In the Sundays today all the news is about Afghanistan. The body of Lt O'Donnell was flown back to New Zealand today, and his death has got the columnists scribbling madly about our involvement in Afghanistan. The arguments are predictable ones: the war is an unwinnable one versus we must stay the course.
I don't know what the answer is, if we pack up and leave, and if the US, UK and others also depart, we may witness a bloodbath that will make what happened in Yugoslavia in the 90s look like a tea party. If anyone still thinks the Taliban will somehow play by the rules and not descend into an orgy of killing as soon as we leave, they probably haven't read about the latest ghastly atrocity committed against aid workers. And they probably haven't been reading Time Magazine.
This is the problem we face. If we go now, we may be back soon enough. This could be like Bosnia, except only ten times nastier. We will wring our hands and groan in anguish as the slaughter is reported to us on the TV news and in the newspapers. People will say "we must do something!" and demand their politicians act.
The Afghanistan exit strategy doesn't look all that clear right now. The best we can hope for, I suspect, is to negotiate some kind of accommodation with more moderate elements of the Taliban, but we'll have to hang around for a while after that to make sure any negotiated peace holds.
The other option is we just stay there and keep the fight going. Not an attractive option, but that may be where we end up. Because if we leave Afghanistan with our tails between our legs, we will send a message to our enemies that we can be beaten. Who are our enemies? People like the Taliban and other religious extremists, who want to live in a world that would make the Dark Ages seem like a time of enlightenment.
Perhaps the most gratuitously offensive thing written about the death of Lt O'Donnell came from Herald on Sunday columnist Matt McCarten. He said:
So to all those MPs who voted to send Tim O'Donnell to his death, I want you to know you have his blood dripping from your hands.On the day O'Donnell's body returned home, and while he remains unburied. Disgraceful.