Thursday, October 20, 2011

A glaring omission

Labour released its foreign affairs policy [PDF] today. Can you spot what's missing?

That's right: Afghanistan. We're involved in a war over there, our troops are killing people and dying for the sake of a corrupt, torturing kleptocracy, and Labour has absolutely nothing to say about it. They have policy on Fiji, but not on our longest-ever overseas military deployment.

A charitable explanation would be that it will be addressed in another policy release, perhaps Defence (climate change is also unmentioned, but we know that's its own policy area now). Uncharitably, they're chickenshits, unwilling to make withdrawal from Afghanistan an election issue. Time will tell.

Apart from that glaring omission, the policy is fairly good, if vague. Labour would pursue an independent foreign policy, seeking new allies in the global South while trying to retain our friendships with the North. They'd build on our role as "peace-builders" and try and become a mediator in the Asia-pacific region. They'd aggressively pursue disarmament, and support both an Oslo/Ottawa-style treaty banning nuclear weapons and the Arms Trade Treaty. And they'd restore the autonomy of NZAID, and have it focus on actual aid rather than just being another way for National to subsidise its cronies. All good stuff, and cheap or free, so not constrained by the current financial crunch. But the lack of commitment on withdrawing from Afghanistan (or any mention of their attitude towards it at all) somewhat undermines all of that.

Update: Maryan Street explains on Red Alert: they didn't think they needed to mention it. But it will be in their defence policy anyway.