Friday, April 24, 2009

The Russians are coming!

Remember that time New Zealand almost got invaded? Oh, that's right, it never happened.

Nonetheless, the Herald editorial board is banging the war drums:
It has been 10 years since a major inquiry took a broad look at the Defence Force. During that time, much has changed. No longer does this region enjoy the "benign strategic environment" that underpinned the Clark Government's transformation of the armed forces into peacekeepers. Indeed, the level of unrest in the Asia-Pacific area calls into question the very basis of that policy. As such, a white paper review of the Defence Force is extremely timely.
Oh right. The level of unrest in the Asia-Pacific area. Well, there was the Fijian coup, I guess. Umm. Separatism in Indonesia, I suppose that might be considered Asia-Pacific. Ongoing peacekeeping operations in East Timor, but then peacekeeping operations generally need peacekeepers. Insurgency in Pakistan? Does that count? It's in Asia, so does that mean it's 'Asia-Pacific'? Anyway, the author of the editorial doesn't give any examples of how the region has suddenly become so unstable - but he (military jingoism is usually the preserve of males) is more than happy for this alleged instability to radically alter the way we defend New Zealand.

Wayne Mapp's defence review, despite its 'timeliness', leaves quite a lot to be desired:
Unfortunately, also, the Defence Minister has placed constraints on the review's authors. Excluded from examination, says Wayne Mapp, will be the reconstruction of the Air Force's strike wing. The review will also labour under the knowledge that there is unlikely to be a "significant increase" in the inadequate 1 per cent of gross domestic product that New Zealand has spent on defence over the past 15 years.
So, Editor, which of these regional conflicts would be aided by New Zealand having a combat air force? Perhaps our jets could have strafed the Fijian Parliament, assuming they could have somehow flown there. If the wild fantasies of redneck survivalists come true and, I dunno, China invades, I suspect that a squadron of Skyhawks isn't going to have a great deal of impact on the outcome. The myth used to be passed around that, should we find ourselves in a sticky situation, our allies would only help us if we helped ourselves - that is, if we funded a viable combat force, however inefficient. Surely - and I admit I'm no expert - we could better ensure the intervention of friends when Chinese destroyers turn up in the Waitemata Harbour by helping with peacekeeping and other multilateral initiatives, not to mention just being a 'nice guy' on the world stage. As for raising the 'inadequate' (I'm sorry, when did it prove to be inadequate?) 1 per cent of gross domestic product, where would you like the money to come from? Sorry Herald, you can't just say 'cut spending on Nanny State', that's not an actual thing.

Christ, it just goes on.
Those restrictions suggest a continuation of the miserly approach that has undermined this country's defence preparedness in that period. Add to this ill-considered purchases, such as the Army's 105 light armoured vehicles (LAVs), and it is little wonder Defence Force morale is low.
That's funny - when I was (briefly) doing Army training, every soldier and officer I talked to had a massive hard-on for the LAVs. But it doesn't matter; the problem is that defense policy probably shouldn't be determined by trying to please soldiers. In the same way, you can increase the defence budget as much as you like, and you still won't be able to fulfill all your strategic goals - funnily enough, strategic goals seem to increase the more tools you have. The US spends more on 'defence' than the next 10+ countries combined, and they are still massively 'under-resourced'.

But this is all a side issue. The main problem with the editorial is the bizarre claim, mentioned above, that the Pacific region is in danger of falling into anarchy:
The Clark Government was able to emasculate much of the Defence Force because most people bought into the idea that this was a uniquely stable region. That has been found to be a hopelessly optimistic assessment.
In 1885 and after, hysteria over alleged, but false, Russian invasion plans led to the construction and maintenance of the gun complex at North Head. In 2009, the Herald is hoping that hysteria over regional breakdown and - whisper it - China or, more laughably, Indonesia's evil intentions can raise public concern to the point where we can pay for more white elephants.


  1. They've been banging this drum forever. The
    current drummer boy may be John Roughan or
    the editorial might have just written itself.

  2. John Roughan would have had an actual argument. This sounds like Garth.

    Bloody stupid time to be calling for defense spending increases though.

  3. This is hillarious- and very rage-worthy

  4. Off topic: funny comment today by Fran O'Sullivan on opposition to the government's super city plans:

    "A horror story for our times whipped along by suburban newspaper editors who, dare I say it, can see extra kudos (and sales) by mounting campaigns claiming the Government is bullying Aucklanders, has stolen their voice and given them no say in the city's future."

    Of course, the Herald's campaign against the EFA was completely different...

  5. An invasion would be good. It might take our minds off of the recession, maybe even inject a little cultcha.

  6. There'll be no invasion and no new strike wing, of course. Each year various elements in the media sense Anzac Day approaching and wake up with a raging boner for new defense spending. This almost always subsides by the evening of the 26th. Don't worry about it.

  7. And the recent unrest in Tonga, the Soloms, Bougainville...

    I commend this to people's attention