Tonight, Australian time, at Fort Benning, President George W Bush will make a primetime address to the American people to outline his new strategy for Iraq. The President is now dealing with a virulent insurgency of his own – the new Democratic controlled Congress. The 2008 presidential campaign looms ever close. The war in Iraq has come home.

Bush’s main ally in the Anglosphere, Tony Blair, will retire soon. His silence over the execution of Saddam Hussein shows he knows the limits of his influence in Washington. And what of our Prime Minister? Alexander Downer is predictably shrill in The Herald Sun today. “Labor believes in the immediate surrender of Iraq to the thugs and terrorists,” he writes. How different are they to the sectarian thugs who so catastrophically mismanaged Saddam’s hanging? And what influence does he have on the conduct of the war anyway?

John Howard is the only leader of the Anglosphere to remain unscathed by Iraq. Our presence there is cosmetic. The two are interrelated. But what of our clout in Washington? Blair has little. John Howard must have less. No one cares what his Foreign Minister thinks. Australia will follow the US line – unless Iraq suddenly becomes an issue here.

Still, Alexander Downer is heading to the US – but to join the likes of Bindi Irwin and the Wiggles for the G’day USA promotion in LA, not to stand alongside the President as he speaks to the nation. Perhaps that’s the best place for him. Perhaps, if Australia wants to make a mark in Washington, we should be putting Bindi in the Beltway.