There is no place for New Zealand militarily in this war against Daesh.
First, the majority of New Zealanders, burnt by the Iraq war last decade and the ongoing war on terrorism without any obvious sight in the end, are yet to be convinced that there is a case for us deploying combat forces to the Middle East. We might be convinced of participating mopping up operations, but what about finding and dealing with them in a way where basic conventions of warfare, which the New Zealand Defence Force is expected to recognize and uphold? I do not think many New Zealanders would tolerate a violation of them, because they are in part what the N.Z.D.F. in past combat roles protected and upheld as integral to our military identity.
I am however, not necessarily against a role post war, helping with the rebuild of Syria, which based on our past international contributions is something we should excel at and be proud of. In Bamiyan Province in Afghanistan, New Zealanders were well regarded because we assisted locals with civil projects that they otherwise would not have been able to complete. These included reservoirs for drinking water, irrigation, repairing roads, cellphone networks and so forth.
I am actually for the first time, not convinced the U.S. is in a war it knows how to win. In keeping their military industrial complex constituents happy I am also not wholly sure that even if the U.S. military DOES know how to shut down Daesh, that all of those in positions of authority would WANT to complete this, as it would shut down hundreds of billions of dollars worth of pet projects. In many ways Daesh represent the Global Liberation Army in Command and Conquer Generals, whose non conventional tactics for fighting a war are much those of the G.L.A. Neither appears to care about civilian lives – if some die, so be it is the thinking. If a few nations get in a tantrum like mode and look for a reason to take on Daesh, they might find it two fold:
- Daesh have no regard for human lives regardless of the colour of their skin, their lack of respect for other countries
- A Daesh attack becomes more likely if we get involved in a campaign where we are not likely to have much impact
New Zealand we need to remember is not the United States, France, Britain or Russia – it does not have a big military or the resources to sustain a big military. Nor do we have an actual need for a big military establishment in this part of the world, given the nearest nation that could attack us militarily is also our best ally, Australia. Wars of occupation as the American ones tend to become are ones where as long as the locals think the invader is an oppressor, they will fight for their freedom and might not worry too much about casualties as we do.
It does not have large amounts of money lying around just waiting to be used to fund a military campaign against Daesh. We are still recovering from the Christchurch earthquake whose economic effects will be felt long after the aftershock sequence finally peters out into events of less than magnitude 2.0. The public have not given a mandate for Prime Minister John Key to take New Zealand into a full blown war and I think that many would be reluctant to do so.
So, as this war progresses, I see a day coming in the near future where the Prime Minister will be made to acknowledge the reality is many New Zealanders simply do not want this war. We did not start it. We would not have any real impact, and we know we can make a substantial contribution in the post-war era. So why do we not?