Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:48 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:48 | SYDNEY

Reader ripostes: Syria and America

1 August 2012 10:54

Dayne Eckerman writes:

I've just read Rodger Shanahan's piece on the misinformation emanating from the Syrian crisis at the moment. The Aviationist blog posted an article on the weekend on the same subject with respect to a video apparently showing the FSA shooting down a Syrian Mi-8 helicopter. Here is the link for the article on the Mi-8 (incl. video).

It does appear that there is a fair amount of misinformation and exaggerated claims coming from both camps. The Turkish F-4 is another example too. The Aviationist has good info on that as well.

Cecelia O'Brien responds to a Hugh White op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald (she mistakenly attributes the piece to The Interpreter, but no matter, her comments are very much worth reading):

I'd like to offer an American comment on Prof Hugh White's essay 'America's Foreign Fantasy', printed July 24. Yes I know, it is a bit late but it is summer here in the US and time for vacations and work in the garden so I missed the article and only read it today. I hope you will forgive my tardiness.

I find your blog to be very informative and  thought provoking. I usually would include Prof White's commentary in that description. But I am afraid the American political environment he describes in this essay is foreign to me. 

I suspect Prof White misunderstands the rhythm of American campaigns and how perceptions of a candidates' foreign policy are formed. Major statements on foreign policy are not usually made during the summer doldrums; no one wants to listen to foreign policy speeches when the beach beckons. Fall is the time for such heavy discussions, especially during debate season.

There is also the commentary from our political pundits — enough to fill the Library of Congress — which analyzes every utterance made by either the Governor or the President. Gov Romney is perceived as a 'hawk' for either good or ill. The President is perceived as a 'realist' or an appeaser depending on which side of the political spectrum you occupy. No major foreign policy address is going to change those perceptions among the electorate. Then there is the fact which causes despair among those interested in foreign policy: Americans pick Presidents on domestic issues not foreign policy. I suspect Australians are no different.

I find astonishing Prof White's expectation that any Presidential or candidate for national office other than the Libertarians is going to suggest an acceptance of American decline and suggest we bow off the world stage gracefully. Nor is any candidate for national office going to suggest possible military confrontation with China. But you will find that Americans are talking about it — in op eds for our newspapers, on the 'talking heads' TV shows, on call in radio, on popular political and economic blogs as well as among friends and family.

Reassessing our alliances, discussing what sort of military we should have and how much we should spend for it, the 'pivot' to Asia, a lack of support for military intervention and the emergence of Chinese military might are recurring topics. Americans know the times they are a'changing. But we have not given our politicians permission to speak about it openly yet. I suspect this is because in part, we haven't given up yet on either our economy or our relationship with China. Anyone who expects us to do this does not understand us.

I would add that in a recent survey it was Japan that was identified as being our most important ally. The Japanese have a 92% favorability rating among Americans. While this may reflect sympathy for the Japanese in the aftermath of the earthquake/tsunami/Fukishama incidents I believe this also reflects an awareness of the importance of the region and the role our alliance with Japan plays. So we aren't totally oblivious despite the absence of major foreign policy speeches. While those meaty foreign policy position papers are manna from heaven for foreign policy experts and analysts, public opinion is shaped on these issues in more subtle ways. One has to look a bit deeper before proclaiming an entire country to be living a 'fantasy'.