culture which has taken hold in Australian politics are not really susceptible to rational explanation.

The pattern has been set and Labor and Liberal have both axed their heads as the polls blow. While Labor at least instituted some protective measures after the last rounds of bloodletting, it cannot be doubted that the lure of short term retention of jobs and perks — and the political opportunities which every new coup gives the Opposition of the day — concentrates minds in Canberra much more than the long term damage which the process inflicts on the body politic.

Meanwhile, issues corroding the very bedrock of what it means to be a society go unaddressed, including Indigenous-police relations, the appalling statistics of violence against women, the bipartisan cruelty to asylum seekers and the ongoing failures resulting from the attempt to do the NDIS as a rush job on the cheap.

But what has all this to do with Syria? Well, it is not hard to trace similar counterproductive forces of habit here too. Western policy began — and stayed — with the mantra 'Assad must go' even though it was painfully clear from the start that the beneficiaries of such a policy would not be some mythical 'moderate opposition' but rather the Saudi-backed militant groups such as Al Qaeda who were held responsible for the 'War on Terror' in the first place.

As a result of a series of disastrous miscalculations by the US and its allies, a vanilla-flavoured regime