As the Australian parliament begins a long-overdue debate about our involvement in Afghanistan, expect to hear a lot of hot air about what a nasty piece of work the Taliban are and how we are there to put an end to their nastiness. You’ll hear about their theocracy, their imprisonment of women in burqas and nose-slitting for the disobedient.
Expect to hear statements, such as the one Foreign Minister Stephen Smith recently made, about Afghanistan being “current hotbeds or danger points” for international terrorism.
I have several issues with these arguments.
1. They Cut Both Ways
To begin with – as much as I dislike theocracies and religion in any form, from a diplomatic perspective, we have to realise that if disliking a country’s politics or religion gives us moral grounds to invade that country, then we are acknowledging that that country also has moral grounds to invade OUR country if they dislike OUR politics or religion. The USA didn’t like it very much the last time a handful of Saudis decided they didn’t like American politics. In fact, they used the attack that stemmed from that dislike as an excuse for invading a couple of countries. We have to be extremely careful what precedents we set interceding in international affairs.
2. They Are Hypocritical
The second issue, about being a “hotbed” for terrorism, is troubling for the same reason. It is a record of fact that the CIA has been a supporter of terrorists and dictators for many decades. Terrorists and dictators with names such as Saddam, Noriega, Pinochet, Suharto, Mobutu and “Papa Doc” Duvalier all received either direct or indirect support from the CIA. (Australia also was a direct supporter of at least one of these men – General Suharto.)
Of course it is also a matter of record that the CIA has been and is currently involved in supporting other terrorist organisations such as Israel’s MOSSAD and Pakistan’s ISI. If we argue that supporting terrorists makes a country open to invasion, we have to then acknowledge that it is equally acceptable for other people to invade our countries with the same justification.
So keep an eye out for any such hypocritical justifications during the government debates.
Of course, the typical politician will claim that our country (and our friends such as the USA) are justified in our/their support of terrorism or our politics. It’s one of the accepted truths of domestic politics that our position is right because it is our position. Capitalism is right and communism is wrong because we are capitalists. Christianity is right and Islam is wrong because the majority of our population is Christian.
We are right because it is unthinkable that we could possibly be wrong.