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Saturday, December 07, 2002
Passing the time

Well, here I am, travelling round Melbourne on a train, looking up at the walls for some reading matter. There is insufficient time to open or to write a Jeffrey Archer novel, so my eye alights on a set of instructions to Melburnians:
*No smoking *No feet on seats *No littering
*No indecent language *No alcohol *No forcing doors
it says. What on Earth do young Melburnians do for fun? A few moments thought gives me the answer: they go round buggering up weblogs by slipping random Japanese characters into people's postings, that's what they do. (Of course, such unwelcome apparitions are nothing to do with there having been a Japanese girl before me on the machine at the internet cafe yesterday...)

John Howard's rhetoric

Australia's Prime Minister has got himself into deep water by indicating his country's willingness to go after terrorists posing a threat, no matter where they are to be found. Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia are among the neighbours alarmed by the prospect of Australia's potential bellicose incursions. John Howard has a lot to learn about making statements intended for home consumption: they can sometimes have adverse consequences internationally.

The US Hebrew Gog (anag: George W. Bush) is the only World statesman - sorry, I mean leader - who is powerful enough to get away with such careless use of words. 'Axis of evil', 'crusade', and 'dead or alive' come to mind here, although perhaps even the Gog, with his much vaunted advisers, will have come to regret such absurdities. John Howard does not have the Gog's brass neck. Watch out for a minor change in rhetoric soon to calm things down a bit.

As it happens, I shall shortly be granting an audience to Australia's number one Liberal (i.e. Conservative). I shall suggest that he needs to unruffle some feathers, quickly. Having reassured his people and licked some US butt, there is no point in causing further antagonism. Besides, the Australian Labore party, fresh from its triumph in Victoria, is noticeably more emollient. I think that John will heed my advice, under the circumstances.

This is not the only advice I have been able to give to World leaders; some time ago, I had some significant input into the British attitude to war on Iraq. Tony Blair asked me how to deal with the issue. Ever aware of the need to avoid antagonising our European neighbours, this is what I said:
Tony, my boy, the first thing you must do is contact all your European friends and allies and tell them about your game plan. Tell them that no matter what you say and do in public on this issue, they are to take your pronouncements with a pinch of salt. [What's new? - Ed.] Your words are carefully calculated with a significant end in view: the attempted taming of the mad US bull elephant. This is a mammoth (pun intended) task that requires great care.

Do you remember how Lyndon Johnson said of J. Edgar Hoover 'It's better to have him inside the tent, pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in'? The converse argument applies with the Gog - he's not going to take the slightest notice of you if you criticise him from outside his tent. You must make every indication that you will be joining him in his adventurous obfuscations; that way, while you are apparently 'on side', he may just possibly be open to rational suggestions such as going to the UN. At the last minute, if he is really determined to go to war, neither you nor any one else will be able to stop him, but it's worth trying to moderate his position somewhat. Your chiefs of staff will be able to give you lots of reasons (excuses) for backing down at the last minute. Ideas such as a lack of proper equipment or the need to provide too many servicemen to cover the expected firemen's strike, spring to mind (see Josh blogs, passim).

The important thing, though, is to let our European allies know what you're up to. This will enable them to give voice to European worries, while you continue to toady up to the Gog in a good cause. It's a high-risk strategy but what else can you do when the nutcases have their fingers on the buttons/triggers? The one place their fingers aren't is on World feeling generally.
It looks as though Tony has been paying attention: he's done well enough so far. Let's hope that John Howard pays attention, too.

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