Howard, Bush, the war, the election

The intertextual reltions between John Howard and George Bush seem a lot more significant from the Australian perspective. The Sydney Morning Herald this morning positions Howard very strongly as an international player:

With strong global interest in the Australian poll as the first of several referenda on the war in Iraq, John Howard and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, hit foreign media outlets to help out partners in the US-led coalition of the willing….

Mr Howard’s son Richard is working for Mr Bush’s re-election campaign and the Prime Minister has a close relationship with his US counterpart, whom he saluted yesterday as consultative, yet decisive.

Certainly Howard’s comments to CNN are glowing about Bush:

“George Bush always sends a very clear cut strong view and, in the end in politics, that is very important,” he told CNN. “People will vote for you because they respect the strength and consistency of your view, even though on a given issue they may not agree with you….

“I respect him very much as an individual and a very strong leader and I think that the strength of his stand against terrorism has been very important.”

I think the relationship between Bush and Howrad is overplayed. After all in the first debate when talking about coalitions in Iraq Bush mentioned Britain and Poland not Australia.

Bush’s comments have not produced major hits in overseas media outlets although the election win was probably covered more thoroughly than usual. One American commentator who gave an extended analysis, John Sullivan at the Chicago Sun Times, provides an interesting analysis of the result and points out that while Hoard’s victory is comforting for Bush a Latham victory would have been much more impactful:

Mark Latham had committed Labor to bring home most Aussie troops in Iraq by Christmas. So if Labor had won, the world would have seen the result as a dramatic erosion of international support for George W. Bush’s Iraq intervention.

That in turn would have seemingly confirmed the international trend set by the Spanish elections that threw out a Bush ally in favor of a left-wing government that immediately withdrew Spanish troops. But it would have been much more important than the Spanish result because Australia has been a faithful U.S. ally in every American war since 1917 without needing (to use John Kerry’s terminology) to be either ”coerced” or ”bribed.” It would have been a splintering of the English-speaking alliance — of America, Australia and Great Britain — that has been the moral and military core of the war on terrorism.

In short, a Howard defeat would have been a disaster for the United States and a catastrophe for Bush (and Tony Blair).

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