President Barack Obama has announced that the United States will lead a “broad coalition” of countries to roll back and “ultimately destroy” the Islamic State.
In a televised address that interrupted prime-time TV in the US, Obama announced further airstrikes against IS in Iraq and potentially Syria, more armed forces personnel to train and equip fighters on the ground, heightened intelligence efforts and more humanitarian support to the communities displaced by IS across the Middle East.
Australia is not only part of that broad coalition (hitherto, a “core coalition”) but an enthusiastic participant. Speaking to reporters in Launceston prior to Obama’s address, Tony Abbott said he had spoken to the president on Tuesday, and while there have been no further military requests from the US yet, warned that “a specific request in the form of air capability and military advisers could come”. Abbott also said he was not playing “politics” in warning that the terror threat in Australia looked likely to rise.
“I don’t want anyone to think that this is done on the basis of politics,” he said. “It’s done on the basis of expert assessment.”
This is how the build-up to war works in 2014 — in a series of strategically timed announcements played out live on our TV screens, and in constant reminders of an ever-increasing threat to our personal safety.
But while Obama explained that America had “not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland”, Abbott was not so circumspect, reiterating several times that IS posed a domestic threat to Australians: “This is at least as much a domestic issue for us as it is an international security issue. This is not a conflict which is remote to us.”
Abbott’s insistence that there was nothing political in his hyping of the terrorist threat, and his ostentatious name-checking of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as a supporter of the government’s decisions, seems to indicate that the Coalition has detected a certain voter cynicism about the government’s sudden focus on security issues at a time when it has been struggling domestically.
Oh, and did we mention it’s September 11 today? Be alert, but not alarmed — surely that’s just a coincidence.