Imperfect but far better than the alternative

Written By: - Date published: 3:55 pm, January 14th, 2009 - 11 comments
Categories: human rights, International, labour - Tags:

It’s good to see Kiwipolitico taking a critical view of the Left from the Left – it’s certainly better than any critiques we see from the Right. And, naturally,  within the Left we disagree at times, which is all good and healthy. In that spirit, I thought I would respond to two posts on Kiwipolitico yesterday.

First, Pablo’s post on the case for increasing our military involvement in Afghanistan. Pablo argues the military involvement there is justified by reference to liberal, democratic values and the UN’s new concept of ‘responsibility to protect’. Being justified, we ought to make the commitment to see that it is successful. OK. I’m a big fan of the responsibility to protect ideal; I see no reason why we should allow the fiction of sovereignty to be a shield for dictators to oppress the people in ‘their’ country and threaten others. On that basis, I have no trouble, in theory, with military intervention to free people from such rulers. That would justify not only the Afghanistanaction but Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe… In theory. In practice, however, things are more complicated. We have to ask ‘will military intervention work? Will it achieve the goal of creating a free, democratic country where people have their human rights upheld?’ and, unfortunately, the answer seems to be ‘no’ most of the time. The Afghanistan mission is gradually failing because the social forces that created the Taliban cannot be dislodged by military action. In fact, foreign military occupation usually just strengthens the likes of the Taliban because the people will inevitably resist foreign occupation and rally around any organisation claiming to represent resistance. Sending in more troops is not going to make things better. It may just make things worse.

Secondly, Anita writes that she does not mourn the passing of the Fifth Labour Government and goes on to list a number of ‘failures’ of that government. I agree with all of the points of criticism that Anita makes, although I think, in the scale of things, many of them are triffling and I would add a number of further criticisms myself, particularly on the failure on build a social-democratic culture. However, the larger point I want to make is that no government is ever going to be perfect. Short of revolution (and we know how those tend to turn out) we only have two choices – a Labour-led government or a National-led one. Yup, the Fifth Labour Government was far from perfect but they were good. They did a power of good for ordinary Kiwis, we’ve seen the stats often enough – employment up, incomes up, a more progressive tax system, crime down etc etc. I would have liked them to be more Left-wing and courageous but I would rather have them than this National-led government stripping Kiwis of their rights and generally making a hash of everything. I’m sure that Anita would agree with me that even if you don’t mourn the passing of the Fifth Labour Government the alternative, the Government we have now, is going to have mournful consequences for this country.

11 comments on “Imperfect but far better than the alternative”

  1. Anita 1

    I’m sure that Anita would agree with me that even if you don’t mourn the passing of the Fifth Labour Government the alternative, the Government we have now, is going to have mournful consequences for this country.

    Hell yeah 🙁

    Out of interest, what are your additional criticisms? I’m thinking of a follow-up post picking up some good suggestions from others.

    For me the point is not to celebrate the end of the 5th Labour government, but to commit to getting a better outcome the next time we swing left

  2. Scribe 2

    Sending in more troops is not going to make things better. It may just make things worse.

    Kind of like “The Surge” in Iraq, you mean.

  3. “We have to ask ‘will military intervention work? Will it achieve the goal of creating a free, democratic country where people have their human rights upheld?”

    I know you said ‘…most of the time.no’, but perhaps look at Venezuela under Chavez. Chavez came from the military, and while he was a young cadet formed the view that the Military could be used as a force to serve the people rather than oppress them and so started working on a kind of socialist coup.

    While Chavez was elected to power in the end it does show that potentially, in the right hands, the Military can be used for good.

    As for Labours loss, I think IrishBill’s “a real alternative” post summed it up.

  4. deemac 4

    leftrightout’s point about Venezuela falls down on the simple fact that Chavez achieved power through elections, not a coup or invasion, and respects electoral reverses (eg on his referendum)

  5. deemac, I realise, but Chavez did attempt a coup in 1992, which failed miserably but turned out to become a catalyst for his success later in the Presidential Election. The premise of his coup was that Military Intervention could be used for the benefit of the people, Chavez himself was a para-trooper. Had he succeeded it could have shown that Miltary Intervention can also be positive, which is probably what Pablo is trying to get across.

  6. There was a coup against Chavez in 2002. Backed by the CIA.

  7. Chris G 7

    Pablos comment: Although I too agree in principle…. Isn’t all this talk getting dangerously close to neo-conservatism? The Reagan et al. “Spreading of Democracy”? A modern day crusade but this time we’re supporting good ole democracy?

    It ‘cleansed’ Central America didnt it?

    The Taleban will never go down, nor will hamas. They are fanatical nuts

  8. Santi 8

    “For me the point is not to celebrate the end of the 5th Labour government..”

    I beg to differ. For me the point is to celebrate the demise of a socialist government, which we hope will not return to power in a decade or more.

    Clark’s Labour government is dead, enjoy the feeling!

  9. Graeme 9

    Short of revolution (and we know how those tend to turn out) we only have two choices – a Labour-led government or a National-led one.

    I think this is a false dichotomy. The option at the 2008 election was about what government to have for the next three years, but the result also impacts on what the choice is in three years’ time.

    For some people this election didn’t ask the question:

    “do you want:
    1. three years of Labour-led government, or
    2. three years of National-led government?”

    it actually asked the question:

    “do you want:
    1. another three years of this Labour-led government, so that in 2011 you will have the option of another 3 years of this Labour-led Government, or
    2. three years of a relatively moderate [compared to that on offer in 2005] National-led government, so that in 2011 you will have the option of a much better Labour-led government than that presently on offer?”

  10. jason 10

    Watch the movie Zeitgeist, it will explain all.

  11. sorry blogger I didna get a peek at the post or its source, but I would like to ask what’s with this constant (persistent) Left/Right thing? Is the world and its people generally still working this way anymore..?

    Howse about progressing politically on a different platform..?

    just asking.

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