Joining US military alliance not in our national interest

Written By: - Date published: 1:56 am, April 22nd, 2024 - 23 comments
Categories: AUKUS, australian politics, China, defence, Diplomacy, Disarmament, FiveEyes, International, uk politics, war - Tags:

Cross-posted from Solidarity

Helen Clark, o how I miss you.  The former New Zealand Prime Minister – the safest pair of hands this country has had in living memory – gave a masterclass on the importance of maintaining an independent foreign policy when she spoke at an AUKUS symposium held in Parliament’s old Legislative Chambers on April 18.

AUKUS (Australia, UK, US) is first and foremost a military alliance aimed at our major trading partner China.  It is designed to maintain US primacy in the region and opponents are sceptical of claims that China represents a threat to New Zealand or Australian security.   

The recent proposal to bring New Zealand into the alliance under “Pillar II”  would represent a shift in our security and alliance settings that could dismantle our country’s independent foreign policy and potentially undo our nuclear free policy. 

Clark’s assessment is that the way the government has approached the proposed alliance lacks transparency.  National made no signal of its intentions during the election campaign and yet the move towards AUKUS seems well planned and choreographed. 

Voters in the last election “were not sensitised to any changes in the policy settings,” Clark says, “and this raises huge issues of transparency.”  Such a significant shift should first secure a mandate from the electorate. 

A key question the speakers addressed at the symposium was: is AUKUS in the best interest of this country and our region? 

“All of these statements made about AUKUS being good for us are highly questionable,” Clark says.  “What is good about joining a ratcheting up of tensions in a region?  Where is the military threat to New Zealand?”

Clark, PM from 1999-2008, has noticed a serious slippage in our independent position.  She contrasted current policy on the Middle East with the decision, under her leadership, of not joining the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.  Sceptical of US claims about weapons of mass destruction, New Zealand made clear it wanted no part of it – a stance that has proven correct. Our powerful allies the US, UK and Australia were wrong both on intelligence and the consequences of military action.  

In contrast, New Zealand participating in the current bombardment of Yemen because of the Houthis disruption of Red Sea traffic in response to the Israeli war on Gaza is, says Clark, an indication of this change in fundamental policy stance:

“New Zealand should have demanded the root causes for the shipping route disruptions be addressed rather than enthusiastically joining the bombing.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that if the drift we see in position continues, we will be positioned in a way we haven’t seen for decades –  as a fully-signed-up partner to US strategies in the region. And from that, will flow expectations about what is the appropriate level of defence expenditure for New Zealand and expectations of New Zealand contributing to more and more military activities.”

Clark addressed another element which should add caution to New Zealand joining an American crusade against China: economic security.  China now takes 26% of our exports – twice what we send to Australia and 2.5 times what we send to the US.  She questioned the wisdom of taking a hostile stance against our biggest trading partner who continues to pose no security threat to this country. 

So what is the alternative to New Zealand siding with the US in its push to contain China and help the US maintain its hegemon status? 

“The alternative path is that New Zealand keeps its head while all around are losing theirs – and that we combine with our South Pacific neighbours to advocate for a region which is at peace,” Clark says echoing sentiments that go right back to the dawn of New Zealand’s nuclear free Pacific, “so that we always pursue dialogue and engagement over confrontation.” 

Eugene Doyle is a community organiser and activist in Wellington. He received an Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian award in 2023 for community service.  His first demonstration was at the age of 12 against the Vietnam War.

23 comments on “Joining US military alliance not in our national interest ”

  1. Stephen D 1

    Our current policy so reminds me of this.

    • SPC 1.1

      But benign environment it is not.

      The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

      The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was adopted in 1982. It lays down a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world's oceans and seas establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources.

      China ignores the ruling on the South China Sea, and after promising not to – places military bases on the the atolls they turned into islands. In the area they harass the fishing boats of ASEAN nations (whose claims were recognised).

      This is in accord with their maps.

      Their map is one reason India is in the QUAD group (with Oz, Japan and USA) – this group is the containment of China alliance.

      The Chinese Communist Party’s ‘standard map’ is updated each year to include Beijing’s ever-extending territorial claims. Neighbours see it as a sinister measure of Beijing’s imperialist threat, but to the party it is a sacred document, a badge of legitimacy, encapsulating its historic grievances and its growing ambition. It must be faithfully reproduced in school textbooks and in government and corporate handouts and plastered to the walls of workplaces and classrooms.

      The new map also restated China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea, enclosing it in a dotted line the shape of a cow’s tongue – a territorial grab the size of which the world has rarely seen before. The area is rich in natural resources and encompasses vital shipping lanes – an estimated $3 trillion of international trade transits the area each year. It is also claimed in part by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, which all reacted angrily to the latest map. The dotted line is often referred to as the ‘nine-dash line’, but this year it gained an extra dash around Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own. China has ignored an international tribunal ruling that its claims are illegal and has continued to militarize the area, turning reefs into military encampments equipped with radar, missiles and aircraft.

      • Subliminal 1.1.1

        Funnily enough, the US as the main organiser of the "containment" of China refuses to ratify UNCLOS.

        Also, UNCLOS has no ability nor authority to determine issues of sovereignty.

        Lastly, historically, it has always been the position of both France and England that the Spratly Islands belong to China. Suddenly they are agnostic on this issue and NZ, Aus and Japan are being lined up as the obedient lap dogs we have often been.

        Give me Helen Clark and the heroics of her refusal to be drawn into the idiocy and deceit of the Iraqi orgy of blood that the rest of the west indulged in. She was determined and right then and she is right again. It's just that there are few leaders of her calibre to be found any more.

  2. SPC 2

    Helen Clark is wrong.

    While I was one of those harassed by the deep state over the Iraq issue (visited by police over faxes to the US embassy telling them their Iraq play was wrong – during the spurious investigation of the "CIA false flag threat" to the golfer Tiger Woods – as if opposition to an American policy made one anti-American and thus a threat to Americans), I do not agree with her assessment of AUKUS.

    I think she conflates disagreement with her position with a weakening of our independent foreign policy.

    Our "independent foreign policy" here might well be based on not seeking a confrontation with China over Taiwan, but a preference for a formal status for an autonomous Taiwan within China.

    But she goes further, she advocates for a non aligned Pacific including New Zealand – that has never been our policy, we are NATO+ and adherent to the notion of collective security (Korea Kuwait, Persian Gulf action against terrorism* and now protection of Red Sea shipping) and that surely includes the ASEAN region (who are also trade partners).


    New Zealand did not withdraw from ANZUS and become non aligned, it failed to meet a requirement of membership (hosting ships on a neither confirm nor deny policy) in favour of a nuclear free South Pacific.

    The conflation with an independent foreign policy and New Zealand within a non aligned South Pacific is her own.

    Unless she is arguing for an end to NZ-OZ security alliance (formal withdrawal from ANZUS) and defence co-operation over their purchase of nuclear powered subs (AUKUS Pillar 1), what is her point?

    Her failure to support action to defend shipping through the Red Sea from an armed gang in Yemen supplied by Iran is sad enough – it is as if she knows nothing about Quds, the arming of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shia militias in Iraq (and the planned move to Syrian bases to war for the Golan Heights), but her silence on UNCLOS, ASEAN security, China maps etc – it is if only by not noticing can there be the continuance of a benign environment for an FTA with China.

    It is as if she needs to be protected from another disappointment

    • Anne 2.1

      “The alternative path is that New Zealand keeps its head while all around are losing theirs – and that we combine with our South Pacific neighbours to advocate for a region which is at peace,” Clark says echoing sentiments that go right back to the dawn of New Zealand’s nuclear free Pacific, “so that we always pursue dialogue and engagement over confrontation.”

      I go along with that every time. When did NZ ever shine? When we stood by our innate values and refused to be party to crap created by other nations.

      I accept there are differences between what is at stake today and what has been the state of past interventions, but Helen Clark proved time and again that her conclusions were invariably correct. I would also suggest her knowledge of the Indo-China political sphere – not to mention other volatile regions – are as profound as that of any other world-ranking leader past or present.

      Interesting though you should have been harassed by the police. Thirty five years ago I was harassed by state-sponsored personnel. In my case it was conducted through covert surveillance means and included my work-place situation. I was never able to pin-point precisely who they were working for, but suspect it included the police. It occurred during the height of the nuclear stand-off with the US and, as a public servant, I dared to express anti-nuclear sentiments. I guess that made me a Commie suspect.

      • Phillip ure 2.1.1

        Are you kidding Anne..?…

        H.clark took us into Afghanistan..

        Wasn't that a good idea..?

  3. aj 3

    This writer sums up the problem well for me .. he has mapped the evolution of the USA as a country "which is coping successfully with the problems of its internal life and with the responsibilities of a world power, and which has a spiritual vitality capable of holding its own among the major ideological currents of the time" to one which is losing it's sight of it's 'spiritual vitality'

    More than anything, what this confirms is the fundamentally nihilistic vision the US now has for the world, and for its place in the world. Which is the very reason why it's currently losing out. Let me explain.

    To sum up, what we have here is the US:
    – Funding 2 active wars, one which already wiped out an entire generation of military-age males and the other one which turned into a genocide, with most victims being women and children. And in both wars not only is the U.S. making no genuine attempt to end them (except, which is the same, saying they can only end with total capitulation of the other side): as this "aid" package proves, it's fueling the fire.
    – Laying the groundwork for a 3rd war in Taiwan by inundating an island they officially recognizes is part of China and officially say they "don't support independence" for… with weapons against China.
    – Banning a social media platform that they believe is making young Americans question the wisdom of their country's warlike nature.


    And what the world at large wants to see are prospects for peace: a "responsible world power" is one that can bring about sustainable peace, not fund endless wars without any positive vision for bringing an end to them or for what comes afterwards.

    The only somewhat discernable vision here is "we want to win these wars decisively as losing them would mark an end to our hegemony", which frankly at this stage is more of a selling point for 90% of the planet than something that'd make them side with America… For the very reason that it's become obvious to most that the US is not a "responsible world power" anymore but instead one that has descended into a nihilistic vision where nothing else matters but the maintenance of its own domination at any cost, including paradoxically the loss of its own responsibility and "spiritual vitality".

    • Subliminal 3.1

      Absolutely to the point.

      He is also excellent on the history of the sovereignty of the Spratly Islands:

      Also, important reminder that the Americans told the Philippines at its independence in 1946 (the Philippines were an American colony) that the Spratlys were not Philippine territory, because the Spratlys were not part of the Philippines per the 1898 treaty Spain signed with America (in which Spain ceded the Philippines to America).

      But of course, the exceptional nation just "creates new realities" to paraphrase the Shrub administration.

      • aj 3.1.1

        Agreed. He has the ability to eloquently pull apart propaganda and here's another example today.

        "We have the most sophisticated semiconductors in the world. China doesn't. We've out-innovated China,” boasts Secretary Gina Raimondo. “Well, ‘we,’ you mean Taiwan?” asks Lesley Stahl.

        And his take down:

        First the exchange where Raimondo says "we've out-innovated China" and the host replies "by 'we', you mean Taiwan!" to which Raimondo replies "fair".

        Which goes to show that beyond all the empty rhetoric about respecting the One-China policy, not supporting Taiwan independence, etc. US officials actually deep down see Taiwan as a proxy, an American imperial outpost. Their innovations are "ours", not China's. Second, it demonstrates unequivocally just how completely bullshit their original justification for the semiconductors sanctions was: that it was purely to prevent use of advanced semiconductors by China in military applications.

        At this stage, Raimondo doesn't even mention this anymore, it's crystal clear from what she says that it's all about preventing China technological development across the board, which is why she's so obsessed with pure consumer goods like Huawei's new phones. Again this goes to show the fundamentally Orwellian nature of the US today with its doublespeak….

    • Ad 3.2

      Yes it really was China that keeps pouring money into the UN and UNRWA, China that last month fought back against the Houthis and enabled sea trade to go through the Red Sea again, China that has armed Taiwan to deter invasion, China that just completed massive naval exercises in the South China Sea against China's sustained aggression against Malaysia and Vietnam and Philippines, China that strengthened NZ's responses to massive public sector hacks emanating from China last month, China that funded arms so that Ukrainians could resist Russia's armed invasion, and China that has fully recognised the independence of the Cook Islands and Niue and opened full embassies in Vanuatu, Solomons and Tonga.

      Amazing guy China.

  4. Kat 4

    In my living memory "the safest pair of hands this country has had in living memory" was Keith Holyoake followed by Norm Kirk…….

    • Kat 4.1

      ….then Helen and Jacinda……..

    • Anne 4.2


      I remember the photo of Holyoake standing all alone, head bowed, alongside the Hercules aircraft as they loaded Kirks coffin to return him to his home town Waimate for burial.

      That was a very sad day. We may never have endured nine years of Muldoon had Kirk not fallen ill and died.

      • Tiger Mountain 4.2.1


        If Big Norm had a life trainer and proper medical care…have you read Margaret Hayward’s book “Dairy of the Kirk Years”? Got the Big Norm record off a friend and noticed his copy was signed on the back by…Roger Douglas and Michael Bassett among other Labour people…

      • Ad 4.2.2

        In most respects Muldoon was more Labour than Labour dared to be.

    • adam 4.3

      Before my time.

    • Phillip ure 4.4


      Um..!…he wasn't gung ho..but Holyoke did take us into Vietnam…

      • aj 4.4.1

        take us into Vietnam…

        But arguably just a token gesture . . . ?

        • Phillip ure

          To his credit.. Holyoake resisted the heavy leaning on him from both u.s. and Australia (who were firmly attached to America's hip .and in there boots and all)

          They wanted him/NZ to 'do more'…

          He demurred…

  5. adam 5

    I don't remember the gaggle of Tory parties saying they would let our young men and women die for the Yanks?

    Why are we hitching our wagon to a country that will give us trump or biden?

    China is less than perfect, so what the point in going to war with them?

    China is not as paranoid as Russia, don't you think?

    That said:

    Our government are currently letting Japan rearm with some vulgar slurs against China.

    Bob Carr is well worth a post on this issue as well.

    • Phillip ure 5.1

      Have you forgotten the Tories berating Clark for not taking us into Iraq…?

      Had they been in power..we would have had sent our soldiers to that imperial action..

      • adam 5.1.1

        Then the frothing at the mouth by Key whilst he was PM.

        When we could have just offered logistical support to the Kurds and that would have probably helped more against the head choppers – than what we did.

  6. Ad 6

    These "South Pacific neighbours" Clark wants us to join with are for the most part strongly aligned already with just four countries: New Zealand, Australia, France and the United States. By strongly aligned I mean already part of their territory in a fairly strong form.

    There are still a few marginally independent ones like Samoa and Tonga, but the rest who aren't within the full orbit of the main 4 countries are just playing one side off against the other for the best deal. They ain't our allies or our friends. They are actually just takers.

    If Clark were honest she's admit there's no organising the Pacific Forum into something useful like ASEAN. Unless the four countries above want to actually cooperate across their island territories.

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