Kiwi troops are going to help in the fight against ISIS. We will apparently be part of an ANZAC training group upskilling Iraqi soldiers. No doubt the SAS will also be involved as, at the very least, protection for the ground forces.
There is a lot of disquiet about this engagement. Of real concern is the open ended nature of the mission. What is the exit strategy? What will success look like? Many will agree with David Shearer when he talks of the risk our soldiers are taking, saying “we need to be able to tell their families they died making a difference; I’m not sure what we’ll be doing will make any difference.”
But one disappointing aspect of the criticism of the decision is the lack of alternatives being put forward. We all agree ISIS are doing awful things in their conquered territories and that their very existence is an encouragement to acts of terror by other nominally Islamic groups and egotistical individuals. And it is wishful thinking to say that confronting them might make us a target. We already are a target in a real sense. It’s probably only our geographical isolation and relatively small population that has spared us so far, but let’s not kid ourselves that a Lindt café siege can’t happen here. The French Secret Service have already shown us what a soft target we are.
ISIS are not inclined toward diplomacy and they are not going to attend peace talks or pose for photos with UN negotiators in front of a lush buffet table at Camp David. They are financially solid and resource rich. But letting them establish a fascist, misogynist and homophobic pseudo-Caliphate in the Levant is not a realistic option. But how do we in the West stop them, if not by taking them on militarily?
What alternatives are there? And how can New Zealand play a part, if not by sending troops?
UPDATE: Key has just made the announcement in Parliament. A joint force with Australia, but not badged as ANZAC. Deployment in May, maximum two years. Up to 143 personnel, plus support staff.