Send the troops to Dili already

Timor Troop
Gunfire around Dili? Terrified civilians heading to the hills? Rebels killing police? Now here‘s a situation where military intervention is actually called for. I know I banged on about this yesterday as ever, but really, John Howard should take note, just by way of contrast with Iraq. It’s always good when your army goes into a foreign country to solve a dangerous civil war, rather than provoke one.

I have every confidence that the ADF is about to make us proud of them all over again, just as they did when we intervened in Timor under the auspices of Interfet. It’s times like these that we should be very glad we’re a prosperous democracy that can afford to get involved in humanitarian missions. As well as misguided excursions to Iraq.

Acting PM Peter Costello must be loving this. Our third leader in line is actually going to get to send the troops into battle! Let’s hope for his sake that he doesn’t get too used to it, because there’s surely not much chance of it happening again. Unless he also deploys that famous bus to take out John Howard

Of course, this would be much easier if a lot of our crack troops, the real hardarse special forces who scared the militia groups away last time, weren’t already in Iraq. Okay, I’ll stop.

I’m no expert in what’s happening on the ground, but I don’t imagine Kevin Rudd is either, judging by his comment that we should take it slowly and cautiously. I don’t imagine the 800 Australian expats are urging delays, and we all know that even if suffering natives can’t ever move us, the plight of one single Australian is enough to make us all leap into action. Or two, as we saw in Beaconsfield.

So sure, let’s be cautious, of course. But thumb-twiddling delays are not what’s called for in a crisis. If Jose Ramos-Horta has called for troops, I say we back him and send them in. The guy’s got a Nobel prize. What’s Rudd got, other than a bad haircut?

Actually, what am I saying? Of course he’d be an expert on Timor, and insufferably so. He’ll have read the briefing papers ad infinitum, and be able to regurgitate them in minute detail to anyone foolish enough to ask him about them. But his judgement seems lacking, and that’s what you need in a Foreign Minister at these moments. As Alexander Downer so consistently illustrates.

And while the troops are there, let’s hope the Australian Government takes the opportunity to renegotiate the Timor Gap oil treaty again. East Timor’s desperate! Now’s the time for our trade people to take that impoverished nation for all it’s worth. A great way to once again undo all the goodwill we’ve generated by helping them in their latest hour of need.

Dominic Knight

Photo: Reuters

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