Thursday, 13 March 2008

NZ troops are propping up a theocracy

Every free country has the right to liberate a slave pen (allow me to remind careful readers of the difference between a right and a duty).  It has the right to hunt down those who have committed or intend to commit violence against its citizens.  These two principles -- the recognition of individual rights and of the right to self-defence -- were the twin justifications for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, an invasion and occupation supported by New Zealand troops, and it's clear enough from the fairly widespread support for the Afghanistan campaign that these two principles are at least dimly understood by everyone who possesses a greater grasp of world affairs than Keith Locke.

So why then are New Zealand troops in Afghanistan propping up a regime that is about to execute a young man for the crime of ... wait for it ... blasphemy?  That's right, blasphemy.  For the 'crime' of questioning the treatment of women in the Koran (something everyone who possesses a moral standing greater than Eliot Spitzer should undertake occasionally) Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh has been condemned to death by an Afghani court.

It wasn't supposed to be like this, was it?  As Idiot Savant says [hat tip Liberty Scott] "We wouldn't support Iran's rabid theocracy with troops; why are we supporting Afghanistan's?" An excellent question asked even by Peter Dunne.  I'm not sure either of them will like the answer spelled out, however.

The answer, as Yaron Brook and Elan Journo have argued in some detail, is that the twin campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq were not genuinely based on the principles of self-defence and individual rights.  While they began with the righteous indignation symbolised in the name chosen for the military campaign against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan: Operation Infinite Justice, Brook points out that "this reaction was evanescent," and as the name of the operation changed the campaign for self-defence eventually became something else quite different: a promise of "self-determination" for those liberated in the invasions and a promise to spread "democracy" to those with little or no understanding of the concept of freedom.  Since democracy is a counting of heads regardless of content, the result of spreading democracy to those whose heads are full of theocratic mush should have been obvious.

Whatever they chose, whomever they elected, Washington and its allies -- us included -- promised to endorse. The decision was entirely theirs.

If self-defense were part of the goal ... then one would logically expect that, for the sake of protecting American [and New Zealand] lives, Washington [on behalf of its allies] would at least insist on ensuring that the new regimes be non-threatening, so that we do not have to face a resurgent threat [or support a theocracy]. But Bush proclaimed all along that America would never determine the precise character of Iraq’s (or Afghanistan’s) new regime. The Iraqis [and Afghanis] were left to contrive their own constitution...

When asked [for example] whether the United States would acquiesce to an Iranian-style militant regime ..., Bush said yes. Why ...? Because, Bush explained, “democracy is democracy. . . . If that’s what the people choose, that’s what the people choose.”

What the majority of Afghanis chose for their country, as history now shows and Brook makes clear, was a theocracy that allows "legions of undefeated Taliban and Al Qaeda warriors to regroup and renew their jihad," and that murders its citizens for questioning a holy book that rates women below goats.

This is not what New Zealand troops should have been fighting for, and if that's all they're now there for then it's time that they weren't.


  1. In any long war that is not existential, the original objectives are going to wax and wane according to circumstances, and new objectives are going to come in to adjust to changes.

    As far as I can see, that's happened in Afghanistan. The US accepts it cannot "win", and in fact may never have had that intention despite the rhetoric. At best, with the resources it has, it can put a ring around Bin Laden and al Qaeda and patiently build up the native defence forces so that the Coalition can eventually leave behind a bulwark of defence against terrorism rebuilding on it's soil.

    In WW2, the Allies fought an existential war, killed 6 million Germans, subjected the country to a fair but ruthless occupation, denazified the country and ultimately spent trillions supporting and defending it against Communism.. another existential threat. They could do that because the threats were extreme and ongong if left unchecked.

    But no country in the West believes Afghanistan is an existential threat, and there's no moral or practical mandate perceived to remake the country like Germany or Japan.. mores the pity.

    So the Coalition must ultimately leave, but hopefully not before OBL is dead and something only dimly forseen happens.. like the Muslim populations of Aghanistan and Pakistan finally getting mad enough to throw off Radical Islam and installing effective governments that render Radical Islam impotent. Meantime, the Coalition including NZ can only hang on, swallow some dead rats and wait out the enemy.


  2. Bring NZ soldiers home and Bin Laden has won. One of the primary reasons Bin Laden declared war on America was because of the presence of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden correctly feared interactions like this repeated thousand of times over the years would in a generation destroy a 1500 year old theocracy forever.

  3. Well that's the thing isn't it: misdefine your mission, and fail to define and clarify for yourself what the precise nature of the victory you're trying to achieve, and you will let him win -- and that's only going to empower him and all the other bastards who will see it as a sign of weakness.

  4. PC,

    By it's very nature, a non existential war has a multiplicity of missions and objectives.

    If things don't go your way, then you have to either retire or hang in and wait for things to swing your way.

    Afghanistan was always going to be a long war because you have to bring a stone age people into the present before they can make informed decisions.



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