In January 2015, gunmen attacked the offices of French cartoonist Charlie Hebdo in an attack that caused world wide outrage. Nations around the world loudly proclaimed that they were Charlie – a reference in solidarity to the cartoonist. A few days later, clearly disgusted with the attack, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said that in a world fighting a war against terrorism, there was a price to pay for “being a part of the club”. We as a nation did not know who “the club” was or what the price that had to be paid was, but New Zealand was about to find out.
A few months before the Paris attack, perhaps pressured by the United States to play a more active role in the “War on Terrorism”, Mr Key and Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee announced that they were considering the deployment of New Zealand troops in Iraq. Few people were fussed about the idea then and few are now, as this is a war many from across the political spectrum agree that New Zealand should not have a role in. So, it is with no enthusiasm at all that I read that New Zealand Defence Force personnel are going to have their deployment extended by up to 18 months.
After fifteen years of war against terrorism, and not much obvious progress to show for it aside from huge expenditure on foolhardy enterprises, many people in New Zealand have become cynical about the ongoing war and whether or not it is winnable – if in fact it is even supposed to be won. One particular friend of mine who I am normally poles apart on politics and a National supporter to boot agreed with me that the unravelling of Iraq and Syria was the end of a geopolitical experiment started by the British and the French during World War One to expand their colonial interests. We agreed that trying to rebuild a failed western geopolitical construct that was never supposed to exist in the first place was not only silly but potentially dangerous too. Of the New Zealand deployment, the thinking was – and still is – that New Zealand has no strategic interests in Iraq or Syria that realistically justify deploying army personnel there.
So, are we actually on a mission of any particular significance in Iraq? Or are we doing something worse? I am not wholly convinced we have a mission there any more. New Zealand was never going to contribute more than peanuts to a much bigger problem. We are too small militarily and aside from Middle East oil, what do we actually import from that part of the world? What do we give Middle East nations in return other than an increasingly blind eye to human rights abuses?
This ongoing war against terrorism, I think is now just being fought to keep the military industrial complex happy. The simple lack of obvious objectives, the haphazard approach to the war and the complete and utter failure to engage constructively with the Russians, all the while deliberately inflaming East-West tensions is deliberate. This war is not one I am convinced that the U.S. and its allies WANT to win.
And one we definitely need to get out of.