Iraq, Afghanistan ‘peacekeeping’ and the realities of international ‘leadership’

Jacinda Ardern has been promoted (or has promoted herself) as one of a radical new breed of young progressive wanting to lead the world in a new direction. But the realities for a small distant nation is that the leader largely has to follow along with allies, even in war situations.

So despite in Opposition promising to pull the troops out the Government has just announced an extension of New Zealand’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Greens remain opposed.

Official announcement: New Zealand to extend NZDF deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and 3 peacekeeping missions

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, and Defence Minister Ron Mark have announced an extension of the New Zealand Defence Force military training deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a renewal of three peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and Africa.

“The decision to deploy defence force personnel overseas is one of the hardest for any government to take, especially when these deployments are to challenging and dangerous environments,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“The Government has weighed a number of factors, including carefully considering the risks to our servicemen and women based on advice from the New Zealand Defence Force. The decisions themselves were taken following careful Cabinet deliberations.”

The Iraq deployment will be extended until June 2019, and the Afghanistan deployment will be extended until September 2019.  This allows New Zealand to fulfil its current commitment to both missions.

In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan the Government will be using the coming year to consider all options for New Zealand’s future contributions.

The three peacekeeping missions are to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in the Golan Heights and Lebanon and the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.

“The Government has decided to continue with our current commitments to three peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and Africa, where we have an established presence and proven track record,” Winston Peters said.

A quite length explanation of all the deployments and their histories then followed.

This would normally be seen as a pragmatic decision with New Zealand being seen to contributing to international peacekeeping obligations, which it is. But this is a reversal of Labour’s position. National found themselves in a similar position.

Labour press release (June 2016): Iraq mission extension case not made

The Prime Minister has not made the case for extending the Iraq deployment another 18 months nor the expansion of their mission, says Opposition Leader Andrew Little.

“Labour originally opposed the deployment because the Iraqi Army’s track record was poor, even after years of training by the American and other armies. Having visited Camp Taji, my view on this has not changed.

“It was always obvious that the Iraq deployment would not be complete within the two years originally set for the mission, and the Prime Minister has not been open with the public about the demands being made on our troops by Coalition allies.

“Today in his post cabinet briefing Key could not even confirm the troops would be home in 18 months. He has not been straight with New Zealanders, nor has he made the case for mission creep. He owes it New Zealanders to explain why we’re committing our forces to an ongoing volatile theatre of war.

The Government has announced an extension to the two-year deployment, keeping up to 143 personnel in Iraq for an extra 18 months.

John Key admits it’s a change from the initial promise, but said there’s still work to do. He said the other options are to “do nothing”, or do “something that in hindsight may be more dangerous”.

Labour leader Andrew Little…

“We can be a good global citizen by looking after the civilians who are displaced. What we don’t want to be is caught up in a conflict that goes way out of control.”

“The fact that he’s now completely indefinite about how long we might be there – we could be there for a long, long time. The real threat then is of civil war and who knows where that will go.”

Green co-leader James Shaw…

…said we shouldn’t have our military in Iraq at all

“This is mission creep, and it’s extremely dangerous. He’s broken a promise about how long we were going to be there in the first place, it could easily get extended again, both in terms of the length of time we’re over there and also in terms of the scope of the mission.’

“Our good global citizenship role would be much better deployed as part of the humanitarian effort, rather than part of the military effort. We’ve got a lot more skill in humanitarian aid.”

SBS News/Reuters (November 2017 just after Ardern became Prime Minister): NZ could pull out of Iraq deployment

Australia may lose New Zealand as a partner training Iraqi security forces to fight Islamic State militants next year.

Ms Ardern said her government will review NZ’s commitment of just under 150 military personnel in November next year.

“We will look again at the circumstances when that mandate comes up again,” she told reporters at Sydney airport before her departure.

“It’s a complex conflict and things could change dramatically between now and then.”

Former NZ Labour leader Andrew Little, who Ms Ardern replaced, has previously cast doubt on the benefits the country’s role in Iraq and had vowed to bring the troops home.

Incline (February 2018): Groundhog Day for New Zealand’s Iraq Deployment?

National’s decision might have been broadly predictable, but the same cannot be said for Jacinda Ardern’s Labour-led coalition. What the Prime Minister and her Cabinet colleagues choose to do on Iraq presents a series of challenges in the weighing of international and domestic expectations.

For New Zealand First, which holds both the Defence and Foreign Affairs portfolios, the shift in position is a slightly easier one. Ron Mark prides himself on his commitment to a Defence Force that is ready to undertake missions in difficult conflict zones. At a time when his portfolio is not among the government’s top spending priorities, he needs a win for his view of the Defence Force. That Mr. Mark has been in Iraq, and has reported that the New Zealanders are doing “vital tasks” in the national interest, says all we need to know about his position on the issue.

His New Zealand First boss also seems a very likely supporter of extension. As Foreign Minister, Peters will be keenly aware of Australia’s interest in seeing New Zealand commit to a further six months and more.

We can be certain that if Jacinda Ardern announces that New Zealand will extend its mission she will not use the “price of the club” argument which landed John Key in political hot water. Explaining New Zealand’s involvement as a consequence of its five eyes connections would be exactly the message that would fire up opposition from the Greens and the Labour left.

…the Iraq decision is a more difficult test. Unlike the TPP, where significant parts of New Zealand’s business community have been strong supporters, there is no comparable domestic constituency for the Iraq deployment.

This raises an obvious challenge for the government if it does choose to extend. How does it show this choice is consistent with an independent foreign policy? Labour may think it owns that concept by virtue of its nuclear free push in the 1980s. Will Ardern be tempted to repeat the Key-English argument that New Zealand has made its own (i.e. “independent”) choice to work with traditional partners in Iraq? That will hardly convince many of the people who brought her to office.

Newshub (yesterday): Jacinda Ardern’s U-turn on pulling troops out of Iraq

The Labour-led Government is extending New Zealand’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan despite promising in Opposition to pull troops out.

The Prime Minister is refusing to comment on whether New Zealand’s elite soldiers, the SAS, will or have joined them.

This is another example of Labour leaning towards NZ First preferences, with Greens opposed. The Green Party doesen’t seem to have put out an official statement, but…

In the context of the ‘War of Terror’ & ‘peace in the Mid East’, one thing we know is more foreign military presence is not working, has never worked, & has made things far worse. Bring on the sustainable, non-military led humanitarian, conservation, restoration focus.

Stop spending Mills$ joining failed military campaigns that only help weapons manufacturing nations/corporates. Instead invest in helping victims access medicine, rebuild schools, roads…And flex our diplomatic muscle to tell everyone we won’t stand for them profiting from war.

She has a point – Iraq and Aghanistan seem to be bottomless pits and graveyards when it comes to military involvement, and perhaps futile: Seventeen years after September 11, al-Qaeda may be stronger than ever

In the days after September 11, 2001, the United States set out to destroy al-Qaeda. US President George W Bush vowed to “starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest.”

Seventeen years later, al-Qaeda may be stronger than ever. Far from vanquishing the extremist group and its associated “franchises,” critics say, US policies in the Middle East appear to have encouraged its spread.

New Zealand is now extending support of US policie.

What US officials didn’t grasp, said Rita Katz, director of the Site Intelligence Group, in a recent phone interview, is that al-Qaeda is more than a group of individuals. “It’s an idea, and an idea cannot be destroyed using sophisticated weapons and killing leaders and bombing training camps,” she said.

The group has amassed the largest fighting force in its existence.

It is a dilemma. Pacifism would also not have contained Al Qaeda nor ISIS. But a seventeen year military approach hasn’t solved Middle East problems either.

Ardern, Peters and their Government are doing their bit, but it’s very debatable whether that is going to help anything other than their standing in the US and it’s military industrial complex.

44 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  September 18, 2018

    This a lost cause.

  2. artcroft

     /  September 18, 2018

    I’m pleased the Greens have put their foot down here and backed up their principles. Labour have kowtowed to NZF for to long. So its great to see the Greens force Labour to follow through with their promises and bring the troops home… Oh hang on. I’ve just re-read the article… might have got that slightly wrong…

    • NOEL

       /  September 18, 2018

      Mission creep shouts the Greens.
      Geez it’s the same mission objective its always been.

  3. Gezza

     /  September 18, 2018

    And flex our diplomatic muscle to tell everyone we won’t stand for them profiting from war.

    Golriz makes some worthwhile well-meaning suggestions for what we should be doing but typically is somewhat in la la land if she thinks that doing nice things will mean our troops aren’t simply hated or resented as foreign infidels associated with the crusader invaders.

    And our diplomatic muscle is puny when it comes to doing anything about the veto owners and countries whose people are determined to slaughter each other until they tire of it or one gets the unchallenged upper hand, like Europeans have done for centuries.

  4. Blazer

     /  September 18, 2018

    its basically tokenism on NZ’s part as members of the ‘club’.

    ‘get some gut’s said Key…laughable.

  5. National’s defence spokesperson:

  6. Corky

     /  September 18, 2018

    ”It is a dilemma. Pacifism would also not have contained Al Qaeda nor ISIS. But a seventeen year military approach hasn’t solved Middle East problems either.”

    It could as Senator McCain hinted at. As the old saying goes: if you draw your weapon, you had better be prepared to used it. Terrorists understand that. The West, especially America; doesn’t.

    • Gezza

       /  September 18, 2018

      It hasn’t worked because they’re foreign invaders – and unbelievers to boot – and they don’t have a fecking clue about what makes these people tick or that they really see them as such.

      What complicates matters is that some of them ask the west to get involved in what are internal power struggles but all that happens is what’s now happening in Europe and anywhere else that the anger has spread to.

      • Corky

         /  September 18, 2018

        That’s why unremitting brute force is the only thing that will/may work.

        ”They don’t have a fecking clue about what makes these people tick.”

        That’s where the problem lies. A handful of American advisers over the years understood the situation..or more correctly the hopeless of the situation. They were always overruled by politicians and generals who believed targeted deployment and technology would win the day. They also believed sending American troops -with no skin in the game, and therefore no passion to fight to the death- wouldn’t be a problem. They didn’t learn from Vietnam.

        • Gezza

           /  September 18, 2018

          Unremitting brute force won’t work Corky. They would have to wipe everyone – or thousands of people – out. Or they would have to flood the place with troops and occupy it for years like they did with Japan and Germany. In Japan it only worked because the Emperor told the people to accept it. With Muslims they can never accept that and they are prepared to kill themselves to kill you.

          Europe developed its democracies all in their own ways over a hundred years & it was far from a peaceful process. The cultures in the Middle East are not European cultures. They have to be allowed to sort themselves out over however long it takes.

          The West’s involvement in Muslim countries has brought nothing but more misery and hatred – generated by its own very involvement.

  7. David

     /  September 18, 2018

    Good decision, always stunk of opportunism for Little to go political on what was a pretty small but quite effective deployment. Much like his stupid opposition to the TPP which they happily signed.
    Good to see National taking a principled approach to both issues, we are not used to a mature and sober opposition its refreshing.

    • robertguyton

       /  September 18, 2018

      Gezza – is this an example of amusing adult sarcasm? I’m trying to get a fix on the concept, before I try some of my own.

      “we are not used to a mature and sober opposition its refreshing.” – David

      • Gezza

         /  September 18, 2018

        I think so, yes. But it’s difficult to explain why. Probably because I’m not tribal politically and I see as on the border between irony and sarcasm.

        I don’t know if you read these. Particularly the last one.

        https://yournz.org/2018/09/17/party-leaders-on-the-election-campaign/#comment-309262

        https://yournz.org/2018/09/17/open-forum-monday-195/#comment-309265

        I have right to claim to be able to tell people what is humour and what is not and I apologise if that’s how I came across. I know you are decent person who cares deeply about matters important to all of us.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  September 18, 2018

        I think it is a simple statement of fact. Labour barked at every passing car. National has been more discriminating. Doesn’t rank as sarcasm at all.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  September 18, 2018

          This is sarcasm:

          the Greens who think you should forget about security and just build schools & hospitals and botanic gardens while the war rages around them

          • David

             /  September 18, 2018

            Thank you Alan quite correct and it was why Labour were polling 20% pre Jacinda and Greens were sub 5% and why in government they are proving a little hopeless. They know nothing but oppose oppose oppose even if its actually the right thing to do and exactly what they would do once in power.

        • Gezza

           /  September 18, 2018

          Labour barked at every passing car. National has been more discriminating.

          😳

          Help me Jesus. (Hat tip to robert)

          They’ve even whined about Labour implementing THEIR policies.

          • Gezza

             /  September 18, 2018

            All that’s changed from before is that Bridges is nasally whining about every passing Government car. Orn Principle.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  September 18, 2018

            Whined or chortled?

            • Gezza

               /  September 18, 2018

              If you watched Parliament TV or Te News you wouldn’t even have to ask.
              If Jacinda’s eksent sounds bad, Bridges’ makes me want to put a bullet in my head.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  September 18, 2018

              I posted before I saw yours naming Bridges. I don’t think he can manage a chortle. Big Gerry could.

            • Gezza

               /  September 18, 2018

              The Big Fulla I think is now Father of The House, and he’s delightful to watch negotiating with Speaker Trev before his helpful experience-based advice that Trev always thanks him for gets rejected.

            • Gezza

               /  September 18, 2018

              Many a humorous quip from both.

  8. robertguyton

     /  September 18, 2018

    “This would normally be seen as a pragmatic decision with New Zealand being seen to contributing to international peacekeeping obligations, which it is.” – Pete George

    • High Flying Duck

       /  September 18, 2018

      By all but the Greens who think you should forget about security and just build schools & hospitals and botanic gardens while the war rages around them

      • Blazer

         /  September 18, 2018

        you may find that the Greens are not in favour of wars to gain strategic resource for the benefit of foreign corporations.

        • Pink David

           /  September 18, 2018

          “wars to gain strategic resource for the benefit of foreign corporations.”

          What foreign corporation has gained what strategic resource in Afghanistan?

          • Blazer

             /  September 18, 2018

            try oil and pipelines.

            • Pink David

               /  September 18, 2018

              No oil in Afghanistan. The only pipeline is a gas one supplying Turkmenistan gas to India. Seems a strange thing for the US to go to war over given the Taliban supported it.

            • Gezza

               /  September 18, 2018

              There’s something there the yanks were very interested in but I can’t remember what it was. There was an aljaz doco about it I saw some time ago. I think it all fell apart when things turned to shit after they liberated the place.

      • David

         /  September 18, 2018

        The Greens would rather see those nice ISIS people re constitute and get on with raping Yadizi Christians, viciously oppress women and execute minorities and homosexuals.

  9. High Flying Duck

     /  September 18, 2018

    • Blazer

       /  September 18, 2018

      Heard it.The Kim Hill Show…Mark handled her well and made the point about bi partisan consensus well.

  10. Zedd

     /  September 18, 2018

    sounds like ‘Major Ron’ may have ‘pulled rank’ here ? :/ 😀

  1. Iraq, Afghanistan ‘peacekeeping’ and the realities of international ‘leadership’ — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition