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John Winston Howard’s moral complacency

Robert Manne discusses John Howard’s lack of anguish for the consequences of the war in Iraq. According to RM John Howard does not understand the gravity of the allied actions in Iraq.

RM is upset that JH is not agonising over the difficulties the allies are encountering. The war he claims, is unjust and immoral and based on false claims. But, to RM’s annoyance, JH is relaxed, has enjoyed reasonably good opinion polls and has been dined in Washington with black-tie dinners and 19-gun salutes. To RM this is awful:

‘Even if Howard continued to defend his actions strenuously, if he at least was anxious or agitated about this state of affairs, I would be able to feel for him some respect. What unnerves me is the calmness of his demeanour, the apparent near-entire absence in him of a troubled conscience or the kind of self-scrutiny that might lead him eventually to remorse. Howard is one of the most nimble but also one of the most morally complacent politicians I have ever observed.
…Does he, do we, feel nothing for the families of the tens of thousands of Iraqis whose lives have been lost in the killings and the murders that have occurred since the invasion of Iraq?’

The last bit of this quote is a cheap shot from a distinguished public intellectual. JH (even more than RM) will have a keen sense of the value of life. Even his critics will agree, JH is a realist.

But JH rightly sees the deaths in Iraq as caused by those who seek to delay the worthwhile ideal of setting up a reasonably pro-Western regime in Iraq that does not torture or gas its citizens. And it is these terrorists that the US and its allies are attempting to displace and who, the morally complacent ‘left’ in Australia and elsewhere, are supporting by calling on the allies to abandon Iraq to its ‘fate’.

But the first part of the RM quote reflects exactly why most Australians like John Howard – he is miles ahead of Beazley in the polls with sound approval ratings. Howard probably has doubts but it is not his approach to publicly present them. He is a consummate politician who deals with the reality of situations not with his personal regrets. If he is morally complacent that only reflects his conviction, sense and strength.

2 comments to John Winston Howard’s moral complacency

  • civitas

    Manne removes himself from being taken seriously with this:

    “The world now generally acknowledges the injustice and illegality of the invasion and the catastrophe that, even after the appointment of the so-called national unity Government, now confronts Iraq.”

  • Patrick

    I thought Manne removed himself from being taken seriously some time ago!

    One of the more blatant examples of using the word ‘world’ without the suffix ‘of 200 people that I ever talk to’.

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