Thursday, October 16, 2014

Coalition Calling

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is under pressure from Obama Barack to join the coalition fighting against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. He is holding off on his decision until the vote for the rotating seat on the UN security council he is hoping to win has taken place. I sent the following submission to him.

I understand that you are under pressure from the US administration to commit military support to the coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. I urge you not to get us involved in this battle. We have no interest in the outcome.

  • Much of the anger in the Middle East is a consequence of Western meddling in the area. One reason young people are willing to fight and die is that they are fed up with seeing their future being controlled by Western powers, pretending to be working for their good, but pursuing their own interests. Another invasion from the West will just exacerbate that anger.

  • Obama has put together a coalition, but they have conflicting interests. Some just want to get rid of President Assad of Syria. The Turks want to restore their influence from the days of the Ottoman Empire. Others want to score some points against Iran. Some see the battle as a continuation of the long struggle between Shia and Sunni Islam. We have no interest in these struggles, so we should not get involved in them. A house that is divided cannot stand. A disunited coalition will eventually fail.

  • Obama’s coalition is a motley crew. Saudi Arabia is a greater threat to world peace than the Islamic State. They have been using their petro-dollars to export their virulent Wahabbi form of Islam for nearly fifty years. I understand that the Saudis have beheaded fifty people already this year, far more than the Islamic State. Many of the other members of the coalition are dictators who have no interest in freedom or democracy. The gulf monarchs are seen as immoral, corrupt and blasphemous by the Sunni people in the Middle East. They do not add credibility to the coalition. Their involvement will not encourage local support. We should not get yoked with such a motley group of nations.

  • The coalition has no clear goal. They want to get rid of the Islamic State, but they have no idea of what they would put in its place. The same Western nations blundered into Libya, and all they did was made the situation even worse. They have not admitted that they made a mistake, so I suspect that they will repeat the same mistake in Syria/Iraq. You should not start on a journey without knowing where you are going. This whole problem exists, because the US blundered into Iraq with no idea of what they were going to build once they won the war, except a vague dream of democracy. The current debacle is the result.

  • There is long-standing enmity between Iraq and the Gulf States. Allowing the Gulf states to bomb Iraq will add to ancient tensions. The fact that Obama thinks this will help points to the ignorance of his advisors about the historical and religious tensions that affect the region.

  • Many Moslems support Baghdadi, because his goal is to purge the region of corrupt dictators and monarchs. Some of his appeal comes from his role in resisting the corrupt powers that have dominated the region. Joining a coalition with these corrupt rulers undermines our credibility.

  • Iraq is permanently broken. The Sunnis west cannot be put back with the Shia east. Too much hatred and fear has been stirred up since Saddam was exited by George Bush. It is not going to be put back together, regardless of who Obama installs on the throne in Iraq. Humpty Dumpty has fallen and cannot be put back together again, so do not waste lives trying.

  • The national boundaries in the region were imposed by the Western powers at the end of the First World War They took no notice of tribal, cultural or geographical realities on the ground. Iraq was established to protect British access to oil in the region. Jordan was given a long north Eastern dogleg, to allow an oil pipeline between Mosul and Haifa to be built. Lebanon was split from Syria to create a Christian nation under French influence. These borders are now breaking down. We should let the local people decide where the boundaries should be and how they want to be ruled. Western intervention will just exacerbate the problem and cause the conflict to last longer. Let them sort out their own situation. It will be painful and will take time, but a Western military coalition will only muddy the process.

  • The Sunni Moslem people of Iraq and Syria are entitled to a state of their own. Those in Syria have been controlled by the Alawite dynasty of the Assads since 1970. Sunni Moslems in Iraq has been squeezed by the Shia since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The Western powers may not like the Islamic State, but it is tapping into these people’s aspirations for independence, so it will be hard to stop.

  • The Kurds will have to be allowed a state, although will lead to issues with the Kurdish populations of Turkey and Iran. But that problem can only be sorted out locally, not in Washington or New York.

  • Next year we will be celebrating the centenary of the Gallipoli invasion. While it was a pivotal event in our history, the reality was that young men from New Zealand had no business to be invading Turkey, a Muslim nation on the other side of the world. We will celebrate, but we should be slightly embarrassed, too. Now hundreds of years later, it is time for us to grow up and stop going on these military adventures to the other side of the world in places that we have no right or need to be poking our nose into.

  • New Zealand is skilled and generous in supporting refugees from warzones. If the time comes when they would be useful, we could provide peace-keepers. We should stick to what we are good at, because it gains us respect on the international stage. We should not be sending military forces into the war, either SAS or air support, as it would not achieve anything useful, but would make us a target for terrorist revenge.

In the recent election, you demonstrated courage by standing staunch against many hostile and unfair attacks by those who opposed you. I hope that you will demonstrate the same courage by resisting pressure from Obama to get involved in a war without end for no purpose. I realise that Obama Barack’s friendship is important to you, but this is a situation where New Zealand should come first.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said. And of course the actual purpose of any expedition in Iraq would be the rescue of Obama's flagging political fortunes, and those of his party, as November elections loom. If he can secure some commitments from other countries, this will (possibly) foster the impression that he is a Big Man and a real leader. This is certainly not a worthwhile project for the armed forces of New Zealand.