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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13216


Dr JENSEN (Tangney) (11:53): In order to avoid making the mistakes of the past, we need to heed the lessons of history. There is some discussion of the lessons to be learned from Iraq and Afghanistan; but, in essence, they are the wrong lessons, and we need to go back further. There is no doubt that the West has become extraordinarily adept at winning wars, which is the first prerequisite to solving some diplomatically intractable problems. However, we also need to win a peace that follows war, and that is where we have been found wanting. Recent history is all well and good, but let's go back further.

At the end of World War I, American President Woodrow Wilson urged restraint but Georges Clemenceau and David Lloyd George thought differently. Indeed, David Lloyd George had stated that they must 'squeeze the German lemon until the pips squeaked'. This is what happened with the Treaty of Versailles, and this led to World War II. Following that conflict, the US prevailed with a more enlightened strategy, one where Marshall aid was provided and where most of the personnel and structures were allowed to remain in place. This has resulted in Germany and Japan being staunch friends and democracies since that time.

In Iraq, in particular, we made the mistake of excluding those who were senior in government, the bureaucracy, the military and the police force. This bred a group of implacable foes, many of whom latterly became part of ISIS and, indeed, constitute much of their leadership. We have no choice but to comprehensively defeat ISIS in the field; they have to know that they have been militarily defeated. We must allow no pretence that they have been anything other than defeated. To that end, far more has to be done than simply plinking a few targets a day from the air, as the West has been doing.

There has been a significant lack of political and strategic leadership from the West and particularly from the US. This has allowed the complication of Russia stepping into the vacuum that vacuous US policy has left. There can and must be no negotiation with ISIS until they are comprehensively militarily defeated. To aid in that, we have to ensure that we stop the multiple and sustainable significant lines of funding to ISIS. We know of the oil revenues that are flowing to ISIS. But ISIS are also selling antiquities. They are getting ransoms from Western governments and donations from mosques and other organisations. They are imposing heavy taxes. They are also raiding banks when they take territory et cetera. This revenue is allowing ISIS not only to continue their military and terrorist activity but also to put structures in place that allow them to pretend that they are a state actor—structures such as health care, welfare et cetera.

This evil that is growing in Iraq and Syria is facilitated by failed states. In that vacuum, this group have set about providing the offerings of state, as I said, such as welfare, employment, schools, safety and certainty. So the question must be: how do we, Australia, play our part in a comprehensive and holistic plan for dealing with ISIS and supporting stable, sustainable governments in that region? Policymakers must note that, of course, it is no accident that democracy seems to shrivel under the Middle Eastern sun. Economists have long noted the detrimental effects of the resources curse. Such effects are also in operation throughout middle Africa. Political scientists observe a minimum GDP development requirement required in order to sustain democracy. It also requires a functional bureaucracy and functioning middle class.

What is true today is that politics is the art of the possible, and that no situation, however grave it may initially appear, is intractable or impossible. In future, free nations must re-evaluate how much heed we pay to the maxim 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'. Arming rebels, picking winners and imposing values must be critically examined. I hope this will form part of further debate on the situation in Iraq and Syria. In conclusion, I have to say that it is unfortunate that the deputy leader of the opposition did not show any interest in national security matters when her government slashed defence spending to the lowest level since 1938.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.