Monday 7 August 2023

Lord Liverpool's Ghost.

Taking It From The Top: Though more than a century has passed since the outbreak of the First World War, there remains a deeply-embedded fraction of the New Zealand state apparatus which continues to regard New Zealand as simply a loyal cog in a much larger and more powerful imperial machine. Like their forebears, these civil servants see no meaningful role for the democratic public in determining matters of national security and defence.

WHEN NEW ZEALAND WENT TO WAR on 5 August 1914 it was by vice-regal declaration. The Governor of New Zealand, Arthur William de Brito Savile Foljambe, the Second Lord Liverpool, chose to announce the commencement of hostilities with Germany from the steps of what is now the General Assembly Library. Although the country’s leading politicians were gathered around him, there wasn’t even the slightest nod in the direction of democracy. Neither the House of Representatives, nor the Legislative Council, saw any need for debate. In London the King-Emperor, George V, acting upon the advice of his ministers, had declared war, and as a loyal Dominion of the British Empire, New Zealand fell in behind the “Mother Country” without hesitation.

Though more than a century has passed since the outbreak of the First World War, there remains a deeply-embedded fraction of the New Zealand state apparatus which continues to regard New Zealand as simply a loyal cog in a much larger and more powerful imperial machine. Like their forebears, these civil servants see no meaningful role for the democratic public in determining matters of national security and defence. Thankfully, they are no longer so arrogant as to sanction a declaration of war without allowing Parliament to go through the motions of democratic debate. The possibility that a solid majority of MPs might decline to follow their advice would not, however, occur to them.

That this fraction remains so sure of itself on matters of national security and defence is rather odd. At least three times in the last 50 years, its expectations have been overturned by a democratically elected government – all of them Labour. The first rejection came in 1973, when Prime Minister Norman Kirk astonished the world by sending a New Zealand navy frigate to protest French atmospheric nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll. The second came in the mid-1980s, when Prime Minister David Lange refused to renege on Labour’s promise to create – and enforce – a nuclear-free New Zealand. The third occurred in 2003, when Prime Minister Helen Clark and her Labour-led Government refused to join the USA, the United Kingdom and Australia in their illegal invasion of Iraq.

In all three cases the reaction of what some now refer to as the “Deep State” was one of alarm and embarrassment. Of the five digits making up the Anglo-Saxon fist, New Zealand is obviously the “pinkie finger”. When the USA, the UK, Canada, and Australia set out to deliver a geopolitical blow, New Zealand is expected to contribute to its impact – not witter on to the rest of the world about morality and international law.

It is the job of the defence chiefs, the national security apparatus, and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to make sure that when the “Empire” (aka “The Five Eyes”) delivers its orders, New Zealand stands to attention and salutes. Any wayward lefties are to be brought into line by the defence and security experts who best understand New Zealand’s permanent interests – and know who its friends are. Failure to secure the pinkie-finger’s compliance can only mean a huge loss of face for all those Kiwi soldiers and spooks who, for years, have been reassuring their Anglo-Saxon colleagues that everything is under control.

The democratic public (as opposed to the leading financial, commercial, industrial and farming interests, for whom democracy is either an irritating distraction from the all-important job of generating profits for shareholders, or a genuine threat to same) have never warmed to the idea of expending blood and treasure for the greater glory of British and American imperialism.

As a people living in one of the oldest enduring democracies on Earth, albeit a very small one, New Zealanders have long grasped the concept of “soft power”. Going all the way back to the Liberal Government of Balance and Seddon (1891-1912) the democratic public have revelled in their country’s description as “the social laboratory of the world”. In both the League of Nations and the United Nations, New Zealand has taken advantage of the fact that it offers not the slightest military threat to anyone to become a consistent voice for peace, justice and the rule of international law.

It is interesting to note that Sir Robert Jones’ New Zealand Party (1983-93) although resolutely free-market in its economic outlook, also advocated massive reductions in military expenditure and withdrawing New Zealand from the ANZUS alliance. Jones personally favoured following the example of the tiny Central American state of Costa Rica and abolishing the New Zealand armed forces altogether!

Such was the heterodox political environment out of which the Fourth Labour Government’s anti-nuclear policy (and the United States’ angry reaction to it) gave birth to the broadly supported idea of New Zealand operating – and maintaining – its own “independent foreign policy”. That this was essentially Labour’s diplomatic position was strongly reinforced when Helen Clark eliminated the fighter-arm of the RNZAF and refused to participate the invasion of Iraq.

Small wonder, then, that Defence Minister Andrew Little’s release of the latest Defence Policy Review, and New Zealand’s first National Security Strategy, has elicited such a critical response from Helen Clark. As Clark herself notes, the documents bear all the hallmarks of those defence and national security “experts” whose primary allegiance has always been to the “Anglosphere” rather than the people of New Zealand. This was her tweet:

Defence policy and security strategy documents released in Wellington today [4/8/23] suggest that NZ is abandoning its capacity to think for itself and instead is cutting and pasting from 5 Eyes’ partners. Drumbeat from officials has been consistent on this for some time.

This is reminiscent of the Frank Corner-led Defence Committee of Inquiry of 1985 set up by David Lange, which in effect – and in the end unsuccessfully – tried to put brakes on the Govt’s nuclear free and independent foreign policy.

Now there appears to be an orchestrated campaign on joining the so-called ‘Pillar 2’ of AUKUS which is a new defence grouping in the Anglosphere with hard power based on nuclear weapons. New Zealand removed itself from such a vice when it adopted its nuclear-free policy.

It is extremely rare for a former Labour prime minister to intervene in a live policy debate with such acerbic force. Clark’s tweet (viewed more than 90,000 times and counting) indicates just how seriously these documents, formulated under Chris Hipkins’ Labour government, threaten the legacies of Kirk, Lange and Clark herself.

On display in Little’s defence of these documents is just how far the centre-left of New Zealand politics has drifted from the foreign-policy and defence shibboleths of even 20 years ago. What we appear to be witnessing is the same moral surrender that accompanied the “Red Scare” of the early 1950s, when Labour abandoned its traditional socialist objectives out of fear of being branded Red China-loving “commies”. Indeed, it would not be surprising, at this point, to hear Little say that he his “neither for, nor against” New Zealand having a nuclear-free and independent foreign policy. (Just as the Labour Opposition leader, Walter Nash, infamously declared that Labour was “neither for, nor against” the Watersiders during the bitter Waterfront Lockout of 1951.)

Those passing the steps of the General Assembly Library late at night should not be surprised to encounter the ghost of Lord Liverpool – smiling.

This essay was originally posted on the website of Monday, 7 August 2023.


Wayne Mapp said...

An "independent foreign policy", what does it mean?

There are increasingly strident voices on the left who think it means neutralism. Mostly articulated by the Greens and Te Pati Maori, although also seen as viable by some on the left of Labour. Maybe 20% of voters. Not enough to determine the foreign policy of New Zealand.

What about the other 80% of voters?

They buy into Five Eyes, a general orientation to traditional western partners (witness New Zealand's stand on Ukraine) and in particular a commitment to the the ANZAC Alliance. This is only only defence and security partnership where we have the commitments of an ally.

It is this latter point that counts. Yes, New Zealand in theory could become neutral, or perhaps as a lesser step,
not buy not Australia's security concerns.

To take the first option of neutrality, which means abandoning the alliance status with Australia. You would also be kissing goodbye to CER and the preferential right of New Zealanders to live and work in Australia without any visa requirements. Not many would be prepared to pay that price, perhaps not even the Greens and TPM.

What about a more cautious distancing from Australian security concerns, but still remaining a useful ally in case of actual attack on either nation.

That would be much more possible, but it would require careful nuance. You can't just diss an ally and expect no consequence.

Maybe the answer is to counter Australia's concerns by conspicuously taking a bigger role in the South Pacific. Both in aid and in security. It would still require substantial military investments, but perhaps more oriented toward South Pacific security. More fishing surveillance flights, more patrolling by naval ships, such as buying a number of serious patrol ships in the 3,000 tonne range. More heavy airlift. More ability in disaster relief, such as a couple of HMNZS Canterbury sized ships. At least then Australia could see us as useful ally. Not by being a mini Australia, but nevertheless doing serious things of overall benefit to both nations.

new view said...

Interesting Chris, Your comments describing our past and present loyal obligations to mother England, and how NZ is supposed to skip in time with it's so called allies, where our position on these international issues is sometimes taken for granted. Very much like how our Government treats it's people. No public discussion on these important issues, just the expectation that Jo public doesn't need to know why these decisions are made and leave this to us because we know best. Of course the Government doesn't know best, especially this one. With their home record of mismanagement how can we trust the decisions of this cabinet on these matters. By cabinet most likely the brain fart of three or for ministers. Our Government is like an abused child who as an adult now uses these same tactics on it's own people. Personally I'm not sure what is the best solution for our security. The less we contribute the less influence we have I would have thought, so the day will come when we will have to pick sides.

Anonymous said...

Then came Tumeke and anonymoose/anonymoose essay Saddam's murder was a war crime.

Anonymous said...

Saw a good word in the listener fissiparous which means inclined to sow division in a group. AUKUS and ANZUS.

Archduke Piccolo said...

Someone - I don't remember who - once remarked that failure to go along with the 'reforms' promulgated by Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson would leave new Zealand as a 'funny little country in the southwest corner of the Pacific'. And look what this country has become: funny, and frightened into the bargain.

Quite why Kiwiland has to cleave to the United States (or the United Kingdom for that matter) is quite beyond my comprehension. The US has offered this country very little, especially in the matter of a market for primary produce. Recall the idiot TPP (one of Trump's more enlightened decisions was to axe it) which, at the cost of New Zealand's sovereignty, might, maybe, in the fullness of time, have considered freeing up US primary produce markets to New Zealand - y'know, somewhere down the track. 2030, say.

This country's politicians like to brag about this country's 'punching above its weight'. Outside the sports arena, when was the last time THAT happened? Seems New Zealand's political pugilistic performance is no more than par - if that. If Labour is serious about its pusillanimous Defence policy as Uncle Sam's mascot, then I for one won't be voting for the same. Pearls before swine.

This country has to ask itself:
Do we stand with the US right or wrong?
Do we stand with the US because the US is always right?
'Yes' to either is idiocy: the one complicit in criminality; the other simply imbecile.

Ion A. Dowman

Rod said...

Well said Mr.Trotter.You have clafied the issue for me.I like the concept of we New Zealanders making up our own minds.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I suspect the intelligence community attracts right-wingers – maybe even the hard right although one hesitates to put the words 'intelligence' and 'hard right' together. The same with the military.
Our role in any of these defence organisations is less to provide materiel, and more to provide legitimacy. Now that Britain has been turned into a 3rd rate country off the coast of Europe, the US really is the only member with any military worth noticing.
Hopefully it will remain a war of chest beating and bribery. Perhaps we could even get a few quid thrown our way in terms of access to markets, although I suspect the farming lobby is too strong at least in the US.
Dammit I just realised I used the word quid. That's not something you hear too often these days outside of quid pro quo. 😁

DS said...

IIRC, Australia did not formally declare war in 1939, on the basis that it thought that London's formal declaration was enough. New Zealand (famously) did an individual declaration.

But there's one key factor left out here. Specifically the role of Trade With China. They are our most important export market (more important than the USA and Australia combined). Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs is "the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade." Fonterra's well-being, and the well-being of countless farmers, rests on a good relationship with Beijing.

Don Brash wrote an essay a while back, arguing that New Zealand's job was to cool tensions between Beijing and Washington. You might have noticed that your 'containment' post was cheerfully reposted on the Bassett, Brash, and Hide site. One might hypothesise that New Zealand's political Right (in contrast to the Right of previous generations) is not the faction pushing the AUKUS idiocy on us, while one suspects that the Wellington bureaucrats overseeing Trade Negotiations are Not Happy either - sure, there's the National Security officials at work, but do they outweigh the might of the Trade Officials?

Have the Right and Left flipped on New Zealand Foreign Policy, perhaps?

Madame Blavatsky said...

"...there remains a deeply-embedded fraction of the New Zealand state apparatus which continues to regard New Zealand as simply a loyal cog in a much larger and more powerful imperial machine. Like their forebears, these civil servants see no meaningful role for the democratic public in determining matters of national security and defence."

What a deeply naive view. New Zealand has always been a cog in a much larger and more powerful imperial machine, while the democratic will has never had any influence on national security and defence. In fact, democratic will has always been manipulated by those who control information and mass communications for their own ends.

The British Empire was basically a front for the Bank of England, while the American Empire is a front for Wall Street. Bankers dictate policy, not the people, and they have done since at least the 17th century.

Both world wars were intended to keep Germany in her place and the conflicts were stoked in the interest of what was good for international finance, particularly in the case of war with Nazi Germany due to the latter's overtly "anti-banker" policies.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone that we are lining up with the insane and endlessly avaricious Wall Street bankers for their coming war with China, a nation that is essentially the Germany of the 21st century. Imagine the alternative if we didn't – a colour revolution perpetrated in Wellington by the same spooks who are so well-practiced in subverting nations and overthrowing governments across the world who have the temerity to go against the interests of Money Power.

Anonymous said...

Of greater concern to me is the lack of a left wing talkback outlet or is right wing radio our only option by it's very nature talkback radio is concerned with issues of race class and gender.Witness the discussion on the gangs and guns buyback and the comment from someone who said was there ever a time when we didn't have a gang problem.

larry said...

Be careful of what you wish for CT.

Put to a DEMOCRATIC vote, the proletariat might well support a stronger NZ defence posture in our region, responding to China's emerging militarism.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"What about the other 80% of voters?"
I would say Wayne that a huge proportion of these 80% of voters never think about defence policy at all.

Shane McDowall said...

M. Blavatsky,

I hope that by 'bankers' you do not mean 'the Jews'.

'Bankers/Jews' did not force General Von Moltke and Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg to invade Belgium, thereby turning the Austro-Serbian War into a global conflict. The Germans could easily have stayed on the defensive against France and launched their armies against Russia.

Interestingly, attacking Russia was Germany's Plan-A up until the lacklustre performance of the Russians against the Japanese.

And I am at a complete loss to see how the German invasion of Poland in 1939 was engineered by the 'Bankers/Jews'.

Please, share your sources for your fantastical claims.

I am not holding my breath.

The Barron said...

I find myself again agreeing with the Hon. Dr. Wayne. NZ has countered the Australian military spend by aid and support to enhance civil society in the central Pacific. We fell short of having a Harry Holland doctrine, but this has been a primary focus since his influence on the later Labour government. The result has been one of the largest defined geographical areas on the planet having a remarkably stable colonial and independent history. If the USA had any realization as to the military savings of the diplomatic and humanitarian approach they would have engaged with the Pacific leaders earlier.

Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Niue and Tuvalu have been remarkably stable in the post-colonial world. Samoa has no army, and was able to assist with policing with RAMSI to the Solomon islands. The obvious expectation to the stability was Fiji, which is NZ sphere adjacent, but it has been diplomacy and trade which has stabilized our neighbour.

The western Pacific has always been far more with the Australian sphere of influence, but while there is some mistrust of the Australian government because of military concerns, this is often counter balanced by the NZ approach and aid. It is worth noting that NZ education aid insists that genders are treated equally in education access, this has been aid leading social progress.

Australia may be Muttley to the USA's Dick Dastardly, but they have never won the race.

thesorrow&thepity said...

Helen Clark's government sent combat engineers to Iraq. A little bit of rose tinted revisionist history in this article with that little nugget missed out.

David George said...

Anon: "the lack of a left wing talkback"

Interesting, I wonder why that is.

Not keen to see their flimsy fantasies openly debated perhaps?

Angry ex Green Supporter said...

The mistake you make is in describing our country as a democracy. It's not. It's semi-autonomous outpost of the American Empire which keeps it's minions happy by pretending to be a democracy. It doesn't matter who you vote for, you get neoliberal economic policy, foreign policy that is in the interests of the American empire not the New Zealand people, and the WEF 2030 agenda which involves the roll back of your human rights to freedom of speech, to bodily autonomy, to informed consent, to refuse medical treatment etc, the transing of your children. You will own nothing, eat bugs and be forced to pretend to be happy.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

To be fair, that was after the war had – sort of – ended and was at the request of the United Nations. Or possibly because Fonterra was losing out on a lucrative contract – depending on who you read. I think you're just a tad disingenuous here.

John Trezise said...

I wonder if a New Zealand prime minister would be likely to suffer the apparent fate of Imran Khan if he or she did not keep New Zealand firmly onside with the United States sanctions on Russia:

THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT encouraged the Pakistani government in a March 7, 2022, meeting to remove Imran Khan as prime minister over his neutrality on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a classified Pakistani government document obtained by The Intercept.
The meeting, between the Pakistani ambassador to the United States and two State Department officials, has been the subject of intense scrutiny, controversy, and speculation in Pakistan over the past year and a half, as supporters of Khan and his military and civilian opponents jockeyed for power. The political struggle escalated on August 5 when Khan was sentenced to three years in prison on corruption charges and taken into custody for the second time since his ouster. Khan’s defenders dismiss the charges as baseless. The sentence also blocks Khan, Pakistan’s most popular politician, from contesting elections expected in Pakistan later this year.
One month after the meeting with U.S. officials documented in the leaked Pakistani government document, a no-confidence vote was held in Parliament, leading to Khan’s removal from power. The vote is believed to have been organized with the backing of Pakistan’s powerful military. Since that time, Khan and his supporters have been engaged in a struggle with the military and its civilian allies, whom Khan claims engineered his removal from power at the request of the U.S.
The text of the Pakistani cable, produced from the meeting by the ambassador and transmitted to Pakistan, has not previously been published. The cable, known internally as a “cypher,” reveals both the carrots and the sticks that the State Department deployed in its push against Khan, promising warmer relations if Khan was removed, and isolation if he was not.

sumsuch said...

A small jewel, Chris, just judging by the pretty steps of the words -- especially liked the caption.

I think we need to admit China is being offensive. What has the South China Sea got to do with them? Deng would disapprove. Oppress those in your own borders by all means.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Dammit, my last remark was about New Zealand sending engineers to Iraq. For some odd reason that was missed out.
I doubt somehow that the US is capable of removing an NZ Prime Minister these days. Pakistan is a very, very flawed democracy. Much easier to stage a coup there.

sumsuch said...

GS, amusingly, the SIS tried to recruit my cousin to spy on our uncle during Muldoon's time, with his enemies list like Nixon. We had slim ideas back then, like carrying everyone along with us, everyone is equal, but none of them cut across family loyalty.

sumsuch said...

Amusing, Muldoon was the last champion of the 'slim ideas' despite his aggression. If my uncle had been a 'bad un' we would have, with my mother's virtuous family tradition, rushed to turn him in. He did good work for the needy in parts but not up to Muldoon's work in general. His philanthropist g.uncle was the same.