Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Counterfactual: What would Labour do?

Part of National's "justification" for sending kiwi troops off to die in another American crusade in Iraq is that "Labour would have done it to". Here's DPF:

not for one second do I think a Labour Government would have said “No, we will be the only country in Western World not to contribute in a military sense to defeating ISIL”. Which means that their rhetoric this week is just opposition, because they don’t actually have the responsibility to make a decision.
And (more cynically) Dim-Post:
I’m not as outraged at Key and National as most people on the left, because I think that if Labour were in government our commitment to the latest US/UK adventure in Iraq would be pretty much identical. The marketing would be different: our troops would be providing ‘humanitarian aid': painting schools, standing up for women’s rights, and so on, instead of National’s more paternal ‘training the Iraqi army’ pretext. But I just can’t see a Labour PM saying ‘no’ to Obama.
There's a certain truth in this: when push comes to shove, Labour are chickenshits and bow to the US. But it also ignores the elephant in the room: MMP.

To point out the obvious, Labour's most likely coalition partner in any future government is the Greens. Who have non-violence as a core part of their party ethos, massive membership backing for that, and (unlike the Alliance) a Parliamentary team who work for their membership rather than themselves. So, if a future Labour Prime Minister stands up and says "we want to send troops to fight in another pointless foreign war to cosy up to the US", the Greens will say "goodbye" and topple the government - and have the full backign of their membership in doing so. Trying to finesse it as "non-combat" troops delivering "humanitarian aid" (as in Iraq 2003) will see the same result if the US is involved. The only troop deployments which won't result in an immediate confidence crisis for the government will be those which are truly non-combat, overwhelmingly backed by the UN and international law, and (most importantly) not backed by the US or its NATO / Five Eyes proxies. UN peacekeeping, in other words.

Labour may be chickenshits. But above all, they're appartchiks. They won't give up their Ministerial salaries and perks to fight someone else's war (and indeed, if they're toppled, they won't be able to; constitutionally you can't deploy troops in caretaker mode except in extreme and dire circumstances like being invaded). And they won't want to enter a Labour-National grand coalition (and surrender half of those salaries and perks to their enemies) every time the US wants to fight another war (which is pretty much all the time ATM). So, the answer to the counterfactual question of "what would Labour do" is act self-interesedly in the face of Green power and not send troops.

Of course, for this to happen, the Greens need to have that power. Better get working on it.