No place for Jihadi’s in New Zealand

Recently it has emerged that a New Zealander who served with what most people recognize as Islamic State, wants to come home and says that despite his activities, he is still a New Zealander. But was this really Islamic State he fought and not something masquerading as one, whilst being something entirely different?

Islamic State is not a State and nor is it Islamic. It is Daesh. The term Daesh is an Arabic term normally uttered with disgust or contempt and it refers to those who try to impose views on others that any proper discourse would take to be bigotted. It takes the most outdated parts of the Qu’ran and turns them into law. Those laws and the principles on which they were founded are completely contrary to New Zealand, New Zealand law and New Zealanders expectations.

A person who leaves New Zealand to support such an organisation is thereby saying that they no longer want to respect the laws and customs of New Zealand. They are saying that they support a type of organisation that is expressly forbidden under New Zealand terrorism laws and that they see no problems with actions that pose a potential threat to our national security.

Such a person cannot have a place in New Zealand. Should such people be allowed to live in New Zealand they would have to be subject to surveillance that under any other circumstances I think New Zealanders would disagree with, and possibly even protest.

Thus I come to the conclusion that Mark John Taylor, a New Zealander who has gone to Syria and served Daesh has no place coming back to New Zealand. Mr Taylor has committed a criminal offence in burning his New Zealand passport, as well as encouraging people to wage jihad on A.N.Z.A.C. Day. His remorse is at best, questionable – was he really naive and just being silly or did Mr Taylor really know what he was doing? My thoughts are that it is probably the latter: he knew what he was doing and why.

How Mr Taylor comes back to New Zealand is unknown. He faces a number of legal and logistical hurdles, long before he gets to the New Zealand border (airport). The first is that there is no New Zealand diplomatic presence of any kind in Syria, which means that he would have to leave the country and go probably to Israel, Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey to present at a New Zealand embassy or other diplomatic mission. Having made it that far – and assuming he was not held at the border of his country of choice – Mr Taylor will have no documentation on him since he destroyed his passport and whatever New Zealand mission he presents at will become aware of his past and might well conclude that it is not proper for them to issue him some kind of visa or other documentation allowing him to go home.

And then, even if he somehow makes it to Customs at a New Zealand airport or other border entry point, Mr Taylor will be of keen interest to the New Zealand Police and Customs. He will most probably be taken into custody whilst they establish who he is, his intentions and whether he poses a threat. He will have to answer before a court of law or other hearing as to what he was doing in Syria and be prepared for the probability of criminal charges relating to that.

So, whilst it looks like we are not going to strip him of his nationality, there probably cannot be a much harder legal road ahead if he tried. And as it is of his own making he should not expect sympathy.

But what if Pakistan and India clash is NOT posturing?

Three days ago, I looked at the flaring Kashmir tensions between India and Pakistan. I examined the history of flare ups between the two nations and who other participants in any conflict might be. And at the end I concluded that the current flare up is posturing – albeit dangerous posturing – between the two nuclear armed rivals.

But let us for a few harrowing minutes stop and look at what this would be if it were not posturing, but the prelude to a full blown conflict that escalates into a nuclear exchange?

I will start by making a couple of assumptions. The first is that there will be a short albeit brutal period of conventional war using the naval, air and ground forces of the two sides. In this particular scenario I will also assume China, which has a passing interest in Kashmir as well because it backs onto the Chinese border stays out of it – albeit no doubt on its highest non-war level of alert.

So, we will assume that the conflict is not going well for Pakistan, which is out numbered in just about every category of conventional weapon – tanks, artillery, aircraft, warships, troops. In the first instance Pakistan, rather than firing a nuclear warhead straight at India, might conduct a nuclear test just to test the water and remind everyone of how serious this conflict could become. It might rock India a bit, but the biggest alarm will be everywhere else around the world and in particular their immediate neighbours.

As a precaution after that I imagine the diplomatic missions from various nations to both countries might start being withdrawn, with only a skeletal crew left behind for urgent diplomatic purposes. India might test missiles or conduct a nuclear test in response as a form of sabre rattling. Chaos would probably ensue as nationals from all nations scramble to get out of the country, overwhelming border crossings, airports and ports alike.

I do not believe that there will be a limited exchange between India and Pakistan if one happens. Once a nuclear warhead is irretrievably on its way to a target, the target nation will have only a matter of minutes to determine whether it is an accident or an actual act of war. Because any launch is not going to be an accident, it will be most probably construed as act of war. At that point massive, unrestrained retaliation is the only probable reaction. It is called Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D. – and a wholly appropriate acronym at that!).

But what is truly scary about India and Pakistan potentially having a nuclear exchange, is that neither country has the checks and balances that any of the United Nations Security Council P5 or Israel have. It is for example a 100% deliberate act to launch a U.S. missile. In some respects even North Korea is safer because any order would ever come from President Kim Jong Un, and only if it is obvious his regime is going to be toppled by force.

There would be no winners in a nuclear exchange, irrespective of whether 10 warheads or their entire arsenals were used.

The estimate done in 2002 that 7-12 million would die immediately would possibly not even cover the actual exchange, and certainly not the hundreds of millions that die in the weeks and months following from Acute Radiation Sickness. The size of the nuclear arsenals India and Pakistan possess now are both about 5-6 times larger at about 140-150 warheads each. It would not cover the fact that millions of tons of radioactive debris will be sucked up by explosions – especially those at ground level – and dispersed by wind patterns, that will eventually spread it around the world. There will be crop failure on a massive scale internationally and  So let us hope that this settles down quickly and some sense is seen between the two sides.

Thousands of kilometres away on the other side of the Equator, do not assume New Zealand would be spared. If it is not the immediate effects of radiation and nuclear explosions, it will be the massive economic, political, social, environmental fallout.

Probably no nation around the world would be entirely spared the consequences of such an exchange.

Stop and think about that.


Latin America: the continent unknown to New Zealanders

In a world where New Zealand’s closest neighbours are a large continental nation to the west of us, and a host of small island nations to the north and northeast, it is easy to forget a large land mass 11,000 kilometres to our east. The dozen or so countries that make up South America are little exposed to New Zealanders by the media and not often referred to by politicians.

So, what is Latin America to New Zealand, in terms of trading, culture and politics? What can we offer them and what can we learn from these countries?

Whilst at University my international horizon was broadened hugely by meeting an array of people, many of whom I am still good friends with today. They include a Colombian Masters of Science student and her sister who is well known cellist, a Peruvian couple who were married shortly before I met them. She was doing a Masters in Law and he a PhD in seismic engineering and who now live in Los Angeles as well as a Uruguayan couple.

Much of my still very limited knowledge about Latin America was gained from them. I suspect I am not the only New Zealander who considers their knowledge of this amazing and diverse continent to be badly lacking.

But I think there is much that New Zealand can both learn and give to Latin American nations. We share some commonalities with Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, being on the boundary of two tectonic plates and thus prone to active volcanism and large earthquakes. Football is a growing sport here and a dominant sport among their peoples as well.

In terms of what we can actually trade with them, Chile’s market liberalization enabled a greater range of goods and services to flow in and out of the country. Whilst marked by the scars of the Pinochet regime which New Zealand did not sever links with, Chile and New Zealand have concluded a trade agreement for a range of goods. The two countries have holiday working visas so that peoples of both countries can work in the other whilst travelling.

Another country marked by violence is Colombia. New Zealand’s relationship with Colombia is somewhat limited, but improving. A New Zealand embassy opened in Bogota in 2018. New Zealand helped Colombia realise the agreement between the country and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (F.A.R.C.) to end their involvement in the armed conflict that killed hundreds of thousands of people and upended many communities. There is also limited, but growing trade between the two nations.

Until New Zealand opened an embassy in Argentina in 1977, relations between the two countries was very limited. New Zealand cancelled its diplomatic relationship with Argentina during the Falklands War. It restored the relationship in 1984. Since then Argentina has become a significant Latin American trading partner. Argentinian and New Zealand rugby teams play each other on an annual basis and both countries are working together for preservation of the Southern Ocean.

New Zealand and Latin American countries generally collaborate on subject matter such as education – New Zealand universities are being encouraged to develop links with their counter parts in several countries – and law. In the case of the latter international law including human rights, the non proliferation treaties for weapons and peace keeping are the key focus points.

I see promise in this relationship. Latin America and New Zealand have a common responsibility to look after the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic. Working to preserve fish species from over fishing, the prevention of mining on the frozen continent and the improving of human rights on board trawlers are all things those countries and New Zealand can collaborate on.

Chinese warned against visiting New Zealand

The Chinese New Year holiday is in progress, with Chinese tourists streaming in all directions, visiting nations across the world. With about two weeks left before most of them return to their daily routines in China, it is a busy time for the tourism, rental car, hospitality and airline sectors as well as individual tourist attractions.

New Zealand for the most part has not been an exception. Just as in previous years, the wave of tourists radiating across the globe from China has reached New Zealand no problems. However thanks to concerns by Chinese officials about New Zealand’s stance on the case of Huawei being denied the right to supply 5G broadband equipment, it is suspected that China does not want its citizens visiting New Zealand.

This has led to what appears to be a dip in tourist numbers coming from the Peoples Republic. Business in the sectors linked to tourism have been reporting steady traffic rather than the normal high level of activity.

Chinese Government officials are thought to have warned their citizens against visiting other countries, and New Zealand is not an exception. In order to maintain control and not let Chinese develop a view of the west that is not favourable to their authoritarian overlords in Beijing, an element of concern or distrust is deliberately injected into government broadcasts. Due to the lack of information in China other than what comes through official sources, Chinese do not get the diverse array of general information and news that western countries are able to tap into.

Not surprisingly, for fear of causing economic damage, National and A.C.T. are trying to claim that this is causing Sino-Kiwi relations undue stress. They ignore though the fact that National has an M.P. who trained in the Chinese military to be an intelligence officer. Jian Yang who entered Parliament. They also ignore the considerable environmental impact that tourism is having on New Zealand and that maintaining a clean sustainable environment is high on the agenda of many people.

Increasingly New Zealand is finding itself no longer able to sit on the fence regarding Chinese activity. Some would argue that the same can be said for American activity (which is beyond the scope of this article). Contrary to popular opinion China is not our friend, and we need to keep Beijing’s foreign policy in mind when we consider how to try to get the best out of the dragon without unduly upsetting the bald eagle.

Ultimately though New Zealand needs to strike out on its own direction. Politicians need to start seeing the global footprint of China and our contribution to its rapid – and unsustainable – growth. Contrary to the simplistic left-right analysis of political thought most commonly used, New Zealand is capable of forming its own.


N.A.T.O. wants more New Zealand help in Iraq

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has asked New Zealand for more assistance in Operation Inherent Resolve, which is its operation in Iraq. The New Zealand assistance consists of 143 military personnel who are based at Camp Taji and train Iraqi soldiers.

The answer should be a clear and unequivocal “no”.

The reasons why New Zealand should say no to a N.A.T.O. or other request for help in Iraq are numerous:

  1. The whole “War on Terrorism” is the result of an attack on the United States, that whilst totally unjustifiable by any reasonable measure, no one should be surprised was coming – you cannot go on interfering in Middle Eastern nations affairs with the primary agent of interference being ones military, and not expect some sort of violent reaction
  2. Some of the key players in the Middle East are funding terrorism themselves and yet we deal with them
  3. It has no relevance to New Zealand whatsoever – New Zealand should completely withdraw the N.Z. Defence Force from the Middle East and only support United Nations sanctioned operations
  4. We have more urgent problems closer to home with countries like Papua New Guinea being close to becoming a failed state where an intervention might become necessary

The only instances that the New Zealand Defence Force should be deployed for war in are:

  • If Australia is attacked
  • If New Zealand is attacked
  • If the United Nations requests New Zealand deploy military forces
  • An emergency threatening the national security of any one or more of our Pacific Island neighbours

The first two instances are self explanatory. An attack on Australia is an immediately dangerous attack on New Zealand because of the proximity of the two countries to each other, but also the very long, close and deep ties both countries have.

There may arise a time when New Zealand is requested to supply military forces. When this happens, the Prime Minister signs a warrant that permits the Defence Force to use lethal force. New Zealand’s last large scale deployment was to East Timor starting in 1999 following its decision to vote for independence and widespread violence by pro-Jakarta militias as a result.

This fourth scenario is the one with perhaps the most obvious shade of legal grey. An attack or hostile activities in the South Pacific, which is widely viewed as New Zealand’s “back yard”, would have little trouble overwhelming the very small military establishment’s in any one of these countries. In 2003, in an effort to stop the Solomon Islands from becoming a failed state with lawlessness and a potential haven for militants, Australia and New Zealand mounted the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, which wound up in 2017.

My estimate of N.A.T.O., along with its fellow Cold War alliances, is that its usefulness has expired. Its eastward expansion is something that has long antagonised Russia, which to its credit has not tried to establish a 21st Century version of the old Warsaw Pact. Whilst the geopolitical conditions of the Cold War are present in many ways, the U.S.S.R. whose containment N.A.T.O. was established to check no longer exists and many of the old Warsaw Pact countries have been admitted to N.A.T.O.