Norman right abour Middle East risks, wrong about solutions

There’s no doubting Russel Norman’s passion about what he believes in and stands against, and there’s no doubting that he means well. But his response to the Ministerial Statement on Iraq prompted some pertinent comments here.

Alan Wilkinson points out that Norman was right and wrong:

The US has already weaned itself off Arab oil. Russel opposes fracking and drilling that would do the same for us and others. The UN is deeply corrupt and speaks only to elites. Nothing in the Middle East will change until the ordinary people want it and that can only happen by working on the ground with them.

Russel is right about the risks and wrong about the opportunities and solutions.

Goldie pointed out an idealitstic disconnect from reality.

So the Greens answer to Daesh is “What they want from us is support for humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction”

The world is confronting an apocalyptic death cult, and the Green answer is humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction?

And Missy pointed out a major flaw in his humanitarian approach:

So, Russel is against sending Soldiers into the Middle East and into danger, even though this is what they train for and joined up for, but he is willing to send in civilian humanitarian and medical workers with no protection.

Has he even been watching the news, humanitarian workers are one of the main targets of ISIS, and as ISIS has no respect for borders the aid workers would be more at risk than the soldiers.

What would his response be if one of those aid workers was captured and beheaded?

In Norman’s conluding paragraphs he said:

No one is suggesting we should turn a blind eye to ISIL. The question is: will sending our troops there help? And the answer is clear: it will not. It will just become part of the recruitment drive for ISIL, and it will put New Zealand lives at risk.

It is also clear that there is not a shred of evidence that the military training will make a difference.

It’s fair to ask whether New Zealand’s contribution will help. But the answer is not clear. There cannot be any evidence for something that has not yet taken place.

We must also ask if there is another way we can alleviate the suffering and misery of people in Iraq and the wider Middle East. What they want from us is support for humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction—a large-scale, international diplomatic effort to stop the flow of arms and cash to ISIL.

As Missy pointed out it’s very difficult to provide humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction in an existing war zone. And it’s been starkly demonstrated that aid workers are at grave risk from ISIL, as are journalists.

RusselNormanIraq

The ISIL situation in the Middle East is quite different to 2003. They have made it clear they are intent on barbaric provocation, and peace promoting do-gooders are a primary target for their depravity because they have been  unprotected.

New Zealand holds a seat on the United Nations Security Council. That is an opportunity to make a difference and to use our diplomatic weight to try to find a solution not only to the ISIL crisis but the broader crisis across the Middle East.

This is another contradiction from the Norman speech. The UN is proven to be at least as ineffective as prior military engagement so why expect them to suddenly perform diplomatic, political and religious miracles when they have proven  ineffective to date?

If we want to find lasting peace in the Middle East, we need to be a voice of justice. We need to be a voice for human rights and democracy.

This means we have to have the courage of our convictions, to tell the head of the club, the great nation of the United States of America, that it is time to wean ourselves off cheap oil and it is time to support genuine peace, democracy, and human rights in the Middle East.

That’s boilerplate idealism. It’s all very well supporting genuine peace, democracy, and human rights in the Middle East, I’m sure most of Palriament and New Zealand would support that.

But waving a Green wand won’t magic ISIL out of existence.

Would Russel be prepared to go and speak peace abnd human rights with ISIL? They aren’t likely to be converted by a well meaning but very naive Parliamentary speech in New Zealand.

Leave a comment

17 Comments

  1. pissed off kiwi

     /  25th February 2015

    The benches of the left consist mainly of offspring from conscientious objectors and dangerous unionists. These mongrels would not fight in WWII, yet struck, nearly crippling this country, when those that went away and defended them, got their businesses and farms back on track to profitability. These are the types that Little, Goff, Cunliffe, Norman, King, et al, are trying to emulate. Don’t forget the way Goff, Clark, Anderton treated Vietnam vets, only to have Clark offering a grease to try and win an election, by recognising those she and her Labour mates tossed paint at. Just sheer hypocrisy . . . Key’s speech told our nation the truth of traditional Labour/Green’s backbones . . . gutless.

    Reply
    • I actually thought Key was ‘channeling ADOLPH’ with his angry rant !

      ‘RAH, RAH,RAH, Lets all march off to WAR !!’
      when the body-bags start coming back.. maybe the public opinion may just change.. aye what ?

      Reply
      • Goldie

         /  25th February 2015

        And Zedd compares John Key with Adolf Hitler.
        Classy.

        Reply
      • Kittycatkin

         /  25th February 2015

        It’s Adolf, not Adolph, and to compare a Jew to Hitler (John Key’s mother fled the Holocaust but who knows how many of her family were murdered by the Germans when Hitler was leader) is so grossly offensive that I can’t imagine what sort of person would think it, never mind say it.

        Reply
        • Kittycatkin

           /  25th February 2015

          And it’s ‘eh, what ?’ not ‘aye, what ?’, which is meaningless and illiterate.

          Any bodies that I have seen coming back have been in coffins, not body bags.

          Reply
  2. Mike C

     /  25th February 2015

    Norman just can’t bear to be out of the spotlight. The man is still desperately trying to achieve political relevance.

    Reply
  3. Gareth

     /  25th February 2015

    How about Saudi Arabian citizens stop funding ISIS and US weapons manufacturers stop sending them ammunition and the US stop bombing the civilian population, providing them with recruits?
    Short of that, why don’t we ship the Iraqi troops over here for training in our training camps rather than training them in an area that the US has actively bombed in the last 2 months?

    Reply
    • Pierre

       /  25th February 2015

      Blimey, what’s this commonsense doing here!!!! Next you’d suggest the US taking back the oilfields held by ISIS and bombing the tankers that go from there to the black market to cut off their funding.

      The trouble, as I see it, is that the options are “do something NOW (or be an ISIS sympathist)” or “do nothing (and be an ISIS sympathist)”. Whatever happened to the idea of waiting till there was a plan. I mean, are we part of the coalition fighting ISIS or are we accepting a request from Iraq to train their army. And what would we do if Syria (led by Bashar Al-Assad who the US wants to remove but who are actively fighting ISIS) asked us for assistance.

      I would like to see parliament vote on assisting, as and when appropriate, and then discuss the details and plan. The likelihood of that happening involve snowflakes, chance, and hell.

      Reply
      • Gareth

         /  25th February 2015

        No, next I’d suggest that we look at international law to see what our options are to fight ISIS. We’d find that actually taking action by ourselves or in a group of other states is illegal and that we need a UN resolution authorising us to take such actions. We could then table a resolution and if it was approved, volunteer to fight the good fight as part of a UN taskforce.
        If I was personally involved through magic, I would suggest that even though it would weaken the military might available, we should leave the US out of it as they basically caused the whole mess in the first place and having them as part of the force would do more harm than good to our reputation with the locals.
        ISIS is basically a bunch of Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis who hate their Shia controlled governments (Syria’s government is Allawite which are a Shia offshoot). In the case of the Iraqi government, it has basically been ethnically cleansing the Sunnis. Prior to the 2nd Gulf war Shia and Sunni lived together and intermarried without issue in Iraq.
        Getting rid of ISIS basically means either a) continuing the ethnic cleansing and wiping out the Sunni population, b) subjugating them to the Shia majority population (which would gradually result in a anyway), or c) the option that no-one has on the table, end the Shia domination of government, engage with ISIS, ensure a government that is actually representative so that Sunni have a proportionate voice at the table and have something to gain by building the country rather than breaking it.
        Yes, they’re evil bastards, but so are most of our “allies” and ISIS don’t behead or burn alive as many people as Saudi Arabia do currently, but somehow we don’t have a problem with Saudis.
        All fantasy in the face of the current manufacturing of consent that we have, I know.

        Reply
        • Pierre

           /  25th February 2015

          Gareth, with regards the two options I was referring to those proffered in the papers/govt etc rather than real options (those that might actually work). Leaving the US out might seem plausible for the reasons you suggest but can you imagine a UN force – with Russia but not the US – helping Assad against ISIS in Syria.

          I think Saddam was a bit too brutal (notwithstanding I don’t trust much that was written in the reports put out at the time) but he did keep the Shia & Sunnis generally safe. There was also no Al Qaeda in Iraq. I fear the horse has well and truely bolted.

          This is a war that will last years if not decades.

          Reply
        • Goldie

           /  26th February 2015

          “No, next I’d suggest that we look at international law to see what our options are to fight ISIS. We’d find that actually taking action by ourselves or in a group of other states is illegal and that we need a UN resolution authorising us to take such actions. ”

          Not so Gareth.

          First, there is a clear legal doctrine (actually promoted and endorsed by NZ after the Rwanda genocide and the Srebencia massacre) of the “Responsibility to Protect”. There is a clear case that Daesh are committing appalling and systematic atrocities against Yazidis, Kurds, Shia and “apostates”.
          It would be strange that NZ, a country which in many ways has led the world in international forums in promoting humanitariansm in international law and the doctrine oof the responsibility to protect, would not then participate in action against Daesh. It would also be very damaging to our international reputation as taking a principled moral position if we were not seen to be doing something.

          Second, the intervention is at the invitation of a sovereign government, Iraq, on Iraqi sovereign territory. This is why there has been so much concern over the Status of Forces Agreement between NZ and Iraq. It has nothing to do with the UN.

          Reply
          • Gareth

             /  26th February 2015

            Sorry, but Responsibility to Protect is not a legal doctrine. It’s a proposed norm. Things that we think would be great if they were laws don’t count.

            If the Iraqi government has invited us, then why is there no Status of Forces agreement? Why are there no published Rules of Engagement? Why are all our soldiers being issued diplomatic passports? We had the Iraqi foreign minister over here, but nothing was signed, it was just smiles for the media.

            I understand a lot of people have an urge to DO something, but the most effective action we could do would be to pressure Saudi Arabia to do something about their citizens providing the majority of ISIS cash funding. We could also raise the concept of putting concrete restrictions in place regarding the selling of ammunition to ISIS which is coming from western arms dealers. Lastly we could engage with the Sunni population of Iraq so they don’t feel like they are being ethnically cleansed by the current Shia Iraqi government which has thrown all pretense of governing on behalf of all citizens out the window.

            The best action is to de-escalate, not encourage more conflict and death.

            ISIS is surrounded by enemies who outnumber and outgun it. Despite that, if it fails to expand year on year, according to the religious doctrine that drives it, it will lose it’s legitimacy. If ISIS is contained then it will tear itself apart. In the meantime countries should be trying to help alleviate the suffering that the Sunni are feeling which is driving them to support groups like ISIS.

            Reply
        • Goldie

           /  26th February 2015

          Gareth wrote: “I’d suggest that we look at international law to see what our options are to fight ISIS. We’d find that actually taking action by ourselves or in a group of other states is illegal and that we need a UN resolution authorising us to take such actions.”

          You are mistaken Gareth.

          First, NZ is intervening at the request of a sovereign government, Iraq, on their sovereign territory. It has nothing to do with the UN.

          Second, NZ has a legal obligation to intervene based on the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. This legal doctrine was promoted and endorsed by NZ following the Rwanda genocide and the Sebrenica massacre. It would be extremely damaging to NZ’s international standing if, after being seen as having a voice of moral basis in international law, to then not do something when there is a crystal clear case of attempted genocide. A major reason why NZ has disproportionate influence internationally is because NZ is internationally seen as a principled and moral participant in international affairs – and that means we have to “walk the talk”.

          Reply
          • Goldie

             /  26th February 2015

            Sorry for repeat comment – no edit function, and it is talking time to download comments.

            Reply
  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  25th February 2015

    The lessons from Afghanistan are pretty clear. You can’t do aid work without military security. You can’t defeat terrorists who can slip across neighboring borders with impunity. You can’t win hearts and minds with a corrupt and/or partisan government. You can’t tolerate malicious external funding of terrorists.

    Removing those obstacles must be top priority.

    Reply

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