Saturday, July 7, 2018

Colonel Blimp 'thinking' at the core of NZ defence policy apparently

In his most recent bluster in favour of spending 0.73% of our nation's entire annual economic activity (or 1.26% of all taxpayers contributions) on aeroplanes to combat imaginary submarines Defence Minister Ron Mark has unveiled the latest "thinking" from the Ministry of Defence https://defence.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Strategic-Defence-Policy-Statement-2018.pdf]. I say "thinking" advisedly because, not surprisingly there isn't much original thinking in this document.


Reading it one gets the impression that our Ministry of Defence somehow remains locked solidly somewhere back in the 1930s. The "rules bases international order" of which it speaks of is not a rules based order at all but simply the rule of white nations like the US, Australia, Britain and Canada (our "five eyes" partners). Against our chaps' "rules based order" of mostly cricket loving nations are arrayed "complex forces" (i.e shadowy Russian spies), and "spheres of influence" (i.e the Chinese Yellow Peril) as well as Johnny Foreigners like wicked Arabs with unchristian ways. There is also the White Man's Burden of Pacific nations which need to be kept in line with the "rules based order" least they fall under "spheres of influence".All in all it reminds one rather a lot of Biggles.



Because they are such good chaps New Zealand defence forces apparently exist to defend the [Karl] Popper-esque Open Society, which gets a fair amount of attention in the strategy. Popper's open society [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_society] contrasts with closed societys which follow a rigid set  of beliefs. Ironically defence itself is highly rigid as anyone trying to get a straight answer out of the NZ defence force soon discovers (e.g https://interactives.stuff.co.nz/the-valley/) Indeed the culture of defence is far more authoritarian than Open. So it's more a case of "Open Societies" as conceived by MoD rather than actual behaviour. All you really need to know is open societies are those that are being those run by decent white men, (despite the United States' democracy rating with the Economist Intelligence Unit dropped to "flawed democracy" alongside India and Japan).




Of course for our MoD Colonel Blimps it comes as no surprise that:

"New Zealand has no better friend than Australia. Defence and security are important components of our relationship, and our militaries operate closely together both regionally and globally. The March 2018 Australia-New Zealand Joint Statement on Closer Defence Relations reinforced the importance of interoperability to enable our militaries to work effectively together to address our shared security interests, with a particular – but not exclusive – focus on our cooperation in the Pacific. New Zealand will continue to work closely with Australia to respond to a range of security events, and New Zealand remains committed to responding immediately should Australia be subject to an armed attack.

Which is basically code for a military relationship in which Australia says jump and New Zealand requests a preferred altitude.It would be nice if this country we Kiwis are apparently so committed to defending to the death lived up to its commitments to us without us having to take it to the World Trade Organisation (apples), changed its social security policy in a unilateral departure from CER agreements, but those details don't concern MoD, mostly because the Australians didn't tell them to think them.

Instead what they did tell our chaps to think was "beware the yellow peril". For example
(par 82)

China’s military modernisation reflects its economic power and growing leadership ambitions. China’s growing military capabilities raise the costs of any potential intervention against its interests and include stronger expeditionary capabilities, including a military presence in the Indian Ocean." 

Now let's get a few things straight about China. Yes, it has modernised it's military. Who hasn't? China's military spend has grown but lets look at the context.


According to some [https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2016/04/29/global-economic-news-china-will-surpass-the-u-s-in-2018/#7054aeaf224ahttps://www.forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2016/04/29/global-economic-news-china-will-surpass-the-u-s-in-2018/#7054aeaf224a] China is expected to match the USA's GDP by this year. That means China's annual military expenditure is still a third of the USA's and it has nothing like the same levels of legacy expenditure. China has one aircraft carrier with another to be built. The USA effectively has 19 [https://thediplomat.com/2014/04/does-the-us-navy-have-10-or-19-aircraft-carriers/]. China maintains a sovereignty claim over Taiwan, which is 180 km from mainland China, but has done nothing to recover it even when under the rule of the maniac Mao Zedong who was crazy enough to start military operations against India. And yet the strategy warns:

China has expanded its military and coastguard presence in disputed areas of maritime Asia. It has determined not to engage with an international tribunal ruling on the status of sovereignty claims

This is a passing reference to the Spratley Islands dispute [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spratly_Islands_dispute] where China has taken matters into its own hands and started building a military outpost on one of the larger of these sandy islands. To say the least the conflicting claims over the Spratley's are complex and also incorporate the difficult question of Taiwan's status as a part of China (PRC view) or an independent nation.


So yes, China has unilaterally pushed its reach out into disputed territory. But has it killed anyone? The answer is no. It's expansion has not involved any violence at all.That is because China is quite different to the US. It has a huge population yes, but almost all of its 1.5 billion people are only children. The one child policy means every soldier in the PLA has no brother or sister. Just two anxious parents. Equally the PLA has no actual fighting experience. It hasn't been in a real war since 1979 when China lost a border dispute to Vietnam.

China's military is amateurish compared to the US or UKs because it has no actual experience. To have military capability you need to conduct military operations and China has carried out very few [https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR800/RR893/RAND_RR893.pdf]. In point of fact the United States is one of the biggest threats to a rules based international order. Of the 248 armed conflicts since WW2 this paper claims 201 were started by the United States [http://scientistsascitizens.org/2014/05/15/academics-and-scientists-on-preventing-war/]. In short as US President Dwight D Eisenhower warned in his famous [https://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/all_about_ike/speeches/chance_for_peace.pdf] speech war is not incidental to the US economy it is integral to it. [https://www.thenation.com/article/the-us-defense-industry-and-the-weaponization-of-american-foreign-policy/]

China is no less determined than America but it doesn't use military power to obtain its objectives. It uses economic power. China owns a very large slice of US government debt. It controls most of the world's lithium (for batteries), copper, iron [ https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2015/07/02/cornering-the-markets]. In short China's use of power actually relies more on the international rules based order than the United States does.

China is not a threat to an international rules based order, it relies on it. The biggest global threat to an international rules based order is this guy, the 45th President of the United States:



A few days ago he was suggesting the US should consider invading Venezuela (completely illegally)[https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/04/trump-suggested-invading-venezuela-report]. He has suggested pulling the USA out of the World Trade Organisation - the cornerstone of international rules based dispute resolution over trade[ https://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2016/07/24/trump-threatens-to-pull-u-s-out-of-world-trade-organization/] and as we all know he has pulled the US out of the Iranian nuclear treaty.  This is not the actions of a state that pays more than lip service to an international rules based order. This is the actions of a state that expects to be able to dictate its terms to the international community.

There is no reference to the strategic importance of this US backsliding anywhere in the NZ MoD Strategy. What rules based order does the MoD think it's defending when the POTUS has spent the last eighteen months dismantling it?  Already New Zealand aluminium and steel exports (and our aluminium is used to make aeroplanes) attracts a US tariff which is fundamentally against the WTO rules.

Does the NZ MoD actually live in the real world or in its own imaginary one?

The fact is the NZ MoD lives in a propaganda world that it generates around itself. It spends no small amounts of money on feeding New Zealanders a steady diet of dated world views, ritualized remembrance, and support for backing vocals institutions that journalists can cite as authorities to drown out the reality that:

1. There is no conventional military threat to New Zealand (or even Australia)
2. The United States drags us into its wars against our own best interests
3. The United States bullies us into buying its war machinery against our own best interests.
4. The United States and Australia bully us in matters surrounding trade
5. China doesn't need to invade New Zealand illegally, it's citizens can and do buy homes and businesses here legally.

The problem with the MoD "thinking" is that it's analysis is entirely from within its own self justifying paradigm. All roads lead to 1) spending 2% of GDP 2) according to Australian dictate 3) on mostly US armaments. It isn't a Ministry, it's a rort.

A true Ministry of Defence would admit that New Zealand's main risks are:
1. Natural (geophysical and space)
2. Cyber attacks because they can come from anywhere
3. Bio terrorism because the border is hard to police and the downside risks are huge
4. Other terrorism because crazy people can come from anywhere
5. Financial attack - because attacking our currency is risk free
6. Environmental (either from hostile action or bad policy, e.g. Orange Roughy).

and that the NZDF as currently composed is essentially a relic of a bygone age.

But that is not what the NZ MoD is for. It is for justifying of funneling huge amounts of New Zealand taxpayers hard earned money to the US arms industry and all its strategic documents simply exist to further this one purpose. Until New Zealand is served by an agency which is motivated by risk management rather than self justification it will continue to waste money and effort propping up institutions and their equipment, we no longer need.