International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

December 6, 2002

December 6, 2002




**  Media say Australia faces increasing regional isolation following PM Howard's statement. 

**  Howard's "pre-emptive blunder" risks "merely repeating American mistakes." 

**  Applying such unilateral policy would "create more problems than solutions." 




PM Howard's 'provocative remarks are creating tension' in region--  Southeast Asian papers blasted "the arrogant Howard Plan of 'preemptive' strikes against terror."  One Philippine observer called it "preemptive deviltry."  Malaysian dailies were particularly scathing:  one said Howard has "revealed his utter disgust for Southeast Asia."  The widely-read Philippine Daily Inquirer was more analytical, noting how "Howard's remarks...accented [Australia's] isolated position."  Thailand's moderately conservative Bangkok Post expressed concern over "the growing perception of a closer Australia-U.S. axis at the cost of continued friendly Australia-Asia ties."  Conservative Australian papers lamented the "extraordinary misinterpretation and overreaction" to Howard's comments from "a xenophobic region."  


Howard's remarks linked to 'similar arrogance earlier raised by [President Bush]'--  Several leftist regional dailies connected Howard's statements to what one called "America's militarist and hegemonic activities."  The Philippine Daily Inquirer declared that "Bush's arrogant unilateralism...has found a powerful echo and an overzealous disciple."  Malaysia's government-influenced New Straits Times condemned the pre-emptive remarks as "more American than Australian" and called Howard "Uncle Sam's foremost flunky."  Indonesia's independent Koran Tempo called for the U.S. and Australia to stop "being bullies" and instead back "a more just international order."    


The 'unconscionable doctrine' would 'create more problems than solutions'--  Dailies in the region called upon Canberra to "step up its contacts" and cooperation "with other governments" instead of backing what the liberal Sydney Morning Herald called "unwise and dangerous" pre-emptive strikes.  Indonesia's independent Jakarta Post warned such "damn disturbing" policies would "undermine...existing collaboration."  Another liberal Australian paper agreed that "co-operation is...our most effective weapon in fighting terrorism."


Rightists find 'Howard doctrine' may be necessary--  Singapore's pro-government Straits Times called Howard's proposal "outrageous" but predicted it "will find sympathisers...unless nations show conviction in prosecuting the war on terror."  The conservative Australian allowed Howard was "broadly correct" about the occasional need for pre-emptive military action but termed his public announcement " today's ticklish security environment."

EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg

EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 33 reports from 7 countries over 2 - 6 December.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




AUSTRALIA:  “Diplomacy The Best Weapon”


An editorial in the liberal Sydney Morning Herald asserted (12/6):  “What is most galling about this sorry episode is that it was entirely unnecessary....  Better...for the Prime Minister to have responded with an endorsement of the prospects for co-operation between Australia and regional governments. Ultimately, co-operation is far and away our most effective weapon in fighting terrorism. For Mr Howard to entertain - out loud - the idea of unilateral military intervention on foreign soil was a vote of no confidence in our neighbors and their capacity and readiness to co-operate with Australia. “


“Let’s Not Wait For The Bombs To Fall”


An op-ed in the business-oriented Australian Financial Review from David Flint, emeritus professor of international law, observed (12/4):  “There has been an extraordinary misinterpretation and overreaction to the Prime Minister’s answer to a journalist’s legitimate question....  The Prime Minister’s answer - not statement as some described it - was hedged in with restrictions entirely consistent with international law.“


“Hey That’s No Way To Win Friends”


The national conservative Australian noted in a piece by editor-at-large Paul Kelly (12/4):  “John Howard has many political strengths for the war against terrorism, but he also has weaknesses - and his key weakness of faulty judgment in dealing with South-East Asia is on display again. It is too reminiscent of the deputy sheriff blunder. An artificial and absurd reaction is now under way within a xenophobic region, repudiating Australia's so-called threat of a pre-emptive strike. This reflects as badly on the region as it does on Howard's judgment...the tension between our potential role in support of US military intervention in Iraq and the need for close co-operation with our Asian neighbors to counter Islamic terrorism. This tension has now erupted in Australia's face....  The risk is that Australia and the region succumb to self-induced stereotypes that divide, not unite.”


“Countering Pre-emptive Strikes”


An op-ed in the business-oriented Australian Financial Review from Associate Professor Samuel Makinda, international relations at Murdoch University, read (12/3):  “Whatever Howard’s intention, pre-emptive strikes in pursuit of national interests go against the UN charter and can be enormously destabilizing....  The important issue to bear in mind is that terrorism violates international values, rules, norms and institutions. The best way to fight back is to seek to restore and re-emphasize these rules, values and institutions.  If governments suggest taking the law into their own hands, if they canvass the violation of international institutions and norms, then they are behaving like terrorists.  Once governments start acting like terrorists, they provide fertile ground for more terrorism and lead to a vicious cycle of terrorism and counter-terrorism.”


“Howard Should Speak Softly On Strike Doctrine”


An editorial in the national conservative Australian stated (12/3):  “John Howard is broadly correct in what he has been saying about the necessity sometimes to take pre-emptive military action. Nonetheless, he was ill-advised in today's ticklish security environment to say it...because of the hypersensitivity within the southeast Asian region to aspects of the war on terror, it has led to a substantial adverse reaction from a number of politicians and government officials in Indonesia, The Philippines and Thailand. Of course, much of this reaction involves a substantial over-reading of Mr Howard's remarks....  Therefore, it is simply foolish to be canvassing issues in such a way as will, even if distorted by regional media, gratuitously annoy significant figures in the region. Speak softly and carry a big stick, said Teddy Roosevelt. It remains good advice.”


“The Howard Line On Pre-emption”


The liberal Sydney Morning Herald stressed (12/3):  “The Prime Minister's casual reference on Sunday to the possibility of pre-emptive military strikes against terrorists beyond Australia's borders was unwise, and dangerous. That was immediately clear from the sharp official responses from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia....  It is unlikely Mr Howard was actually flagging an imminent Australian military operation in pursuit of terrorists in South-East Asia. For this reason alone the Prime Minister's comments were unnecessarily careless....  Pre-emption may be achieved with the co-operation of another government, such as the current U.S. military role in the southern Philippines....  It is when pre-emption comes in the form of extra judicial killings, such as the recent U.S. attack in Yemen, or in U.S. plans for "regime change" in Iraq, that the principles underpinning international law are dangerously blurred. These issues are too important to be glossed over in a casual way.”


“It Will Be A Dangerous Game When All Nations Can Strike First”


An op-ed in the liberal Sydney Morning Herald by Chris Reus-Smit, head of the department of international relations at the Australian National University, asserted (12/2): ”A campaign by the US and Australia to revise the rules of self-defense to allow pre-emptive war is likely to greatly intensify anti-Western sentiment globally. For the vast majority of states, particularly in the developing world, the right of non-intervention and legal restrictions on the use of force by powerful states are seen as fundamental guarantees of security and independence. They will defend these norms vigorously. The onus is on the Howard Government to explain why it is worth risking these dangers. At a very minimum, the Government must answer two core questions. How, precisely, can the basic rules governing the use of force be revised to permit genuine responses to imminent danger while preventing the abuse of more permissive rules for purposes of adventurism and aggrandizement? And by what mechanism should the rules be revised?”“It will be a dangerous game when all nations can strike first”


CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "Australian PM Is No Statesman"


The foreign editor of the independent English-language South China Morning Post, Peter Kammerer, said in his "Peter Kammerer's World" column (12/6):  "Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Washington's self-professed deputy sheriff, should put away his pistol and badge before he guns himself down....  With the nation fearful of terrorist attacks...he suggested national security would be assured through pre-emptive military strikes against terrorists in the region.  This sort of shooting from the lip has won the veteran politician increasing domestic support....  Internationally, though, his comments are perceived as diplomatic blunders.  The Howard style has political analysts thumbing furiously through their history books.  Some say he is turning back the clock in a nostalgic attempt to bring back the golden days of Australia's greatest modern statesman, Robert Menzies.  Most strikingly, they say, Mr. Howard has adopted Menzies' strong pro-American views....  Some observers shudder at the thought of Mr. Howard wearing the Menzies mantle.  Menzies was a brilliant barrister, a smart politician and among the world's greatest statesmen of his day, they argue.  But 1950s Australia and the first decade of the 21st century are worlds apart....  After 28 years in politics, Mr. Howard is not likely to start changing his ways.  He knows elections are not won or lost by international opinion.  Whether he can rise to Menzies' stature is debatable.  He would better his chances, though, by putting his gun-slinging days out to pasture."


"An Isolated Nation Has Just Become More Isolated"


The independent English-language South China Morning Post's Sydney correspondent, Roger Maynard, wrote (12/4):  "Canberra's commitment to the war against terrorism in Afghanistan and its contribution to peace-keeping in East Timor have cut deeply into the defence budget.  All of which makes the negative response to Mr Howard's talk of pre-emptive strikes against nations who harbour terrorists even more relevant.  While the Australian leader has made it clear he has no intention of sending a strike force to his neighbours, the fact that he raised the possibility of tackling known terrorist units on foreign soil has done little to improve his nation's relations with Southeast Asia.  His provocative remarks have succeeded in only creating tension with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines....  When US presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer pointed out that Mr Howard's comments reflected that the nature of the enemy had changed, he was not only signaling his support for the Australian government, but sending a warning to nations that disagreed.  Perhaps Mr Howard feels he can afford to upset his neighbours when he knows he has Uncle Sam's backing."


INDONESIA:  "Preemptive Blunder"


The independent English-language Jakarta Post declared (12/5):  "Australian Prime Minister John Howard's remark during question time in the parliament in Canberra to the effect that his country has the right to launch a preemptive strike in a neighboring country is indeed a startling policy statement.  There are two points regarding Howard's statement that are especially disconcerting.  The first is that Howard was likely fully aware his statement would cause a strong reaction in neighboring countries, but was nevertheless willing to take that political risk in order to achieve a bigger political end.  Second, and what really boggles the mind, was his remark that his statement in parliament would not upset Australia's good relations with the governments of neighboring countries. A reservoir of goodwill has developed among Indonesians for the Australian victims of the Oct. 12 bombing in Bali. That is why we think Howard's statement on the right to launch preemptive strikes in neighboring countries can be regarded as a preemptive blunder.  Of course, John Howard will not forever hold the reins of power in Canberra. But whoever replaces him will have the difficult task of convincing Australia's neighbors that Canberra will continue to adhere to the principles of mutual respect for each other's sovereignty and cooperation in facing the dangers that threaten the world, especially the danger of terrorism."


“Howard Doctrine”                         


Independent Koran Tempo commented (12/4):  “Howard’s bluff is only a resonance of a similar arrogance earlier raised by Bush...known as the ‘Bush Doctrine’...of pre-emptive strike against potential enemy....  Terrorism does not sprout from an empty space. It would be more productive if the U.S. and Australia, instead of being bullies, supported a more just international order....  This would eliminate the possibilities of terrorism. In particular, both countries should support the strengthening of the international crime tribunal — an important instrument in dealing with transnational terrorism....  A far more productive stance would be for the U.S. and Australia to support sincere countries such as Indonesia — recently called a “terrorist hotbed” — in strengthening the pillars of its law and democracy. These two elements are vital to deterring all forms of terrorism, be it carried out by extreme religious or ideological groups, or by the state and military actors.”


"Howard Strikes Again"


The independent English-language Jakarta Post opined (12/3):  "Unilateralism is in vogue, and it's damn disturbing.  Further evidence of this came from Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Sunday, who said in a television interview that he was prepared to act against terrorists in neighboring Asian countries. He was toying with an idea that U.S. President George W. Bush described as the "preemptive strike" concept, or the right of a nation to launch a first strike if it felt that its own interests were under threat.  What is most disturbing is not so much the concept of preemptive strikes as the tendency for nations to go it alone, or to act unilaterally. Nations are increasingly moving away from international or regional cooperation as they act in what they believe is in their own best interests. Ironically, the nations that are indulging in unilateralism are the same ones who are touting the benefits of globalization, which is founded upon the existence of strong international cooperation in all fields....  Unilateralism has its limits and its dangers too.  While Australia may claim to have military superiority, it could hardly regard itself as the only power in the region for it to feel so confident about launching unilateral military action against one or two of its neighbors.  It was Howard's arrogance, by making such remarks, however, that many in Asia found offensive.  Australia's unilateralism, even if it is still at the "thinking-aloud" stage, is only going to undermine all the existing collaboration programs, including the Bali investigation.  If we did not know Prime Minister John Howard better, we might think that he was trying to start a third world war in this part of the world. We know Howard and Australia enough that this was not the case. Still, it is very dangerous for someone in his position to publicly entertain the concept of preemptive strikes in the first place.


MALAYSIA:  "Australia, U.S. All In Support Of Each Other."


Government-influenced Malay-language Berita Harian had the following editorial (12/5):  "No surprise that the U.S. is supportive of Australian Prime Minister John Howard when he threatens to attack terrorists in any neighboring country in the Asia.  At this point, Washington appears to receive more support for its flawed doctrine.  What the two countries are failing to recognize is that other countries can also conduct attack operations on terrorists groups holding up in the two countries.  Each have their fears and have avoided trying to define the terrorism threat.  Post-Bali bombings, the Australian government has acted irrationally - its security officers invading private homes of Indonesian Muslims in the country in search of terrorists; travel warnings against travel anywhere in Southeast Asia - all made without any sense of responsibility.  The Australian copy-cat acts are merely repeating the American mistakes.  When the terrorism threat appears ‘curtailed’ by such activities, it only results in a part of Australian community being blamed for ‘traitorous’ acts.  The Howard administration’s foreign policy towards Southeast Asia is weak point, but like America, Australia is too proud to admit it."


"International Law Proscribes Invasions"


B.A. Hamzah wrote a column in the government-influenced New Straits Times declaring (12/5):  "The Australian Prime Minister has made three major proposals.  Revamp the United Nations to allow pre-emptive strikes presumably against recalcitrant states harbouring terrorists, change customary international law on the use of force and the preparedness of Australia to attack terrorists in sovereign states of Southeast Asia. My initial reaction was to dismiss the statement as a reflex of another exasperated trigger-happy political desperado seeking re-election.  Howard's philosophy bears the smack of imperialism and militancy, which merits condemnation from all who love peace.  However, Howard has done the region a service by speaking out. He has just revealed his utter disgust for Southeast Asia.  History seems to repeat itself. In my view the UN died after its collective will was hijacked by those who used the organisation to project military power and to legalise belligerent policies against global terrorism, a euphemism for war against Islam.  Australia is a perfect place to bury the UN. And Howard should be invited to eulogise at the occasion. We may differ on the legality surrounding the use of force in international relations.  The world will be moving into dangerous war zones if efforts by Howard and associates succeed in overturning customary international law on the use of force.  Rewriting the rules of engagement in international relations to permit invasion of sovereign and independent states is tantamount to waging a war on weak states that are supposed to receive protection against predators under international law."


"Send Your Troops!"


Kuala Lumpur's government-controlled Malay-language Utusan Malaysia carried a column by "Eldest Son"

stating (12/3):  "I am challenging Australian Prime Minister John Howard to send his troops to neighboring

countries to hunt down terrorists if he is really serious and courageous.  First, he certainly wants to send

them to Indonesia where many of his fellow citizens were killed during a bombing tragedy on Bali.   Let us

see what will happen.  Where will they go after Indonesia?   To Malaysia?  In my opinion, Australia has

become unreasonably arrogant in its hysteria to hunt down terrorists.  If it loses its sense and direction,

the situation will become more complicated.  Howard should remember that Australia is not the United States.  Therefore, do not try to act like the United States in this region.   This will only create a sense of hatred against the land of the kangaroos.  Without the cooperation of Southeast Asian countries, the threat of terrorists will never be eliminated.   Howard should not remember that his troops are more competent than Indonesian troops in this case.  If this is the way the whites want to handle the problem that we are facing together, I am afraid that we will face a much bigger problem.  I hate arrogant people."


"Uncle Sam’s Foremost Flunky"


Government-influenced English-language New Straits Times ran the following editorial (12/3):  "Assume Prime Minister John Howard’s message is chilling: He would order pre-emptive action in neighboring countries to avert an attack “either of a conventional kind or a terrorist kind” on his country.   In his embrace of American President George W. Bush's unconscionable doctrine of pre-emption, he proposes the need for international law to "catch up with that new reality (international terrorism)", arguing that when the United Nations Charter was written, the idea of attack was defined in terms of inter-state wars, not non-state actors or non-state terrorism."  It is a dangerous proposal, one that violates the two rules of international law: the doctrine of non-intervention, which bans external interference in the internal life of sovereign states; and the doctrine of self-defense, which allows the use of force only in clear-cut cases of defense or as part of a United Nations-mandated action to preserve international peace.  Any change to these guarantees of independence and security will unleash anti-AAs (American and Australian sentiments on a global scale)....  More American than Australian, Howard's latest design is clearly intended to create an international legal environment that affords freedom and legitimacy of action for the U.S. and its satellite states such as Australia in the prosecution of the war on terrorism....  This is the 21st century, not the "white Australia first" of the last century."


PHILIPPINES:  "A Global Concern"


The editorial in the independent Manila Standard declared (12/6):  "Notwithstanding the uproar that greeted Howard's unusual idea, no one will argue that preempting is a better action than reacting.  More than any other country after the United States (9/11), it's Australia that has suffered much in terms of citizens killed or threatened, and disasters affecting them have all happened away from its shores. That its prime minister called for preemptive strikes against terrorist lairs beyond Australia's borders is understandable in this context. Although it appears that the final decision still rests with the United Nations where opponents of the proposal can shoot it down....  Howard's concern should be our concern as it should be the concern of other countries -- whether familiar with or alien to the kind of living hell to which terrorists subject their victims. Terrorism knows no borders, and terrorists recognize no one, not even people of their own religion and beliefs.  We can't afford to let terrorists shatter our peace, murder our people and destroy our cities. Their reign of terror must be put to an end."


"Australia Fair"


The liberal Today said in its editorial (12/6):  "The furor that has greeted the Australian announcement points to the difficulties that surround America's policies in its war on terror: it smacks too much of colonialism, and instead of solidarity breeds a siege mentality among Asian countries.  As if this weren't complicated enough, the American President has announced his support in principle for Australia's position, which has further inflamed hurt feelings in the region. Malaysia, at least, is trying to paint the whole thing as superpower dictation fomented by its little white Aussie satrap; Indonesia, held hostage by radical Islamists and still smarting from the loss of East Timor, is upset; the Philippines will go with anything Uncle Sam wants, but the Left over here and the opposition will just try to use the whole thing to paint our President as an American lap dog.  Is there a credible threat? The Israelis, who have been friendly and discreet and not done anything to embarrass the country, just issued a travel advisory the other day, cautioning their citizens about travel to six or seven countries, including the Philippines.  Oddest of all about the Israeli advisory is that one of the countries included on its list is Thailand.   So what is the credible threat, if any? After all, the latest trouble has been in Africa. Our suspicion is that with the end of Ramadan today, and with the Christmas season already in full swing, something is really afoot and it is an opportune time for the terrorists to cook up something. The Muslims' holy season being over, it's a great time to wreak mayhem during the Christians' holy season. Embassies do not, after all, close on a whim."


"Backlash Shocks Canberra"


Editorial consultant Amando Doronila wrote in the widely read Philippine Daily Inquirer (12/6):  "Last Sunday's statement of Prime Minister John Howard that Australia would be prepared to take preemptive action in another neighboring country to stop any terrorist attack on Australia has sparked a strong backlash of outrage from Southeast Asia and has come under heavy fire from most of the Australian press and the opposition's Labor Party....  The storm kicked up by the remarks of Howard, who heads the conservative Liberal-National Party coalition government, appears to have set back gains by Australia in seeking to forge closer economic ties with its Southeast Asian neighbors after the Labor Party Prime Minister Gough Whitlam ended the 'white Australia policy' in the 1970s....  Howard's comment revived the issue of racism....  Howard's remarks pushed back Australia away from Southeast Asia in political terms and accented its isolated position as an island continent situated in the Pacific with a dominant Western culture that has little in common with most of Southeast Asia, with the possible exception of the Philippines which shares Australia's democratic outlook and a hefty dose of pro-Americanism....  Serious damage has been inflicted on Australian relations with Southeast Asia. Downer will have to do a lot of explaining and of dissipating the perception that Australia is playing a big power role in the region and is acting as a sheriff on behalf of Bush and his preemptive strike doctrine aimed at Iraq."




Militant group BAYAN leader Teddy Casino wrote in the leading business-oriented BusinessWorld (12/6):  "Why are the Arroyo Administration officials making so much fuss over Australian Prime Minister John Howard's recent statements about preparing for preemptive strikes against terrorists in Southeast Asia?  Strange because under Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Philippines has been the staunchest promoter of the U.S.-led anti-terrorist crusade in this part of the world. Take note that Washington has fully supported Australia's move....  PM Howard was merely echoing U.S. President George W. Bush's doctrine on preemptive strikes and forward deployment, which replaces America's pre-Sept. 11 doctrine of deterence and rapid deployment....  If our officials are really so concerned about sovereignty and the hegemonic tendencies of richer countries, why did they not counter the earlier statements of U.S. officials that were, in fact, more threatening than Australia's?  Why is it that when American officials declare such things, we hear nary a squeak from our officials? Is it because of the Bush Administration's pledge of $155 million in military aid, plus something like $4 billion in investments and economic assistance, that the Arroyo government looks the other way when it comes to America's militarist and hegemonic activities?  Now that the U.S. has expressed support for Australia's position, expect the Arroyo Administration to tone down its hysterics.  Which leaves us Filipinos once again with the spectacle of hypocrites in our government doing what they do best, that is, bring our country more embarrassment and ruin."


"The Bush-Howard Axis Of Pre-emptive Deviltry"


Publisher Max V. Soliven wrote in his column in the third-leading Philippine Star (12/5):  "What did we expect? Of course, the Bush White House in Washington D.C. backed up the arrogant Howard Plan of 'preemptive' strike against terror - in whatever country.  After all, the threat of Australian Prime Minister John Howard which provoked fury all over Southeast Asia to take pre-emptive action against terrorist groups in other states, if he believed Australia was in imminent danger, is simply a reiteration of the George W. Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strike - against Iraq in particular, and anywhere else in general, where 'weapons of mass destruction' exist, or America is threatened....  The sad part of it, alas, is that the foot-in-mouth Aussie leadership, assailed even by the Australian parliamentary opposition, doesn't know how to backtrack gracefully - indeed, how to backtrack at all....  All I can say is: Mr. Howard, keep your troops out of the Philippines. We've got American soldiers here aplenty, already. One Bush is enough.  We don't need his carbon copy from the Australian bush."


"Bush's Disciple"


The editorial in the widely read Philippine Daily Inquirer said (12/5):  "The Bush doctrine justifying preemptive strikes on suspected terrorist havens has found a powerful echo and an overzealous disciple in the Antipodes....  No country among the democracies and U.S. allies, including Great Britain, has adhered to Bush's doctrine of preemptive strike and unilateralism as closely as Australia....  Because America has found that its military might cannot stop terrorist attacks on its heartland, it has developed the doctrine of preemptive attack. But this approach to curb terrorists is fatally flawed. Terrorists hide in the shadows and since the U.S. needs a territorial target, it has designated Iraq as the target and so the latter has been appropriately identified as a supporter of al-Qaeda as well as keeper of hidden weapons and facilities for mass destruction.  Australia's self-designated role as U.S. deputy has run into powerful obstacles and raises traditional Asian antagonism to Australia as a 'white enclave' in an Asian backyard. The first encounter stems from strong sense of sovereignty of Asian states. The Bush doctrine and Howard's addendum run smack into the sovereign rights of states to defend themselves and to counter security threats inside their national territories. If Australia carries out preemptive strikes beyond its continental borders, its forces intruding into other territories will not only be unwelcome but will also be considered as invaders....  The Bush doctrine, seconded by Howard, not only overturns traditional concepts of national sovereignty. It plants the seeds of the fragmentation of the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition that is now facing resistance from America's European allies on account of Bush's arrogant unilateralism."


"John Howard's 'Arrogance'"


Former assistant press secretary Horacio Paredes wrote in his column in the anti-administration Malaya (12/5): "Why would Roilo Golez find Australia's Prime Minister John Howard 'arrogant' when Howard does a George Bush and says that he would use force - even in another country - if that would stop a planned attack on Australia? In fact, the John Howard statement is not much of a sabre-rattler.  When Dubya says worse and more warmongering stuff, Roilo is on the side, cheering on the leader of the free world. Definitely, what sentiments John Howard expressed are less alarming than the mildest Dubya bombast.  If this is 'arrogant' (even with all those pre-conditions prior to the actual attack), what would Dubya's statements be to Roilo?  But, of course, Roilo dares not criticize the Great White Father.  Even then, I am shocked."


"Hasty, Exuberant, Bizarre"


Prof. Alex Magno of the University of the Philippines wrote in his column in the independent Manila Standard (12/5):  "At the very least, Howard is being undiplomatic.  But that disease seems to afflict more than just the Prime Minister.  Last week, the Australian embassy, quoting 'credible' information they would not share with their hosts, dramatically closed down their embassy. That was a horribly undiplomatic act.  Not only Howard but his whole government seems to be losing poise in the wake of a tragedy.  After years of trying to make Australia acceptably 'Asian' so that it participates in regional cooperation efforts without much friction, Howard now declares Southeast Asia an unreliable wasteland, inhabited by terrorists and ruled by government unwilling to do anything against the plaque.  By talking without thinking, Howard has squandered decades of diplomatic efforts to help Australia insinuate itself into the East Asian trading framework.  Now the Australians are again strangers to the region."


"The Howard Doctrine"


U.S.-based Greg Macabenta wrote in his column in the leading business-oriented BusinessWorld (12/4):  "It looks like the 'Bush Principle' of bringing the war to the enemy wherever they may be, and the borderless hunt-and-kill tactics of the Israeli Mossad are catching on-- but this time, with a sharper edge.  Say hello to the 'Howard Doctrine.'  With Australian Prime Minister John Howard having served notice that he intends to 'launch preemptive strikes overseas to prevent a terrorist attack on Australia,' who knows who else will follow suit?....  Note the choice of words: 'any Third World country.'  Obviously, none of the above would dare land their troops on American soil or on the territory of a sovereign state that has the military or financial muscle to back up a vigorous protest....  What is unraveling before us is a new kind of war. It is a war without borders. It is a war that can easily deteriorate into one without rules. A dirty war. What that does to a country's sovereignty or to the rule of law is frightening. Ironically, it is America that has set the pattern for this new type of war, though not without justification. Read that to mean that the gloves are now being taken off. Any pretensions to respecting sovereignty are being shed....  With Howard's preemptive strategy having been openly declared, who can blame the other countries from adopting the 'Howard Doctrine?'  The truly terrible part is that bringing troops into another country, ostensibly in hot pursuit of the enemy, is just one step short of deciding to hunker down indefinitely until the enemy has been exterminated.  That, of course, is a euphemism for 'occupation'."


"RP Bombs Indon Island"


Editorial consultant Fred dela Rosa of the independent Manila Times observed (12/4):  "The Philippines attacks an Indonesian island. Australia hits Basilan. Thailand pulverizes a camp in Myanmar. An unlikely scenario? Not if the United Nations charter is amended to allow a state to launch a pre-emptive strike against suspected terrorists in another country.  Australian Prime Minister John Howard has made such a proposal....  He said international law was no longer adequate to confront threats to national security.  The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have condemned Howard's idea, warning that Canberra's military intervention in their country would breach their national sovereignty. Opposition politicians in Australia have urged the prime minister to withdraw his statement. They accused him of making a major diplomatic error that would worsen Australia's relations with its neighbors in Asia and the Pacific.... John Howard's idea will not prosper because it will encourage nations to exercise posse justice in the name of security. Australia may invoke parity because the United States is poised to launch a unilateral attack, if needed, against Iraq. Several months ago, in a commencement exercise at the U.S. Military Academy, Bush raised the principle of first attack to thwart terrorist designs on Washington. More catcalls than applause greeted his proposal."


"Howard's Pre-emptive Strike Call Ill-advised"


The editorial in the government-owned People's Journal said (12/3):  "Australia will surely reap the whirlwind for its audacity in proposing a pre-emptive action against terrorists in neighboring Asian countries and that international law and the United Nations charter be altered so that countries can launch such attacks....  The Philippines and its neighbors are doing everything possible to secure the diplomatic community and all foreigners, and they are all pursuing multilateral cooperation to exorcise the scourge of terrorism.  Certainly, unilateral action, especially Howard's pre-emptive strike, will create more problems than solutions."




The editorial in the third-leading Philippine Star opined (12/3):  "First they shut down their embassy in Manila due to reports of supposed threats that they did not share with Philippine authorities. Now Australian officials are proposing, in so many words, that their troops be authorized by the United Nations to launch pre-emptive strikes against terrorist targets in Asia. The proposal was made Sunday by Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and as of yesterday he didn't seem worried about the firestorm in Asia that was set off by his pronouncement....  The doctrine of a pre-emptive or preventive strike is controversial enough. U.S. officials have been trying to sell the idea to the UN for months as part of a stepped up campaign against terror, and in trying to rally international support to take out Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, whom the Americans accuse of sponsoring terrorism.  Americans themselves are divided on the issue of a pre-emptive strike.  Howard wants to go a step further, indicating that Australian forces may unilaterally launch the pre-emptive strike. In the aftermath of the deadly bombings in Bali, Indonesia, where many of the fatalities were Australians, Howard's proposal must have played well on the home front. Australia, with its powerful military, is groping for ways of containing this new threat to its interests.  Canberra, however, cannot ignore the rest of the world in its frantic attempts to protect its own. This terror knows no borders, and dealing with it requires dealing with many sovereign states.  Howard's proposal has been variously described by Philippine officials as 'bizarre, arrogant, very exuberant.' When the din of hometown applause dies down, Howard should listen to the booing of Australia's neighbors."


SINGAPORE:  "Dangerous New Ground In War On Terror"


In an editorial page commentary of the top circulation pro-government Straits Times, senior writer Paul Jansen observed (12/5):  "The Bush administration was the first to sanction pre-emptive action. But it has also made clear this is not something to be used lightly....  Here on this unmarked ground - tackling the terrorist target without descending wholly to his level of lawlesss barbarism - is where extra care must be taken to avoid winning the battle but losing the war....  Keeping faith with the rule of law and civilised norms is often a struggle when bullets are flying and bombs are exploding and the other side is not fighting fair.  Which is why a canny politician like Mr Howard knows, post-Bali, that he can skip the rule book and still get a pat on the back from his constituents.  But he should tread carefully - as the US has - down this road.  One wrong step by him and the terrorists will have succeeded - at the cost of a few suicides - in causing a renunciation of the concept of national sovereignty, creating a falling out between legitimate governments, and generating new converts to their cause."


"Placing Howard's Comments On Pre-emptive Action In Context"


Evelyn Goh wrote in the pro-government Straits Times (12/5):  "What could Australian Prime Minister John Howard have been thinking of when he made those controversial statements on Sunday in favour of pre-emptive strikes?  Interpreting as Mr Howard's main message a threat to act to interdict suspected terrorists in neighbouring countries, South-east Asian leaders have reacted with indignation.  While allowing that Mr Howard's remarks were injudicious, it might be helpful to place them in context in order to get to the bottom of what this row is, in fact, about.  His main aim was to express support for, and to identify with, the US. The Howard government has consistently pursued a distinctly pro-US policy, which has been intensified in the wake of Sept 11.  Supporting President George W. Bush's pre-emptive doctrine is a way of re-affirming Canberra's 'special relationship' with Washington, not only in the international diplomatic arena, but also for domestic consumption.  Rather, it is reflective of the deeper problems that have dogged Australia's ambivalent relations with its neighbours in this region throughout the Howard government's time in office. The Australian Prime Minister's pro-US stance is regarded as having been pursued at the expense of ties with Asia.  Counter-terrorism now provides an unparalleled raison d'etre for increasing cooperation and deepening ties between them, and it would be extremely costly for all if this opportunity should be jeopardised by ill-judged rhetoric on both sides.Counter-terrorism now provides an unparalleled raison d'etre for increasing cooperation and deepening ties between them, and it would be extremely costly for all if this opportunity should be jeopardised by ill-judged rhetoric on both sides."


"Preventing Pre-emption"


Pro-government Straits Times observed (12/3):  "Pre-emptive military strikes are to be expected only between hostile nations. So when a country announces its willingness to launch such an action against targets in a friendly nation - with no warning given to, or permission sought from the other government - it should expect to face a barrage of criticism. After all, under normal circumstances such moves would require a declaration of war. But Australia feels these are not normal times and such unilateral strikes would be wholly justifiable in the light of the terrorist threat. The country's Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, said as much in a televised interview last Sunday: His nation would launch a pre-emptive strike overseas - if that was what it takes to prevent a terrorist attack on its shores....  The Australian leader is not alone in feeling that the fight against terrorism is not proceeding with as much vigour as it should in some countries....  His government can step up its contacts and collaboration with other governments in the region which are similarly concerned about the terrorist threat. This could take the form of greater information sharing as well as financial assistance to upgrade the anti-terrorist resources of countries suspected of being used as staging posts by terror networks. But at the same time, nations whose shores are accessible to those planning mayhem and murder should realise that, firstly, such people do not respect borders when making their deadly point, and second, they are jeopardising their claims to protection under international norms. While Mr Howard's talk of pre-emptive strikes in friendly countries may seem outrageous now, he will find sympathisers at home and also abroad unless nations show conviction in prosecuting the war on terror."


THAILAND:  “Howard Is Catalyst In Continental Drift”


The lead editorial in top-circulation, moderately conservative English-language Bangkok Post read (12/4):  "Australia has good reason to be nervous following the bombings in Bali on October 12.  Sadly, more than half of the 180 victims on the resort island were Australian.  But Canberra should not overreact to what was widely seen as a consequence of its decision years ago to act as deputy sheriff to the United States in this region.  Rather than absorb the lesson of the Bali tragedy by distancing itself from Washington, Canberra seems intent on settling deeper inside the U.S. camp, actively supporting its war on terrorism and siding with its hardline position on Iraq....  Mr. Howard may just be playing to a domestic audience but the growing perception of a closer Australia-U.S. axis at the cost of continued friendly Australia-Asia ties is a source of genuine concern for us all.”


"Howard A Bit Too Quick On The Trigger"


The English-language independent Nation editorialized (12/3):  "Howard has proposed that the United Nations Security Council amend the UN charter to allow a country to launch pre-emptive strikes against terrorists in other states. His position is a bit ahead of the US position, which also advocates pre-emptive strikes on terrorist groups and the countries that harbour them.  His comment has drawn flak from Asean countries, which view Howard's opinion with contempt. Many have quickly condemned him for not taking into consideration their sovereign rights. Certainly, when Howard refers to Australia's neighbours, only Indonesia and the Philippines are really considered dangerous to the security of Australia and its people.  For the time being, though, it would be better for Australia to intensify its cooperation with those countries that still have public security problems. Canberra needs to be patient and must be willing to assist its neighbours in intelligence gathering and training to improve their surveillance and response to terrorism threats.  Australia has an important role to play in the peace and security of Asia, especially in Southeast Asia. By its own virtue, it has a special place in the region. It is imperative that Australia redefines its own role independently. Southeast Asian countries dread to see another deputy sheriff ride into town. Instead, they want an Australia with a mind of its own, that reflects the interests of Asians. Anything else might just deny Australia its destiny in this part of the world."





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