Letters to Rex (Tillerson)

Dear Rex

I understand you are coming to New Zealand next week to talk to the New Zealand Government on your first official trip as Secretary of State to this part of the world.

Rex, the United States and New Zealand have a long and for the most part very good history together dating back to before World War 2. Next week the United States commemorates the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway, where four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk in a day, changing the course of the Pacific War. If Japan had won that battle, and more particularly the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, New Zealand and Australia would have been in grave danger of Japanese invasion. This is something that we need to acknowledge.

But fast forward to 2017 and unfortunately the Arsenal of Democracy that President Franklin Roosevelt made America into during World War 2 has become something else. Rather than a force for international good, America seems to have been hijacked by the military-industrial complex so that it seems to be bent on getting into wars it really should not have a hand in, or starting completely unnecessary conflicts. The purpose of these wars is not to necessarily advance America’s national security, so much as it is to justify military spending that borders on the absurd as part of a doctrine of fear.

Unfortunately New Zealand has a completely different set of priorities that I hope your Government will understand. We have no influence or interests being in the Middle East and risk getting our fingers proverbially burnt by having a military role there. Our best opportunity to be a good global citizen is in the South Pacific where we have numerous small Pacific Island neighbours whose culture and ours is closely integrated. Our contribution can be to focus on helping these island nations be the best they can be.

Rex, New Zealand wants to remind good mates with the United States. You have done much for us, despite the contrary assertion of many people on Fox News and other stations who think the world are ungrateful for America’s aid programme. Although New Zealand has not had to rely on American aid per se, like many other countries when my home town of Christchurch was struck by a destructive local earthquake on 22 February 2011, America was generous with its assistance. Again, after the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016, America like other nations sent ships to help. Thanks.

So, it comes as quite an alarming proposition that President Donald Trump wants to slash the budget for this aid, when it can continue to do substantial good around the world. Why? Who is going to gain from this? Certainly not America’s reputation. Certainly not the countries that were making progress that they otherwise would not have from that aid.

It also comes as quite alarming that America is cutting its Environmental Protection Agency’s budget. The Environmental Protection Agency might be a domestic agency, but it has a global role to play as the agency whose statutory responsibility is the environment for the Government of a nation that has global influence and global economic footprint. By cutting those programmes to the E.P.A.your Government is as much sending a message to the world about how lowly it rates environmental problems of worsening magnitude and increasing urgency. The problems might not rate highly on your priority list but they rate highly on a global priority list because without them having that priority, other nations cannot have the socio-economic development that they desire – the environmental world is not like the political world and has completely different boundaries, processes and functions.

Next week Rex, you will meet senior members of the New Zealand Government. They will tell you a number of things including how well the New Zealand economy is going, which compared to other nations it actually IS. But they will not be likely to tell you a few things you seriously need to know in order to understand where New Zealand is at as a nation at this time:

  1. New Zealand has an election coming in September 2017. Although the polls suggest otherwise, history does not generally favour four term peace time Governments. Thus it should not be a great surprise to you or anyone else in Washington come 24 September 2017 if there is a swing to the centre-left or the centre.
  2. New Zealanders do not want to be in Iraq – the conflict there is not for New Zealanders and one poll suggested that as much as 75% of New Zealanders want out.
  3. We – contrary to appearances – take considerable pride in our natural environment. We want to continue growing our economy and providing job opportunities. But we people to come and enjoy the country and see our outstanding natural beauty, something that cannot happen if we do not look after our environment better.

Enjoy your time in New Zealand, Rex, as it is a beautiful nation and we are a proud and just people. Just remember not every is as the Government of Prime Minister Bill English says it is.


Robert Glennie

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