Saturday, 27 May 2006

East Timor: Why? How many? And for how long?

I'm interested in hosting a debate here on NZ's military presence in East Timor, which seems to have happened gradually and without either discussion or significant Parliamentary attention -- much like happened in Vietnam, really. Clark suggests NZ's soldiers will be there for at least a year, but that's somewhat simliar to what John F. Kennedy said when he first sent 'observers' to Vietnam, wasn't it?
  • What's been happening in East Timor is certainly outrageous, but what exactly are 160 NZ soldiers (and counting) expected to achieve there to stop it?
  • And on whose behalf? Who will be the final beneficiary of NZ's 'peace-keeping' in Dili? Do we know?
  • What sort of peace are our soldiers trying to achieve there? Given that their armaments and disposition are better used offensively than defensively -- in other words, they're better equipped for 'shooting at' than being shot at -- who will they be shooting at, and why? And how much being shot at will there be, and why?
  • Will they be able to hunt down all those who shot at them, and if not why not? How many will be killed (and how many of them) if they don't?
  • Why has there been so little debate to date on NZ's military involvement there?
  • And will our troops even get there without their RNZAF transport breaking down?
I'm happy to hear and to air views on these and any related questions, and I might post the best responses here on the front page. How 'bout it?

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-World, Timor


__mars said...

Intriguing questions. From Malaysia point of view, similar situation is happening here though not the debate itself. The Parliament apparently is quiet about it. The executive does seem to have more power than the legislative arm and this does raise legitimate concern.

However, I do support Malaysia sending in troops to East Timor. Moreover, since Malaysia is a representative democracy instead of a direct one, I think it's acceptable. At least in this scenario where quick action is needed and red tapes being unnecessary. If I were a Kiwi, I would support troop mobilization for humanitarian reason.

Berend de Boer said...

Yes, the MSM has done a great job enlightening the people, no need for the blogosphere to pickup the tab...

But to become serious: for me it all depends on what Keith Locke thinks: if he's in favor, we should not get involved.

Phil Howison said...

If the intervention is well-led, it will probably be successful, at least in the short term. The gangs, rebels and factions are completely outgunned. It seems like the Aussies have allied themselves loosely with the ex-guerrillas - a smart move. After all, they defeated the Indonesians in guerrilla warfare, they could certainly force an Australian withdrawal if they saw it as opposed to their own interests (I certainly can't see the Aussies staying for 24 years, like the Indonesians).

As for the strategic rationale, this is definitely in Australia's interest, and New Zealand should contribute both to give more regional legitimacy and to support an ally. Operations like this pose little risk and offer troops a chance to put their training into practice. Australia is currently surrounded by weak and failing states to the north and east. A full collapse of any of those countries poses risks for Asutralia including disease, refugees, arms trafficking, smuggling etc. One major threat to Australia is terrorism. Weak states north of Australia - Indonesia, the Philippines etc - are home to Islamic terrorist groups like JI and Abu Sayyaf. They haven't attacked Australia yet, but failed states close by could offer secure locations for training camps and staging grounds unless Australia intervenes. This would particularly be the case if those Islamic groups (or radicalised elements within the Indonesian military) launched a jihad against East Timor and the Australians based there.

Anonymous said...

*The kiwis naturally can't handle the whole thing by themselves, but as said, they're an important part of the mainly australian operation, operationally and politically.
*The beneficiaries will be the people of East Timor. Yes, the NZ taxpayer foots the bill, but we have an obligation to help out in our region. The troops will bring peace and stability, and save lives.
*One of the factors delaying the deployment of ANZAC troops was the negotiations over the rules of engagement. The troops will be able to shoot to kill if necessary, and this is what makes peacekeeping forces effective. Fear of the ANZACs will force the gangs to calm down. The resevoir of goodwill the ANZACs have after the earlier intervention means it is highly unlikely anyone will shoot at them anyway. Just their presence is the most important thing here.
*There's been so little debate because most of New Zealand is behind the government's decision to go help our neighbor.
*Yep, the NZDF needs budget increases pretty much all around

Brian Smaller said...

I believe that we are getting involved just for the oil. Apparently Timor is floating ont he stuff. NO BLOOD FOR OIL and all that stuff.