My opposition to Australian involvement in Dubya’s war is I hope as intense as anyone else’s, and I share in the widespread outrage at John Howard’s stance. However an air of unreality has emerged in the debate.
As systems of government go, democracy may be as good as it gets. Yet it is flawed simply because people are. Leaders and those who elect them are all alike imperfect, prone to self-interest and susceptible to blindness or misinformation. On any given issue their convictions may be both passionate and conflicting in equal measure.
Against this we elect leaders to executive authority and want clear leadership from them. That means we expect them to make tough calls, even where we disagree profoundly with their judgements. To imagine that a committee of millions could make critical decisions through a plebiscite is fanciful.
We must continue to weep, pray and plead the cause of Iraq’s innocents. Mr Howard’s convictions on this matter sicken many of us to the core. Yet they are his, and to demand that he act against them on our say-so is a utopian fantasy, a mockery of leadership, and a recipe for anarchy.