In spite of renewed calls to pull out of Afghanistan, Prime Minister John Key said this afternoon that New Zealand would not be honouring the deaths of Leon Smith, Doug Grant and Tim O’Donnell if New Zealand pulled its troops out.
This is the stuff politicians say when they’re talking about the deaths of soldiers they’ve sent into combat. ‘We must stay the course, honour their sacrifice, they fought for freedom etc.’ And I think the politicians believe it, because they really don’t want to face the alternative: that they’ve sent men to die in the name of domestic political advantage and short term geo-political positioning to advance our trade and defence alliances.
But all that rhetoric really only counts when you’re in a conflict for the long haul, and you’re trying to achieve actual strategic outcomes. Our troops are in the middle of a complex civil war, in which New Zealand has no stakes whatsoever, and we’re pulling our SAS troops out in six months time anyway. So, somehow, pulling out now would dishonor the deaths of our soldiers – but pulling out in March, when the strategic situation is likely to be the same, or far worse, won’t.