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.