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Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 14:51 | SYDNEY

Reader ripostes: TNI and Bob Carr

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COMMENTS

15 March 2013 10:22

Below, a comment from Jorge Bechara on Rodger Shanahan's Bob Carr's Selective Indignation. But first, Andrew Johnson:

I appreciate that Gary Hogan has expanded on his contribution and rightly points out that he is bringing his own experience into the understanding of Indonesia and its potential in world affairs. I suggest John Legge had a similar did likewise when he wrote about Sukarno, and there no doubt that it is good to know what Sukarno said about himself and what the new generation of officers are saying motivates them today.

But analysis also requires a dispassionate examination of the historical context of people, in Sukarno's case an understanding of what he was saying in the 1930s, what his part with the romusha and PETA entailed, what were his options during the transformation from the USI to the RI, and even what was his tactics with Kennedy and US relations. Once you put the person into historical context, you will have a better understanding of what motivates them and their future choices.

Indonesia has had profitable motive to maintain good relations with Washington and to send officers to learn in the US. But to predict the motivations and likely future conduct of the TNI, we need to understand the nature of the organisation that the officers wanted to join and the likely range of interests they have now and as they progress in the future.

Australia and other nations have to deal with the reality of today and of the next several years before we get to a future TNI that may come into existence twenty or thirty years hence. The current historical context seems to me to include that the TNI still engages in private enterprise, still asserts 'unity' as its first duty to the nation, and today still hosts a culture that views race, ethnicity, and religion in terms of superiority and inferiority. The TNI is improving, but we have to deal with the reality we have today.

Jorge Bechara writes:

In Bob Carr's Selective Indignation, Rodger Shanahan questions 'what criteria the Foreign Minister uses to condemn incidents. There appears to be no rhyme or reason as to the threshold for such public utterances.'

I wondered about the same question while listening to Mr Carr's Magna Carta Lecture hosted by The British High Commission in Sydney on 8 February 2013. In a speech titled 'Perspectives on Human Rights and Australian Foreign Policy', the minister affirmed that 'nations have the responsibility to protect their own people but if they fail that responsibility the world community has the responsibility to do something — if certain conditions are met.'

Mr Carr didn't explain which conditions he had in mind, but gave us an idea: 'In Syria we find these principle settled on so recently, endorsed so recently by the full membership of the UN now being rebutted. How much more suffering is there going to be in Syria before something happens?'

'Full membership of the UN...' It may explain why the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs is so outspoken against countries with inconvenient political interests but so ineffective when there is an opportunity and 'responsibility to do something', as in the recent UN vote to recognise Palestine as an observer state. On that occasion the Australian Government abstained from that 'responsibility'. Maybe because Palestine didn't meet 'certain conditions'.

In his lecture Mr Carr blamed Chinese and Russian vetoes in the UN as a hurdle for a solution for the Syrian civil war: 'All the principles of international law are contradicted by the savage conflict taking place in that country, without an international community able to mobilise itself to implement international law.'

It's indeed hard or impossible to mobilise an international community when nations such as Australia and UK choose to abstain from the implementation of a lawful resolution and refuse to support a peaceful application for membership of an international organisation.  

Given his well advertised knowledge of history and brief experience in national and international politics, the improvised senator should be able to understand — and to admit — that foreign policy and human rights so many times don't go well together.

 

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