Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Who elected the SAS?

Civilian control of the military is a core principle (and a necessary condition) of democratic government. In all democratic countries, decisions on when to go to war and who to fight are made by elected politicians, not unelected generals. Except, apparently, in New Zealand. In announcing that he would continue the SAS's deployment to Afghanistan (and our involvement in Americas losing war) last night, Prime Minister John Key made a startling revelation:

“This is likely to be the last rotation - the request to stay came at the request of the SAS themselves,” said Prime Minister John Key this afternoon.

The SAS told Mr Key during his visit to Afghanistan last year that they wanted to stay.

So, we're still at war in Afghanistan not because our democratically elected politicians thought it was a good idea, but because our military wants to be. That's not healthy, and its not compatible with democracy.

I'll try looking into this with the OIA, but I don't expect much success - the government doesn't like talking about the SAS, and s6(a) gives them complete immunity. I expect that the request wasn't formal; instead Key probably asked some grunts if they liked what they were doing and wanted to keep doing it and like happy little psychopaths / people doing a challenging job - killing people, let's remember - they enjoy, they responded "hell yes". The problem is that that is not the response any grunt should give to a politician. If asked, all a soldier should say is "we go where you tell us". Anything else violates democratic principles. And you'd expect a military force of a democracy supposedly fighting a war to protect one to understand that.