Afghanistan operation has succeeded
"Shame on you, Matthew Hooton. Advocating assassinations and kidnappings shows you have no respect for Western values such as the rule of law and due process"Featured comment
Image of NZ soldiers in Afghanistan courtesy ISAF Public Affairs.
Two more young men are dead prompting legitimate questions about whether New Zealand’s commitment in Afghanistan has been worth it.
There was a potential alternative path after September 11, 2001.
That would have been to regard the terrorist atrocities not as a military attack, comparable with Pearl Harbour, but as an unprecedented criminal act, comparable with, albeit much larger than, Timothy McVeigh’s bombing in Oklahoma.
Political leaders would certainly have emphasised that “we’re coming to get you”, but would also have spoken of the superiority of Western values such as the rule of law and due process over the primitive barbarism of fanatical Islamism.
The FBI would have been the lead agency, not the Department of Defence. The CIA and other intelligence agencies would obviously have been heavily involved, spreading agents throughout the Middle East and South Asia, infiltrating terrorist groups. Assassinations would certainly have occurred, but kidnappings would have been preferred and, where plausible, old-fashioned extradition.
Something like Guantanamo Bay would probably still have been needed, and enhanced interrogations, but the goal would have been a Nuremburg-type trial of the accused not the conquest of territory. The US and its allies would not have had to engage in the nation-building that George W Bush so derided during the 2000 presidential campaign.
Few in the West were prepared to advocate this path. In New Zealand, an exception was elements of the Alliance Party, then in government with Helen Clark. The party ended up splitting over the issue, with leader Jim Anderton – who had been acting prime minister on 9/11 – dismissing those who criticised his support for the US strategy with the Bush-esque phrase: “It happened on my watch.”
This of course is all academic now. It was not the path taken. In any case, it wasn’t feasible.
In 2001, twelve years after the end of the Cold War, the US intelligence community still had plenty of fluent Russian speakers, but just two fluent Arabic speakers. The idea of FBI and CIA agents infiltrating terrorist groups around the world to bring home the accused was fanciful.
Al Qaeda incapacitated
The US invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, nearly 11 years ago. It is fashionable to point out that that is longer than the first and second world wars combined, and that the US managed to subjugate Germany twice in the time it has failed to do the same to Afghani warlords.
The fashionable liberal elite also argue that nothing has been achieved except propping up a corrupt regime that is less effective than the Taliban in suppressing opium production, so that the two soldiers who died this week did so in vain, as part of a failed adventure.
That would be quite wrong.
The primary responsibility of the leaders of the US and its allies is the safety and security of their own people. The liberal elite tell us that the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has failed even with that, saying it has strengthened and emboldened Al Qaeda.
As usual with the liberal elite, the data does not support their assertions.
It is simply part of the historical record that Al Qaeda is far weaker today than before the invasion and the other operations in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.
In the 1990s and 2000, Al Qaeda successfully bombed the World Trade Centre in New York, US embassies in Africa and even a US destroyer, the USS Cole.
In 2001, it could kill nearly 3000 people in the US, including in the very headquarters of its military.
In 2002, its wider network killed over 200 people, including 88 Australians and three New Zealanders, doing nothing wrong except preferring the bikini over the burqua while on holiday in Bali.
In 2004 and 2005, it killed 191 in Madrid and 52 in London.
Since then, it has been incapable of launching a single significant attack against the West. Its leader did not, alas, suffer the same indignity as Saddam Hussein of being dragged out of a hole, was stuck in a Pakistani compound before being killed by the Americans.
In terms of improving the security of New Yorkers, Londoners or Spaniards wanting to go to work, or Kiwis and Aussies wanting to hang out at a bar at the beach, or anyone else who prefers the Western way of life over Sharia law, the invasion of Afghanistan has been an overwhelming success.
In addition to the primary objective of security, and after decades of horror, including the Soviet invasion and the worse terrors of the Taliban, something is finally being done – as our soldiers were doing – to try to make life better for the villagers of Afghanistan, including letting girls learn to read and write without having acid sprayed in their faces.
These efforts have not been as successful as might have been hoped. As in any large endeavour, terrible bungles have occurred. But the soldiers who died this week did so as part of a noble and successful cause.
Shame on anyone who says otherwise.