Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time For Honesty

Today the parliamentary debate over Australia’s military engagement in Afghanistan gets underway, some say nine years overdue. It is important that the debate not only proceeds, but genuinely addresses the concerns held by so many Australians about the deployment. Perhaps not everyone would agree, but nine years ago the reasons for joining the coalition forces to drive out the Taliban and hunt down Al Qaeda were both valid and compelling. Over time however, United States strategy lost its direction and the decision to also invade Iraq was not only a disaster in itself, but undermined progress in Afghanistan. In time, it became difficult for everyday Australians to understand why the process was taking so long, and despite solid bi-partisan support for the deployment, our political leaders failed to adequately explain the relevance of our continued involvement.

Naturally, every time an Australian soldier died in Afghanistan people would ask why it was necessary. After a while people started asking if it was all in vain. So far it has happened 21 times, and sadly it could happen many more times yet before it is over. That’s why it is vitally important for the Australian people to be told honestly about the justifications for this action. The truth is that it should not have been necessary for the conflict to stretch out for nine years. The truth is that mistakes have been made. But that doesn’t mean that taking action in Afghanistan was itself a mistake. More importantly, having taken that action and pursued this course, it would be a mistake to abruptly abandon the cause and allow Afghanistan and the surrounding region to descend into the kind of instability that led to all these problems in the first place.

That would only mean that the whole effort, and the 21 deaths, really had been in vain.

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