Monday, February 09, 2015

A war without a plan

Having watched his "price of the club" and "family" arguments for going to war in Iraq crash and burn, John Key used his pre-Waitangi day speech on Te Tii Marae to monger for war again, this time on the basis of human rights. But while many kiwis, including myself, are sympathetic to that reason, a just cause isn't enough. In order to be justified, war must not only be fought for a just cause, it must (among other things) actually have some chance of success. And that has been the problem all along - because we only have to look at ISIS's origins in the US's failed invasion and occupation of Iraq and its failed attempts to intervene by proxy in Syria to recognise that such wars are doomed to failure and only make things worse.

But don't take it from me - take it from the UK House of Commons Defence Committee which found last week that Iraq was a war without a plan:

Here, in one of the most dangerous places on earth, Britain has once again become militarily involved – if only to the extent of launching one air strike a day – without knowing what it wants to do. The report says: “The committee was shocked by the inability or unwillingness of any of the service chiefs to provide a clear, and articulate statement of the UK’s objectives or strategic plan in Iraq. There was a lack of clarity over who owns the policy – and indeed whether or not such a policy exists.”

The service chiefs in question responded to queries about what they thought they were up to in Iraq with some splendid pieces of waffle and mandarin-speak. Asked who was responsible for determining future British actions, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, said: “Well, the answer is that there are probably about 20 different players who own different elements of the comprehensive approach that needs to be applied in Iraq, in Syria and right around the region, because of the multifaceted and multi-natured nature [sic] of the ultimate solution, and all the moving parts that need to go into place.”

Such stuff is impossible to parody. Of course, there is a simple and humiliating answer to the question about who determines policy: the US. The report states baldly: “Many questions of the ‘mission’, or strategy, appear to have been left either in a vacuum between government departments or left to the international coalition (which appears to mean the US). We saw no evidence of the UK Government as a whole seeking to analyse, question, or change the coalition strategy, to which it is committed.”

Except the US also has a "strategy-free" approach, not knowing what they want, clinging to the fantasy that there are vast hordes of hidden moderates who will save them from both ISIS and Assad, while also in denial about Saudi Arabia's role in supporting this mess. And yet despite all this, they're throwing billions of dollars at a bombing campaign, the only beneficiaries of which are ISIS and US weapons manufacturers.

This is the war Key wants us to get involved in: a war without a plan, whose best outcome appears to be supporting one group of monsters against another. This is what he wants kiwi troops (and civilians, because by waging war he risks all our lives) to die for: for Iraq's corrupt, torturing government, who are busy waging their own sectarian cleansing campaigns against Sunnis. And for Assad.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is no good to be done there. The best thing we can do about Iraq and ISIS is to stay the hell out of it, and focus on helping the victims rather than making more of them.