Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Responding to Islamic State

Yesterday Martin wrote an email to our Prime Minister with the subject line "Thoughts on Resisting ISIL." I'd like to share it with you here:

Dear Mr Key,
I am aware that you face some difficult questions regarding New Zealand's foreign policy and our reponse to ISIL, and would like to contribute to the flow of citizen's comments which I hope you are receiving.
My high school choir teacher was (later) killed by separatists in the Philippines who bombed an airport he was travelling through.  His son pursues 'revenge' against them by helping others in the area build a strong civil society with no room or need for radicalism.
In that vein, let me urge you to strenuously pursue non-military contributions in addition to the current military support you have proposed.  I was struck by this recent article in the WSJ, arguing how rule of law and legitimation of small businesses can push back radicalism, and imagine you would relish that agenda.  I am also keen that somebody asks (and publicises?) who is buying oil from and selling weapons to parties such as ISIL.
Should it seem that we must engage militarily, please double check that there is some hope of meaningful success.  I would hate to be just making things worse because we were afraid to look disinterested.
If you feel that there is, however, a need to fight then I urge you to do so without regard for the risks of attacks against NZ.  If something is right to do, then we should bear the cost.  We should be generous, and not calculate solely for our own narrow interest.  I think that many kiwis will consider arguments along that line, particularly after Ebola has reminded us that it is foolhardy to leave other countries to rot as if we were not all neighbours.
We should also be confident that or society can sustain a few bruises, and resist battening the hatches so tightly that we come ourselves.
Finally, may I encourage you to offer a path home for those who got to fight for ISIL and realise the horror of what they have joined.  Be strong against those who remain radical, but help those turning back to find a better path and then to spread the lessons they have learned.
Thank you for your time, and I will be praying for you as you face these (and all your other) difficult responsibilities as Prime Minister.

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