The executive director of the NZ Council for International Development will, I am certain, have the support of most New Zealanders in her plea for us to take as many Afghan refugees as possible and to substantially increase humanitarian aid to remaining NGOs.
However, in her opinion article (NZ Herald, September 1), her plea to the United States to remain a "liberal interventionist" lacks both acknowledgement of history and the fact that the United States has been an interventionist power and will continue to be one but decidedly not for liberal or humanitarian reasons or a commitment to international law.
State Department analyst George Kennan set out the strategy in 1948 that has been followed by successive administrations in their violent direct or indirect interventions in countries, in violation of international law, from Iran in 1953 to Vietnam, Indonesia, Chile and Iraq (to name just a few).
"We have about 50 per cent of the world's wealth but only 6.3 per cent of its population," Kennan wrote. "Our real task is in the coming period to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity…We should cease to talk about vague and …unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratisation…we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts."
And deal in "straight power concepts" it has and will do as the historical record shows.
With its 57 per cent share of world military expenditure and more than 800 military bases ringing the world, many of them with nuclear missiles aimed at China at Russia; the moving of NATO to the Russian border; and the concentration of 60 per cent of its military forces and those of its allies in the Indo-Pacific region as part of the containment
policy of China; Pagani does not have to fear that the US is withdrawing from the world.
Any analysis of Afghanistan, and the lessons to be drawn, has to start with the first US intervention in Afghanistan in the 1970s - financing, arming and training, with its decidedly repressive Islamic state allies of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, the fundamentalist mujahidin from which the Taliban emerged.
This was not a "foreign policy debacle" as some would have it but a deliberate strategy, a la George Kennan, followed throughout the world of overthrowing any reforming nationalist government that threatened the interests of the United States.
Under this oft used strategy, the mujahidin and one of its enthusiastic supporters recruited by the United States, Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organisation Al Qaeda, was let loose in the late 1970s against the reforming government of Hafizullah Amin as it liberated women and carried out extensive social and land reforms under a secular policy.
The terrorists used to smash these progressive policies, of benefit particularly to women and poor peasants, were trained in camps in decidedly undemocratic Pakistan under the aegis of the CIA and the UK's M16.
President Carter's National Security Adviser described the policy he set out in 1978 and signed off by Carter under which billions was spent to back the mujahidin and which led to a bloody civil war between rival warlords once the Soviet Union withdrew.
"It was July 3, 1979, that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day I wrote a note to the president …that this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention…We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War…What is more important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire?"
The rhetorical question was answered by the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, which had been masterminded by the Taliban's Al Qaeda ally from the safety of Afghanistan.
Pagani is right that New Zealand, if it is to be a good international citizen, should speak out for "an international community willing to uphold the rules and the rights of citizens to be free of harm".
But its first lecture under such an independent foreign policy committed to the international rule of law must be addressed to New Zealand's Five Eyes colleague the United States.
With its global economic, military and political interests, there is no chance that it will withdraw from the world. But if we do not want more Afghanistans, then it is time that the chief international lawbreaker was called to account.
• Matt Robson was the Minister Responsible for Official Overseas Development Aid from 1999 to 2002.