Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Should we stay or should we go?

I've been a staunch fence-sitter when it comes to the war in Afghanistan. I can sympathise with the argument that we shouldn't have gone in there in the first place, but now we're there, we can't just leave the place a first class disaster. However, if we're looking at how we got to where we are, we have to consider that the US shouldn't have armed the Taliban in the first place. And then we'd need to consider that the USSR shouldn't have invaded it in the first place, and then we'd need to consider the fallout from WWII, so I'm not terribly sure that arguments that have any portion based in history are very helpful.

I also sympathise with the argument that the Taliban are never going to stop fighting while foreign troops are in their country. Can't say I entirely blame them - and more importantly, once they've used that argument to justify the fighting to themselves, they've painted themselves into a corner. Only a withdrawal can offer a way out.

So I've been listening to and mulling over the various arguments put by the various people and come to an Opinion. This is an opinion on what Australia's position should be, since that's what our Parliament recently debated. I think we should state loudly and clearly that we will only continue to support this war as long as genuine negotiations are undertaken (continued?) with the Taliban.

I have a few reasons for this. We will be fighting forever (and therefore killing civilians forever) if some negotiated agreement can't be reached. The Karzai Government is hardly a shining beacon of democratic light, it's hard to see how they are the Good Guys and the Taliban are the Bad Guys. The Taliban, as far I as I can make out from the reports I've seen and read, are primarily war lords, and use religion as a method of wielding power. I (and other commentators) strongly suspect that they would be open to liberalising their stance on Sharia law and other aspects of conservative Islam in exchange for other forms of international political power. They want a seat at the table with the Big Boys much more than they want to oppress the people of Afghanistan. In the end, we turned Afghanistan into a war zone, and our primary responsibility is to bring it back out of war, and I simply don't believe that the Taliban can be wiped out to the point that the war stops by that means and it seems incredibly unlikely that the Taliban will surrender. As a result, the only possible outcome is a negotiated power sharing arrangement. We should be pushing for that as soon as possible. Any further delay just means more people die.

Under those conditions, I'd say it's our duty to stay there until stability is achieved. If the foreign alliance is not moving towards stability, then I think we should withdraw our support and at least not contribute to making the situation any worse.

I should say that it seems that some movement has been made in the direction of negotiation, and I support that. I simply think that Australia should make its position clear that this is what we support, and not open ended warfare in someone else's country.


  1. From memory Australians overwhelmingly supported the invasion of Afghanistan in the context of the attack on the world trade centre. At the time I remember people being concerned that the powell doctrine was thrown out the window. I suspect other people well versed in modern history would have known Afghanistan as the British Empire's Vietnam.

    So here we are, quagmire accomplished.

    There is no easy out and no reason to stay.

    The country is not stable after 9 years and there is no reason to suspect it will be anymore stable in another 9 years and then we will say "we have invested 18 years, only a few more and we can turn it around". Only suckers and problem gamblers throw good money after bad.

    If we leave it will be a breeding ground for terrorists, it already is, and there are dozens of other places in the world that are breeding grounds for terrorists and no one is proposing to invade them at all.

    The extremists will come back and the people will lose their freedoms and women will be repressed, lots of other countries repress their women and in some cases the coalition of the willing help them do this.

    If we leave the country will collapse into anarchy, I think it collapsed a long time ago.

    If we stay it will not be years it will be decades, the British Empire sent soldiers to die in the dust of Afghanistan for over a 100 years.

    We all agree we should leave the only question is the timing.

  2. Yeah, we definitely must get out of there. Although I'm not convinced that Gillard is there with us. She's talking at least another decade. I can't begin to imagine what she thinks that's going to achieve.