New Zealand is considered a very close friend of the United States by American diplomats, and likewise considers itself to be close to the United States. And there are many mutual benefits in both directions from this close relationship.
However there is one hugely disturbing aspect about America that should massively concern New Zealanders from Prime Minister Bill English downwards: America’s propensity for going to war. 15 years after 11 September 2001 it is still mired in conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq – conflicts that started in 2001 and 2003 respectively as part of the so-called “War on Terrorism”.
Because here we are, possibly at one of the most dangerous times in modern human history, where the United States Government of Donald Trump, drunk on war, ambling about on the world stage is potentially agitating for a fight with two world powers. The potential wars that would be fought are thousands of kilometres apart, but they involve rivals of the U.S. who seriously feel that their sovereignty and their strategic interests are at stake.
In Syria, we have a vested in interest of Russia. We have seen from the large Russian investment in protecting the Assad regime, the fact that it has moved military forces of its own into combat zones and has used its own weapon systems, that Russia very much wants the Assad regime to survive. And that it looks like this time Russia might be prepared to fight.
And this is not 1991 when the U.S.S.R. as Russia was a part of then, was in the late stages of total collapse. Unable to sustain spending 17% of its G.D.P. a year on its military, riddled by years of corruption and ineptitude at the highest level, exposed by the Chernobyl nuclear power station meltdown and the fallout from it (not just the radioactive debris that was flung high into the atmosphere), the U.S.S.R. could not take on the U.S. in the Cold War any longer. Its vast military began to fall into disrepair. Half finished warships lay rusting in shipyards and dry docks; nuclear weapons were left behind by departing Russian forces in the former Soviet Republics. Planned aircraft types of all sorts were abandoned.
Likewise, despite growing distrust of the North Korean regime it has spent so many years protecting, in Kim Jong Un there is a buffer between democracy and Chinese one party totalitarianism. The huge investment that China has made in being a one party state with no time for dissent is not something that Beijing will ever let be undermined, and for all the problems that a fat 30-something year old Korean with a silly hair do might pose, the problems a huge flood of refugees caused by a collapsed North Korean dictatorship could undo or pose questions about the existence of China’s one party state.
China will never let that happen.
Whether China would go to war over it is another point all together. But, again, this is not 1991. Back then China had the largest armed forces in the world following the Soviet collapse. At 2.9 million they were certainly a formidable force, but their technology, training and tactics were well behind the U.S. Not anymore. Aside from being a nation whose defence spending has increased by an average of 7-8% per annum for every year since 1995, China now has an arsenal of sosphicated modern arms, that it has developed. They include stealth combat jets, an aircraft carrier that it purchased from the Soviet Union, a submarine ballistic missile platform among others.
I seriously wonder whether America would have the same enthusiasm for war at any level if they had been subject to the living, abject hell that was heaped on the countries of Europe during World War 2. I wonder because listening to Fox News talking about the “Massive Ordnance Airburst Bomb”, also known as “Mother of all Bombs”, you would think that dropping the largest non-nuclear ordnance on suspected Islamic militants in a cave in Afghanistan was somehow a great day for America.
The problem – fortunately for their history, but perhaps not so for their understanding of the living hell it creates – is Americans have not been subject to a major invasion using modern weapon systems and tactics. They have not been subject to 57 consecutive days and nights of aerial bombardment like London was in September-November 1940; the incendiary bombing of Japanese cities that killed nearly 800,000 civilians between November 1944 and August 1945. I seriously doubt that there would be such enthusiasm for aerial bombardment if they had been. Likewise, would Americans have the same view of urban warfare if their big cities had been subject to siege conditions such as those that engulfed Leningrad (September 1941 to February 1944) and Stalingrad (September 1942 to February 1943). In Stalingrad every building, on every block, on every street of every suburb was fought over with a ferocity that one would have to have been there to understand. Civilians in Leningrad were reduced to eating bread made from sawdust, and dogs and cats were considered a great delicacy.
But back to Prime Minister Bill English, who seems to think that it will be okay with New Zealanders if we get involved in a conflict that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders have intoned through polls that they do not want a bar of. Mr English seems to think that because it is America who wants New Zealand to get involved, it is automatically okay.
No Bill. Not on my watch, you are not. You need to get permission from Parliament to go to war and if you do not, may it be the cause of a decisive National Party defeat in September.