Tuesday 3 November 2015

Between A Rock And A Hard Place.

Difficult Decisions Ahead: New Zealand cannot endorse Obama’s gunboat diplomacy in the South China Sea without antagonising its largest trading partner. Hence, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee’s description of China as a “true strategic partner”, and his announcement that Kiwi troops will train alongside the Peoples Liberation Army. This both-sides-against-the-middle approach to building strategic security may end up dwarfing the consequences of the anti-nuclear policy.
MANY NEW ZEALANDERS would be surprised to learn that their government considers the Peoples Republic of China a “true strategic partner”.  Most of us have come to terms with the fact that China is our largest trading partner – but a “true strategic partner”? Strategic partnerships are the stuff of geopolitics: they’re about the nation’s fundamental interests; its oldest loyalties. When something’s wrong in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call?
Up until the Japanese sinking of the British warships Repulse and Prince of Wales in 1941, New Zealand’s “true strategic partner” had been Britain. New Zealand had been a British colony since 1840, and a Dominion since 1907. At the outbreak of war in 1939, New Zealand’s foreign policy was memorably summed-up by Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage, when he stated simply: “Where Britain stands, we stand. Where she goes, we go.”
And go we did. Not even the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and her armies lightning advance into the Pacific and South-East Asia was sufficient to persuade the New Zealand Government to bring her only effective military forces home from North Africa. The Australians were not so selfless. With Darwin in flames, and Emperor Hirohito’s forces advancing across New Guinea, Prime Minister Curtin recalled his troops to defend the Australian continent. He, at least, understood that, in geopolitical terms, Australasia’s “true strategic partner” was no longer Britain, but the United States of America.
By 1951 that partnership had taken the form of the Australian, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) Agreement. Diplomatically and militarily, the ANZUS alliance spoke eloquently of the new strategic realities inside the Pacific rim. While sentiment, and London’s fading dreams of empire, may have persuaded many Kiwis to persist in calling Britain “home”, it was to Washington that her senior soldiers and diplomats turned – not only for protection, but also for guidance.
And that was the way the story went for the best part of thirty years, until, as we all know, it fell apart amidst New Zealanders’ determination to make, and keep, their country nuclear-free. Needless to say it wasn’t an outcome with which the country’s senior defence force personnel, diplomats and public servants were at all comfortable. As far as they were concerned, New Zealand’s need for a “true strategic partner” had grown more, not less, acute. The Chinese giant was waking up. South America was outgrowing its dictators. Absent her true strategic partners, New Zealand was extremely vulnerable.
Their problem was that, in the eyes of those partners, New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy constituted a massive rock in the road to a full restoration of the strategic relationship. And that wouldn’t happen, said Washington and Canberra, until the obstacle was removed. In vain did the NZ defence Force and MFAT protest that removing the obstacle was politically impossible. With both the Labour and National parties committed to a nuclear-free New Zealand, that wretched rock wasn’t going anywhere.
New Zealand diplomats had no other option except to come up with their own solution to the problem of how to restore the Washington, Canberra, Wellington relationship. In the end, MFAT and the NZDF decided that if they couldn’t remove the rock, or go through the rock, then they would simply have to go around the rock.
As a way out of the impasse it was nothing short of brilliant. By quietly cutting a narrow track on both sides of the rock, and then widening it, laying down shingle, and, finally, sealing it over, the rock was gradually reduced to one of those landmarks that everybody passes by without really noticing. Washington and Canberra hadn’t changed their position on the undesirability of the rock, but now, with the encouragement of successive New Zealand governments, they were simply invited to ignore it. The signing of the Wellington Declaration in November 2010, while not formally restoring New Zealand to the status of an American “ally”, did describe her as the United States’ “partner” in the Pacific. It was a remarkable diplomatic breakthrough.
Rapprochement with the USA did not, however, leave New Zealand suddenly bereft of rocks in the road. Determined to check the Peoples Republic’s rising global influence, President Barack Obama “pivoted” away from the Middle East and back towards the Pacific, where he’s currently flexing American muscle in the South China Sea. America’s Pacific “partners” will be expected to join in.
New Zealand cannot, however, endorse Obama’s gunboat diplomacy without antagonising its largest trading partner. Hence, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee’s description of China as a “true strategic partner”, and his announcement that Kiwi troops will train alongside the Peoples Liberation Army. This both-sides-against-the-middle approach to building strategic security threatens to dwarf the consequences of the anti-nuclear policy.
Somehow, New Zealand has to avoid catching itself between this latest rock in the road and a very hard place indeed.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 3 November 2015.


greywarbler said...

This situation has been obvious for some time. Our government has made deep investments with China, and individual politicians should be able now to speak Mandarin or Cantonese fluently. We can't alter that promising direction by playing a role of the dingy dinghy being dragged on a short rope behind Obama's gunboat. I am glad that buster Brownlee stated our position firmly. Fallout? Who knows, but perhaps thanks to us it won't be nuclear.

Our Army et al are being quite busy on the maneouvres front.
In 2013 in Timaru - international. I think 13 countries were represented.
Bemused observer -

Round about now HMNZS Canterbury and the Army are in the SI bays south of Blenheim practising something.

Interesting post Chris. It appears you are a man for all seasons - history and political analysis and, also, good on laying paths with proper underlying basecourse etc, a real, practical NZ generalist as well as specialist.

Robert M said...

Surely the Chinese are the militarists practicing outrageous gunboat diplomacy. after all they have filled in and expanded many reefs to create static airfields and effectively static airfields all over the South China Sea, and the artificial islands are also an attempt to assert territorial and military control over the entire South China almost to the borders of Malaysia and Indonesia. Its as blatant as Hitler or Goring in 1938.
NZs Foreign Affairs has been a left leaning colony, since the 1950s as like the NZCP has essentially seen New Zealands future as a farm serving as Chinas food basket. THe support for the USA and MFAT for the US has always been the minimum, grudging and alrgely symbolic. We didnt send conscripts or Canberra bombers to support the US in vietnam even though our bombers were more modern than the RAAF Canberras that threw 76,000 tons of bombs at Vietnamese targets. NZ s Deputy PM, Jack Marshall theatened to go out in the streets and lead the opposition, if Muldoon got his way and sent the Canberras to Vietnam. There appear to have been actual fist fights in Cabinet over how much support to give the US in Vietnam.
Even earlier junior NZ Foreign affairs official Frank Corner in 1956 had run a one man semi official campaign to have NZ branded international war criminals over our support for the British over Suez and sending our modernised second hand frigate to support the British fleet. Corner and New Zealands most left leaning Naval Officer, Peter Phipps, Captain of the Royalist and later Rear Admiral and CDS, promoted to every post, despite zero support among his peers, claimed the ship was obsolete, however MFAT Corner etc supported the alternative Type 12, Leander and Anzac frigates because they were worthless, had no real destructive power to smash cities cities like a Cruisers guns and the transit speed of the Type 12 Leander across or bisecting the Pacific was 12-14 knots cruising speed, which meant it was useless to escort Pacific convoys, the Royalist ever in its most crapped out state in 1965 still crossed the Pacific from Auckland to Pearl and then over to Hong Kong at a cruising speed of 18 knots. The idea of Phipps that the other RN cruisers six inch guns and 4 inch twins were more modern weapons were laughable. The twin 4 inch was open backed to the element, inaccurte and useless and withdrawn in 1960, all the Royal Navy 6 inch guns post war were too heavy to fits Britains cruisers and didn't really work,they either jammed or required too many men and when the identical US WW2 6 inch were refitted to six Talos and and Terrier missile cruisers, they wrecked the design because the weight of the turret distorted the handling so much. To actually carry a 6 inch post war turret a cruiser has to be the size of the Zumwalt class or a Soviet cruiser. Of course under the Rickover legislation that MFAT claims necessitated us to accept nuclear powered ships, the only USN warships that would have been required to be nuclear powered under the Rickover legislation would have been the Zumwalt class cruisers other than Submarines and large 90,000 aircraft carriers

Guerilla Surgeon said...

New Zealand was dragged screaming off the British tit. New Zealand was more committed to SEATO and Anzus for quite some time after Anzus was signed. At least until 1960-ish according to a comment on an ancient essay I've just dragged out of a cupboard :-). I suspect that the present generation of politicians, being a lot less sentimental and a lot more cynical will make lighter work of cutting down on our reliance on the USA :-). But as I said before, playing one off against the other might be our best – if not only – option.

Andrew Nichols said...

Potentially a very refreshing development in our foreign affairs unlike here in Aus where the Aussies gepolitics is cravenly subservient. "Come join the war" has become " Please sir! please sir! Can we join the war!" The China things is a real test. None of the recent hooha over the Spratlys nor the islands off Japan has contained a shred of context ie 1. The Pivot to China (who needs this after what pivots have done elsewhere - Ukraine Coup anyone?) 2. The fact that China is very vulnerable to blockade of its seaways with potentially hostile governments surrounding narrow passages.

While the vandalism of a coral ecosystem is to be deplored (similar to what happened to the Chagos Islands depopulated of its inhabitants by Britain and gifted to the USA to be bulldozed into a war platform) if the context above is presented, some measure of understanding is possible and thus a way forward that doesnt involve pathetic imperial willy waving with warships carrying a very real potential for a war.

Not holding my breath for the media to inform people given its true role (as it always has been as official narrative mouthpiece. In short Planet Earth is closely coming to the point of being screwed.

Andrew Nichols said...

Surely the Chinese are the militarists practicing outrageous gunboat diplomacy. after all they have filled in and expanded many reefs to create static airfields and effectively static airfields all over the South China Sea, and the artificial islands are also an attempt to assert territorial and military control over the entire South China almost to the borders of Malaysia and Indonesia. Its as blatant as Hitler or Goring in 1938.

Good Lord What a militant contribution.Stuff all to do with the topic and heaps on military hardware of the 1950s. Clearly keen on wars and Godwins law...

Simon Cohen said...

Talk of Seato reminds me of a wonderful John Gorton quote.

Shortly after he became Prime Minister in 1968 Gorton had to make an official visit to S.E.Asia where he conducted a press conference.Things weren't going well and got even worse when a journalist from a prominent major Asian paper asked "Prime Minister what do you think of the General Seato policy.
Gorton stared at his interrogator blankly,then turned to an aide and asked in a whisper everyone could hear "Who the f... is General Seato"

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ah Andrew, I see you've met Robert for the first time. Robert – my father served on a ship very similar to the Royalist. It was a light cruiser with 6 inch guns. Six inch guns give some extra and hitting power and range over the 4.7 4.5 inch guns of a normal destroyer, but are not city flatteners. Cruisers are no use for antisubmarine work, and by the end of World War II, they were essentially obsolete – like the battleship. Or the General Belgrano. And you are wrong as you so often are about the size of a gun at his able to be fitted on a small destroyer/escort ship, as the US has three from memory the Zumwalt class with 6.1 inch guns. And did indeed experiment with an 8 inch lightweight gun. Anyway, as said pretty much off topic.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Goodness me Robert, I just decided to have a look and found you lifted much of this from the Wikipedia article without attribution :-). That'll teach me to get nostalgic about my father. If you had read a little further down the Wikipedia article you would have found that you were even more inaccurate.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
Do you think it's within Brownlee's capacity to be making the point to the US while they chew over their side of the TPPA in congress, that China has been a huge market for what we can produce while the US has always been as tight and mean in trade as Shylock , while taking our moral and military support and friendship for granted.
Why do we have to grease up to anyone? Can't we just address each issue independently on its merits as it arrises ?
Cheers David J S

Anonymous said...

I think New Zealand's best point of reference for a diplomatic balancing act between the US and China is Cold War Finland's relationship with the Soviets. Albeit that New Zealand has the advantage of geographical isolation.

Nick J said...

I reckon from a military preparedness viewpoint the current strategy of being able to police the economic zone by navy and air, plus being able to send and support light forces quickly into the Pacific for civil and political purposes makes sense.

What makes much less sense is alignment to any sole block: Switzerland and Finland may be better examples of our future realities. Both have worked around the principle of neutrality with the added discouraging policy of making the potential cost of occupation high to any aggressor.

Robert M said...

Well Guerilla since you have chosen to accuse me of military incompetence and theft, I feel you should be obliged to tell me what military and intelligence ranks you have held and what close members of your family have been in such positions.
The wikipedia article on the Royalist is in fact largely written by me anon in numerous public libraries, nb Epsom, Remuera, Parnell and numerous internet cafes in Wgtn,Auck as are a lot of the wikipedia work on Cold War RN and RNZN frigates and cruisers, the County class DDG, T21 and the 1960s RN aircraft carriers. I have also written on a lot of other things nb railways and motor racing and a bit on UK 60s politics and a few key USN sub and intelligence matters.
In person my only direct contributions to the military as I have contributed many of the arguements used to reject the provisional agreement that NZ would buy 4 of what became the Collin subs in 1985 and maybe a bit to the decision to build OPVs in the 2000s. I also got a A in stage 3 Cold War History at Canterbury taught by a top US lecturer from Oberon, Ohio. I was downgraded to a third in History in Hons but did get Bs for my papers on the phase out of the RN Carriers & Dictatorships. In my earlier MA(Hons) I got a 2/2 my tutor told me i would be lucky to even to pass, but Keith Ovenden assured me my work was quite good in part and as I saw him the last time on the Green, he promised to do anything he could to get a good job in Government. I was interviewed twice for AO positions in the ministry of defence- ,'I would start in the mail room and,
if I proved trustworthy they had other things in mind entirely.'
(Of course they said exactly the same thing to Christopher Boyce in 1972).
My cousin was a screen operator in the HMS Sheffield immediately before the 82 War and a long time RN Commander of Engineering speciality. His mother was married to a couple of MI6 and CIA intelligence Officers and maybe even a Santiago embassy lady in 1973 rattling her teacups as the Hunters hit. My father was a wartime RNZN reserve/ RN Fleet air arm intelligence officer who spent a year at the warplanning HQ in NY before serving on the Operation Dragoon command ship HMS Kledive an escort carrier operating in the strike role with Corsairs, Hellcats and Avengers and the carrier used to train the postwar RN carrier officer command potential.
In terms of the cruisers by the late 1940s cruisers more automated guns produced more total payweight than battleships, nb the USN DEs Moines class but the later war RN Cruisers like the Ceylon or Superb with 180 ton turrets with each turret crewed by 90 were too large in volume and weight to be succesfully accomodated in small cruiser hulls. A cruiser size hull of 5000 tons is more stable and quite for a/s and the T22 and T42 rose to that dimensions and even in 1949 the RN planned 50 cruiser destroyers. I was reading the Royalists 1965 log on Monday in Mulgrave st and it had a sonar which still functioned i 1965.

Robert M said...

Well Guerilla, my love. I wrote the wilipedia article on HMNZS Royalist after being outraged by the Moore/ Grosser effort and speeches in about 2010, I decided I would have to correct their effort to rewrite history denying the cruisers presence in the Med in Operation Musketter. I have since written much of the articles in the RN and RNZN cold war ships section. Anon. But on my mothers side as a clear ancestor of the greatest bloodline Heywood and St John Fancourt RN families and officer contracts of the age of fighting sail, possibly exceeding the sig of Walpole/ Nelsons connection, I am the only person who could be the wiki editor. My mothers proudest claim was also to be closely related to Arthur Balfour First Lord Jutland 1915

Guerilla Surgeon said...

You know, I almost said at the end of my comment about the Wikipedia article – of course maybe you wrote the Wikipedia article. But for some reason I felt that might be insulting. As usual I can't make head nor tail of much of your long post. So your main point escapes me. I wasn't actually claiming any special knowledge because of my father, except for photographs in his photo albums perhaps. He was an able seaman, mostly because the British Navy was a class ridden shit hole. But if we discussing ancestry, my grandfathers were both NCOs in World War I. Because the British Army was a class ridden shit hole. So maybe I have a certain sympathy with your alleged left-wing naval officer. On the other hand, I suspect that the naval officer job description doesn't deal kindly with left leanings :-). So I somehow doubt if he was particularly left-wing. But still, if there was going to be one it would be in New Zealand rather than England probably :-).
The problem is Robert, that your posts are so confused that it's very easy to be confused about what you mean, and write stuff telling you you're wrong.
As to your academic qualifications I also find them a little confusing. Still, I did get an A or an A+ I forget which in "Intro Hist. Warf." taught by that rather charming but essentially very right-wing little man who buggered off to Sandhurst no sorry, Cranwell, after his thesis was found to be anti-Semitic or something. And similar in defending New Zealand taught by whoever it was I've forgotten dammit. But that was 20 odd years ago. :-)
I certainly haven't been interviewed for any jobs in the New Zealand defence or intelligence establishments. Largely for want of trying, but I suspect they wouldn't want me. To left-wing :-).
I really wish I could claim a doctorate or descent from Nelson and Drake, but I don't think it would add anything to the argument. Not until you start writing – no sorry, Cranwell well more clearly anyway.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Dammit ignore that last 'no sorry cranwell'. And here's me talking about clarity :).

Grant said...

GS. Cracker! You gave me my best laugh of the day.

Robert M said...

Actually Guerilla, on some things I agree, and realised that claims of significant naval ancestry are generally unwise in a small egalitarian nation and that Peter Phipps is a somewhat complicated figure. However of all the Journalism I've done the Naval History is about the most obscure field with only minimal reading at the moment of Cold War History articles on warships, by anyone and most of the readership are present and former naval and intelligence persons, the accurate numbers of whom, do not resemble any official meter reading. In part also my aim and editing is to represent their views. In terms of the British Naval Officer, for rise to command or flag rag, it is almost de riquer to have ancestors who were Naval Captains or held high rank in the age of fighting sail, and of the Falkland Captains and Commanders, Woodward would only the only exception. In terms of Peter Phipps, to express disapproval is a necessity in the RNZN branch generally and even the Joel creep- expert on the Luftwaffe during Barbarrosa who you disliked, has major publications on the Phipps issue.
In terms of me seeming confusing, I am not of left wing inclination but there are no right wing blogs, publications or parties in NZ other than NBR and secondly to my mind National is a left wing party were Labour is more of a broad church with a more sort of right wing.
Most importantly my position somewhat or totally inconceivable to you and the left that war is somewhat necessary as a continuation of politics by other means and it for that reason that in the early 1980s, I opposed nuclear power warships and a reduction of nuclear armaments. I however believe nuclear weapons are still necessary to deter China. My own view is that the Cod War was partly stage 1 in the religitimisation of war and the Falklands stage 2 as far as the RN was concerned

Robert M said...

My opposition to nuclear power is for many reasons, and my positions are not absolute . Contrary to the view of the USN , my view is that nuclear powering carriers and cruisers and their vulnerability. Pretty obviously you could not expose a nuclear powered cruiser like the Long Beach to fire from shore batteries and off Vietnam 5 inch Vietnamese batteries reached 10 miles out and off the Soviet Union powerful shore 12 inch gun mounts could have smashed a nuclear cruiser 40 miles out. Given what happened to USS Cole nuclear powering the Zimwaults would have eliminated their value as monitors of massive power.
After three mile island the US lost interest in nuclear power for 'silkwood' reasons. In the backwood hick areas nuclear power stations were politically desired and useful, Rickover believed systems methods of management and labour control would never provide safety given that all the crew in both the nuclear and steam parts of the aparatus had to be intelligent and competent.
In terms of nuclear weapons while I believed massive reduction was always necessary to allow military action and roll back, I have always believe limited stocks and of nuclear tactical missiles are rrequired to deter Russia and China and to protect carriers and they may actually have to be used in limited tactical weight strikes to restrict China. Generally I have been sceptical that since about the development of the Foxtrot and Juliet double bottom diesel 4000 ton subs whether oconventional a/s warfare is possible

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ah, you remembered his name. I had forgotten. In fact I didn't dislike Joel Hayward, he was always very pleasant and kind to me. I was actually thinking about doing a thesis under his supervision, but he disappeared – literally. Didn't answer his emails couldn't get hold of him by phone. Massey acted quite unconscionably as far as I was concerned, not by forcing him to resign or whatever they did, but by not admitting that he didn't work there anymore. It took me months to find out he'd gone. And then it seemed I was tainted by his association, because no one else wanted to supervise my thesis :-). Ah never mind – went and did some social sciences instead :-). All very mysterious though. Probably lots of arse covering going on.