Ally is a lonely word

Sunday, February 25th, 2007 1:26 pm by Neal
John Howard

Being an ally of the United States these days is a bit like being a good steak: rare and costly. Mark Steyn discusses this as it relates to our two closest allies, Britain and Australia, “Blair is right on troops”.

ACCORDING to my dictionary, the word “ally” comes from the Old French. Very Old French, I’d say. For the New French, the word has a largely postmodern definition of “duplicitous charmer who undermines you at every opportunity”. …

Which brings us to that brave band of countries who still use “ally” in the more or less traditional sense. The Old French word it comes from is “alier”, which means “to bind to”. Au contraire, these days to be an ally of America is to be in a bind. John Howard has just announced that things are pretty tough in Iraq so this is no time for Australia to be heading home. Tony Blair has just announced that things are going well in Iraq so this is exactly the time for Britain to begin heading home. But either way it makes no difference: both Prime Ministers have been greeted with jeers and catcalls, and each man’s position has been assumed to undermine the other’s, and both by extension to undermine George W. Bush.

Howard, as the most rhetorically surefooted of the Anglosphere’s three musketeers, had a good comeback to the suggestion that the Bush surge and the Blair drawdown are mutually incompatible: “Anybody who studies Iraq for five minutes,” he said, “knows that controlling Baghdad is infinitely more challenging than controlling Basra in the south. That is the reason why the Americans are increasing their numbers and the reason why, because of the relative improvement in Basra, the British are reducing their numbers.”

Don’t worry too much about Great Britain. Despite an internal, cultural struggle with an increasingly assertive Islamic minority, the British have fought too long and hard for their proud and stubborn independence to give it up anytime soon. However, when it comes to detecting the noxious fumes of dhimmitude, Great Britain is our canary in the coal mine.

Thank God for Australia! Americans gaze over a lonely world — voices for freedom, women’s rights, and western civilization are meek and questioning in the onslaught of murdering, intimidating, inflammatory, radical Islamic aggression. Australia is an anchor opposite the globe — a sight for sore eyes like a long lost friend — a brave, defiant, intelligent country that gets it.

Thus, even for reliable allies with capable militaries, the political price of marching into battle alongside the Great Satan is steep and getting steeper. This does not bode well for the general health of the planet. When the wilier Democrats berate Bush for not maintaining an adequate military, they have a sort of crude point, albeit not the one they think they’re making: if the time, money and energy expended in getting pseudo-allies to make pseudo-contributions were to be spent instead on the Vermont National Guard, you’d get more troops more quickly with more capability. Yet for wealthy countries to deny Washington even the figleaf of token multilateralism is, in the end, to gamble with their own futures.

Howard is perhaps the last Western leader to understand this. If he is a pathetic Bush poodle, he was a poodle long before most folks had even heard of Bush. He first committed Australia to supporting American military action against Iraq in 1998, back when Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office. All that’s changed is the scale of the threat: an American defeat – or perceived defeat – in Iraq would embolden all kinds of forces around the globe, including in Indonesia and the Pacific.

The French and the Norwegians will never be meaningful American allies again, and even the British will be ordering a la carte. To modify Howard’s words on September 11, even if 80 per cent of the allies have gone, this is no time to join them.

Australia, we love you. And if we move to Australia, southchild will still be a relevant — yet different — moniker.

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