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Not since the Crusades has there been such unity of purpose among the western powers, setting a “moral” agenda. Just like with the Crusaders, the morality of the enforcers is questionable but then, it is not meant to be questioned.

After the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, when OPEC (organization of petroleum exporting countries), organized their boycott of Israel’s supporters, the western powers were given in the face of the oil cartels. Slowly but surely and sometimes ineptly, the west manipulated the overthrow of the governments of key petroleum exporting nations. The shah of Persia was discarded in the hope that a junta run by mad mullahs would create barrels of bedlam in the midst of the oil oligarchies.

The Iran-Iraq war followed on the heels of the Iranian hostage crisis. The Carter Administration was humiliated and succumbed to Reagan’s “cool” approach to the Cold War.

Letting Gorbachev and Shevardnadze go, to install bumbling buffoon Boris in Moscow, was another step along the road to promoting the primacy of American interests. Moscow’s client states in the Arab world needed a new patron.

Russia was too impotent to continue to attract its former suitors. France tried to fill the breech but it had to back off in the interest of maintaining foreign policy unity in the EEC, which too, was heavily tied to the US in matters of defence and trade.

So now we have the world ruled from Washington. America is the leader of the “United Nations” pack.

In the 1970s, the Third World had the numbers in the UN General Assembly.
Anti-Western resolutions were carried, over American objection. Nations with horrible records on human rights, like the USSR, China, Arab and African states, called the shots.

The Americans, understandably on the defensive over Vietnam, were goaded while the crimes of their detractors, of China in Tibet and of Russia in the gulags, were “off limits”.

Margaret Thatcher started the fightback over a trifle in the Falklands, followed by Reagan’s beach head in Beirut and his grenades on Granada. The momentum gathered through Desert Storm, into the tornado of the Western Alliance, as we now know it. There’s nothing like force to force the issue.

Today, everyone knows who’s boss. Kosovo is behind us and Timor is ahead of us. Prime Minister Howard did not persuade the world that we should lead a peacekeeping force in Timor. We had called for it so convincingly that when the US told us to “put our money where our mouths were”- we would have looked like dills if we had dallied too long over Dilli.

If the Muslims finish up hating us, it will not derail the pitch for a Middle East peace settlement but it could mess things up, if the Americans were in the front line. We are the fall guys for American – inspired geopolitics and have been called to pay for our subscription to the US defence network.

As we move into confrontation with Indonesia, reflect on how we have squandered the last quarter of a century in South-East Asia.