Friday, July 20, 2018

Our Col Blimps will lose the Pacific to China

The New Zealand military, in all its blimpish 1930s glory, has already attracted the displeasure of Beijing with a hostile "security review" brought out just as the NZDF signs up for four $500m (each) plus warplanes.

But the news that China is operating, not warships but hospital ships, in the waters around PNG simply demonstrates how archaic and out of touch our military  (and their Australian masters) actually are.

The Australians (suffering as they do from 'small American' disease) want to see everything as a re-run of world war two. In this scenario China replaces Japan in the role of "yellow peril" and is set on expanding its economic "coprosperity sphere" by force.

Its a narrative which is rehearsed every Anzac day in strange rituals of rememberance that the defence establishment uses as propaganda to propogate its outrageous budgets. Not only is it self serving nonsense it is also wilfully and stupidly wrong.

The People's Republic of China is not 1930s Imperial Japan. There is almost nothing the two entities have in common except a lack of indigenous oil production.

Many New Zealand traditionalists have no idea why Japan attacked Pearl Harbour 7 December 1941. They are happy to live with the racist notion that it was the natural consequence of asian inscrutable malevolence. The real reason is much less convenient. The US cut off Japans oil supply. It tried, and failed to annex Russia's sibetian oilfields, leaving only the Dutch East Indies (Dutch colonial Indonesia) oilfields undefended.  In many respects US President Roosevelt (who was desperate to gain some pretext to enter the war against Germany) provoked Germany's pacific allies on purpose.

This is not to say Imperial Japan was a land of peace and happiness. It certainly was not. Japan was hit hard by the Wall Street crash and the deflationary policies of the US Federal Reserve combined with the discovery of nylon. Nylon replaced silk and silk was a staple cash crop of Japans peasant farmers. In the 30s Japans peasant farmers faced misery and sent their girls to work the streets of Japans cities and boys to join the army. It was this sense of self disappointment which fed the fires of fanatic Emperor cults throughout the Japanese military.

The Japanese saw the western powers raping China with opium and gunboats and took their lead from them. While the Japanese Navy grew more powerful the Navy's bitter rivals, the Japanese Army, developed its presence in China, taking the exploitation of China to whole new levels of cruelty.

If there was any time China resembled Japan in the 1930s it was 50 years ago under the rule of Mao Zedong. But since Deng Xiaoping and the incredible growth of the Chinese economy any resemblance has fast disappeared.

Unlike Europeans or the Mongols the Han Chinese have never sought global conquest. They didnt even take on the Koreans unless under Mongol rule. The only time conquest might have been possible was in 1492 under Admiral Zhe. China did not follow that path. In fact it turned inward, as it has always done and banned itself from building a navy.

China's expansion since Deng has been largely mercantile. Instead of the lives of its precious one-child family's babies, it risks money. Africa is a perfect example of China's diplomatic stance. It helps build infrastructure and give aid so that African nations can trade with it. By contrast Europe pays its own firms to deliver Europes cast offs and maintains trade barriers. Africans emigrate to both China and Europe and, of course, there are more in Europe (because it is closer), but the Chinese are far more welcoming of those they trade with.

Chinas diplomatic confrontation with India has also been revealing. While there have been brief confrontations in the mountain borders China's main strategy has been to bypass. So it has built its massive Belt road to Pakistan and Iran so as to secure access to the Indian ocean. It has built a massive port for Sri Lanka and it continues its long association with Burma.

War is expensive and rarely profitable and with thousands of years of civil wars behind it China sees little to be gained from crazy confrontations.

Instead China prefers the rule based international order the New Zealand strategic review expounds and the 45th President of the United States is setting about wrecking.

That is why China's approach to the Pacific is not gunboats and bases but hospital ships and aid. It will develop the economies of the Pacific, just as it has developed the economies of Africa. It will use law, and money and politics to gain peacefully, and with agreement, the things that the Europeans and Americans have traditionally taken at the point of a gun.

Not surprisingly this policy will win. Given a choice of friends between racists who look down on you, hand out peanuts, and run around with guns, or friendly people who build you stuff and take your trade seriously who wouldnt want to change?

When Responsibledefence looked at the Pacific I saw the need for a different kind of military engagement. One based on economic development. This meant replacing the frigates and the Endaevour with two logistics support ships able to carry containers, vehicles, water, fuel and run a fairly serious medical clinic at the same time. In addition to this were small ocean going patrol boats also able to carry containers and vehicles able to service islands without much infrastructure.

The colonel Blimps in defence have no economic or strategic analysis so they can't think like this. They run on tradition and Australian directions.  Unable to think outside their rigid little squares they retreat into the familiar of old war stories leaving the future of the Pacific to China.

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.