The irrefutable legality of UN-endorsed international military assistance in Afghanistan

Some ideologues are prone to polemics about Australia's modern wars and those we send to fight them. Dissent from such government decisions is legitimate, but only when based on facts and reasoned argument. Particular care is necessary where dissent is not objective or reasonable in the circumstances. This is especially the case if the security, safety and welfare of the fellow Australians we deploy to war on our national behalf is endangered, however unintentionally, by recklessly providing opportunities that can be exploited in enemy propaganda. In a society based on mutual citizenship obligations, and where key responsibilities are rightly enshrined in legislation, disregard for such risks is surely as unacceptable as the intentional acts of treachery directly prohibited by our laws.


Letter to The Canberra Times
Saturday, 04 April 2015
(not published)

Adam Rustowski (Letters, 30 March) claims that the multinational campaign in Afghanistan is “futile”, “shameful” and “illegal”.

Together with Graeme Dunstan (Letters, 26 March) he implies that ADF personnel deployed there are “criminal mercenaries” motivated by  pecuniary or careerist personal interests.

Both surely ignore five contexts for informed debate:

  • Numerous UN Security Council Resolutions mean that this is probably the most uncontentious military endeavour in international law since the collective security responsibilities of the UN Charter came into force universally in 1945.
  • This international assistance effort has also been broadly endorsed in two consequent elections by the Afghan people; elections that would not have occurred under Taliban rule.
  • Australia’s involvement  remains entirely in accordance with our constitutional and statutory processes — and with our responsibilities as a founder-member of the UN.
  • ADF personnel necessarily obey the lawful orders of our elected government.
  • The ADF has undertaken its operations in a professional and moral manner against an enemy who not only does not do so, but who regards our difficult adherence to general moral norms and international humanitarian law as a vulnerability to be shamefully and illegally exploited.

Whether this international effort has been futile or not, to whatever degree, is a judgement not fully possible for many years although the steep rises (from an exceptionally low base) in, say, literacy, female emancipation and general standards of living cannot be denied even now.

Nor that the need for, or success of, such an international effort can only be judged by considering the probable alternatives, morally and practically, had the international community ignored the plight of the Afghan people and the sanctuary provided to Islamist terrorism internationally under the Taliban dictatorship.

Finally, as the relevant independent and apolitical public-interest watchdog, the ADA has long been the most consistent and comprehensive critic of attempts by all sides and extremes of politics to politicise our defence force, its operations and the casualties and family grief inevitably incurred.


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