The future for Afghanistan?

With Afghanistan in mind, I’ve been reading an article suggesting that the west needs to win more wars with private armies. The argument is that this would allow Government’s to ‘fudge’ their involvement, and politicians wouldn’t have to explain casualties to the public.

Some of it even makes sense.

Here are a few extracts:

Why has the international community continued to persist with negotiated settlements and even-handedness in cases where one side was clearly at fault? The reason, for the most part, is self interest. Such an approach avoids direct intervention and the subsequent political risks.


Outright victories, rather than negotiated peace settlements, have ended the greater part of the twentieth century’s internal conflicts.

The private military sector can allow policymakers to achieve their foreign-policy goals free from the need to secure public approval and safe in the knowledge that should the situation deteriorate, official participation can be fudged.”

As the political and economic costs of peacekeeping continue to escalate, it may increasingly make sense for multilateral organizations and Western governments to consider outsourcing some aspects of these interventions to the private sector.

Western countries are more reluctant to intervene militarily in weak states, and their politicians are disinclined to explain casualties to their electorates. Furthermore, Western armies, designed primarily to fight the sophisticated international conflicts envisaged by Cold War strategists, are ill equipped to tackle low-intensity civil wars, with their complicated ethnic agendas, blurred boundaries between combatants and civilians, and loose military hierarchies.

UN peacekeeping efforts have fallen victim to Western governments’ fears of sustaining casualties, becoming entangled in expanding conflicts, and incurring escalating costs.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the author is Labour Leader David Shearer


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • The future for Afghanistan? Past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.

    “Furthermore, Western armies, designed primarily to fight the sophisticated international conflicts envisaged by Cold War strategists, are ill equipped to tackle low-intensity civil wars, with their complicated ethnic agendas, blurred boundaries between combatants and civilians, and loose military hierarchies”.

    No kidding – 1993-1994 post Somalie genocide of 1991 Sir Don McKinnon heading the moves to establish more concrete guidelines so as to avoid things like the Battle of Modadishu happening again.

    Yet nothing has changed and nothing will – thanks primarily to the US and their quest for power, control & resources (under the guise of being the world’s policeman), NZ keeps getting involved in these Civil Wars that have been going on in some form or another for decades, sometimes centuries, have nothing to do with anyone else & just cause needless loss of life and a huge waste in money and resources.

    Afghanistan is not a country per se, it is just an in cohesive collection of warring tribes, factions and clans. Whatever NZ has achieved in Afghanistan will be undone in 10, 20 or 50 years. The Russians had them under control – the US should have left them to it. Further the insurgents have sanctuary in Pakistan and while this continues I really cant see how the west’s efforts will make squat of a difference in the long term.

    As for the possibility of an “outright victories” – apparently you need 20 soldiers per 1000 civilians in order to do this so with population of over 30million you need at least 600,000 troops.

  • Islandguy

    Isn’t Ms Chris Carter over there on a fat tax free salary dealing to corruption? Wonder if he has made any nice young afghani boy friends yet.

  • le sphincter

    Private armies ? In ‘Ghan ?

    Too. crazy. for. words.
    Have you seen what the mercs are like all ready for the limited missions they do for NGOs and US State

    • Gazzaw

      ‘Ghan? Mercs? I love the military patois Spink. Been at the war comics again?

      • GregM

        Heheheh! Maybe Spink flew Herc’s at ‘Nam for the VC. May explain why he has been MIA ever since. Or maybe he just needs to put down the Biggles books.
        Shearer has made some good points however.

  • Blam

    “with Afghanistan in mind….” and then linking a report by David Shearer of the problems and pitfall of private armies, and then twisting the report. Nothing like politicising death is there ?

    • Read what David Shearer is advocating here “Blam” or whoever you are…. no twisting required. He’s saying bring in the private armies – they can do the job without regard for what the public thinks. It’s not the public picture that Shearer’s trying to paint now is it?

  • Mr_Blobby

    The real reason for mercenary armies is that the US Empire is short on soldiers and not able to recruit enough, even with fast tracking citizenship for volunteers. A universal draft would be politically unpopular. So like many waning empires throughout history the answer is to hire on mercenaries to fill the shortfall.

    • 2ndAmendment

      Or just stop the dole. That would do it easily.

      • Gazzaw

        Angry Tory, the basic unemployment benefit in the US is $15300 per year, the starting rate in the US Army is $17000. Even taking into account that you get bed & board as well I don’t think that too many people would consider another $1700 per year as sufficient incentive to get your ass shot off in Afghanistan.

        • 2ndAmendment

          Which part of “stop” don’t you understand?

          a difference between $17,000 (hell or even $10,000) and $0 should be more than enough

          • Gazzaw

            Are you really suggesting AT that the US reverts to a pressgang system to fill army ranks? Starve or join the army? Even the Tea Party would not go that far. Political suicide.

      • Agent BallSack

        Still an Angry wee Tory aint ya? You don’t do the right wing any favours with your ‘starve the useless beneficiaries’ exhortations. It is possible to be a right wing and still have respect for humans different from you

        On the bright side…you’re consistent. Hope you never require a benefit or state provided services.

  • Arto Dostoyevsky

    Bad idea, the mercs are waay too expensive!

  • pukakidon

    Actually Shearer has not been into the nasty party politicizing of the tragic event that has occurred with our brave soldiers doing their duty for our country. I respect him for this. He has shown a good deal of leadership on this issue and is providing some good non political advice on continuing the job we committed to, I respect him for this. Even though Helun committed us to this task we must not lose our gumption. It is not the NZ way.

    Goof and his nasties however has shown that they are about using anything they can to obtain political gain to win the election. Maybe we are seeing the leadership side of Shearer. The best thing he could do is to get rid of the nastier components of Labour and start focusing on what Labour really stands for, workers and their contribution and ridding us of the top echelon of Government bludgers and corporate theft.

  • GregM

    What is Afghanistan’s future ? Thanks to pinko governments around the world, and a chicken shit populace that won’t stand up for what’s right, within a year of the foreign forces leaving, it will be back to square one.
    The day I saw our Navy medics patching up a 12 y.o. girl who had her ear lobes cut off because she refused to marry a 60 y.o.Mullah I will never forget, and that is what the country will revert to.
    Well done Liarbore / greens, I hope you can live with it.

    • Get a grip

      So I guess you think we should “get involved” in Mali ?
      They have the exact same problem.
      and then and then and then.
      But then I guess the Mali situation is not strategic to the US of A.

      • GregM

        Whats happening in Mali, Chad , Niger doesn’t affect the rest of the world, whats happening in Afghanistan / Pakistan does, and it affects us and our allies.
        We can’t be in every hotspot or civil war, we just need to prioritize where we go with what we have.
        Cheers G.

    • I’d like to see your thoughts on what I have said below – do you honestly believe that such torture has stopped now and wont happen again? Genuine question, not being facetious. Places like Afghanistan are, for many of us, merely places we might read about during the course of our studies. Few of us have ever been there and will ever get to go there. So a first hand perspective would be interesting – what do you think of Shearer’s report?

      • GregM

        I have just had a quick flick through the full article, and in some areas Mr Shearer is absolutely spot on. It is a part of the world where you will never win, you could send in 500,000 troops and still not stop whats happening. I think troops should stay, it does lessen the shit that goes on, but will never stop it. Some say ” pull out and leave them to it”, that’s not an option, the shit will spread. What was most interesting was that he is basically saying that all the methods the UN stands for, and uses in conflicts are essentially useless, and he is dead right. Spend a week on the ground and I cannot describe how frustrating it is. The number of times I had to bite my tongue to stop shouting out “JUST SHOOT THE BASTARD!”,But the UN would frown on that.
        My conclusions? If mercenaries were sent to Bosnia or Rwanda ( for example) the genocide would not have happened. Afghanistan is a bit different because allegiances seem to change so often.Your ally today could shoot you in the back next week. I don’t know what the answer is there, but walking away is not an option. I just feel so sorry for the children. You look at them , talk to them, and you know they have absolutely no future. It’s hard to deal with.

        • Thanks Greg – very interesting response. We are saying similar things.

          Re “he is basically saying that all the methods the UN stands for, and uses in conflicts are essentially useless” – the problem with Shearer is that he is not saying anything new. This was evident in the Battle of Mogadishu and the UN resolutions post this conflict (under Don McKinnon) were supposed to have gone a significant way in dealing with this. Yet because of the very nature of civil war they havent.

          I disagree that mercenaries would have stopped Bosnia or Rwanda – both were the culmination of centuries of conflict. Vvery simplistically and as I understand it, Bosnia stemmed from the Ottoman Empire whose internal conflicts led to WW1 which then led to WW2 then the Cold War & establishment of the former Yugoslavia followed by more internal conflict which saw the break down of Yugoslavia that then led to the Bosnian War. Rwanda – direct result of colonialism which gave the Tutsi (minority) power. It was always going to backlash.

          In terms of whether we should go to such places or keep our troops in Afghanistan I would say practically speaking no. No amount of peacekeeping can right the past wrongs. In many ways UN peacekeeping in civil wars to me seems like trying to stop a flu strand; deal with one conflict and another pops up elsewhere. So it does seem extraordinarily futile.

          But then from more emotional and moral perspective I agree with you – we owe it to the innocent victims in all this to keep trying.

          The problem I do have though is with the US – how they often exacerbate these issues (e.g War on Terror – I consider the US to be the worst terrorists of all) and how they dictate where the UN goes. For all intents and purposes the US is the UN…even though they dont pay their dues (currently owe over $1billion)