Thursday - Richard Woolcott @ IPCS

Just weeks after being dismissed as a "Doddering Dacquari Diplomat" by De-Anne Kelly, that "Looselipped Layabout Lackey" from Queensland, Richard Woolcott has again spoken publicly about his concern with the Government.

The forum for Woolcott was the Institute of Postcolonial Studies in Melbourne, and Woolcott maintained his diplomatic air whilst quietly savaging most aspects of the Government's handling of Iraq - before, during and after the war. Criticism from Woolcott should carry plenty of weight - in the fine public service tradition he is apolitical, he has exceptional knowledge of international relations, he is familar with the major players and he offers sound judgement. Woolcott is no 'Usual Suspect', taking a number to attack the Government like it's the deli at Prahran Market.

The nub of his presentation has been published in The Age today and Woolcott focuses on 13 myths perpetuated by the Governments of the Coalition of the Willing. Some of the myths are overstated, but many have a strong element of truth to them. Without discussing the facts surrounding each of them (there are plenty of conservatives with keyboards at their disposal, and many of them have discovered the internet).

Broadly, however, Woolcott points out that the coalition of the willing seemed to continually change the goalposts both in terms of the justification of the war, and the likely outcomes of intervention. He is right that the initial justification - Weapons of Mass Destruction - has been debunked and was conveniently replaced by the overthrow of Saddam as the justification. Then in the aftermath of formal hostilities, the safer, more ordered Iraq that seemed an inevitability if the advocates were to be believed is yet to materialise.

Still, ultimately the decision to invade will be judged historically by the outcome. For all the flaws in the process - and they are major and need to be addressed if the Government and public service is to regain trust - the decision was the right one if it puts Iraq on a path to democracy and ends the tyrannical rule of one. Furthermore, a democracy in the region will have incalculable benefits to other nations, who over time will feel pressure from their own people who see a better form of government in the new Iraq. It'll take a while, and there'll be plenty of blood spilt, but if a democracy is the legacy, then the invasion will by justified.


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