Once, when the Government announced that New Zealand's fighting forces were to be deployed overseas, the news elicited the loud huzzahs of a proud nation. Now it's groans and jeers of derision.

Despite the forthrightness of the announcement that we're off to Iraq, much remained unclear. There is a team of advisers but only a few of the group will be doing any advising.

The SAS seems to be both going and not going. Those deployed will be armed but they won't be allowed to use those arms.

It says a lot about the media and their role today that this grave and sombre announcement was carried live and in full on the private station Newstalk ZB, frequently accused of being a toadying Government mouthpiece, while state-funded broadcaster Radio New Zealand National was covering artisan pickle-making in Gisborne - or something like that, I didn't stay long enough to get all the details.

Advertisement

We are not going to war, we were told. Yes, we are going to take part in a conflict between states with soldiers and weapons and territory won and lost - but we are not going to war.

You can, of course, find war anywhere if you want to; Westfield St Luke's briefly became a military target this week. It's all about protecting ourselves from the threat of terror at home.

But Isis is not a proponent of the sort of domestic terror seen in the Martin Place and Charlie Hebdo incidents, which were lone loony and al-Qaeda projects respectively.

By any measure this decision is crazy. And not just ordinary old crazy.

Isis, as outlined in an excellent article in the Atlantic by Graeme Wood called "What Isis really wants", sees itself as the fulfilment of prophecy and a step on the road to apocalypse and ultimately the return of Christ to Earth.

The rest of what they really want is even worse than you can imagine. They jeer at the liberals running Saudi Arabia who fulfil only half the requirements for an orthodox Muslim government.

Another reason we're on our way is that as many as 70 New Zealanders have been identified as possible extremists. That is almost certainly true, if by extremist you mean people who want to join Isis.

When a caliphate arises, according to this strict interpretation of Islam, every Muslim has a duty to join it. So preventing New Zealanders who wish to support Isis from travelling there only engenders frustration and resentment and itchy trigger-fingers. Let these people go.

Advertisement

Isis is not interested in training people and sending them back out into the world as terrorists. It's not in the Koranic job description. Anyone who decides to leave the caliphate will be regarded as a heretic.

The announcement that we will send whatever it is we are sending came with some of the worst histrionics we have seen from a Prime Minister, as John Key found his inner Wolf of Wall St and sent froth across the floor of the house in Andrew Little's general direction.

And this in a vintage week for bad acting, which also gave us Natalia Kills' X Factor "tantrum". We are all well advised to get some guts. Guts are good things to have. It would take guts, for instance, to stand up to pressure from the United States and do what is right instead of what is expedient.

But then we would risk losing membership of that wonderful club, which Key earlier and accurately described as the reason we had to do this.