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Left Militant

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, August 13th, 2016 - 140 comments
Categories: Globalisation, International, war - Tags:

With wars breaking out at an alarming rate and democracy going backwards in much of the world currently, lefties need to face the idea of military intervention squarely. Push aside the U.S. election for a moment, and engage the complexity and scale of chaos on the world. What we need to get to quickly is what a leftie foreign policy might be. Not from New Zealand, which faints at the sight of blood. But from a more world-wide perspective.

There are of course many lefts. But the default position of the left is that the best foreign policy is a good domestic policy. Get your home situation right before risking life correcting someone else’s mess. Although, immediately after 1945, there was something like a New Deal foreign policy in the planned reconstruction of Japan, Germany, and several other war-damaged countries. History has some pointers to these kinds of left.

In the 1930s, the left in Britain on the whole supported (and some fought) against the Spanish fascists. After World War 2, some kinds of leftie supporters took a while to oppose Soviet military attacks, even after the 1956 Hungary uprising, and 1968 in Czechoslovakia. Few left-wing activists joined conservative forces to demand the rollback of this appalling empire. And yet supporting communist causes in Nicaragua was popular in the 198)s if I went by the number who wore Sandanista scarves in the 1980s to university.

On the far left, there is a deep suspicion of anything militaristic. Leftie Catholics attacked the U.S. spy facility at Waihopai, and remain a cause celebre among the remaining peace movement such as Pax Christie. The view that swords should be beaten into plows comes from a deep challenge to re-examine our conception of saving other people and other societies.

A more standard western leftie position is that tyrants should not be helped, unless they are overthrowing colonial rulers. The left in New Zealand tend to support Maori who fought against British troops, rather than supporting Maori who fought with the British.

Anti-militarism isn’t necessarily an isolationist politics. But it’s supported usually by weak countries who need to shelter under common accountability frameworks such as international law, the United Nations, and the World Criminal Court. That is often the worthy, safe and good thing to do. But, as was debated on the left in the U.S. and Britain in the late 1930s, pacifist sympathies can dangerously delay preparation for actual serious threat. Both those countries were woefully incapable at the start for facing a fully prepared opponent, in no small part because of pacifist and isolationist forces in their politics.

Some Marxist militants argue that any war fought by a capitalist country is, by definition, an imperialist war. But the war in Korea, fought by an alliance of capitalist countries against a communist power, was supported by most on the American, European, and Australasian democratic left.

In the 1990s the left were faced with military intervention under what was called ‘humanitarian intervention’; in post-Yugoslav states, and in the Ivory Coast and Rwanda. One could argue that such interventions made it easier to justify the first western-led war when Iraq invaded Kuwait. But that’s not an argument against the use of force for urgent humanitarian reasons. Rather, it’s an argument for making good political distinctions.

U.K. Labor’s David Miliband was on point when he said in 2008 that during the previous decades “the neoconservative movement seemed more certain about spreading democracy around the world” than the left did. The left, he argued, was “conflicted between the desirability of the goal and its qualms about the use of military means.” This is an extension of the left have left the hard stuff to the rightie grownups theory. Who on the left would now support removing Syria’s Assad by force? Who on the left would support military invasion to stop a massacre, as in East Timor, or a tyrant, as in Bainimarama 1987? Who on the left supported the Kanaky militia against the New Caledonia French, and if so who would be better off now if they had been militarily supported by the left? If you’ve read Mr Pip, were you on the Bouganvillian militia side, or Papua New Guinea, or the villagers, or indeed none?

One common leftie shortcut is to support oppressed people, whatever they do and whoever they are. But then, one person’s ‘freedom fighter’ is another’s ‘terrorist’. It gets muddy fast.

The corollary of that leftie shortcut is that actions by strong states like the U.S., Britain, China or Russia are always oppressive and hence always to be condemned. This common leftie response is, again, to retreat from engagement and throw it in the too hard basket. ‘Working on your good domestic policy’ becomes code for cop-out.

Most lefties are idealists, so we presume our ideals will eventually simply win in the world through their righteousness alone. Or at best, we should let those ideals baked within the U.N. and the International Criminal Court hold them all to eventual account. But it’s a complete pretence to believe that the U.N. is anything but a very uneven political agent. Authorisation to militarily intervene comes too late, not at all, or gets manipulated. The rules-based framework only works very occasionally. The unilateral use of force is often, as Jurgen Habermas said of the Kosovo example, “illegal but morally necessary”.

And I haven’t even started on leftie responses to Islamic militant terrorist attacks in Europe. Which would be a post all by itself.

Recoil as some might, we can’t avoid internalization. Our deepest commitment is solidarity with people in trouble. Sometimes stopping tyranny, starvation and mass murder from continuing is better morally than keeping schtum and working out your own problems at home. The rigidly held positions from the left are usually wrong: that the use of military force is never justified; that “imperial” powers like the U.S. can never act for good in the world; and that revolutionaries and fighters for liberation must never be criticized.

We need to learn from our history – and the first lesson is this: no more moral shortcuts, no more pretending.

140 comments on “Left Militant”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Firstly, stop soft regime changing, and hard coup d’etat’ing those countries with economic and foreign policies which do not subscribe to anglo saxon hegemony

    And instead start respecting that in a multi polar world, other nations have their own interests in terms of legitimate national security and economic sovereignty.

    • Ad 1.1

      When would you order troops into another country?

      • AmaKiwi 1.1.1

        “When would you order troops into another country?”

        Never.

        • Conal 1.1.1.1

          Cheers AmaKiwi! I’m with you!

          We must be the kind of people Ad (who I understand is a pom) had in mind with his gratuitously offensive racist slur about NZers fainting at the sight of blood.

    • …start respecting that in a multi polar world, other nations have their own interests in terms of legitimate national security and economic sovereignty.

      We tried that with Hitler – it didn’t work. Just accepting that “legitimate national security and economic sovereignty” interests include Iraq forcibly annexing Kuwait, or Serbia carrying out a Christian mission to drive “Turks” out of former-Yugoslavia, or Russia taking over parts of Ukraine, isn’t a “leftist” foreign policy – if anything it’s a right-wing one.

      • Philj 1.2.1

        Re Hitler,
        The Genesis of WW2 was WW1. Research and study of the geopolitics leading up to 1914 would be very instructive.

    • Olwyn 1.3

      I agree with your comment CV. To start with, the prioritisation of the “return to the shareholder” combined with “opening up economies” to globalism, are certainly not necessary conditions for democracy, and are arguably incompatible with the best versions of it. In a multi-polar world peoples who find democracy attractive would develop versions of it that suit their own way of life, with no need for an imposed version. As to Millibrand’s claim, many on the left probably see the need to get the public good back to the centre of our own democracies before we start telling others how to suck eggs. Moreover, the WMD excuse for invading and destroying Iraq gives us good reason to doubt the judgements of our regime-change happy political leaders. It is notable that most governments lined up for regime change seem to follow some sort of economic socialism, which hinders the desired opening up of their economies. In comparison, Pinochet’s brutal regime enjoyed western support.

      And to Psycho Milt, your examples are weak. The German regime was highly expansionist. It is possible to defend peoples against such brutal expansionism without imposing a political agenda. The UN could also be strengthened in its ability to deal with situations such as that in Serbia, without resort to regime change, and Russia’s taking of the Crimea under external pressure is not straightforwardly expansionist, since they have long considered that area to be part of Russia.

      • Psycho Milt 1.3.1

        The fact that you can come up with some Sophistry to explain some of the examples away doesn’t make them “weak.”

        The German regime was highly expansionist.

        So? It still had “legitimate national security and economic sovereignty” interests behind that expansion. According to CV we should let stuff like that happen.

        It is possible to defend peoples against such brutal expansionism without imposing a political agenda.

        I’d be interested to hear of a potential plan to defend Poland from the totalitarian regimes dismembering it that would have had a snowball’s chance in hell of being successful, let alone one that wouldn’t have involved imposing a political agenda on the perps.

        The UN could also be strengthened in its ability to deal with situations such as that in Serbia, without resort to regime change…

        It could? How would that happen, exactly, with a Security Council permanent member backing the Serbs’ “ethnic cleansing” programme?

        …Russia’s taking of the Crimea under external pressure is not straightforwardly expansionist, since they have long considered that area to be part of Russia.

        Shouldn’t have handed it over to the Ukrainian SSR, then. There are large parts of Poland and the Czech Republic that Germans have long considered to be parts of Germany – would it be OK for them to embark on a similar programme of annexation?

        • Olwyn 1.3.1.1

          1. A key clause in CV’s comment is “…those countries with economic and foreign policies which do not subscribe to anglo saxon hegemony” Germany’s annexation and enslavement of Poland far exceeded “not subscribing to Anglo-Saxon hegemony.”
          2. I said that the UN could be strengthened to such a degree as to intervene effectively on such conflicts as occurred in Serbia. A successful intervention would take the concerns of both sides into account, with a view to ending bloodshed and restoring political equilibrium, not necessarily by imposing Western-inspired regime changes.
          3. The Crimeans voted to remain part of Russia.

      • mikesh 1.3.2

        The Russians didn’t “take” Crimea. The Crimeans applied to rejoin Russia, and Russia accepted their application. The Crimeans always considered themselves to be part of Russia.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.4

      There’s legitimate national security and economic sovereignty and then there’s trying to take what you’re not entitled to as China is presently trying with the South China Sea.

      • Got to love how you say “so we shouldn’t participate in imperialism ourselves” and suddenly you’ve got the usual suspects twisting that into “oh, so we shouldn’t defend ourselves against imperialism now?”

        Imperialism is not the only way to fight imperialism. Often in international relations, the best course is to fight fire with water, and use multilateralism and democracy to fight imperialism. Many of the best foreign policies have involved drawing a successful contrast to the “enemy” you’re fighting. (and they then often succeed in making them no longer your enemy, or even turning them into an ally *cough* Germany *cough*)

  2. Bill 2

    The supposed dilemma this piece throws up stems from not looking deeply enough…not staying on trains of thought ’til their end.

    Take East Timor. You ask – “Who on the left would support military invasion to stop a massacre, as in East Timor…” Now that could be a black and white decision revolving around some moral imperatives, but…

    East Timor was suppressed by Indonesia. The Indonesian dictatorship was supported by the NZ government (I believe, among other things, that military training was given by NZ). So once you begin drilling down, the question becomes not so much about supporting military invasion, and more about whether we’re going to learn from our mistakes, or just continue in our support of a domestic structure of governance that bolsters foreign structures of governance that then oppress peoples.

    • save nz 2.1

      +1 Bill

    • Ad 2.2

      I needed to keep enough ends open – firstly because I’m not trying to write a thesis on the origins of war, but secondly provide enough provocations for people to engage with.

      What lesson do you draw for your leftie foreign policy from your example?

      • Bill 2.2.1

        Your question doesn’t make immediate sense.

        From the example I give (which is about the train of thought and not the specific place and time), we either choose to be resigned to an endless catalogue of “difficult decisions”, or to cut the bullshit by recognising the role our form of governance plays and then withdrawing our consent from that form of governance.

        My money’s on the bullshit to continue, because most people don’t want to look too closely at “how we do things” when “how we do things” works really rather well for them at a personal level.

        So are those who avert their gaze, but nevertheless wring their hands over some terrible situation and agonise the rights and wrongs of military intervention just hypocrites? I guess so.

        Maybe that’s the lesson then – unpalatable as it may be to many – that “leftie foreign policy” is essentially and always rooted in hypocrisy.

        • Ad 2.2.1.1

          One person’s hypocrisy is another person’s visceral engagement.

          You mentioned East Timor in particular. That looked to me like a really good place to send troops in faster than we did to protect people who were otherwise going to get completely massacred. No doubt there are always non-humanitarian political reasons for countries to intervene, but I wasn’t sure what the lesson you were trying to draw from your example.

          Consigning ourselves to “an endless catalogue of ‘difficult decisions'” is the usual stuff of politics: just react. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the world is going fast through political entropy into what Wole Soyinka called a season of anomie. I do think democracy and liberal society is retreating in many places.

          So I don’t think we can avert our gaze from horror when we really can exercise the capacity to stop that horror. And for that, a few principles for the left would be in order.

          • Bill 2.2.1.1.1

            I think you may be missing my point.

            If social democratic parliamentary forms of governance foster, enable or encourage international conflict, and a person (a leftie) supports that form of governance, and if that same person then turns around and condemns an instance of conflict and calls for military intervention, then that person is either stupid, a hypocrite, or both.

            When I mentioned “those who avert their gaze” I was meaning in relation to their own, readily or even eagerly supported national structures of social democratic parliamentary governance (in the case of NZ), and the role that plays in creating an environment where all the stuff you mentioned in the post becomes inevitable.

            You can’t just shoe-horn principles into all of that, because principles and hypocrisy, well…oil and water and all of that.

            Of course, if you believe that nation states and their governing structures have got 5/8ths of sweet fuck all to do with international conflict, then it’s a different story. But I’m thinking that would be a wholly untenable and perhaps even insane position to take.

  3. AmaKiwi 3

    What should we do?

    Be neutral in other countries’ power games and wars. Provide refuge for individuals who are oppressed.

    We are a mouse of 4 million people. If the elephants start fighting all we can do is get out of the way and try not to get trampled.

    In WW2 this strategy worked for Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, etc. It did not work for the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, etc.

    • Ad 3.1

      I wasn’t looking for an NZ military foreign policy, but a leftie one.
      Is neutrality always the right thing to do?

      • Conal 3.1.1

        What country do you have in mind for your lefty policy, if not NZ?

      • Macro 3.1.2

        “Is neutrality always the right thing to do?”

        There can never be a complete answer to that Ad – Ever.

        Ever circumstance is different, and every country has a different perspective on what constitutes its National interest. Having said that; the first principle of peaceful coexistence must be accommodation and the promotion of understanding. The second principle must be progressive and peaceful initiatives. These are not normally qualities perceived in many right wing policies which normally advocate self and privilege.

        If the world was to spend the current military budget on progressive peaceful initiatives for the benefit of human kind rather than on guns, we would not be having this conversation.

      • I assume we’re talking about neutrality specifically in war, yes? You haven’t really got a full answer from anyone, so I’m going to hazard one in general terms, while acknowledging that specifics may require some deviation due to the practicalities of each situation.

        As a general rule of thumb, you can afford to be neutral in conflicts that aren’t going to reach your country, or conflicts where you’re more scary than the combatants that might be hostile to you. If one of those things changes, then neutrality may no longer be practical.

        No, neutrality isn’t always right. But we should always be on the side of preventing war where that’s possible, and de-escalating it when it’s not. Neutrality is a valid strategy to avoid escalation, and I think it was a good call with regards to Iraq, for instance. If we’re intervening, it shouldn’t be with a goal like expansionism or regime change. It should be to force a surrender and bring a conflict back to nonviolent negotiation. We should never pillage when we’re at war, because that incites reprisals. We should be very clear that when we send soldiers to another country, even if they’re requested, that we do so with a mandate from the people, not just their government. We did well in sending people to help rebuild Iraq rather than to invade it, it was a neutral and fair policy that showed we would do our part internationally while still making sure not to escalate war in the region.

        In fact, if we genuinely care about preventing war, we need a much stronger policy on development for all countries less fortunate than New Zealand. Post-war Germany, especially Eastern Germany and Ostpolitik, have shown very clearly that economic development is the best way to make a nation peaceful, just, and free. Too much of our economic policy isn’t aligned with a peaceful world, but rather with securing New Zealand’s slice of the pie by securing wealthy markets for New Zealand exports. If free trade were actually about enriching developing countries, rather than enticing them to drop tariffs, then it would be an excellent security policy. Instead it’s about making trade just free enough to make OUR people wealthy at the expense of less developed countries.

    • Macro 3.2

      Hear! Hear! Added to that we can work globally as a Nation in peaceful initiatives.
      Those looking to learn more on this could Start Here

  4. Garibaldi 4

    Sorry to say it but this post is shallow … eg in the third paragraph you seem to load all of the problems of the world onto the “appalling empire” of Russia. By that stage the American empire was every bit as appalling (as history has proven). Quite frankly I think the topic is too big to pontificate on.

    • Ad 4.1

      Plus, I didn’t mention anything in Africa.
      And don’t forget South America.
      The list is endless.

      The world is becoming less stable. We need to prepare our thinking ahead of time rather than be perpetually reactive.

      You might want to have a go at CV’s point about soft and militant regime change above.

      • marty mars 4.1.1

        Is there any evidence that the world is becoming less stable ad. Think world wars and major historical and previous conflicts, think IRA, think civil wars and so on. Maybe we just think it is less stable so that we can justify intervening.

        When cc really begins to bite the excuses to go to war and intervene will become a lot more transparent I think – as in “we are running out of water and they have some so in we go to look after our citizens” – should ‘lefties’ encourage/support intervention in that scenario – and on whose side? Very complicated and ultimately unknowable.

        • Ad 4.1.1.1

          I think it is, if my benchmark was the 1980s and 1990s, and I’ve written about it before re the decline of the liberal order.

          Over the last short while we’ve seen over 60 countries have their democratic capacity greatly degraded or simply retreated to some form of martial or tyrannical rule. Fiji is one of the very very few exceptions to this recently, and go them.

          If you are wondering about the effects of climate change, the Greens’ idea of a permanent infrastructure recovery force is worth having a chew over. More hurricanes, more total surges, more uninhabitable atolls and islands. And of course, more famine. That makes for more chaotic and barely-governable societies.

    • By that stage the American empire was every bit as appalling (as history has proven).

      Apologists for Soviet totalitarianism are every bit as grotesquely offensive as apologists for fascism. A left-wing foreign policy that didn’t back murderous totalitarian regimes would be a good start.

      • Stuart Munro 4.2.1

        Yes – I’m not sure that American internment camps are entirely comparable the Sakhalin gulag either. Perhaps we should recognise that the leading states are not invariably the loudest or the largest. Prior to Rogergnomics, NZ was sometimes a world leader.

      • RedLogix 4.2.2

        Apologists for Soviet totalitarianism

        Not here mate. I’ve visited the abandoned site of a gulag some years back. If you want a spine cracking bleakness of the soul to crush you …. well there’s a reason why there are very few actual apologists for Soviet totalitarianism.

        Post-Gorbachev Russia is a different story. Complex, fascinating and poorly portrayed in the Western media.

        • Garibaldi 4.2.2.1

          “…Post -Gorbachev Russia is a different story…”.I quite agree ,but according to western propaganda they are the no.1 enemy. I maintain that the USA is the aggressor (along with NATO) and that the problem in the Ukraine is American inspired and that Russia has every right to be concerned over what the Yanks are doing on their border.

          • Stuart Munro 4.2.2.1.1

            Not to the extent of installing a puppet and funding an insurgency though…

            • Draco T Bastard 4.2.2.1.1.1

              And where has Russia done that?

            • Macro 4.2.2.1.1.2

              Are you referring to the US in Afghanistan here?

              The supplying of billions of dollars in arms to the Afghan mujahideen militants was one of the CIA’s longest and most expensive covert operations.[5] The CIA provided assistance to the fundamentalist insurgents through the Pakistani secret services, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in a program called Operation Cyclone. At least 3 billion in U.S. dollars were funneled into the country to train and equip troops with weapons. Together with similar programs by Saudi Arabia, Britain’s MI6 and SAS, Egypt, Iran, and the People’s Republic of China,[6] the arms included Stinger missiles, shoulder-fired, antiaircraft weapons that they used against Soviet helicopters. Pakistan’s secret service, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was used as an intermediary for most of these activities to disguise the sources of support for the resistance.

              • Stuart Munro

                I was referring to the Ukraine – but Afghanistan, Iraq, and doubtless many others qualify. The dirtiness of US paws does not clean Russia’s however.

          • Psycho Milt 4.2.2.1.2

            Russia has every right to be concerned over what the Yanks are doing on their border.

            The USA doesn’t have any borders with the Russian Federation. Russia should indeed be concerned about the fact that every one of its European neighbours regards it as an existential threat, but the conclusion it’s reaching from that isn’t the one it should be reaching.

  5. save nz 5

    Unfortunately war is big business for some. Increasingly it is the US going in to fight within very questionable circumstances and poor outcomes for the majority including the American public as well as the Middle East. The US learnt nothing from Vietnam.

    Even worse war has become some sort of boy’s networking club, tied in with relationships and trade rather than a moral issue.

    The word terrorism is now used by governments to terrorise their own people and others.

    When Tony Blair drags and entire country into war, based on some personal relationship and false pretences of WMD, while sending in troops with no plan, no armour and so forth. It just gets worse.

    Now we may have Trump on the nukes button, who may or may not think Obama is linked to ISIS. Clinton loves War too, so anything can happen.

    NZ needs a change of government, because Key will do anything for anyone and then pretend he never did so. First he will tell China something, then Saudi, then US and then the NZ public, then next week will all change again. So can annoy everyone while trying to get away with it all.

    NZ should stay out of wars apart from diplomacy. We have nothing to gain, and should set an example that troops are not some commodity to be lent out in return for networking opportunities and favours.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      NZ should stay out of wars apart from diplomacy. We have nothing to gain, and should set an example that troops are not some commodity to be lent out in return for networking opportunities and favours.

      QFT

      We most definitely shouldn’t be using them for trade opportunities as John Key said we should:

  6. Stuart Munro 6

    War is a large and complex subject, and not always reducible in any useful way. Are we, for example, to view it as a destructive conflagration of lives and resources, part of a continuum with diplomacy, or as any condition involving a determination to contend?

    Rather than resolve these issues intellectually, there are a number of pragmatic shortcuts we tend to apply. The first of these is, as with any efficient military unit, to develop an appreciation of what we can and cannot do.

    The next relates to complex moral decisions, and those on which our information is tainted by the interests of various sides. Israel is a good example here – a state with a history of military criminality which probably also contains many innocent individuals. Its flipside, Palestine is similarly mixed. The imposition of simplistic solutions to such a conflict is probably beyond our powers and likely to be significantly unjust. Limiting our involvement to peripheral aid and attempting to suppress the most egregious abuses may be all that we can do.

    Our own state is being suborned and corrupted by the unprecedented disloyalty of the Key Kleptocracy. New Zealanders are being impoverished, unhomed, displaced from secure work and systematically disenfranchised all to perpetuate this loathsome regime. This war must be fought and won before we can hope to provide much in the way of constructive support to the rest of the world. We need to set a positive international example by the severity with which these traitors are punished and the thoroughness with which their corruption is excised from the body politic.

  7. vto 7

    I wonder what the aliens make of our warring between ourselves on such a beautiful planet ….

    not much I would guess
    we should heed their words …

  8. mauī 8

    Tend to think the best way to deal with conflict is to get the fuck out of there. NZ has done an ok job at this on the world stage in the last few decades. I also wonder what the state of the world would be in if the US hadn’t taken out more than 50 countries/governments since World War II.

    When you talked about the Allies being unprepared for a threat in the 1930s, you forgot to talk about how they played a role in crippling Germanys economy, giving rise to facism. A similar theme is running today with ISIS.

  9. Sanctuary 9

    The first principle is NZ is effectively an Australian client in matters of defensive military strategy, and Australia is now a middle power and a key US ally – in fact, I would say the ANZAC alliance probably constitutes a strategically more important middle power US ally than even the UK these days. Secondly, It is clear that New Zealand is culturally a natural ally of Australia – and the United States, which after all is a democratic (remember, just because the US presidential race is corrupt doesn’t mean the USA as a whole isn’t a democratic nation), English speaking nation. It is unimaginable that NZ would side with China against the US and Australia.

    The bottom line is any serious confrontation between the USA and China will automatically include Japan and the ANZAC powers. We try and pretend that isn’t the case, but the Chinese have seen right through us and are getting increasingly pushy about it, eventually to the point where IMHO they are going to threaten our sovereignty in a way the USA never has.

    The security threat from China is real. China has no respect for the rule of law and is dangerously unstable, with the communist party, the army and the executive all vying for power. This is why you often get contradictory messages from the Chinese regime, who knows who is charge on any particular day. Further China seems keen on using hyper nationalist expansionism as a way of directing unrest away from the dictators who run the country. I can see the Chinese using the large number of ethnic Chinese immigrating here both as a fifth column and as an excuse to intervene in our internal affairs, especially if we start rearming.

    If we don’t want to accept we are part of the US alliance system in the Pacific, then armed neutrality is the other option (an unarmed neutrality would be unacceptable defensively).

    Firstly, Surprisingly, NZ is actually a pretty easy place to defend. most of our coastline is uninviting due to lack of suitable harbours, strong prevailing winds or mountainous terrain immediately behind the beaches, Anyone landing on West Coast of the South Island, for example, would have to contemplate crossing the Southern alps, a barrier that could be held forever against all comers by two old men and an asthmatic dog. In WW2 the Japanese concluded the only practical places to land were the Bay of Plenty or Northland.

    Secondly, NZ is a long way away from anywhere. Like, a really, really, really long way. Paris to Moscow is about the same as Auckland to Sydney. A surface Naval force with designs on attacking us would be operating thousands and thousands of kilometres from it’s nearest base. It would need a huge fleet of amphibious support ships, transports, and supply ships all of which would be practically defenseless in the face of air and subsurface attack.

    Thirdly, modern military technology has swung the balance in naval warfare decisively in favour of sea denial. To explain, to attack with an amphibious force it isn’t enough just to deny the enemy use of the sea lanes by aircraft and submarines. You must also control the sea lanes to make them safe for your surface fleet. Otherwise, the risk to your transports chock full of soldiers and equipment from sneaky attacks is to high. Conversely, a defender (NZ in this case) simply has to make it impossible for an enemy surface ship to survive within 1000km of our coast. Anti shipping missiles launched from land and air makes this perfectly achievable.

    However, armed neutrality has one BIG downside. It would be f**king expensive. Eye wateringly expensive. People forget one big upside of our alliance with the USA is we get to spend sweet FA on weapons and the military. We’d need over a hundred jets and thousands of missiles. We’d have to introduce conscription. Pissed off conscripts would be tramping up and down the country all over the place, digging fortifications, playing wargames, building concrete emplacements and generally making noise and getting in the way and costing money.

    My view is the bellicosity of China in the South China Sea is a very worrying sign that they are clearly prepared to use war as a distraction against internal unrest . We are probably not far from having to start undertaking at least a limited rearming, because China is clearly a lawless bully intent on throwing it’s weight around and will need to be stood up to eventually.

    • Ad 9.1

      Great considered response there Sanctuary.
      Thankyou.

    • RedLogix 9.2

      by two old men and an asthmatic dog.

      Hilarious rhetorical exaggeration! Wonderful.

      Without wanting to take away from this in the slightest, you might want to consider how heat sensing IR technology has tilted the balance away from ground defenders to air surveillance.

      And while I tend to agree that NZ could be reasonably easy to defend if we put our minds to it, equally I think what would actually happen is that half a dozen warships would turn up unannounced in Wellington harbour and it would be game over.

    • One Two 9.3

      Do you love war and western imperialism, Sanctuary?

      You made no mention about the global threat the USA are presenting at an ever increasing rate

      Fascist USA

      • Sanctuary 9.3.1

        To paraphrase Admiral Jackie Fisher, everyone loves peace, as long as it is a peace that suits them.

    • Garibaldi 9.4

      Very good Sanctuary ,but history teaches us that a declining empire is more dangerous than a rising one.
      Why does everyone trust the USA? They’ve already used the bomb twice….and to anyone who wants to claim that was to save allied lives my answer is ” Crap… it was to frighten the Russians who were on the verge of taking Japan”.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.5

      It is clear that New Zealand is culturally a natural ally of Australia – and the United States…

      No it’s not. If anything, NZ is a natural neutral nation. We’re not in an overly strategic place compared to others and we share no land borders with any one at all.

      The bottom line is any serious confrontation between the USA and China will automatically include Japan and the ANZAC powers. We try and pretend that isn’t the case, but the Chinese have seen right through us and are getting increasingly pushy about it, eventually to the point where IMHO they are going to threaten our sovereignty in a way the USA never has.

      the pretence that we’ve led ourselves to believe is that we can be friends with both when we can’t be friends with either because of that stress between them.

      If we don’t want to accept we are part of the US alliance system in the Pacific, then armed neutrality is the other option (an unarmed neutrality would be unacceptable defensively).

      IMO, that’s our only viable position.

      However, armed neutrality has one BIG downside. It would be f**king expensive.

      Actually, it wouldn’t be. Government funded R&D and production of the military systems and using our resources and it’s quite reasonable. Take up about 5% of the working age population and we already produce far more resources than we actually need anyway so a slight diversion of those.

      As I say, once you start thinking in terms of resources instead of money things look completely different. What we can’t afford in monetary terms becomes easily affordable in terms of resources.

      My view is the bellicosity of China in the South China Sea is a very worrying sign that they are clearly prepared to use war as a distraction against internal unrest . We are probably not far from having to start undertaking at least a limited rearming, because China is clearly a lawless bully intent on throwing it’s weight around and will need to be stood up to eventually.

      QFT

    • Conal 9.6

      The US is not, in a real sense, a democracy. Rather, it is an oligarchy, in which a tiny elite of super-wealthy citizens rule. The existence of an electoral system not withstanding. The electoral system is just (a part of) the mechanism by which the elite rule their country and the rest of their empire. The much vaunted “democracy” is now seen as largely notional, even by huge numbers of US citizens. Trust in “democratic institutions” is at a historic low, and rightly so.

      I think it’s pretty widely accepted that the US empire is in decline. After WWII its preeminence (over any other imperial power) was rock solid. After the collapse of the USSR its military hegemony was unquestionable. Its military budget is still far greater than that of any other country; closer to that of all other countries put together. But its economic preponderance is now much reduced. Other economic blocs have developed an independence from US economic hegemony. That leaves the US military as a relatively important card in the hands of the US imperial elite. Unable to rely on dominating trade flows “peacefully”, a more “military-first” (to use Kim Jong Il’s term) policy looks to them like a winner. This is a very dangerous situation for world peace. Leon Panetta at the Democratic National Convention, called the US military their greatest national treasure.

      This is the actual state of affairs that a leftist foreign policy has to grapple with. We have to undermine US militarism, and support antiwar movements in the US and other Western countries. On the economic front we have to support “multipolar” anything; Chinese-backed banks as alternatives to the World Bank; regional trade blocs that are not led by the US, with lax IP laws, and sovereign rights to organise economic affairs through non-market mechanisms, as an alternative to the neoliberal TPP and its ilk. Non-alignment rather than Nato, Anzus, and ad-hoc “coalitions of the willing” led by the US.

      • Psycho Milt 9.6.1

        So, a leftist foreign policy could be summed up as “oppose whatever the US government is up to, even if that means making common cause with totalitarian regimes.” I guess you’re right, that does describe the far left’s approach to foreign policy since the 1950s. No surprise that it never gets anywhere with voters, though.

        • Conal 9.6.1.1

          I’m not against everything the US govt is up to, at all. I’m only opposed to their constant meddling in the internal affairs of other countries; weakening their democratic institutions, sabotaging their economies, bombing their infrastructure, disrupting their trade, threatening them with force, buying off, and using, “comprador” elites in those countries, to the detriment of the mass of the population of those countries. If that seems to you like “everything the US govt is up to” then you must not be aware of the many good things the US government has done.

          Incidentally, opposition to US imperialism often a vote winner. In NZ, the nuclear free zone was a political taonga for Labour. In other countries, especially the numerous countries that have been victims of US imperialism, anti-imperialism has often been an electorally useful tool of leftist political movements.

      • Draco T Bastard 9.6.2

        On the economic front we have to support “multipolar” anything; Chinese-backed banks as alternatives to the World Bank; regional trade blocs that are not led by the US, with lax IP laws, and sovereign rights to organise economic affairs through non-market mechanisms, as an alternative to the neoliberal TPP and its ilk.

        As we don’t need any of those things we most certainly do not have to support them. IMO, those sorts of things are part of the problem as they contain biases and favouritism within them.

        • Conal 9.6.2.1

          We don’t need the sovereign right to manage aspects of our economy through non-market mechanisms? Well I can see how a neoliberal might think that, but the premise of this thread is that we should have a “left” foreign policy, and that does require a sovereign right to regulate the activities of foreign commercial entities. Thankfully, the TPP appears to be in some doubt, now.

          • Draco T Bastard 9.6.2.1.1

            We don’t need the sovereign right to manage aspects of our economy through non-market mechanisms?

            My bad, I was /facepalming by the time I got to ‘World Bank’ and missed the one and only thing that made sense.

            Well I can see how a neoliberal might think that, but the premise of this thread is that we should have a “left” foreign policy, and that does require a sovereign right to regulate the activities of foreign commercial entities.

            And that doesn’t require the IMF, World Bank, or regional trade blocs. In fact, those things remove sovereignty and thus a nations right and responsibility to police those things.

            • Conal 9.6.2.1.1.1

              It looks like you missed the bit where I suggested we needed to support ALTERNATIVES to the World Bank, too. I’m not going to continue this thread, because I think (for whatever reason) you’re reading what you want to read, not what I wrote.

              • Draco T Bastard

                It looks like you missed the bit where I suggested we needed to support ALTERNATIVES to the World Bank, too.

                Backing Chinese versions of the same things isn’t supporting an alternative. It just means that we end up with Chinese (or Russian, or whoever the backer is) hegemony instead of USA hegemony.

                The alternative that we actually need is to get rid of those things and put in place a set of standards. Each state would set their own standards and say that anyone who meets those standards will be freely traded with others would not.

                Such a system removes the hegemony that’s inherent in the present system, leaves each nation fully in control of itself and, most importantly, puts in place a paradigm that encourages an increase in living standards around the world. The exact opposite of what we have now that decreases living standards for the people in developed countries while exploiting the people in developing countries.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Think about it this way:

                Why do we need a world bank when every country is fully capable of utilising all of it’s resources using it’s own monetary system?

                Africa doesn’t need aid money as it’s quite capable of creating their own currencies to get their own resources moving.

      • Philj 9.6.3

        Hi Canal,
        I tend to agree with your analysis. NZ should, ideally!, promote peace studies and conflict resolution on a global scale. This would necessitate a neutral stance in taking the honest broker role. The UN is hamstrung and there is space for NZ to speak out as separate from the UN. Think about our anti nuclear stance which is often regarded by folk around the world as highly symbolic but important, straight and true. But not likely under our current democruptcy. But massive change is not far away. It may be happening right now.

    • Macro 9.7

      You are aware that ANZUS ceased to exist after the anti-nuclear stance of the 4th Labour Govt?

      The treaty was one of the series that the United States formed in the 1949-55 era as part of its collective response to the threat of communism during the Cold War.[1] New Zealand was suspended from ANZUS in 1986 as it initiated a nuclear-free zone in its territorial waters; in late 2012 the United States lifted a ban on visits by New Zealand warships leading to a thawing in tensions. New Zealand maintains a nuclear-free zone as part of its foreign policy and is not part of ANZUS, as the United States maintains an ambiguous policy whether or not the warships carry nuclear weapons, however New Zealand resumed key areas of the ANZUS treaty in 2007 (today bilateral meetings of ANZUS are held between Australia and United States only).

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ANZUS

      • Conal 9.7.1

        Assuming this is a response to my post above, since I did mention ANZUS.

        “Ceased to exist” is putting it a bit strongly. I would say it’s in abeyance. But yes of course we’re all aware that it is “suspended”. I also mentioned the USSR and I’m grateful you didn’t feel the need to remind me that it’s defunct too.

        Getting back to ANZUS, my understanding is that it has never been abrogated as such, and that a policy change on either side could restore it to life. The chance of NZ dropping the nuclear free policy is essentially nil, but the US could continue to soften its response to the extent that the previous level of collaboration was restored. NZ wouldn’t be the only US “ally” (or vassals, if you’re as cynical as I am) inside a nuclear weapon free zone.

        • Macro 9.7.1.1

          Actually Conal my comment was in reply to Sanctuary’s comment at 9.
          I happened to be serving on the Naval Staff in Def HQ at the time and I can assure you that the shutters went up big time. Tri Nation ops were off. NZ went from ally to friendly nation status. Did it hurt us? I really don’t think so. But others would beg to differ. The simple fact is that in the last 30 years we have not really had the need to call on such a pact anyway. True, National are all for cosying up to US again and the impending visit to the 75th Celebrations will be seen as a step towards closer cooperation as well. But Is there a perceived threat to NZ? South China Sea? Really? And what is a standing army of around 5000 with little to no aerial protection going to be doing anyway?
          I tend to agree with the thrust of all your comments. The first steps should be towards communicating between the parties to try to resolve differences and that can only be undertaken by a Nation of neutral status. and underlying all of this expenditure directed toward the betterment of humanity rather that expenditure on weapons is far more likely to secure peaceful coexistence.

          • Conal 9.7.1.1.1

            I humbly withdraw my sarcastic comment about the USSR, then.

            I agree with your comments about NZ’s strategic position. We are not threatened by China and we have no real need for membership in any military alliance. I’d like to see us move on from being a jilted ally of the US to being a forthrightly non-aligned country. The level of subservience to Western powers on display in this comment thread is unbelievable. It’s like the last hundred years never happened.

  10. Conal 10

    NZ is part of the Western, US-led, military bloc. Any “military intervention” that NZ makes will be following a US lead. The question then boils down to “what US aggression is worth supporting”, to which my answer would be “none”.

    Imperial powers always have good (or at least effective) rationales, excuses, justifications, call them what you like, for their military adventures. A big part of attacking another country is softening up domestic opinion, and especially the opinion of leftists, since rightists are often already US-followers by instinct anyway. This is where propaganda campaigns framed around noble ideas “democracy”, “responsibility to protect”, “war on terror”, “international law” etc. are useful for bamboozling people into support for aggression. The key thing to understand is that these ideas, however noble, have literally nothing to do with the actual reasons for war, and only serve as smokescreens, behind which the major powers can pursue elite interests with impunity.

    A real left policy would start with a definitive exit from the US military bloc.

    • Sanctuary 10.1

      “…what US aggression is worth supporting”, to which my answer would be “none”…”

      “…A real left policy would start with a definitive exit from the US military bloc…”

      And then what?

      • Conal 10.1.1

        … and then a policy of non-alignment and anti-militarism.

        • Garibaldi 10.1.1.1

          Good one Conal.

        • Ad 10.1.1.2

          That’s as close to a principle well expressed as I’ve seen here.

          A mighty big step into ‘non-aligned state’ territory, which is a mighty cold place to be, but a very principled one for a small and weak state.

          • Conal 10.1.1.2.1

            I don’t get the “cold” thing. Are you implying that it’s lonely? The non-aligned movement has ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY member states. It’s not like it’s some fringe thing.

    • Ad 10.2

      With more of our trade including tourism being with China than with anyone else, and many suburbs in Auckland having a near-majority of recent Chinese migrants, is that old US alliance preference really still the case? It would be if it was defined by where we sent our troops, but as Sanctuary sets out above, we are going to have to face our growing interdependence with China – as both a vital economic support and a looming threat to the stability of the Pacific.

      It will be very important for a future government to have an internally coherent position on that dilemma between trade and geopolitical stability of our wider region. That may well mean a Labour-Green government.

      • One Two 10.2.1

        Which nation has 700+ military bases around the world including numerous pacific ocean, island military bases…

        There is no such thing as peace, there is lies propganda and death by war. Military and economic

        Believing we can subsist under such conditions without living life as hypocrites is an affront to any notion of ‘civilisation’

        • RedLogix 10.2.1.1

          And if someone waved a magic wand and somehow those 700 plus bases were to be controlled by the Chinese military … do you think they’d somehow think this a bad idea and abandon them because they didn’t like the idea of empire?

          Of course not.

          All your statement reflects is the historic reality that the USA was the prime beneficiary of WW2 and got to establish it’s empire before the Chinese did. Just as the Americans displaced the British before them, and so on. The issue is not about which hegemony happens to be be top dog in any snapshot of history .. but the mere fact of empire itself.

          My argument is that the era of empire is over. It’s obsolete and dangerous. It needs replacing with a form of global governance that is democratically accountable to all of humanity.

          • Conal 10.2.1.1.1

            May I humbly suggest that the use of a magic wand doesn’t strengthen either the rhetorical force or clarity of your argument?

            • RedLogix 10.2.1.1.1.1

              It’s called a ‘though experiment’.

              If you want to argue that the Americans are the bad guys because they run 700+ military bases around the world, this does not make the Chinese saints by default.

              • One Two

                Only the shallowest of thinkers would tread that path..

                Human history of violence is that of unimaginable proportions, and its not going to change so long as there are ‘sides taken’

                Global Goverance of the altruistic variety is beyond the capacity of ‘decent human beings’ to understand they will have to die to reach such an outcome

                The comfortable masses are more concerned with seeking alignmenets as opposed to spilling blood, and dying ‘happy’

                There will not be ‘peace’ it is beyond ‘us’

              • Poission

                Well Vietnam had a thought experiment,and has leased naval and airbase to Russia in Cam Ranh bay,clever gambit decreasing the strategic value of Guam and the Spratly Islands.

              • Conal

                My point is that the magic wand’s operations are obscure. You conjure up an alternative universe in which the Chinese have a global empire backed by the world’s most powerful military ever, to make the point that … well it’s not actually clear what the point is. In place of “China” I could substitute “Bolivia” and make the point that the Bolivians aren’t saints either.

                Perhaps you think that Chinese imperialism is a real potential threat and that Bolivian imperialism is not, but if so, you’ve done yourself no favours by bringing magic into your thought experiment, because it discards realism altogether. To be realistic, your thought experiment would have to speculate about how China might actually acquire a worldwide network of military bases, and to what ends.

      • RedLogix 10.2.2

        New Zealand as a poodle province of China model Ad? Don’t recall voting for that.

        I agree the presence of around 5% of our population who are ethnic Chinese complicates the story.

        The crunchy part is this; there is a difference between immigrants who arrive and become part of a community and add to it’s diversity … and immigrants who are the visible impact of colonialism.

  11. Sanctuary 11

    Anyway, what is a leftie foreign policy?

    1/ Neutrality is out, we can’t afford it and public opinion wouldn’t stand for it.
    2/ China is becoming a clear threat to our sovereignty and security, and we need to plan accordingly. For example, we need to put in place active policies that ensure Chinese migrants become patriotic New Zealanders rather than agents of Beijing. An example might be the government sponsoring/funding a Chinese language newspaper and/or setting up a radio and TV channel like Australia’s SBS. There should be increased spending on cultural and social integration initiatives like festivals and sporting events that aim to integrate our new migrants into NZ and make them into loyal citizens who’ll turn in a spy, not become one.
    3/ Our chief allies are will always be Australia and the United States. At the end of the day, we’ll probably go down fighting with them if they lose.
    4/ However, we don’t need to be the craven lickspittle US/Australian client that John Key has turned us into, and is causing clear problems with our relationship with China.
    5/ Small nations like NZ need to continually emphasise the importance of peaceful dispute resolution through international law and agencies like the UN, collective security through adherence to norms of international law and forcefully act against aggression everywhere when required and when sanctioned by a legal UN mandate.
    6/ In an era of heightened tension in the Pacific and pressure on resources our armed forces are not strong enough to defend our sea frontiers against state sanctioned provocations like aggressive illegal fishing or unfriendly warship incursions into our EEZ, or even our territorial waters. We need to spend a bit more on our Navy and Airforce with the clear message we will act to protect our sovereignty.
    7/ The strategic situation in the Pacific does not yet warrant rearming.

    • Yes – there’s not much point in a leftist foreign policy that stands no chance of ever being implemented. If you think up policies without reference to reality, you might as well throw in the free unicorns while you’re at it.

    • Stuart Munro 11.2

      I don’t think the US is an obligate partner – they really don’t have much to do with us – one of the reasons Key’s sucking up operation hasn’t produced any goodies.

      It’s true though that neither China nor Russia are better options. Our best military hope, as it is with trade, is to cultivate healthy relationships with countries of similar size and concerns.

      The neutral states movement should have been our longstanding foreign policy – smaller ASEAN countries would find that pretty palatable too.

  12. Conal 12

    A leftist foreign policy has to be aimed at social justice on a global scale. It has to deal with hunger, climate change, exploitation, and inequality.

    If we are going to end wars, we are going to have to establish a much fairer and more egalitarian global economy and system of inter-state relations.

    To treat foreign policy as primarily a military question (which of our rulers’ wars to support) is basically to accept the status quo in which the elites of powerful states lord it over others.

    • Sanctuary 12.1

      “…To treat foreign policy as primarily a military question (which of our rulers’ wars to support) is basically to accept the status quo in which the elites of powerful states lord it over others…”

      Yes yes, and Social democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism, but so what?

      Actually while I am quoting Stalin, when told by Pierre Laval in 1935 the Pope thought Stalin should stop repressing Catholics under his yoke, Stalin famously asked, “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?”

      Well, when it comes to grandiose plans to altering the global equation of the geo-political status quo, NZ is the Pope.

    • Philj 12.2

      Coral, +100

    • Philj 12.3

      Conal +100

    • Ad 12.4

      A grand string of abstract nouns like that may get you ‘cross Texas in election year, but as you can see from the examples, in meantime, there’s decisions to face.

      Those pesky military questions tend to need an answer faster than you can say ‘hunger, climate change, exploitation, inequality and egalitarian global economy’.

      There are elites. With guns. Not always friendly. Always will be.

      When diplomacy fails, you need a military. When would you use it?

      • Conal 12.4.1

        If I were some dictator of some country with the power to intervene in another country, I would use that power for self-defense, and not to commit war crimes, as you seem to be suggesting I should.

        I would not have overthrown and killed Gaddafi, as Nato did, or overthrown Saddam Hussein Al-Tikriti and devastated his country. I would not have bombed and partitioned Serbia. I would not have invaded Vietnam. I would not have attacked the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.

        Millions of people lost their lives and whole nations were devastated in these “interventions” (or “war crimes” as they should correctly be known), and yet Western imperial power rolls on (because it can) and liberal leftists in Western countries continue to believe in the rightness of “their” cause, and the essential evil of “their” enemies, be they hau-hau or communist or Baathist or Sandinista or Bolivarian or Eastasian or Eurasian … even though the evidence of past criminality of their own regimes is staring them in the face. I’ve met people who accept that the “Gulf of Tonkin incident” was a completely bogus pretext for invading Vietnam, but believed the Iraqi WMD scam. Now everyone knows that the WMD scam was a lie, but they will accept whatever other bogus story they hear as if the past was somehow totally unrelated to the present.

        A big factor I think is the unwarranted belief in Western democracy. People believe that they live in a democracy, and indeed there are elections and parties, and political struggle even. Therefore everything the government does is lent an air of legitimacy. Even the war crimes which are NOT (in general) authorised by the public at all. But if you vote for person X, and they commit a war crime, then you are in a sense an accessory, and hence the cognitive dissonance is resolved in your favour by denying X’s war crime (i.e. by actually becoming an accessory after the fact).

        I would not have invaded Fiji to overthrow (or support) Bainimarama, or Speight, or the Taukei, or the Great Council of Chiefs, or any of that. I would have provided fraternal support to the Labour movement, though, but that’s the workers’ international, isn’t it? Not a paternalistic “police action” bringing civilisation to the benighted savages.

        I would not have done any of those things, because launching a war of aggression is evil, and what’s more, it’s illegal under international law. Tony Blair and GW Bush are war criminals for what they did in Iraq, and the fact that they have impunity just shows how weak the system of international law actually is (a paper tiger), when you compare it with the reality of the raw military power enjoyed by the US and its allies, or as the BBC calls them “the International Community”.

        I can think of situations where it would be correct to provide assistance to countries defending themselves from attacks. But the bombing campaigns and regime change campaigns that are so popular these days are not solutions to international political problems; they are the causes of problems.

        The best way to deal with the international political problems is through promoting peace, by promoting mutually beneficial trade, through cultural contacts, by providing development aid, infrastructure investment, medical aid, education, etc.

        The best way to avoid war is to promote actual equality and justice in international relations, not through the use of force, and not through the threat of force.

        You can sneer at my “abstract nouns” all you like, but the reality is that exploitation and injustice are what actually need to be rectified if the world is to be at peace. Maybe socialism is not an easy solution to achieve, but it does at least offer a solution. Whereas by contrast, a continuation of a state of perpetual war in which liberal elites, living lives of unsustainable privilege in the West, pragmatically and regretfully take “hard decisions” to bomb poor brown people (for their own good) is the path to the eventual ruin of human civilization.

  13. Sanctuary 13

    “…NZ is part of the Western, US-led, military bloc. Any “military intervention” that NZ makes will be following a US lead. The question then boils down to “what US aggression is worth supporting”, to which my answer would be “none”…”

    For New Zealand, which is after all what we care about most, the United States has over the last eighty years been a mostly benign empire to owe fealty to. It has delivered a Pax Americana to the Pacific that allowed us the priceless gift of a military free ride and a deep peace. In return all it has demanded is trifling commitments from us. In that sense it has been more benign than the British Empire ever was, since the British not only invaded NZ but then also involved us in the pointless slaughter of the Great War as the price of their security. I consider it frankly ridiculous that anyone would seriously propose for no good reason to abandon this mutually beneficial state of affairs for NZ and USA in favour of a nebulous, friendless and expensive neutrality, and anyone who thinks we could hope to get a better or even the same security deal from China is living in la la land.

    • Garibaldi 13.1

      What about the TPPA then? I don’t consider that the work of a benign partner.

    • Conal 13.2

      You know who else objectively protected NZ from absorption into Japans’s “Co-Prosperity Sphere”? That’s right, the Chinese Communist Party. And the Chinese never twisted our arm to (“triflingly”) invade Vietnam, either. But what thanks do they get?

      • Philj 13.2.1

        Conal Apologies for the spelling, combination of smartphone and auto correct. I tend to agree with your analysis. The drums leading to war are not inevitable, or necessary, or, in any way acceptable. I can feel the TINA principle, of “there is no alternative” looming in the propaganda we are about to be swamped by.

    • maninthemiddle 13.3

      You forget something. There are those who are so obsessively anti-US, that any entanglement with teem is deemed anathema. It is utterly irrational, but thoroughly consistent with left wing ideology.

      • Stuart Munro 13.3.1

        To establish this proposition as more than your usual standard of crude and vacuous smear, you would have to demonstrate that a preference for not embracing all things ‘murican’ was excessive to the point of obsession. In fact, recent US foreign policy hasn’t been much to write home about, they drag their allies and clients into conflicts like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, that are difficult to justify and difficult to exit. The advent of either Trump or Clinton presidencies does little to suggest a closer relationship is in any way desirable.

        • maninthemiddle 13.3.1.1

          The US doesn’t drag anyone into anything. If sovereign nations support a particular intervention, then they are free to participate.

          As to embracing all things ‘murican’, I don;t know anyone that does not. I not plenty of comments here that support the ‘US derangement syndrome’ however.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 13.3.1.1.1

            …and then there are those like you, who embrace Stalinist tactics.

            • maninthemiddle 13.3.1.1.1.1

              Stalin was a leftie, OAB.

              • lprent

                Are you sure? Stalin seems to resonate with Trumpism logic.

                • maninthemiddle

                  You may be right. I’m not sure how to describe Trump, quite frankly.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Bigot – yup.

                    Liar – yup.

                    He certainly ticks all the right wing boxes.

                    • maninthemiddle

                      He doesn’t tick too many left one, I suspect. I’m not aware that he’s:

                      1. Suppressed freedom of speech.
                      2. Suppressed freedom of religion.
                      3. Rounded up and murdered Jews, intellectuals and homosexuals.

                      etc, etc.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                You embrace his tactics. Perhaps someone will explain it to you.

                • maninthemiddle

                  Stalin’s tactics? I’ve never had anyone shot. I’ve never tortured anyone. I’ve never suppressed anyone’s free speech. I’ve never suppressed anyone’s freedom of expression in any way shape or form.

          • Stuart Munro 13.3.1.1.2

            The only derangement here is yours.

            • maninthemiddle 13.3.1.1.2.1

              A bit sore at being shown up Stuart?

              • Stuart Munro

                You only show up as an infection numbskull.

                You’re no smarter than BM – just busier.

                • maninthemiddle

                  You still haven’t admitted your cock up over the 2030 claim Stuart.

                  • Stuart Munro

                    No cock up numbnut.

                    Copyright costs are up front – agri benefits are not.

                    Do the math – even the MBIE contractor did that much.

                    You don’t like that conclusion take it up with the minister.

                    • maninthemiddle

                      “Copyright costs are up front – agri benefits are not.”

                      The reductions in duties and tariffs are immediate and substantial. You didn’t know that when you asked me the question Stuart. You remain ignorant at your own choice.

      • Paul 13.3.2

        Please stop trolling.

  14. McFlock 14

    A leftist foreign/military policy would be focused on development and promoting individuals having influence in the governance of their society – not necessarily a parliamentary model, just one that reflects the wishes of its populace rather than exploiting the populace for the rulers.

    In the real world, some folks sooner or later need to be shot. The trick is to try and resolve it in the best way possible, with as little harm as possible, and worker harder on the reconstruction than you do on the killing.

  15. Wayne 15

    I was not going to contribute to this, but on reflection I will. Mostly because it is desirable that foreign policy has some level of bipartisanship.

    A radical foreign policy deeply opposed by one side of politics is not sustainable. This was recognized by Andrew Little in his speech to New Zealand International Affairs there weeks ago (sorry no link to it). His speech I thought was very good, and had a Labour view of what a sustainable policy looks like.

    So suggesting we would not be an ally of Australia, but become a neutral instead is not sustainable.

    I do think we have a challenge to put more of a framework on what an “independent foreign policy” means. This was particular concern for the Ministerial Advisory Panel (of which I was a member) for the latest Defence Review. We have taken a more nuanced approach to New Zealand’s relationships than in 2010. But not the ANZAC relationship. We stressed the importance of that, given that both nations largely act together for instance in the South Pacific. Not identically, but also not in opposition to each other.

    I an writing an article for New Zealand International Affairs, on how I see New Zealand’s independent foreign policy can evolve. Canada under their new government has some interesting pointers.

    • Stuart Munro 15.1

      There will always be a relationship with Australia – the more so because it has unexhausted continental resources, unlike the US.

      But – except when NZ has a shamefully corrupt cryptofascist junta like John Key’s, the maintenance of the Nauru gulag, will see a cooling in the relationship on a par with the that caused by a notorious underarm bowling incident.

      Wayne of course will endorse the gulag – he is what he is.

      • Sanctary 15.1.1

        @Stuart M – the Australian concentration camps were one of the things I was thinking of when I said Key has turned NZ into a craven boot licker of Canberra. Regardless of the short term consequences we should denounce these camps and make them loud subject of conversation with Australia at every opportunity. The initial Australian reaction will be to bully and threaten. But faced with the embarrassment of the diplomatic equivalent of their BFF unfriending them publicly on Facebook, I think we could help give them a way to get out of the policy corner they’ve painted themselves into.

    • Conal 15.2

      Labour’s anti-nuclear policy was bitterly opposed by the National Party and yet it proved to be sustainable despite that, because it enjoyed popular support. Indeed, the policy was a major electoral strength to Labour. You can’t, I think, make a fetish of bipartisanship. Sometimes one party will recognise a need for change and embrace it while other parties bury their heads in the sand. If the need for change is real then it will prevail, and eventually even conservatives will come to accept it as a fixture, even if they never actually learn to like it.

  16. Wayne 16

    National, under Bolger in the 1990 election pretty readily accepted the reality of the nuclear free policy. They did so in part because they realized it did not too deeply disturb the overall approach of NZ foreign policy.

    Ditching the ANZAC relationship on the other hand would be a total upheaval. Australia would certainly make it harder for New Zealanders to work (as of right) in Australia. I would expect we would be in no better position than any other visitors to Australia. That would be a radical change. CER would take a huge knock.

    In any event Andrew Little seems to be broadly operating under a bipartisan construct, his opposition to TPP not withstanding. In fact in practical terms his approach to TPP seems to be the same as Hillary’s.

    So I am quite OK with where Labour stands currently. But I would not be so sanguine if the Greens were leading the foreign policy debate.

    • Stuart Munro 16.1

      Well – the troughing gulag apologist and Ahmadinejad for the worst and most ineffectual government NZ has ever seen is ‘concerned’ about the Green’s ‘inexperience’ – what a surprise. No benefit to NZ from ANZUS Wayne – only a few sinecures for corrupt entities like yourself and McCully. Your absence would be worth something to be sure – but not the direction of our foreign policy.

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