There will always be arguments for and against war, but sometimes we are compelled to play our part.

A political correspondent on this paper on Tuesday afternoon was lamenting the media's inability to get access to John Key's speech to the House on sending troops to Iraq before he'd actually given it.

John Armstrong was right to point out that this was unusual, but he was wrong to go on to suggest that this meant the Prime Minister was losing the argument.

The poll numbers tell us that he isn't.

Forty eight per cent in favour, 42 per cent against according to a One News Colmar Brunton poll out on Monday night.


I would have guessed pre-poll it would be 50/50, there are no real winners in going to war and even in the most profound of conflicts there has been, and always will be, a good proportion of people who argue that war is no answer.

So with a comfortable majority supporting the move, I'd be feeling pretty bullish that I'd done the right thing.

But having said that, I'd feel pretty bullish I'd done the right thing because it is the right thing to do.

It is the right thing to do no matter what the numbers.

And in that, it's a bold move.

There is little that will undo a government quicker than a bad military decision.

There is little more sobering, shocking and alarming than a government having to explain why New Zealanders in far-flung places are dead.

What this Government has decided to do this week is made even more complicated by the fact that the counter-arguments are strong and make sense.


We have been there before and with little success.

The troops we're going to train have been trained before with little success.

The troops we're training are corrupt, as are their leaders.

History shows that intervention in this part of the world has never gone well.

The world is weary of war.

The parts of the world we're dealing with: Iraq, Libya and Syria are only the way they are because the West got involved.


Roll any one of those arguments out, and you're automatically on pretty solid ground.

Then you get to the bit about the outcome, the exit.

So much of modern conflict, especially the stuff led by the Americans, is based on old-world thinking.

On the theory that you roll into a country, defeat the bad guys, raise the victory flag, sign a peace treaty, slap yourself on the back and go home.

Those conflicts don't happen any more.

The enemy doesn't get vanquished, the enemy hides in caves we can't access, the enemy is no longer on a singular battlefield, the enemy is in every major town and city on the planet.


The enemy becomes the enemy by being radicalised seemingly before our eyes. So in sending the troops in, the purpose is what?

When we put a timeframe on it, what happens when it expires?

When this fight goes sour, do we have a mission creep plan?

In the old world it was simple; you sent people in to kill other people, until one lot fell over and lost.

Which gives you some idea of how complex making this call must have been.

The reality is that this war will never end. Which means that if you don't like any of this, it's easy to criticise, it's easy to say it's a mistake.


But doing nothing has never been all that complicated. Perhaps the saddest comment, politically anyway, came from Peter Dunne when he talked of his opposition by, among other things, suggesting we were a long way away from all this.

Almost as though he had never been on a plane or had the internet.

Almost as though, if you hunkered down in your lounge and pretended none of this was happening, it might go away.

For Peter's edification, this is a very small world and we're part of it.

Call it a club if you want - and by the way far too much has been made of all that "club" talk, did it mean 5 Eyes or the Western Alliance?

Who cares? It means the people who don't like the beheadings and the burnings and the apocalyptic cult that is wreaking havoc all over the planet.


You can't pick and choose the parts you want to take part in, in a complex relationship - not on a personal level, not on a geo-political level.

The world is inter-linked.

Much has been made of the so-called soft sell the Government has been engaged in. I have never thought this really needed selling.

Doing the right thing is not all that complicated to understand.

So they have probably been more cautious than they needed to be, but in being that way, by the time they got around to actually spitting out the detail, not one bit of it came as any sort of surprise.

If John Key has made a mistake, it's in trying to argue that we're not going to war. We are, we indisputably are.


The more he downplays it, the more trouble he's got if it goes pear-shaped.

The more he tries to define the terms of engagement, the more trouble he has explaining how little, if any of it, went to plan.

Because it won't, and it won't because it's war.

History shows us that former US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, was fully expecting to be hailed a hero and a liberator when he rolled into Baghdad.

Recent history shows Chuck Hagel, one of Rumsfeld's successors, got the shock of his life at just how sophisticated, ruthless and well-financed the current enemy are.

They defined the conflict, they told us how it was all going to unfold, and look what happened. Look what's still happening.


But through it all, despite it all, we must play our part. It is the right, honourable and only thing to do.

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