The questions are whether NZ should contribute more troops, in what role, and can it afford to do so both politically and economically? Most progressives would say no to all three. I beg to differ.
The answers should be yes, combat and combat support as well as PRT and yes. The reason is that rather than a (neo) imperialist intervention, the mission in Afghanistan is a multinational nation-building effort in the wake of state failure. That state failure was brought about by the medieval theocratic Taliban regime, whose record on human rights and support for external terrorism made it arguably the most oppressive regime of the late 20th century. Under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine elaborated by the UN in the wake of Rwandan and Serbian ethnic cleansing in the 1990s, the international community has a duty to protect populations from the depredations of their rulers as well as from others. As a supporter of the UN mandate, NZ subscribes to this philosophy. It is thus obligated to be involved in Afghanistan and the NZ progressive community should welcome its involvement.
Yet many do not.
From a progressive perspective, the fight against the Taliban is just. Their retrograde perspective condemns those who live under their rule to primitive lives of limited opportunity and fear. Needless to say, the Taleban oppress wimin, but so do they ethnic minorities, non-Muslims, and males who exhibit “softness” of character (who are often the subjects of sexual predation). In sum: the Taliban are a human scourge. Allowing them to restore their presence in any part of Afghanistan will encourage them to do the same in the tribal homelands in Pakistan (as indeed is occurring at the moment). Destabilisation of Pakistan, now ongoing, will lead to larger regional conflict, not just with respect to India, but in a number of other Central Asian republics grappling with Islamicist irredentism. That can not be allowed to happen because the implications of a wider conflict are perilous for international stability. Thus, contrary to those who see the ISAF mission is an imperialist venture that suppresses the will of the Afghan people, it can better be seen as a make-or-break nation-building and international stabilisation effort against a formidable adversary hell-bent on returning those who live under its rule to the 15th century whether they want to or not. Thus even the pacifist Left needs to support the ISAF effort on “lesser evil” grounds. It may be uncomfortable for them and other elements of the anti-imperialist Left to do so, but it is the morally correct thing to do given the alternative.
A superb argument.
In light of this, New Zealand has to start walking the walk. It can no longer simply engage in reconstruction roles while the bulk of combat duties are carried out by troops from other countries. It needs to complement the Bamyan PRT with a restored combat contingent able and willing to help take the fight back to the Taliban. It has the capability to do so. Failure to act makes NZ appear unwilling to fully commit to its international obligations in this UN-mandated, NATO mission, which raises questions about its political character and fighting spirit.
It will be interesting to see what the Government does.