Afghanistan, East Timor and the failure of “humanitarian” military intervention

Tim Bowron

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

-Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)

Since Labour took office in 1999, New Zealand military forces have been deployed overseas on a scale not seen since the time of the Vietnam War. Unusually, though, this renewed outburst of militarism has been greeted by many sections of the New Zealand left not with protest and bitter denunciation but instead with widespread approval.

Unlike the conflicts in Vietnam or Korea, we are told that the current Western military interventions in countries such as Afghanistan and East Timor are not missions of imperial aggrandisement and aggression, but instead are all about “humanitarian reconstruction” and multilateral action in accordance with international law.

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