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Should We Join the War?

February 25, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

So the NZ government’s worst kept secret has finally been confirmed and it turns out that New Zealand is going to war. Well, maybe technically we aren’t, if you trust the prime minister – but does anyone still trust him after his extensive history of being economical with the truth?

We are sending 106 (or 104 in some reports) troops of which 16 will be there for the stated mission: training the Iraqi military. But is this a good idea? According to a Herald poll just under half of respondents think it is, 20% think we should be there but in a humanitarian role, almost 40% think it’s a bad idea, and just 1% aren’t sure.

You might be surprised to hear that I am a part of the 1%.

Why? Because I think we need to stand up to groups who threaten the good aspects of our society (relative freedom of speech, freedom from religious extremism, freedom from violence, etc) so fighting against ISIS seems to be an unfortunate necessity (more moderate solutions are unlikely to work with such a barbaric and extreme group). But at the same time we are participating in a process which caused the problem in the first place because without the original Iraq war which the US started for completely false and illegal reasons, the Middle East would not be in the situation it is in today.

The PM, who said his party would not become arrogant and would seek consensus where it could, totally failed in both of these objectives by committing New Zealand to participating in this conflict without putting it to a proper vote. Even his closest partner party Act doesn’t agree with the action but because they have to do what they’re told (they only exist because National lets them) they can do nothing about this.

And despite the PM’s assurances, it seems to me that at least in the short term this will make the world a less safe place for the people of New Zealand. By participating in this military action we could easily become a target for extremism. And if you think that is unlikely ask Japan and Canada how unlikely they initially thought it was.

On the other hand a small majority of New Zealander’s do want this to go ahead (if you can believe the Herald poll which is undoubtedly biased). And should we not do our part by participating in international actions against groups like ISIS? And shouldn’t we support our allies, like the US, when they want our support? And shouldn’t we do what seems right, even when it involves the regrettable need for violence and some potential risk?

Of course, if the US hadn’t bumbled into Iraq all those years ago and completely destroyed the tenuous stability the country already had things wouldn’t be so bad today. I totally agree that Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator but was Iraq really worse then that it has become today? And what about Libya and Afghanistan? Do we begin to see a pattern here?

You could say the US and its allies caused this situation so they need to now fix it. Or you could say that based on past experience they will just make things worse so they should keep out. Either way, do we want New Zealand to be seen as an ally of the US after it has made such a mess of this?

And there is one other point which needs to be made here: that is that on some ways the current decision is the worst one possible. We have contributed 16 personnel to train the Iraqi military. Clearly this is a waste of time from a practical perspective. So we make ourselves a target for criticism and possible violence while making no useful contribution, other than a political or diplomatic one. How is this a good idea?

The people who are so certain of the correct action here maybe just haven’t given it enough thought. And that includes the PM, especially after his perfromance in parliament yesterday. Surely he deserves an award for best acting of outrage and moral superiority, a position he most definitely doesn’t deserve.

After all of this, you can see why I am one of the uncertain 1% in the Herald poll. There doesn’t seem to be a good option in this situation, only a series of bad ones.

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