Saturday, October 09, 2004
Howard gains in Australia
In the run-up to the election, a number of media outlets were featuring headlines such as "Iraq Again In Forefront as Australian Election Approaches" (Voice of America). This is crap.
While the initial decision to join the U.S. in the invasion of Iraq was heavily protested, opposition to involvement in the war cooled considerably for one very simple reason: not one Australian soldier has been killed. And as I've noted in another post, one of the reasons no soldier has been killed is that damned few of them are actually in Iraq—only 250 of the 850 to be exact. The rest are in Jordan or Kuwait. While Labor's Latham was promising to bring the troops home by Christmas, most Australians hadn't noticed that they'd gone missing.
The biggest factor was the economy, stupid. The Australian economy has been purring along, in large part thanks to China, which will buy anything not tied down, and the government has actually been running a surplus! (Remember the days when the U.S. had a surplus?) In the final days of the campaign Howard and Latham were in competition to see who could promise to outspend the other. But in the end the Australians just didn't want to rock the economic boat.
Bush will no doubt try to spin this as international support for his war, but it was no such thing. In any case, this is not the sort of news that will get any "traction." The American public's knowledge of Australia is pretty much limited to "Crocodile Dundee," and Bush forgot to include Australia as a member of his coalition during the first debate.