The Left rejects it’s historic commitment to international solidarity and protecting the innocent when it embraces a growing neo-isolationism. It’s all very well to say ‘not our fight’ in the face of ISIS terror, but the opposite on intervention isn’t peace.
Stare at that for a moment.
The international community didn’t intervene to stop Bashar-al Assad dropping chemical bombs on civilians in Syria. I argued they should. Since then thousands more have been killed, including children, millions more made homeless, and the Syrian opposition has been taken over by jihadists.
Not intervening has arguably been more bloody than intervening.
The Kurds of Kobani, Rojava and the Kurdistan Region, including Yazidis, Christians and other minorities have been the victims of Middle East conflict for decades. They were gassed by Saddam Hussein in Halabja in 1988, and we did nothing then. Now they’re on the front line of a global battle against modern fascism in the form of ISIS, and they’re asking for help.
These are real people and their children - workers, trade union members, doctors, builders, teachers, nurses. Those on the Left who use the disastrous American led intervention of Iraqi in 2003 as a reason not to intervene now, need to listen to these people. A group of UK Labour party members are calling on the Left and Trade Unions to support the kurds and show solidarity"
“(The Kurds are on) the front line of a global battle against the vilest fascism of our age. We must help them, we must call on the world to help them, and this help must be given by whatever means necessary. The Labour movement is an internationalist movement which understands deeply the plight of those who suffer at under tyranny.”
It’s true, we can’t go in boots and all and prevent the murder of innocent people in every global crisis. Each decision is complicated, rife with potential unintended consequences, and morally tough. But there are guidelines to help a country like New Zealand decide whether to get involved:
- Intervention has to be legal under international law.
The invasion of Iraq in 2003 wasn’t. If a crime against humanity has been committed, legal grounds for intervention exist. A regional response, like the Nato led intervention in Kosovo was legal because the massacre of 7000 muslim men and boys at Srebrenica was a clear crime against humanity.
- Have a clear objective.
Recent airstrikes to free the 44,000 Yazidis stuck on Mt Sinjar in Iraq who faced either starvation or slaughter was a pretty clear objective. David Shearer is right that a clear objective for further military intervention is still to be made. If and when it is made, Labour needs to re-assess it’s position, just as the UK Labour movement is.
- Don’t go in without an exit plan.
Getting rid of the ISIS fighters who are beheading, crucifying and slaughtering thousands today, won’t get rid of the ideology that justifies this in the name of Islam. That will take years. It will require a mixture of humanitarian aid, support for moderate muslims fighting jihadist ideas, help to nation build, plus economic sanctions to prevent ISIS re-arming.
Use the Kosovo blueprint as an exit plan. In 1999 the Nato-led air-war in Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians were being massacred by Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, lasted 78 days and achieved all of its goals. “The strategic goals were to stop the fighting, force Milosevic to pull back his army, restore Kosovo as an autonomous Albanian enclave, and insert NATO troops—30,000 of them—as peacekeepers. All the goals were met, ” writes Fred Kaplin in Slate magazine.
- Ideally any intervention should be UN-led.
In 2012, the majority of the fifteen members of the Security Council agreed to send an African led military force against al Qaeda in northern Mali, after an illegal coup toppled a democratically elected president. The five permanent members - Britain, the United States, Russia, China and France - who can use their veto to stop any action, chose not to.
New Zealand is now on the Security Council. In 1994 when we chaared the Council we were one of the few countries calling for action to prevent genocide in Rwanda. Our call was rejected and 800,000 people were slaughtered in just 100 days.
This year Rwanda voted for us to go back on the Security Council.
It matters what we do - or don't do.