At Large

International Dating Lines

John Howard is an indispensable ally, so why talk about the weather when George Bush comes calling?

By 9.6.07

Sam sits down with his doctor to hear the results of his physical. The physician reassures him that the full battery of tests he administered reveal Sam to be in perfect condition.

"But, Doctor, what about my recurring headaches?"

"Sam, I have to tell you that considering your general health, those headaches you get don't worry me."

"Of course, Doc. If you had my headaches, they wouldn't be worrying me, either."

Our relationship with most other countries in recent years has approximated this classic joke. We tell them we have severe headaches from Islamic extremism, from Saddam Hussein, from North Korea, from Iranian nuclear aspirations, and they tell us they are not worried about our headaches. Well, thanks, guys, if only we could develop some of your savoir-faire, the world might see us as fair saviors. Then again, if we could develop some of your sang-froid, we might end up like you, singing like frauds.

In any case, we are forced to take the lose-lose side of the ledger and give them the win-win. We lose men and treasure, if we are seen as losing the battle we lose that too, and if we are seen as winning we lose because we are painted as bullies, paranoid bullies at that. Europe and friends get to win by saving their money and people for a rainy day, plus they win in relative power if we lose, plus they get the benefit of our victory if we win, plus they still get to knock us as bullies if we win, paranoid bullies at that.

When there is a Republican administration in place, particularly one led by a guy from Texas, they get to crown us with a cowboy hat, and call us cowboy bullies, para... er, I guess we covered that already.

Against this backdrop, what my father the psychologist calls a "cognitive map," we become desperate to court a few stragglers who make the calculation that the goodies we can offer them outweigh the cooties they get from touching us. We dub them some slogan like the "coalition of the willing" and brandish them as proofs of our vision and as the prizes of our charisma. Well, at least for a while, until they figure out just how big a barrel they have us over. Then they start raising the price.

Which brings us to a wonderful fellow named John Howard, who runs the lovely island nation of Australia, off somewhere beyond the international dateline, or beyond the sound barrier or something, a place noted for its export of Russell Crowe and kangaroos and Nicole Kidman and Outback Steakhouse and Anthony LaPaglia and emus, a country that began as a prison and became a haven with lots of freedom where people can live happily ever after if they can only find it on the globe.

So now our President, fresh from a surprise visit to the troops in Iraq and a hot liaison with Katie Couric (we're talking desert heat here, calm down), is off confabulating with this Howard guy and a bunch of other Asian potentate types. Bush must spend most of his public time there gesticulating confidently, but his private time with Howard must be spent genuflecting obsequiously. This is because Howard is practically the last kid on the block who has his servicemen right up alongside ours in Baghdad, taking their licks.

If you listen to Howard's pronouncements concerning this summit, you will discover that he has identified the most powerful problem of our time: global warming. He anticipates that his talks with President Bush will yield historic breakthroughs in the area of global cooperation with regard to global retooling for the purpose of global rehabilitation in the service of global reconstruction designed to achieve global reconfiguration for the purpose of dropping a global ice cube into the simmering Coke of global warming.

What all this politico-socio-bluffo-economic gibberish adds up to is a lot of dollars, American ones. These dollars are ostensibly to solve global warming but are really big payoffs for these guys holding our hand in the global war mingling against Al-Qaeda and associates. Global warming has become the kitty into which we drop the global payola. Various quasi-governmental pseudo-scientific entities will serve as the bagmen for our loyal Australian allies, who fearlessly march at our side in the battle for freedom.

Oh, well, if we want them to give us some aspirin for our headaches I suppose we will have to give them some cold hard compresses for their fever. Take it away, Howard.

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About the Author

Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a senior editor of The American Spectator.