The Iraq conflict is one New Zealand has no place in. It never did have a place – did Prime Minister John Key think that a few dozen New Zealand troops were going to seriously impact on a war that not even America, despite triggering it, has been able to bring under control? Perhaps he did, but let us be honest about this conflict so far away from New Zealand.
To ascertain whether New Zealand and New Zealanders are being honest about what we are doing in Iraq, let us ask ourselves the following questions:
- What interest does New Zealand have in the Middle East that are worth deploying military personnel for?
To be totally honest, unless New Zealand is involved in a United Nations peace-keeping/making operation, we have no good reason to be there in an military deployment at all. Yes, we might be a friend of the United States. Yes, they might have asked New Zealand to contribute to the fight against Islamic State, but like Russia (separate story), the United States has much to answer for in the Middle East and just because they are our friends does not necessarily mean their motives are always correct.
- What risk does our involvement in the Middle East pose?
Unknown. However, New Zealand should treat any risk that might arise from our involvement in the Middle East seriously. Whether it is tracking known militants and preventing them from entering the country, or making sure that local communities of people from the Middle East understand that New Zealand society is different from the ones they grew up in, to do this successfully we must have the confidence and co-operation of these ethnic groups and nationalities. In countries like the United Kingdom and United States, failure to maintain the confidence of ethnic communities by authorities has helped generate considerable suspicion and mistrust. Failure to plan for the social needs and maintain immigration at a sustainable rate has contributed to the rise of so called ghetto areas of high unemployment, restless youths and elevated levels of crime.
- How does the past history play a role in the current crisis?
Just after World War One ended, the French and British, not yet realizing that the concept of imperialism was starting to wane, were looking to add to their colonial influence by annexing new lands and establishing governments friendly to Paris and London. As was the case with most imperial powers at the time, the attitude of the settling colonialists towards their new subjects was one of contempt, mixed with arrogance. It was apparently not wrong in British military doctrine to commit aerial bombardment of civilian targets and use poison gas (most likely mustard gas). Both established regimes that favoured particular ethnic groups, causing resentment that persists to this day. It may explain why the Iraqi welcome when the British entered Basra in 2003 was particularly cold, bordering on hostile.
Because conservative Islam view the western powers as infidels and consider that the Arabian peninsula is holy lands, which should not have foreign troops on it, by deploying troops to Iraq on holy soil, New Zealand is showing flagrant disregard. By simplifying the war down to the excessively narrow “Good vs Evil” context that the Americans have, we overlook significant factors at our peril.
Get the troops out and stay out. We can be more useful in the United Nations by using our chairmanship of the United Nations Security Council to push for the forced disarmament of combatants. Increase the quota of refugees we can take, like Amnesty International has been calling for. But do not stay in Iraq and stoke the hatred.