Why do the Australian media question the country's involvement in Afghanistan? Should the other 42 participating nations in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) question theirs as well? Will the war in Afghanistan warrant Australia’s involvement only when the terror strikes closer to home?
In my view, completely retracting support for this global coalition endeavor is not a recognition of call to action on the unnecessary waste of lives, but an admission to the moral incapacity in defending the lives of innocent millions across the world – something which Gillard recognises and continues to champion. As Australia’s Prime Minister, she is doing an admirable job holding her ground and commitment in the face of local political and media pressures.
I hope the Australian media realises that a withdrawal of support will set a precedence for other nations in the future and challenge the very core and ideals of a globalised community in the form of the UN and NATO.
It’s true, we should never fight violence with violence as it never brings permanent peace. Martin Luther King once touched on the subject of war and said, “It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones”. Make no mistake, there is nothing weak, passive or naïve in the certainty of this creed.
But we do not live in an ideal world. Every men and women – in positions of power, with the capacity for action – cannot stand by idly in the face of threats and violence to this world. The ugly truth is this: evil does exist. Would a non-violent movement have halted Hitler’s armies? Would negotiations have convinced the al-Qaeda leaders to lay down their arms?
That is why I fervently believe in the mission of these brave men and women who fight for world peace. Obama could not have said it better years ago in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize he received, “To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”
Not taking anything away from the current issue in Afghanistan, we have to acknowledge and accept that the green on blue attacks – a form of infiltration assault where green represents friendly national Afghan forces and blue represents international coalition forces – is psychologically wounding to the soldiers and the moral state of the mission there. If the Iraq war was the face of the conflict that brought the horror of roadside bombs to world infamy, Afghanistan has now become the face of an even more insidious form of war violence – the insider attack.
Having said all the above, the world is already coming to terms with the war in Afghanistan. Any form of withdrawals from this commitment made 10 years ago should be carried out as a joint and carefully planned effort. Coalition troops from participating countries have already slated in their withdrawals and many countries have already pulled troops back to their home in stages. Some nations have even swapped their combat troops and transitioned into a training role. But it is an ongoing effort that spans across the next 8-16 months.
There is no illusion here on the cost of this war to everyone involved. After all, the leaders of these countries only sought to do what is right for their people and the world. We all know there is no definitive solution to the problems of war. But in meeting these challenges, these leaders will require the same vision, persistence and perseverance from men and women of wars in decades past who acted without the fear of repression and judgment, holding on to their moral compasses.
Their guidance requires us to think differently today, about the ideas of a just war and the imperatives of a just peace. The truth is this: the notion of a just war does not exist in its fundamental form. Therefore, the world should strive on the belief of a just peace – for peace is not just defined by the absence of visible conflicts, but also based on the inherent rights and dignity of every individual. This is the essence of a sustainable and lasting peace.
So yes, the loss of the 5 Australian soldiers is a tragedy and we mourn them with the nation’s deepest sympathy. But do not forget the lost lives of countless thousands of innocents over the years to terror attacks – from the US to Eastern Europe to South Africa and even Bali – for that in itself is the bigger tragedy. Hence, remember what these 5 men that were lost was fighting for, and honour them not as makers of war, but as wagers of peace.