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Go to War?

Should New Zealand get more involved in the war in Afghanistan? The US has recently made a few “subtle hints” that it would like to see more involvement although it would be mainly symbolic since New Zealand’s small armed forces are unlikely to make any real difference. But the symbolism is important, of course, because the US needs international support to make its activities in Afghanistan more acceptable. Of course Iraq is another matter. I don’t think they will ever gain widespread acceptance for that!

The hints I mentioned above included the comment that if New Zealand ever expected help from the US military in the event of any future problems its only fair that New Zealand should help the US in this time of need. Fair enough too, although its hard to imagine a situation where New Zealand would need any military help – not because we can look after ourselves (we can’t) but because no one is likely to want to start a war against us, first because we are so isolated, and second because New Zealand is fairly well respected and liked internationally.

No matter what we think of some sections of the US population and some of its less likable leaders it is still our ally and I think we should contribute to its military efforts if they have some justification, such as Afghanistan, but I think we should be careful what role we have in those efforts. Peace keeping, reconstruction, engineering and training is one thing but being on the front line calling in US air strikes which kill hundreds of innocent civilians is not something I think we should be involved with.

So I think we should say to the US that we will contribute to its efforts in Afghanistan but on our terms: that is in positive roles rather than traditional combat (which might not be very effective anyway as well as causing many casualties on both sides and often increasing resentment against the US and its allies).

If we can stick to a role which both sides respect then we will have fulfilled our obligations and also done the right thing. How often is that a consideration in modern diplomacy? Practically never I would say!

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