The Afghan war and social democrats

This video from the USA is called Rethink Afghanistan War (Part 6): Security.

From the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia:

Labor Left will find it harder not to mention the war


April 6, 2010

Growing public opposition will challenge the moral cover given to Australian support for the US alliance and its role in Afghanistan, writes Marcus Strom.

For evidence political distinctions between Labor Party factions under Kevin Rudd have largely disappeared, look no further than the Left’s collective silence about the war in Afghanistan.

The Socialist Left remains quiet on Australia’s support for a government widely believed to have been fraudulently elected, and the faction’s elder statesman is the Defence Minister.

During his trip to Washington last year, John Faulkner endorsed the “Obama surge” of 30,000 extra US military personnel in Afghanistan, without offering further military commitment from Australia.

Matters are not so neat for US President Barack Obama. The Progressive Democratic Caucus last month forced a three-hour debate on the floor of the House of Representatives on a resolution to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan within 30 days.

They mustered 65 votes in its favour; nine abstained. Of the 253 Democrats in the House, almost a quarter called on the President to order an immediate military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Five Republicans supported it, too.

In Britain, Labour MPs from the left – such as Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell – have called for withdrawal, while in November 22 MPs called on Parliament to debate Britain’s involvement in the war.

Yet in Australia the Labor Left collectively mounts no opposition or criticism of the war, and under the Rudd government there has been no debate in Parliament about Afghanistan. The Greens’ move in the Senate to debate the war was defeated by a combined Labor-Coalition vote.

Iraq was the neocons’ war, but under Obama Afghanistan has become the war of the moderate left. In 2007, the then senator Obama said his priority would be ”getting out of Iraq and onto the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

As President, he has been true to his word. Obama has called George Bush’s war on Saddam Hussein one of choice, and posits the Afghan conflict as one of necessity.

Across Europe and in the US, sections of the mainstream parliamentary left challenge that notion. In Australia, the Labor Left seems to have bought it. Individually, many on the Left support the war. …

In this supporting role, the Left provides moral cover to the main game, which is Rudd’s continuation of John Howard‘s approach to the US alliance and its wars: talk big but be a small target. In the interests of sustaining the alliance, back the conflict to the hilt, but provide minimal support in terms of combat soldiers. Howard knew and Rudd knows that Australians will not stomach high casualties defending a corrupt government.

That stance, however, is coming under pressure. The US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is reported to have privately warned the Defence chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, that “the Rudd government’s refusal to allow Australian troops to take the fight to the Taliban was impairing the US-led war effort”.

When Obama arrives in Canberra in June, Australia’s role in Afghanistan will no doubt be on the agenda. Australian troops training Afghan soldiers in Oruzgan have been under the security remit of troops from the Netherlands. However, the Dutch government collapsed in February when a junior coalition partner refused to back an extension of duty for the 2000 soldiers in Oruzgan. In August, they will leave.

The Americans are expected to fill this security gap, but that will leave a bad taste in the mouth for US military planners. The Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, has been calling on his European NATO allies to lift their game in the Afghan theatre. It is hard to believe pressure will not be brought to bear on Australia.

Michael O’Hanlon, of the Brookings Institution in Washington, says America has a realistic view of its allies in the war, but also says ”we need the help”. He points out the US has about ”100,000 troops in Afghanistan; a comparable per capita contribution from Australia would be 5000 or more”. ”How can we feel totally satisfied with the contributions of allies like Australia?”

Here, the Afghan war is increasingly unpopular. The Lowy Institute Poll last year found that 51 per cent oppose Australia’s military presence in Afghanistan. More than two-thirds oppose increasing Australian troop numbers.

Whether or not Australia commits more troops, the longer the war continues, the more unpopular it is likely to become. Voices of opposition will grow.

Progressives in the ALP will come under increasing pressure to oppose the war. With their counterparts in the US Democratic Party, they will be called upon to voice, and lead, growing anti-war sentiment.

Marcus Strom is a Herald journalist.

US military commanders in Afghanistan have admitted responsibility for killing two pregnant women in February during yet another assault on civilians by occupation forces: here.

6 thoughts on “The Afghan war and social democrats

  1. Karzai ‘nearly joined Taliban’

    Afghanistan: Parliamentary representatives in Kabul have claimed that President Hamid Karzai had “threatened to quit and join the Taliban” if the US continued to demand an end to corruption in his government.

    “He said: ‘If I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban’,” Nangarhar province MP Farooq Marenai said.

    “Karzai said rebelling would change to resistance, because the Taliban would then be resisting a foreign occupation rather than be rebelling against an elected government.”


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