A call for military accountability
A lot of people who questioned the need for a parliamentary debate on Australia’s military commitment in Afghanistan said we’d just end up with a whole heap of MPs agreeing we’re doing the right thing and we’re doing it the right way.
Indeed despite their stylistic differences, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott’s speeches to open the debate were almost interchangeable in their messages and conclusions - although the Prime Minister did admit for the first time we might be there a lot longer than she’d ever fessed up to before.
But even though there is broad bi-partisan support for our mission in Afghanistan, there has been some dissenters, and also some interesting ideas thrown up during the discussion, like the proposition by Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb this afternoon.
Robb backed his leader’s stance that we must stay the course in Afghanistan, but he called on our military leaders to be put under far greater scrutiny.
He outlined the disturbing growth in international terrorism over the past decade and went on to say it was vital our military efforts in Afghanistan be properly resourced:
If the Government is to rely as much as they do on our military leaders’ advice on appropriate levels of resources required to achieve each strategic objective, then these military advisers must be held more accountable for the achievement or non achievement of these outcomes.
Consideration should be given to a forum for our military leaders and parliamentarians, similar to the Congressional hearings of US generals in the United States, which would not only bring greater accountability to our military leaders but, importantly, better inform the parliamentarians who must take greater, and ultimate, responsibility.
Rather than setting a particular withdrawal date for the UN-led forces, the achievement of these outcomes should determine the exit strategy. Otherwise the insurgents may decide to simply sit out the prescribed exit date.
Politicians in this country are terrified of being seen to be anything less than 100 per cent “supporting the troops”, which has led to a tendency for them to fall back on explanations about our mission seriously lacking in detail.
They think it’s enough to say that the top brass advises progress is being made and we just have to buy it.
But as Robb points out, in other countries, including the US, the military hierarchy is held publicly to account.
It’s an interesting idea that we might know more, rather than less, about what we’ve got our troops into.
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