To millions around the world the United States of America is a vast tapestry of amazing geography overlain by an equally amazing nation, which has managed to cram an incredible amount into its existence. It is a nation that induces fascination for its cultural trends and consumer goods, wins respect for its generosity and kindness of indivual citizens, and yet at the same time can infuriate beyond belief with its conduct on the global stage.
I have been to America three times and will be going again before the end of this year. I love going because the hospitality is beyond brilliant, the people always polite and helpful even in the most testing of times. I love going because there so much to see – amazing geography and ecosystems; amazing cultural and ethnic riches, whether it is the Spanish influence in the west or the French and English influences to the east or the influence of indian tribes whose traditions and folklore are still poorly understood, it is the people who make the nation what it is. Millions of Americans have been to New Zealand and the vast majority of those I have met have been very impressed with our clean environment, responsible government. They find cricket to be an enigma just as we do their football – something not likely to change in the near future.
Despite the at times utterly virulent spectacle that U.S. politics is, few nations can match an America united whether it is by grief or anger such as that which followed 11 September 2001 or horror such as that which followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Despite the relatively small portion of their massive G.D.P. which goes towards aid, Americans are amongst the most generous givers of aid where ever and whenever it is needed – earthquake disasters such as Christchurch in 2011 or the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan; the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 where 230,000 people lost their lives or the Japan earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reactor failure in 2011 are just a few examples.
New Zealand’s relationship with the U.S. began to grow as the influence of Britain began to decline and we realized that Britain would not be able to help us, then a little nation with little more than a million people, tucked away on two still quite obscure islands in the south Pacific. When Japan bombed the U.S. into World War 2 on 07 December 1941, suddenly the threat of an invasion became very real, especially when Japanese forces took just another 59 days to reach Singapore, via the Malaysian peninsula. So, suddenly the naval battles of the Coral Sea and Midway in May and June 1942, which stopped the Japanese naval advance dead in its tracks became of major importance. 14,000 U.S. Marines landed in New Zealand a few days after the Battle of Midway. Just as other nations in other theatres of the war did, much of the military equipment New Zealand bought during the war came from the United States.
It is not to say that New Zealand has always gotten on brilliantly with the United States. In 1985, following New Zealand’s refusal to allow any more nuclear powered/armed ships into New Zealand waters, diplomatic relations went from being cosy to being frosty. When the French blew up the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour on 10 July 1985, the silence emanating from Washington as other nations joined in a chorus of condemnation was deafening. But it was a defining moment in New Zealand history. Over the years the chill slowly began to thaw. Despite opposition from her allies, Labour Party Prime Minister Helen Clark committed the N.Z.S.A.S. to service in Afghanistan. Later on New Zealand army personnel were stationed in Bamiyan Province, where ten eventually died. Nearly thirty years later, although it is unlikely New Zealand will ever be a part of A.N.Z.U.S. again, American politicians generally respect New Zealand’s stance.
I hope that New Zealand’s contribution in the future can be to be a good friend that is ready to help when required, but able to stand up and say “no, that is not alright” when U.S. corporations or politicians too heavily tied to corporate money make demands that they would not make of their own nation. We need America, and regardless of whether die hard Republicans ever admit it, America needs New Zealand too. But neither nation needs the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.