Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand’s likely military contribution to the fight against Islamic State “is the price of the club” that New Zealand belongs to with the likes of the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada in the intelligence alliance known as Five Eyes.
In his strongest hint yet that the Cabinet will approve a deployment of troops to train Iraqis alongside Australians, Mr Key in an interview with the BBC drew heavily on New Zealand pulling its weight as part of “a club”. “Ultimately are we going to say we are going to be part of a club like [we] are with Five Eyes intelligence?”
“Part of the club”, “the price of the club”, phrases very much indicative of Key’s attitudes. A club is exclusive, comfortable, a place where he wants to be chummy with the big players. It’s a long way from the front lines of the war where we he will be sending NZ’s soldiers.
America’s bungled military interventions in the “Middle East” are widely unpopular, but international action against ISIS does seem to be an exception. A recent survey covering 5,100 respondents finds majority support for military intervention in all seven Arab countries surveyed. This finding, and relevant UN resolutions, do provide an argument for international action.
Had Key justified NZ’s (likely) participation in these terms I think the interview would have passed unnoticed. As it was the “price of the club” comment was widely reported. The desire to be in the club is the wrong reason, it’s removed from the realities of intervention, and it’s a bit desperate. It reminds us all that there was a time when NZ wasn’t afraid to walk away from the ANZUS “club”, a time when we made our own foreign policy.