A.N.Z.U.S. in 2017


When World War 2 ended, the strategic defence of New Zealand had been irreversibly altered. Gone were the days when Great Britain provided all of our military hardware. Gone were the days when it could be relied on to come to our aid in time of war. That had been replaced by the United States of America.

During the war the U.S. had stationed a Marine Division in New Zealand to provide protection against a Japanese attack. By the end of the war much of our military hardware was of American manufacture. America and the Soviet Union were very much the two major powers in the world after World War 2. The European powers, devastated by war had more immediate priorities than reclaiming far flung colonies. It was in the years immediately after this war that many nations were granted full independence.

American geopolitical strategy called for a number of alliances or treaties to contain the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Australian New Zealand United States (A.N.Z.U.S.)alliance was one of these. The members of the alliance understood that an attack on one of the other members should be construed as an attack on them.

It was probably in the late 1950’s prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis that New Zealanders first began to have doubts about nuclear weapons. It stemmed from concerns about British nuclear testing, environmental impacts and the potential threat to humans. France acquired nuclear weapons in 1960. During the Government of Prime Ministers Norman Kirk/Bill Rowling, the Royal New Zealand Navy often sent ships to Mururoa, Fangataufa atolls to support the protests against nuclear tests conducted by the French. 

In 1985 New Zealand left A.N.Z.U.S. as a result of its refusal to permit nuclear powered and/or armed ships into New Zealand waters. There was a significant American response to New Zealand’s decision. Aside from leading to a substantial cooling of the American-New Zealand military relationship and a cooler overall diplomatic relationship, it raised questions among western nations about New Zealand’s commitment to western ideals.

The best known reaction to this was from France, which thought New Zealand was becoming a bastion of anti-nuclear weapons sentiment, which is true. New Zealand has long supported the small south Pacific nations in their campaign to keep this part of the world free of nuclear weapons and power. The major causes were then, and still are now when the subject arises, that hosting warships from a foreign power with nuclear weapons on board may make New Zealand look more attractive in a nuclear war.  But more seriously, and more likely, especially after the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown was the concern that there might be some sort of nuclear accident in our waters, which would have crippling environment, reputation and economic impacts on New Zealand.

Is A.N.Z.U.S. relevant in 2017? It depends on who one talks to. The Green Party and the far left of New Zealand politics will say no and insist that we reduce our defence ties to America. Others might say that if we are not supporting America then we must be supporting Chinese ambitions in the south Pacific, and it is true that China has global ambitions, which President Xi Jinping outlined a few months ago. But does that mean we necessarily support China? No.

New Zealand’s immediate security environment whether other nations like it or not, is the South Pacific. Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Niue, Tokelau, Federation of Micronesia are our neighbours. Not those in the Middle East. Not those in northeast Asia. We need to build up a comprehenisve defence relationship with all of these South Pacific nations and Australia. An attack on one or more of them by a foreign power is an attack on New Zealand.

Yes we might have a use – and we do – for American ECHELON communications. However we need to make clear that New Zealand intelligence agencies shall have a South Pacific orientation. This is not only in New Zealand’s interests, but as a nation that is perhaps more in tune with this part of world, perhaps in America’s interests as well.

When working in a hostile security environment alongside American or other foreign forces, New Zealand needs to be aware of its obligations to the Geneva Conventions when dealing with combatants, and the conduct military activity. We also need to be careful about ensuring local customs are respected. Unfortunately the United States has not always shown the due regard, and has been left wondering as a result why locals became hostile. As a nation we place great pride in our conduct and adherence to these, and the international community likewise recognizes our emphasis.

We still have a military relationship to the United States in 2017, but it is questionable whether a Cold War alliance is the best way to maintain that relationship.

A question mark over suitability of N.Z. armaments expo


Yesterday and today, the New Zealand Defence Industry Association Annual Forum is being held in Wellington. It is an annual event where the defence industry from around the world meet in New Zealand to find out what is going on in the New Zealand sector.

I find myself in the middle. On one hand the defence industry have as much of a right to host such an event as any other sector – the petroleum industry does so from time to time as does the farming sector and others. But as with petroleum there are ethical side issues that get raised such as the fact that military grade weapons have one purpose only: war. But also the ambivalence towards war crimes that tends to be demonstrated. Therefore I find that I am sitting on the fence regarding the protests at the armaments expo.

On one hand the protesters are right to be angry at such an expo being held in New Zealand. Some of the participants – this is sponsored by none other than Lockheed Martin, who whilst giving us the C-130, also develop the Trident missile – are part of the U.S. military industrial complex. The defence industry – not so much in New Zealand, but certainly overseas is an industrial sector that wields a massive amount of influence on government policy making. It has a slick and persuasive corporate media machine that has huge financial resources and advertising punch. Sometimes that influence can be corrupting and a politician is found to have agreed to support one project or another, after wining and dining top executives who have then made huge donations. It is wary about the rule of international law as this can result in particular munitions or weapon types being outlawed.

One group that do not get mentioned are important agencies such as Customs, without whom our border control would be toast. These agencies are not so likely to be after weapons systems as they are likely to be after monitoring and data processing technology that makes enforcing the law at the border easier to do. For them this is more likely to be about networking with other such agencies and finding out new techniques as well.

On the other hand I wonder how many of the protesters have thought about how the N.Z. Defence Force acquires its equipment. Do they expect that the Minister of Defence to simply say to a prospective seller “oh, we heard about ________ and want to buy some”, because if so some particularly serious tax payer money wastage is in the offing. Some how, somewhere the industry has to display the latest advances and talk about issues of the day.

I think there is also misunderstanding about defence spending. Some of this I think is deliberate and some of it is simply people not understanding how Defence Force procurement works. The figure $15-20 billion that is being bandied about is *proposed* spending, as in it has not yet been allocated in a budget. The second thing about this figure is that it is spread over 15-20 years, which suggests to me that no annual defence budget increase is planned. It comes out at about $1 billion a year, which is roughly what we spend now.

This is not an endorsement of the expo.

I also need to be honest. There are three circumstances and three circumstances only when I believe there is a case for military action:

  1. You get attacked by a foreign power
  2. The United Nations authorizes it
  3. A conflict spills over into your territory

New Zealand is lucky that compared to many other parts of the world we are in a *relatively* (here is where Helen Clark fell down)bening strategic environment. Not a totally benign one where everyone is singing Kumbaya, but one that compared with the Middle East, Korean Peninsula or a host of other places is fairly peaceful.

However we need to be prepared to help as the United Nations requires. The likelihood of a direct attack on New Zealand is remote, but there is the prospect we may need to shut down – possibly by force – a conflict at some point in the Solomon Islands or if Pacific island neighbours destabilize we might have to intervene and sort out armed factions.

S.A.S. must come clean on Afghanistan


Rumbling back into life after a few months silence is one of the thornier issues in terms of New Zealand foreign affairs that I think the Defence Force and the Minister would love to shut down. I am talking about the alleged atrocities involving the N.Z.S.A.S.mistreating Afghan civilians during or shortly after a fire fight.I am talking about atrocities that threaten to bring huge disrepute onto the Defence Force if found to be true.

So it might be an election campaign period. That means nothing in the context of the events in Bamiyan province, except that the the politicians who oversee the Defence Force on New Zealand’s behalf are suddenly under greater scrutiny as they try to show that their Government should be re-elected. I am looking at – in particular – former Minister of Defence/current Minister of Foreign Affairs Gerry Brownlee and his former boss former Prime Minister John Key (despite not being in politics any more)and his current boss Prime Minister Bill English.

The renewed rumblings include former Prime Minister Helen Clark saying that the Defence Force must explain the treatment of those Afghan civilians. Ms Clark, who was Prime Minister at the time of this particular incident says she was not informed of in any way the nature of the actual events, and says that the S.A.S. have questions to answer.

But there is also the case of six Afghan civilians allegedly (says Nicky Hager’s book “Hit and Run”, released to the public earlier this year)killed in a New Zealand S.A.S. raid. Mr Key, the then Minister of Defence Jonathan Coleman were urged to conduct an inquiry into the raid which also saw heavy damage inflicted on two villages as a result of intelligence gathered by the N.Z.S.A.S.

So it bugs me in no uncertain terms that the exemplary name of the New Zealand Force is being shat on by its senior officers and the Government by their refusal to order the inquiry that will either vindicate the Defence Force or apportion blame. New Zealanders need to know and New Zealand credibility is on the line. The New Zealand Defence Force is well regarded around the world and its professionalism is held in high regard in New Zealand as an employer and referee for those that are moving into other roles.

Of course I give thanks like other New Zealanders to the Defence Force for their great and essential work. Like many other families, we had losses in World War 2. I also give thanks for the existence of teh Geneva Conventions and the New Zealand signature on it as well as our ratification. Sacrificial lives the innocent civilians who died in the incident involving the New Zealand Defence might be to Mr Brownlee and Mr English. To a lot of other people including myself, if the allegations are true, they were people who simply did not need to die and whose deaths are big black stains on the New Zealand Defence Force. Stains that the Defence Force could have avoided.

Stains that the Defence Force SHOULD have avoided.

So, let us hear the truth. I do not want to fund an inquiry if I can avoid it. That means that either something so serious that we need to formally establish the course of events, ascertain wrong doing and ultimately assign blame if there is any found.I would far rather that the Defence Force told New Zealanders what happened in those events rather than it be forced out in an inquiry where the Defence Force is made to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

National votes down NZ First bill; Comes up with near identical policy anyway


This article is about the tale of two parties, one bill and a stunning piece of hypocrisy.

The purpose of the Bill of Parliament was to combat youth crime by establishing a training camp programme inside the Defence Force by amending the Defence Act, 1990, and the Education Act, 1989. It would also enable participants who graduate from it to enter the Defence Force.

It was the brain child of a New Zealand First List Member of Parliament, former soldier and teacher Darroch Ball. Mr Ball’s anger in Parliament when the Bill he had sponsored was defeated was as understandable as it was palpable. Here was a Bill of Parliament that had been worked out, costed and drawn from the ballot. It might not have been what New Zealanders wanted, but all credit had to go to Mr Ball, who is ex-military himself and was a teacher prior to joining New Zealand First and going to Parliament, for at least making an honest effort to address a serious and growing problem.

His anger was understandable because when listening to the National M.P.’s speaking against it, it became obvious that not only had none of them bothered to read the Bill, they also had not a clue what they were talking about. It was palpable because a party that did not want to admit it had been upstaged, was sabotaging the chance for some good to become of it.

As for the cause of the Bill…

I am talking about a problem that I have blogged about several times over the last several months, about which there has been a surge of across the nation. I am talking about a problem that has become increasingly violent with the use of guns and knives – a situation where I am concerned, and I am sure Mr Ball is too, that will sooner or later cost a life.

And so we might say that the claim by New Zealand First that other parties steal their ideas has truth in it – and not for the first time either. Both National and Labour are guilty as charged of doing it. I recall how a N.Z.F. member came up with free health care for under 13’s in 2014, talked to the spokeswoman for health M.P. Barbara Stewart, whose office then went to work on the costings. They found that it would not make any significant change to the party’s proposed health spending only to have National announce equivalent policy just days before they did.

All because the New Zealand First Bill was not dreamt up by National first. Nothing else.

What Rex Tillerson wants


United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is a man on a mission. Sent by United States President Donald Trump to soothe troubled waters and placate the people that Mr Trump has offended, Mr Tillerson is likely to be coming to New Zealand to do the following:

  1. Ask for more troops in the Middle East
  2. Defend the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord despite the Accord being unofficially about quite a bit more than just the climate
  3. Talk about negotiating a new trade deal
  4. Talk about the U.S.-New Zealand relationship

Mr Tillerson’s mission will be difficult. There cannot be any doubt that the very vast majority of New Zealanders – myself included – want nothing to do with the war in the Middle East. Yes it is sad and Iraq and Syria are in an unholy mess, but if one looks at the history of the region, who the key players are and what they have done, it is hard to have much sympathy for the American agenda, no matter who is in office.

It gets harder still with the American withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and the international community vowing to push forward without the United States. When even China and to a lesser extent India also come on board and make commitments, it is a sign that there is a major problem. Mr Tillerson is going to have a difficult job trying to sell the American position to New Zealand and New Zealanders when we see so many environmental issues starting to become problems here as well.

If there was going to be a kinder subject for Mr Tillerson to talk about, trade with New Zealand would be it. Far from supporting the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement as many people thought a wealthy person like Mr Trump would, one of the first things he said upon announcing his candidacy in 2015 is that America would withdraw from the T.P.P.A. For that, in spite of so many other policies of his being anathema to New Zealand, this one was probably welcomed by many.

Finally, Mr Tillerson and his counterpart New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Gerry Brownlee will want to look at the overall relationship between the two countries. How far it has come since the cold days of the 1980’s when America, furious with our anti-nuclear nationalism, denounced New Zealand? How far it has come from Prime Minister Helen Clark refusing to have anything to do with the war on Iraq that started in 2003? A long, long way is the answer. But the real one now is, whilst Donald Trump is at the helm, how much further are New Zealanders prepared to watch this relationship advance?

Find out over the next couple of days.