The Editor, The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland
22 June, 2015
The article by Penfold and Bingham (14 June) relates to the issues surrounding publication of a book by Major Craig Wilson giving his story of the Battle of Baghak (Afghanistan, 2012), the Defence Force’s restrictions of its publication, and the 3D Investigates program about it. Similar issues, including overtly political ones, could emerge from the deployment of NZ Defence Force trainers into Iraq. Read the rest of this entry »
What is “defence”?
The term was long ago twisted to include goals and actions which are more often offence than defence, an attempt to gain advantage and dominance, many times in other parts of the world beyond the home country. In this submission I will try to identify what roles are actually needed for true defence and expose misconstrued roles which are not properly defence. True defence will require very little of the military ‘defence force’ which seems to be the focus of the White Paper.
What constitutes true ‘defence’
Climate change and natural resource depletion, disease, poverty, and natural disasters are and will be defining challenges moving on to a hopefully sustainable future. Putting priorities on a home, a job, health care and a future for their children are true defence requirements. Low inequality results in a greater good for all, but for 40 years inequality has risen. Old perceived threats will take a back seat, or will be exposed as contrarily contributing to insecurities, in the future. These ‘defence’ issues will always be defined by the larger needs of society and the globe.
Analysis of challenges and priorities
A capability to support relief when natural disasters occur within New Zealand, and the Pacific vicinity, such as at Vanuatu (Hurricane Pam) recently, should be a priority and equipment and training need to be designed for that role. For example, helicopters for observation and delivery of relief supplies must be designed for local conditions. I understand NZ helicopters were unsuitable for that emergency having been specified to fit into combat interoperability with Australian and American forces.
National boundary protection
While it might be argued that a fighting force would be useful in repelling an invading force, there are two cautions on this. One is that the threat is extremely remote. The other is that a determined large invasion would make such a force useless. Fighting forces designed to be interoperable with a larger military force such as that of the USA will not likely be useful for such a role as the USA will not likely become involved, but worse it will make it more likely for New Zealand to be viewed as an ‘enemy’ with trade and diplomatic consequences such as human rights issues.
Coastal and resource protection
Providing assistance to vessels in difficulty would be necessary and to assist in environmental cleanups after ship wrecks. Other maritime roles would include the ability to monitor and police activities of fishing vessels, oil drilling operations, etc., to protect natural ecosystems and their contribution to the health of the planet, such as to protect fish populations (sometimes in the form of strong fishing quotas) and halt illegal fishing intrusions such as whaling, and also to protect worker rights. Fishing quotas and whaling, fishing bans and employment laws are legally based on national and international law (e.g. United Nations and other treaties) and should be enforceable. Vessels, equipment and training appropriate to those roles must be available (too often equipment and training in NZ armed forces are designed for interoperability with US forces and inappropriate to the needs of real threats). These roles could be called “coast guard’ duties.
These roles must not be misconstrued as primarily to protect private commercial interests. Operations like fishing could just as well be publicly run. Also these roles should not be construed as intended to restrict other peoples’ and nation’s customary rights or to pursue economic dominance on behalf of interests in New Zealand or its allies.
Ecosystem destruction by the military
The first priority of medicine or aid is to do no harm. But the NZ military in its training at Rangipo which includes the Tongariro National Park and World Heritage Site where live ammo testing and armoured vehicle training destroys much potential habitat. Aklso th Air Force has a bombing range at Kaipara Harbour which is near the Department of Conservation Papakanui Spit Wildlife Refuge. This contradicts the roles suggested in the previous section. Participation in the RIMPAC exercises in Hawaii does the same thing and that is not even a New Zealand operation.
Financial costs of the NZ military
The New Zealand taxpayer funds about 3.5B$ each year (Billion!) for the NZ military. Given the many counterproductive ways it currently operates as discussed in previous sections of this submission, this amounts to another example of doing harm before actual needs are addressed. State housing could be made warm, healthy and safe for not much more than the cost of refurbishing the two frigates plus two new Hercules C-130. The total cost of all historic treaty claims is less than half one year’s military budget.
Overseas roles – United Nations
There are potential international roles to play similar to the ones described above on behalf of the United Nations, but New Zealand must be careful which ones to get involved in. Too easily the UN can be manipulated to serve the interests of the dominant nations (e.g. see “war on terror” below). Often times it is the elites in each nation who benefit from such actions. There is no future in continued widening of the gap between the super-rich, the middle class and the poor. New Zealand would do better to make a non military contribution.
Overseas roles – “War on Terror” and “War on Drugs”
The so-called “war on terror” and “war on drugs” are lies; that is they are not what they claim to be. New Zealand must not get involved in them. The NZ involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq were destabilizing influences in those countries because the involvement was at the behest of the USA and its illegitimate intrusion there. Your consultation document says the world is a ‘more uncertain’ place, but fails to acknowledge the part NZ forces have played in this destabilization.
Your submission outline
You have organized the submission form for certain items to be addressed. All of them must be viewed in relation to the above analysis.
Question 1: What are the major threats or challenges to New Zealand’s security now and in the future?
Most of the sections in my submission address this question.
Question 2: What changes in the international environment, including the relations between states, nonstate actors and international institutions, will affect New Zealand’s interests and what might this mean for the Defence Force?
Your use of the term ‘interests’ is important here. Whose interests? Yes, there are circumstances relevant to our place in the Pacific which we all are part of and we should feel a joint community of interests and interdependence about them. But also we exist in a global political and economic culture and there are different ‘interests’ within New Zealand, such as the elite, the middle class, and the poor which are concerns globally. The issue of the growing income and assets gap is primary.
Question 3: What are the roles that the Defence Force should perform to keep New Zealand secure and advance our interests abroad?
As in Q.2, what are the ‘nation’s’ ‘interests’? The concept of ‘interests abroad’ is often thought of as keeping in line with the USA. But that has got NZ into trouble in Afghanistan and Iraq through this century threatening the very priorities which this country must adopt.
Question 4: What are the emerging security challenges that New Zealand is likely to face in its immediate territory, including its Exclusive Economic Zone, Continental Shelf, the territory of the Realm Nations and the Ross Dependency
The concept of the ‘territory of the Realm Nations’ is a risky one. There is no British Empire anymore though there seems to be nostalgia for the exploitative nature of that historical relic in todays ‘neoliberal’ economics which New Zealand has so desperately adopted in the last 25 years; best to drop that term. The other terms should be thought of as indicator terms of the natural environment to protect the planet which we all live in, and which produce some resources to New Zealand’s benefit but not the out of date view of resource exploitation opportunities.
Question 5: How should the Government prioritise the Defence Force’s efforts between ensuring New Zealand is secure, supporting the security and stability of our friends, partners and our ally Australia, and contributing to international peace and security globally?
The best way to contribute to international peace and security globally is to avoid the so called “War on Terrorism” and “War on Drugs”. Working to stop climate change (‘climate disruption’) could be a focus of a ‘natural resource defence capability’ as described in earlier sections. Natural disaster response capability could be a major contributor to stability. Perhaps some form of ‘peace keeping’ activities through the United Nations might be appropriate but that would be best served with a non-military contribution.
Question 6: How should the Defence Force operate as part of the all-of-government effort to protect and advance the nation’s interests?
As in Q.2, what are the ‘nation’s’ ‘interests’? Yes, there are circumstances relevant to our place in the Pacific which we all are part of and we should feel a joint community of interests and interdependence about them. But also we exist in a global political and economic culture and there are different ‘interests’ within New Zealand, such as the elite, the middle class, and the poor which are concerns globally. Again, the issue of the growing income and asset gap is primary. A military force which we now have and which you call the Defence Force, especially when its primary focus is on interoperability with USA forces, will not be the way to accomplish this.
Question 7: What is the Defence Force’s role in contributing to New Zealand’s national resilience to unforeseen events and natural disasters?
Natural disasters and environmental damaging accidents are discussed in earlier sections. A military force which we now have and which you call the ‘Defence Force’, especially when its primary focus is on interoperability with USA forces, will not be the way to accomplish this. Equipment will need to be built to purpose and to local conditions, considering both New Zealand and the Pacific.
Question 8: What should be the Defence Force’s role in the development of New Zealand’s youth?
The NZ Military should not be involved at all with the nation’s youth. While it is true that some youth need assistance to develop self-discipline and a sense of responsibility doing so in a military environment will not prepare them for living in the new sustainable society which will emerge as real needs are met.
Question 9: What capabilities does the Defence Force need to carry out its roles effectively, now and in the future.
Capabilities are dependent upon the challenges and priorities outlined in the above sections. A military force which we now have and which you call the ‘Defence Force’, especially when its primary focus is on interoperability with USA forces, will not be the way to accomplish this. All equipment will need to be built to purpose and today’s emphasis on war fighting will not be fit for those priorities.
The current military with its emphasis of purpose, equipment, and expenditure, is a counterproductive influence on New Zealand’s needs as described above throughout the submission. The ‘Defence Force’ should be drastically modified to fit real needs as described in the submission, or perhaps disbanded so that a fresh start could be made.
Defence White Paper 2015 Ministry of Defence PO Box 12703 WELLINGTON 6144
20 June, 2015
The Editor, The Wellingtonian,
15 June, 2015
The problem with Gordon Campbell’s observation (Wellingtonian, 4 June) that some pundits say voters might be less reluctant to vote Green with James Shaw as co-leader is that it rests on the notion that the electorate looks on the Greens as a bit flaky or worse. Read the rest of this entry »
The Editor, The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland
08 June, 2015
The NZ training unit in Iraq is running into a situation where government troops have not stood up to ISIS in some cases. But is it accurate to use the word ‘coward’ in those cases? Read the rest of this entry »
The Editor, The Cook Strait News, Wellington
04 June, 2015
With all the talk about the Island Bay cycleway proposal, where is the discussion about the scandalous safety record of cycling in Wellington? Read the rest of this entry »
Climate Change Contribution Consultation, Ministry for the Environment
PO Box 10362, Wellington 6143
Objectives for the contribution
The foreword of the discussion document mentions ‘most harmful effects’ of climate change but doesn’t describe them. On page 6 the mention of ‘large scale changes’ and having ‘a decent chance’ hints at something serious, but doesn’t describe what the consequences and costs of climate change might be. In fact, the bland tone of the document serves to hide the level of danger while pretending to address it. It’s not the ‘economy’, ‘competitiveness’, or ‘technology’ that determines what is required, but rather the climate. As many others I heard at a public consultation meeting in Wellington pointed out, the list of objectives on page 7 lacks a realistic sense of urgency (Q1). Read the rest of this entry »