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Reasons to abandon NZ’s Five-Eyed Folly

Written By: - Date published: 2:35 pm, February 4th, 2021 - 29 comments
Categories: australian politics, China, Culture wars, defence, economy, Free Trade, john key, spin, Spying, surveillance, telecommunications, trade, uk politics, us politics - Tags:

Wayne Brown’s suggestion “Is it time to sell our seat on FiveEyes?” is from someone well placed by experience to form an educated opinion. “Trade sanctions of the type Australia is facing are a weapon used by both USA and China. So let’s have a debate on whether we need Five Eyes, or whether it’s time for us to trade on independently.”

NZ businessman Wayne Brown’s sensible argument is based simply on it being in NZ’s economic interest to avoid getting dragged by its Five Eyes membership into the USA’s Australia v. China trade war.  Australia’s decision to package gratuitous insults and hostile military gestures along with the $150 billion of their highly profitable trade with China looks set to result in a substantial reduction of the dollar value of that trade. Serious damage to the Australian economy will almost certainly result.  Brown’s anxiety is that NZ’s leaders might be seduced into the same folly. That Sinophobic folly has been some time in the making. Only in the past few months have China’s leaders felt they have had enough of turning the other cheek and decided to react.

However, over and above Brown’s mercenary argument, there are, several other reasons for NZ to seriously consider leaving the Five Eyes alliance and replacing it with a carefully considered and proactive neutrality.

  1. The first of these is the quantity and reliability of the intelligence received.

Clearly, NZ needs to know what is going on in the world of geo-politics. Intelligence tailored to NZ’s requirements used to come in from the nation’s own diplomatic posts and the ‘analysis’ was then sifted and consolidated  by long-experienced civil servants. NZ’s diplomats were ‘reliable’ sources; the same cannot be said for the foreign analysts it is now forced to rely on. They have different masters with interests and agendas that differ from NZ’s (the US orchestrated assault on Huawei provides a perfect example of this dynamic.)

Today, the Five Eyes have largely replaced the former diplomatic service as the eyes and ears of the government. Between them, the Eyes promiscuously dredge the ether to gather mountain ranges of raw data. After Sir John Key had been persuaded that Washington could be trusted to efficiently sift this mountain and to extract and pass on whatever  few gems that were of relevance to NZ, Murray McCully was tasked with the ‘reorganisation’ of the diplomatic service. In essence, this entailed retiring expensive, experienced senior diplomats and changing the service’s mission from gathering foreign intelligence and building personal relationships to selling milk solids.

The Five Eyes are effectively controlled from the USA and Britain. NZ has no capability to interpret the raw electronic information gathered, nor for assessing the quality of the processed information returned to it by the group’s two controllers. Richard Prebble claimed that while he was in Cabinet, he never received any information through Five Eyes that he could not have gathered from his home computer – or words to that effect. What he did receive would have only been information that it was in our allies’ interest that the NZ government should know, or, more accurately, should believe.  Information that did not suit the analysts’ national agendas would have been withheld without NZ knowing of its existence.

  • Pressure to join someone else’s battle intended to achieve ends not in NZ’s interest.

Secondly, the other Five Eyes members are increasing the pressure on NZ to join them in turning the Five Eyes into a global political actor, rather than the passive gatherer and sharer of information with which David Lange made his original decision to become more deeply involved. Recent joint action to protest China’s restoration of order to the citizens of Hong-Kong, and to complain about Chinese criticism of Australian war crimes are indications of movement in this direction. To this end, active attempts, through agencies such as the UK’s Integrity Institute, are made to manipulate the media and subvert NZ politicians and population into holding a partisan world-view contrary to objective reality and the national interest.

  • Membership of the Five Eyes stigmatises NZ in the eyes of third parties – including most importantly China.

Thirdly, the Five Eyes is clearly a club for Anglo-Saxon former colonial powers. Most of the Nations NZ needs to interact with, including China, have past histories of being oppressed by these white rule-making rulers. It is a fact of the post-colonial world that populations offended against retain long memories of injustice and oppression: those inflicting the pain have notoriously shorter memories of such actions.

The Peoples’ Republic of China, in contrast to members of the western alliance, has dropped no bombs on or colonised any other nation. Nevertheless, it is persistently maligned by the western alliance, which has dropped bombs on and invaded multiple nations. Through membership of the Five Eyes, NZ is a part of that alliance and unavoidably complicit in its multiple breaches of international law.

  • The Five Eyes strategic objective runs contrary to NZ’s national interest.

Fourthly, the Five Eyes’ confrontation with China is intended to enable the USA to maintain the now threatened technological and military advantage relied on to maintain its unipolar global dominance. However, NZ benefits from Chinese technological and economic progress. It has no strategic reason to fear Chinese intentions, let alone the possibility of Chinese military aggression. Like China, NZ has a key trading interest in the maintenance of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. US ambitions to contain China and develop a capability to interdict its trade, run directly contrary to NZ’s interests. Continuing NZ membership of the Five Eyes is to risk scoring an own goal.

 For all the above reasons the only justification for the NZ government choosing not to exit from its Five Eyes alliance is that it has already lost its independence and fears the retribution that the jilted partners may wish to inflict. On the other hand, by the time NZ had declared its independence, its partners might have realised that the confrontation is not serving their interests and  would welcome the mediation, which by then, NZ would be ideally placed to provide.

A much raised level of investment in NZ’s diplomatic service and a return to its traditional mission would do far more to preserve NZ’s security than expenditure on the military and on helping foreign intelligence services gather largely irrelevant and possibly falsified intelligence that NZ lacks the technical skills or trained manpower to interpret.

It is in NZ’s national interest for it to remain on good terms with its rapidly developing Asian neighbour, China. If forced into a choice between the declining power of the USA and the rising power of China, only a NZ public, misled by the western media, would choose alliance with the remote USA over benign neutrality.

29 comments on “Reasons to abandon NZ’s Five-Eyed Folly ”

  1. Ad 1

    Wayne Brown is one of Northland's bigger assholes.

    When he has to promote his credentials as a part-shareholder in a weeny newspaper in Russia, as the basis for proposing we leave an intelligence network, it's time to stop reading what he has to say.

    CER's looking pretty dated. So's all those little Pacific Realm free association pacts. And the Commonwealth? And what did the Treaty of Waitangi ever do for us?

    Just because the crises are long gone, doesn't mean the networks and alliances that responded to them are not useful in future.

    This tiny set of rocks needs all the friends it can get.

    • francesca 1.1

      If you're calling the US,UK, and Aus friends , they don't have friends, they have interests ….

      They'd ditch us in a heartbeat if it suited

      • Ad 1.1.1

        They've had ample reason to ditch us, and haven't. Since 1941.

        All countries act according to their interests. But after 80 years, that set of countries are more than allies.

        • Barfly

          Except when the French government sends agents here who blow up a yacht and kill a man – then those so called allies don't know us at all.

          • Ad

            The French aren't members of Five Eyes.

            • aom

              The link between the 5 Eyes and the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior was that at least the UK and the US knew of the intended attack and did not inform NZ. What was/is the rational of 5 Eyes?

            • Morrissey

              So why did the U.S., Britain, and Australia not even speak out on our behalf after France attacked us?

        • aj

          Their 'interest' is imperialism. And a benign discrete imperial control over New Zealand in their interest. They have NEVER 'ditched' a country willingly, just like any other imperial power through the ages.

        • Morrissey

          They ditched us in 1985, when the French state sent terrorists to Auckland.

    • Mike Smith 1.2

      I get that you don't like Wayne Brown Ad, but am confused by the rest of your post about the other arrangements.

      Khaki is simply calling for a debate on whether reliance on the post World War 2 anglophone FiveEyes network is in our best interests as a source of intelligence in a world that has changed enormously, not least because of Covid.

      Seems reasonable to me, not least since the report on the Christchurch massacre demonstrated that their attention tended to be based on other countries' priorities.

      • Ad 1.2.1

        It's just a set of unsubstantiated statements, without any alternative.

        Our position with China remains impeccably good – the best of Five Eyes and the best relationship of every other developed nation in the world (I don't count Russia as developed). We are already in a position to offer advice to Australia about its relationship with China.

        The Christchurch massacre is certainly a colossal intelligence failure. But it's not a reason to leave Five Eyes. It's a reason to improve our own capacity.

  2. McFlock 2

    Pulling out is a declaration of a change in geopolitical alignment. Big chip that we'd need a big incentive to part with. The yanks (another trading partner) would be pissed.

    I doubt our contribution to 5eyes is much more than renting out a couple of satellite tracking stations – we're not harming China too much by staying in it.

    We're not actually a particularly small nation geopolitically, but we're a regional power only. Basically, we do the diplomatic dance of kinda getting along with most folks and not really pissing anyone off too much.

  3. Stuart Munro 3

    The problem with ditching 5eyes is that it would provoke our existing partners, who would not hesitate to punish NZ for it, much as they did over our perfectly rational nuclear free policy. Moreover, it is folly to pretend that China's interests better align with NZ than our traditional partners, however much money there may be to be made selling milk or NZ company assets like Mainzeal's into that market.

    The US and China are giants in our playground – we need to be canny, independent, and fast on our feet. And we haven't been – or rather the tragic clowns appointed to that role have been decidedly less than stellar on our behalf.

    • Anne 3.1

      The problem with ditching 5eyes is that it would provoke our existing partners, who would not hesitate to punish NZ for it, much as they did over our perfectly rational nuclear free policy.

      Absolutely. And there were also repercussions for innocent individuals who, through no fault of their own, found themselves struggling to survive in the wake of the passing of that legislation. I should know because I was one of them. In my case it was the work of an American – ex US Marine – who managed to get inside an arm of the NZ Defence Force via a back-door in the 1980s.

      Nuff said. I leave it to others to read between the lines.

  4. Aurelius 4

    'The People's Republic of China, in contrast to members of the western alliance, has dropped no bombs on or colonised any other nation'.

    The good people of Tibet and East Turkestan might claim otherwise.

  5. Gabby 5

    "China’s restoration of order to the citizens of Hong-Kong" – you know, I'd never appreciated Comrade Chairman Xi's selfless magnanimity til right now.

  6. Andrew Miller 6

    ‘The People's Republic of China, in contrast to members of the western alliance, has dropped no bombs on or colonised any other nation'.

    "China’s restoration of order to the citizens of Hong-Kong”

    Ah, the anti imperialism of fools. It’s amazing what morally nauseating nonsense parts of the left’s reflexive anti Americanism can lead to.

    After reading this anyone with the slightest knowledge of the history of the CCP and its rule of China would be calling for the sick bucket.

    • Subliminal 6.1

      Probably it is because you only have the slightest knowledge of Chinese history. Do you have any idea what China was like in the years preceding Mao? China was run by an opium mafia that was put in place by the UK and supported by the USA. This is why Mao is still reverred as a person who saved China by much of the population today. There is a lot more to the famine that killed so many people in China than willful homicide. Two disastrous years of climate compounded some bad policy and there was a deeper reasoning behind the cultural revolution than simply dobbing in the boss. Its easy to write off the millions that take this view of the world as brainwashed but no amount of bleating about Tibet will change the almost absolutely true statement that China does not drop bombs on other countries. And how many of the Hong Kong protesters died from the arm or bullets of the state? The answer is zero so I would say that restoration of order is a good description.

      David Cook and William Hinton are two westerners that provide a slightly dated view of China that has obviously taken on board the Chinese perspective. I daresay you would call them brainwashed but its a great listen if you put aside your arrogance.

      • Stuart Munro 6.1.1

        China was run by an opium mafia that was put in place by the UK and supported by the USA.

        A bit of an oversimplification there.

        Republic of China (1912–1949) – Wikipedia

        It was not British and US puppets that ran China through an opium mafia – the opium trade had petered out. The West had learned how to make its own porcelain, and grew their tea in India. They no longer needed that return cargo.

        By 1906, however, the importance of opium in the West’s trade with China had declined, and the Qing government was able to begin to regulate the importation and consumption of the drug. In 1907 China signed the Ten Years’ Agreement with India, whereby China agreed to forbid native cultivation and consumption of opium on the understanding that the export of Indian opium would decline in proportion and cease completely in 10 years. The trade was thus almost completely stopped by 1917. Britannica

  7. RedBaronCV 7

    Regardless of five eyes I'd have thought it would be in our interests to move quietly away from too much trade reliance on China – as it makes it's displeasure known pretty quickly – if we support anything that they disagree with.

    Plus they seem to have long term goals of trying to swamp other countries economically and there has been some desire to control strategic assets in other countries and there has been I understand some unscheduled intellectual property issues. I don’t see any business reason to concentrate on China – there have been a number of corporates that have had issues there over the years.

    We'd probably do better to increase our common interests with other Asian nations, Korea, Japan, Singapore etc. some of whom have a great deal more experience in dealing with China that we do.
    Why does Wayne Brown think that security interests have to take a hike for trade reasons. Asking to get ripped off I’d say.

  8. Maurice 8

    With the lurch leftward in Canada, UK and US (how soon will Aus follow?) surely these countries are aligning much more closely with the prevailing politics in tiny wee NZ?

  9. RedLogix 9

    And while the reflexive anti-US stance on the left is justified to some degree – one really needs to consider whether an increased engagement with the CCP is a good idea given this kind of information:

    The testimony given to the BBC detailed allegations of rape and sexual abuse of Uighur women detained in China's internment camps in the Xinjiang region.

    One woman told the BBC that women were removed from their cells "every night" and raped by one or more masked Chinese men. Tursunay Ziawudun, who fled the region after her release and is now in the US, said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men.

    A Kazakh woman from Xinjiang who was detained for 18 months in the camp system said she was forced to strip Uighur women naked and handcuff them, before leaving them alone with Chinese men.

    The Chinese men "would pay money to have their pick of the prettiest young inmates", said Gulzira Auelkhan. "They forced me to take off those women's clothes and to restrain their hands and leave the room," she said.

    A former guard at one of the camps, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described torture and food deprivation of inmates.

    Adrian Zenz, a leading expert on China's policies in Xinjiang, said the testimony gathered by the BBC was "some of the most horrendous evidence I have seen since the atrocity began.

    "It provides authoritative and detailed evidence of sexual abuse and torture at a level clearly greater than what we had assumed," he said.

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