More troops to be deployed to Iraq

Islamic State fighter on top of tank in SyriaOn March 3, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the deployment to Iraq of an additional 300 Australian troops. As if to emphasise the gap between rhetoric and action, when making the announcement he said “This is not mission-creep…”. From MPG’s perspective, mission-creep is exactly what it is.

The Prime Minister described the deployment as “prudent and proportionate” and “in the national interest”. He went on to argue that it was important for domestic security, saying that Australia must do its bit to disrupt and degrade IS at its source.The implication of the PM’s announcement is that IS can be defeated by the military forces of the West, and that this will make us safer at home. The reality is that the presence of Western forces only increases the level of resentment felt towards them. Sending more troops, escalating the level of involvement, so far from reducing the threat of terrorism at home is probably increases its likelihood. If Mr Abbott’s line of argument is followed, as IS grows in strength, we will see steadily more military forces being devoted to this futile operation.

In the thirteen years that have passed since ‘9/11’, Western (including Australian) forces have been consistently ‘fighting terrorism’. A measure of the success of this, militaristic policy is that the level of terrorism world-wide has increased and not decreased. In other words, the conventional (i.e. militarised) response to terrorism has failed and continues to fail. Mr Abbott’s latest contribution is simply to compound this failure.

Sending more troops is not prudent – it is likely to exacerbate the situation, increase the level of violence and strengthen IS’s recruitment drive. Nor is the addition of 300 Australian troops ‘proportionate’. Whether fighting or (as the PM insists) simply training members of the Iraqi army, this number will not have any great impact on the military outcome. On the other hand, the damage to Australia’s international reputation could well be disproportionately large.

It is particularly disappointing that the Labor Party, which opposed the 2013 invasion of Iraq, has meekly acquiesced to the announcement. Labor would not even back the Greens in their call for parliamentary debate before Australian troops are committed to missions overseas.

It is noteworthy that the PM made his announcement in response to a request from the US. Once again, Australia is showing its willingness to go on fighting wars that primarily serve the interests of the US. Expressed simply, Australia’s continuing military involvement in the Middle East is not serving the nation’s best interests.

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