How does Turnbull acceptance of US thanks for Tony Abbott's decisions undermine the critics who say he's weak
On 4 September 2014 US Foreign Secretary John Kerry asked 10 nations to join a coalition of military forces to fight Islamic State. Prime Minister Abbott agreed we would.
Tony Abbott copped it for that decision.
What follows is an embarrassingly fawning puff-piece about Turnbull ostensibly written by David Crowe.
The headline gives you the premise - that the expressions of gratitude from the US to Prime Minister Turnbull undermine the "bid" to 'portray" Turnbull as weak.
Turnbull briefed the story to Crowe, it has details only Turnbull and closest of colleagues could know - that's where Turnbull's weakness of character comes racing into full screen view. Everything Obama, Ash Carter and Fighting Joe Dunford thanked Turnbull for was the result of a decision made under Tony Abbott's watch.
There are few weaker sorts of blokes than men on the make who take credit for work done by others. Turnbull's disconnection with reality comes out when he uses that ill-gotten gratitude as proof that he is strong. To trot all that out, put it together in an article for a newspaper and think you'll be proving the naysayers wrong is the act of a madman.
To David Crowe, from experience, if you're going to do what you've done here today pick a pretty one.
US gratitude undermines bid to portray Malcolm Turnbull as weak
When Barack Obama met Malcolm Turnbull in the White House on Tuesday, one of his first remarks was to thank Australia for the scale of its help in the war against Islamic State.
This was hardly surprising. US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter had opened his talks with Turnbull in the same way the previous day. In that meeting the first words from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Marine General “Fighting Joe” Dunford, were: ‘‘Thank you.’’
“Keep in mind that in our fight against ISIL, Australia is the second-largest contributor of troops on the ground after the United States,” the US President said as he sat beside Turnbull in the Oval Office.
The letter from Carter in early December showed little appreciation of that key fact. It asked the same of all 60 coalition members, despite the vast differences in the commitments already made.
Oddly, the letter asked for more help in air operations. One of the recipients was New Zealand, which has no air force really capable of combat missions over Iraq.
The pro-forma nature of the request seemed to be news to the US President.
Turnbull has not said this, and perhaps no Australian leader or official ever would, but the second-biggest contributor to the war against Islamic State should expect more than a form letter if it is being asked to do more.
The letter was clearly aimed at European allies more than Australia. Yet this did not stop the malcontents within the Liberal Party from using it to take potshots at their new leader.
When Defence Minister Marise Payne confirmed last week that she had formally rejected Carter’s request, she managed to generate another round of headlines to fuel the dispute.
Turnbull’s message is exactly the same. Yet the bitter losers from last September’s leadership spill are fooling people into thinking that Turnbull is weak where Andrews and Tony Abbott were strong.
At no point in Turnbull’s meeting at the Pentagon this week did Carter ask for more Australian troops. Obama did not ask for more either.
Four months into his leadership, Turnbull is adjusting his thinking on international security. His speech this week showed a greater emphasis on the military operations against Islamic State, reflecting his talks in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi last weekend. The Iraqi leader, who earned an engineering PhD from the University of Manchester in the 1980s, does not want foreign troops on the front line because he wants Iraqis to see their own troops winning against Islamic State. Turnbull’s stance reflects that message.
Turnbull has shifted carefully on another key point. Last year he was too reluctant to link terrorism with Islam. This week he said nobody should be “too delicate” to say that terrorism has something to do with Islam.
Turnbull does not endorse Abbott’s inflammatory call for a reformation of Islam, given that a prime minister has to work with the Muslim community rather than enrage it, but he no longer denies the obvious link between the religion and terrorism.
You would not know it from some of the domestic sniping and media coverage, but there is an underlying consistency to Australia’s message in Washington notwithstanding the shift in power from Abbott to Turnbull. The retaking of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, was a subject in this week’s talks because it is the next stage of the war against Islamic State. Turnbull does not rule out more assistance. For now, however, he is putting weight on the view of the Abadi. One of the ideas Turnbull is now canvassing, a “partition” of parts of Syria and Iraq, is obviously contentious. The word conjures images of forced relocations.
Yet the experience in Sinjar, where Islamic State was driven from the town, shows that a victory by Shi’ites or Kurds can be followed by reprisals against Sunnis. Without a political settlement there can only be a spiral of violence. When the concept came up this week, Obama saw the link with an earlier suggestion from Vice-President Joe Biden.
This week shows it is well past time to move beyond the bickering over Australian troops in Iraq, where a troop count is the only measure of loyalty to the US.
It should be more obvious than ever that the domestic dispute is about wounding Turnbull rather than Islamic State.
We'll leave the last words to this love song deddi-cashion from David to Mal