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Let’s punch for peace

Written By: - Date published: 4:28 pm, December 30th, 2021 - 34 comments
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Today’s Herald editorial says New Zealand ‘wisely’ doesn’t punch above its weight in  military activities. That’s not true – I remember sailing around the nuclear-powered USS Truxtun as it entered harbour in a Wellington gale. It was just one of many flotillas campaigning against nuclear weapons and nuclear war that resulted in a knockout – New Zealand’s suspension from the ANZUS alliance on a point of principle.

For many New Zealand officials that withdrawal was a mistake. That attitude persists in current official thinking, where the Herald quotes the recent Defence Assessment as saying re Five Eyes that “the defence aspect is as long-standing and fundamental as the intelligence aspect.’ It should be noted that the Defence assessment is an officials’ paper, not yet government policy. It certainly needs to be thoroughly debated.

New Zealand’s Five Eyes intelligence participation was useful to the other anglophone partners as it collected intelligence from its designated  Pacific zone, but the defence relationship turned icy for years and is still under rebuild. Last October the US destroyer USS Howard crept into Wellington harbour with little fanfare and no protest. It was here to meet with defence officials.

The context for the Herald’s discussion is the US China rivalry and where New Zealand positions itself. According to the Defence Ministry paper the rivalry is solely due to the rise of China, which having learnt from the Russian experience didn’t follow the US and become the expected liberal democracy and make its economy available for foreign exploitation.

The US strategy in relation to China is to rebuild its relations with those it considers allies, in order to ‘contain’ China. There is no doubt that the US is pulling our string, and that they do have the support of many in our our defence and diplomatic bureaucracy. As a swing player with good connections in the Pacific and Anglophone we are an important catch for them. We are not joined at the hip to the US as is bi-partisan Australia.

This means we do have a chance to push back, and to punch above our weight. Our interest is that the two major powers stop competing and focus on co-operation for peace. And it is the US that has declared that competition is the name of the game, in its 2018 Defense assessment. China would much prefer co-operation, but it is not going to be a pushover as it was in 1842 when superior British gunnery forced China to take opium in compensation for its silks and ceramics.

Also many Chinese do not believe that American style so-called liberal democracy is necessarily best suited for them. And looking at the current situation with governments on the nose in the US and the UK, not to  mention Australia, why would they. Sometimes it seems as though the Five Eyes only have one brain and its ours, which is another reason why we can punch above our weight. At least we can see where we are going.

The Herald points this out itself. “But China did not abandon totalitarian rule as Western democracies expected it would when it acquired a prosperous, educated and enterprising urban population.” Just maybe its not that totalitarian after all, or that the prosperous, educated and enterprising Chinese are happy with the way they live.

The Herald says it is hard to avoid taking sides. But that is what we must do – to continue the metaphor, punch above our weight by cracking heads together in the search for mutual prosperity and peace.





34 comments on “Let’s punch for peace ”

  1. Dennis Frank 1

    The Herald says it is hard to avoid taking sides

    I think they mean it's hard for them & other right-wingers. A lifetime of arselicking makes it hard, emotionally. They are so habituated into a subservient posture that they genuinely can't imagine an alternative.

    I mean, if they weren't – and had a rational view – they would have learnt from Lange's success in defying the USA and the logic of traditional patronage & paternalism.

    If a geopolitical situation arises in which Oz supports a US military adventure, our non-alignment would be tested. As it should. Being non-binary is a useful principle but we ought to concede that circumstances may require us to shift into pragmatic alignment with Oz – as a diplomatic stance though, not hostility. Geopolitics is an arena in which nuances are as significant as overt signalling.

    • Adrian Thornton 1.1

      "I think they mean it's hard for them & other right-wingers"..you forgot to add that other main voice in NZ political and media discourse today…the imperialist liberals…like RNZ and most if not all of the sitting members of the NZ Labour Party and probably half the people who comment on this site.

      BTW, isn't it ironic that Lange's greatest legacy..of unleashing Free Market Liberalism upon an unsuspecting NZ public is also the very thing that turned our once proud Labour Party from being a political machine that had the kind of moral and ethical fortitude and strength to stand up to the USA..to the hollowed out shell of a political party it is today…ask yourself, what do NZ Labour and Ardern stand for today?..what is their big plan or project?..who knows?, ask anyone you meet, I wager you a bet no one will have an answer.

      Turn Labour Left!

      • Blazer 1.1.1

        Their big plan is to maintain rising house prices….29% in one year is hard to…beat.

        Average house in Auckland just under $1.5million=very good,well done.

    • Pragmatist 1.2

      They did back in 2002 (the aussies).

      and Helen Clark kept us well clear of Iraq until the engineers went to at least try and rebuild.

      history shows the wisdom of that decision.

  2. alwyn 2

    " Just maybe its not that totalitarian after all, or that the prosperous, educated and enterprising Chinese are happy with the way they live."

    Can you really write that when you see what is happening in Hong Kong? Or do you avert your eyes from those news reports because you like the image of "Uncle Xi".

    As an example try reading this and see whether you still approve.


    • Gezza 2.1

      China reneged on its agreement with the UK over Hong Kong but there are a couple of points that are relevant in my view.

      First, that the Chinese Emperor was forced to cede Hong Kong to Britain at the end of the disgraceful British Opium Wars & China signed a 99 year lease to the UK incorporating the New Territories as a way of gaining security from further attacks by Japan having been weakened by the first Sino-Japanese war.

      While legal, it was not exactly a tidy arrangement entered into freely without any duress by both sides.

      The Sino-British Joint Declaration agreement for the handover of Hong Kong back to China was supposed to apply for 50 years. Meaning that in 2047 China was going to take full control of Hong Kong anyway.

      China, under Xi, has now become easily strong enuf to assert its own independence of action in relation to the territory that's been part of China for 2 millenia. So it did. And it's basically running the show now.

      So what? At least they haven't militarily forced Britain to take opium in return for that.

      • Dennis Frank 2.1.1

        Your point about nations signing international agreements without duress can apply to most of them, I suspect. smiley

        In respect of realpolitik vs principle, we can do our foreign policy non-alignment between China & the USA on this basis:

        1. China signed the UN Covenant on civil rights, but has failed to ratify it.

        2. USA has been more duplicitous than that.

        In 1994, the United Nations' Human Rights Committee expressed concerns with compliance:

        Of particular concern are widely formulated reservations which essentially render ineffective all Covenant rights which would require any change in national law to ensure compliance with Covenant obligations. No real international rights or obligations have thus been accepted. And when there is an absence of provisions to ensure that Covenant rights may be sued on in domestic courts, and, further, a failure to allow individual complaints to be brought to the Committee under the first Optional Protocol, all the essential elements of the Covenant guarantees have been removed.

        Indeed, the United States has not accepted a single international obligation required under the Covenant. It has not changed its domestic law to conform with the strictures of the Covenant. Its citizens are not permitted to sue to enforce their basic human rights under the Covenant. It has not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). As such, the Covenant has been rendered ineffective, with the bone of contention being United States officials' insistence upon preserving a vast web of sovereign, judicial, prosecutorial, and executive branch immunities that often deprives its citizens of the "effective remedy" under law the Covenant is intended to guarantee.


        3. Aotearoa therefore points out that neither China nor the USA can be trusted. The only credible basis for trust between nations is a track record of adhering to international agreements. Neither country has established that track record, therefore Aotearoa cannot align with either country on a moral basis.

        • Blazer

          What a difference a day…makes!

          • Dennis Frank

            Context is all. Signals deliver meaning relative to context. The part of context that everyone usually leaves out of consideration is the temporal part…

            • Blazer

              Yeah right!

              Q-has the GP changed ,since furter left?

              A-Frankly yeah..it's alot…better.

              • Dennis Frank

                Evidence seems to be lacking on that front. Can't remember when I last saw a report of the GP adopting a foreign policy stance – too long ago.

                Incidentally, it was me that wrote their first ever international relations policy in my capacity as convenor of the working group. They called for volunteers, I volunteered, got told I was it, put out a call for members in the party mag & got no responses. That was in '91 or '92 – if I could be bothered going through my archives I could exactify it. Anyway there were less than 200 activists in the GP in '91 so I did the quick maths & gloomily consigned myself to the 0.05% category yet again…

    • Mike Smith 2.2

      @ Alwyn 2

      Freedom House is not exactly an unbiased source. From its website https://freedomhouse.org/issues/promoting-us-leadership:

      Freedom House believes that the United States has an essential part to play in the global struggle for liberty. The US has a unique capacity and a moral obligation to cultivate alliances with free nations and lend support to democracy advocates in authoritarian or transitional settings. As the world’s most influential democracy, the US has an essential part to play in the global struggle for liberty. Doing so ultimately protects the freedom, security, and prosperity of Americans by promoting stable democratic governance, preventing armed conflicts and failed states, and ensuring an international order based on human rights and the rule of law.

      These comment by Henry Litton, a retired permanent judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal are pertinent: https://johnmenadue.com/a-close-run-thing-in-hong-kong-in-2019/

      Monday 1 July was a public holiday, to celebrate Hong Kong’s reunification with the Mainland. On that day an organized group broke into the LegCo building and trashed the Legislative Council chamber. The Chinese national emblem was defaced; the Hong Kong colonial flag was raised. The rioters had declared war on the government, on the existing constitutional order…

      Most of the truth of that story is on public record. The “primaries” were simply a small part of a larger plot calculated to bring down the government. This was described as “10-steps to mutual destruction”, which had been outlined in Apple Daily in late April 2020. The label attached to this plot is “LaamChau” meaning “We Burn, You Burn”, an expression taken from a popular TV series. It was, on its face, a last desperate attempt by the insurgents to bring down the government….

      The repeated accusations made by Western leaders and media of Beijing’s so-called stifling of freedoms in Hong Kong through use of the National Security Law is so far from reality that the conclusion is inevitable: as Mr C H Tung said, Hong Kong is being used as a proxy for a wider power conflict.

  3. Byd0nz 3

    We would be in a just position to keep those principles of peace by keeping the dying US Empire at arms length. The US has only ever put itself above very other Nation and has used bully tactics to coerce it's ' friends' to obey it's will, it has killed and maimed it's way around the globe like no other. He's a dirty old man, that Uncle Sam.

  4. Scud 4

    Well the NZG & the General Public, would’nt know understand that the NZDF would absolutely struggle to “Raise- Train- Sustain” a INTERFET Style Chapter7 Peacekeeping Mission like did with East Timor/ Timor-Leste between September 99 to 2003.

    INTERFET & the follow up UN Peacekeeping Mission to Timor-Leste was biggest deployed NZDF Deployment since J Force to post War Japan in 1945 to 1949ish

    So the NZDF/ New Zealand in General can’t, won’t, couldn’t & or wouldn’t be able to punch above its weight given the current shit fight the NZDF/ MoD is in at the moment. Let alone to be able to do 3 concurrent tasks at the same time as it would struggling to maintain the Raise- Train & Sustain the following an Infantry Battalion Group, A RNZAF Air Task Group & a Naval Task Group on Operations while trying to do an NZ EEZ enforcement & forget about the Sth’ern Ocean or the Sth Pacific Region, a HADR Mission either at Home or in the Sth Pacific & or Sustainment Flights to the Antarctic Region in the Sth’ern Summer.

  5. Adrian Thornton 5

    Good piece Mike thanks..one little amendment though.,.":There is no doubt that the US is pulling our string, and that they do have the support of many in our our defence and diplomatic bureaucracy"…and media.

  6. Good on Mike for firing up a discussion on foreign policy.

    Listening to the drum-beats of wars in the South China Sea and the Black Sea coasts, fueled by the barely disguised big-lie propaganda issuing from the US State Department and military, mindlessly or knowingly passed on as journalism by the NZ news media ….

    What! me worry? Bloody oath, mate

  7. Stuart Munro 7

    It may indeed be unwise to precipitously leap into the anti-China camp, as Australia has done at the expense of some coal exports and their relationship with France.

    But the benefits, if any, of choosing a closer position to China need to be considered too. That might include the sporadic corruption of our rounder heeled MPs, as detailed by Jamie-Lee Ross, and tension with other Asian trading partners like Korea and Japan.

    It is not in any case Taiwan which is most at risk, the semiconductor trade between it and the mainland being far too important to compromise lightly at this time of relative insecurity in world markets.

    The risk of violence is much greater in the Ukraine, where Putin has already demonstrated his proclivity for seizing with his teeth that which he cannot obtain with his tongue. The seizure of the Crimea is an embarrassment however, as water and electricity supplies to the stolen territories are no longer available from Ukraine, and Putin's engineers aren't up to providing an alternative.

    There is little direct risk to NZ, but there is a moral opportunity, to side with the beleaguered Ukraine against the monstrous genocide and poisoner Putin. Silence on the issue might be taken for assent.

    As progressives, leaders like Xi and Putin automatically forfeited our support upon declaring their leadership to be for life.

    • greywarshark 7.1

      What is Putin's genocide Stuart?

    • Blazer 7.2

      Missed the news that Putin and Xi have declared themselves leaders for..life.(shades of Lee Kuan Yu in Singapore).

      Not hard to see why Putin (who has restored the dignity of mother Russe) from being concerned about U.S/Nato encirclement on Russias borders.

      He could take out Ukraine by lunchtime.

      Here's an interesting situation if you are concerned about …moral virtue.

      U.S. Government's Role in Sterilizing Women of Color (thoughtco.com)

      • Stuart Munro 7.2.1

        'Dictator for life': Xi Jinping's power grab condemned as step towards tyranny | China | The Guardian

        Putin "amended" the Russian constitution, removing the 5 year term limit. And now he's done it again: Putin signs law allowing him to serve 2 more terms as Russia's president – CBS News

        He could take out Ukraine by lunchtime.

        It seems that he intends to. Poland, the next domino in Putin's plan, will likely support Ukraine however. And Nato will overcome their reluctance to get involved if he does, starting with eye-watering sanctions, then proceeding to develop forces to obviate the threat.

        The NATO encirclement thing is bullshit however – https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/pdf_2016_07/20160627_1607-russia-top5-myths_en.pdf NATO has no plans to invade Russia – Russia plans to reacquire the former soviet bloc by invasion, and if they are allowed to join NATO, Russia will need another circus to distract their citizens from the kleptocrats.

        • Blazer

          You are marinated in western propaganda and your links do not uphold your claims.

          NATO can sabre rattle all they like.

          Russias military capabilities can easily deal with NATO.

          The west do want to sell more arms to eastern european states of course.

          • Stuart Munro

            You are marinated in western propaganda and your links do not uphold your claims.

            My links above have indeed established that Putin and Xi have made themselves life presidents. You however have provided no links at all.

            I expect you are referring to my link to the NATO rebuttal of Putin. I suppose the principle of right of reply goes right over your head – When Putin alleges something, it is only reasonable to hear what the other side has to say about it.

            So right back at you – you are marinated in Putin's disinformatsia, and frankly too stupid to live.

            • Blazer

              ' frankly too stupid to live.'-do you think this is appropriate?

              There are a plethora of links from both sides concerning the Ukraine.

              The Guardian and CBS are hardly impartial sources…..and they do not confirm what you have stated.

              EXCLUSIVE: US has killed over 20 million in 37 countries since end of World War II – Prof. Galtung – Daily Post Nigeria

              • Stuart Munro

                Perfectly apt in fact – you seem to think that a broad and completely unsupported slandering of the Guardian and CBS suffices to rebut their every utterance. But Putin & Xi's self-appointments as permanent leaders are matters of fact. You could, were you a good faith disputant, establish the same from any number of sources.

                Now, that's a great red herring you're throwing there about the US from the Nigerian Daily Post – but it does nothing for your argument, that Putin is entitled to invade Ukraine and overturn the results of its elections simply because he'd like to.

                • Blazer

                  The irony is that the U.S has invaded,interferred in and brought about regime change in dozens of countries…because it can!

                  You probably believe that the U.S is a benevolent world policeman,concerned with freedom,democracy and human rights.

                  The muslim bogeyman has been put aside for now and the old faithful demon,Communism is back on the agenda.

                  The American empire and its crony Capitalist base is in terminal decline.

                  America is despised around the world.

                  The success of China and the renaissance of Russia as a military and industrial power is causing concern for the U.S and its vassels.

                  Russia wants good terms with Europe to develop trade.

                  The U.S opposed Nordstream2,but Germany embraced it.

                  Russia no longer holds U.S dollar reserves.

                  NATO relies on the U.K and France.Their aggressive attitude to Russia is mere sabre rattling.Who wants to die for the Ukraine?

                  The armaments industry needs a boost with the end of the Afghanistan debacle.Shareprices are down for the big arms companies.

                  As for links detailing U.S invasions there are 100's.

                  I only hope NZ can maintain some semblance of an independent foreign policy.

                  Imagine if foreign powers encircled U.S borders!

                  • Stuart Munro

                    You probably believe that the U.S is a benevolent world policeman,concerned with freedom,democracy and human rights.

                    You would do well to keep such vapid speculation to yourself. How about you tax your trivial intellect far enough to actually address the issue of the post – peace.

                    There is no peace for Ukraine without international support against its vicious and backward eastern neighbour. It was not okay for the US to invade Iraq on spurious grounds, and it is not ok for your pal Putin to invade Ukraine either.

                    How is Putin to be kept from overrunning all the former soviet satellites? Asking nicely isn't go to be enough.

                    As for your “Imagine if foreign powers encircled U.S borders!” The NATO encirclement you claim is a tiny fraction of Russia’s borders – just enough to stop them oppressing Poland and Ukraine. https://libmod.de/en/factcheck-encirclement-of-russia/ Read it and dilute your ignorance to manageable levels. We are to understand I imagine that you running dog worshippers of tyrants and despots are just fine with the reclamation of soviet borders, and of course the re-establishment of the gulag archipelago that it will take to keep their citizens in check.

                    • Blazer

                      'too stupid to live'

                      ' you tax your trivial intellect far enough '

                      Very good -the Munro Doctrine.

                      Happy NY.

                  • Stuart Munro

                    Very good -the Munro Doctrine.

                    Oh very smart – high school snark. I guess you don't recognize the insult in accusing someone of being seduced by US propaganda (I have Russian primary sources fyi), nor do you recognize the irony of doing so while recycling Putin's lies.

                    Let us hope that in the New Year you inform yourself to the point that you have something to actually contribute.

        • RedLogix

          It seems that he intends to.

          It seems Putin would very much like to, but as I've outlined before, and from the Russian perspective there are good strategic reasons to want to expand their borders back to their far more defendable Soviet configuration.

          But there are huge risks the moment he sends boots over the border. Strategically the imbalance between them is on paper overwhelming, and invading Ukraine very achievable, but occupying it would be an entirely different matter. And conducted with the full visibility of modern communications detailing every horror and massacre unsparingly. The tide of world opinion would ebb very fast.

          Nor can Russia count on it's immediate advantages sustaining it for long. As a nation it no longer has the immense reservoir of young people it can afford to throw into the meat grinder of war as it did in WW2. Every single young life lost now will not be replaced and takes the nation one step closer to terminal decline. The Russian people have struggled for two decades to recover from the catastrophe of the 90's, there will not be a lot of appetite to fall back into it.

          Nor will Putin want to count too heavily on Xi Xinping coming to his aid, the potential price to paid in the Far Eastern provinces would likely be very high.

          And yes I agree that an invasion of Ukraine will not only be the one thing that will unify and re-energise the EU and NATO, but as a wild card you might want to consider how Turkey might respond to the expansionist opportunities such chaos would provide.

          Plenty of wild cards in this hand, and Putin has every opportunity to play them badly.

          • Stuart Munro

            There is every reason to believe Russian intelligence has been active in Turkey for some time. A number of events that were 'fortuitous' from a Russia leaning perspective occurred there over the last few years.

            The recordings of the Khashoggi murder for one – Did Turkey routinely surveille all embassies to such a degree, or did they receive "technical help"?

            The Coup – notably Turkey, which had been working closely with the US before, pivoted away, citing US relations with Gulen, the ostensible coup provocateur. But the US was already enjoying substantial cooperation from Turkey – they had little or nothing to gain from a coup.

            • RedLogix

              That's new information to me.

              Turkey is one of those relatively few nations well placed to become a future regional hegemon – and while that claim seem implausible we only have to go back a few centuries to understand how it's geographic location at the pivotal gateway of Eurasia will always play a role in affairs.

              • Stuart Munro

                It's speculation, but an accumulation of such occurrences, like the death of the white helmet founder , begins to exceed coincidence.

                Turkey is a step too far for the traditional end of Nato, and with neighbours like Iran, Russia, and Syria, ongoing spoiling campaigns are likely to destabilize it periodically for the foreseeable future.

                Shame – it's a lovely country – I have a retired aunt living there.

                • RedLogix

                  Shame – it's a lovely country – I have a retired aunt living there.

                  Yes we got to know a Turkish woman some years back and talking about her home country really did 'update' a lot of bad assumptions I had made about it.

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