Background: In the New Zealand International Review of May/June 2015, Gerry Brownlee, the Minister of Defence, briefly discussed the impending Defence White Paper alongside an advertisement inviting New Zealanders to ’have their say.’ Subsequently, the Government has organised ‘road shows’ in major centres in order to gauge the ideas and opinions of interested citizens and to ask them to make their views known to the team preparing the defence review.The meeting, attended by thirty or so interested residents of Blenheim, was very much hardware centric (how to modify Frigate after-decks to carry more helicopters, etc.)
The government has been very helpful in publishing a list of questions that should guide submissions, which are more directed towards strategic considerations. Here is the submission that I have made. (The Ministry of Defence was deprived in that, with my submission, it did not receive the pictures contained in this blog!)
Introduction. Basically, I would argue, along the same lines as the former Australian Prime Minister, the late Malcolm Fraser, in his article published in the NZ International Review of March/April 2015. He argued, that the Australian (and by implication, the New Zealand) governments, need to make a U-turn away from a seemingly, ever deeper commitment to the Western (read USA) alliance, or what Mr Brownlee refers to as ‘the current rules-based system.’
Question 1: What are the major threats or challenges to New Zealand’s security now and in the future?
a.) The breakdown of the international ‘rules-based’ system due to the rules not being observed by the major players.
b.) New Zealand, being dragged into wars which are none of its business and which are often conducted in breach of international law. (Machiavelli well-advised his Prince, that a weak nation, unless faced with the direst existential threat, should never ally itself with a major power. Weak nations, such as New Zealand, tend to have few enemies, while major powers, such as the USA, inevitably have many. The major power, as the price for its ‘protection,’ expects its allies to adopt its enemies as their own. Now, instead of having just a few enemies, the small nation has many! However, should the minor power face a threat, there is no sanction that it can enforce to ensure the major power’s assistance. If it doesn’t suit the major power’s national interest, irrespective of any treaty or understanding, it will ignore the plight of the lesser ally. On the other hand, if it does suit the major power’s national interest to come to the rescue, it would do so, irrespective of whether or not there was a prior alliance in existence. What was true of medieval Italy, remains true of today’s ‘rules-based’ system.)
c.) New Zealand having its economy primarily dependent on one partner, China, while its defence posture is one of alliance to our prime trading partner’s increasingly belligerent military competitor, the USA. This is a conflicted policy that is bound to lead to grief.
d.) New Zealand being unprepared for the disruptions that climate change, apparently, unable to be adequately addressed by the present ‘rules based system,’ will impose upon it. (Starting to make itself felt within the next 10-20 years?)
e.) New Zealand’s government being too late to recognise the threats inherent in its current defence posture and the urgent need to re-direct New Zealand away from the western alliance and into neutrality.
f.) Always in the background, is the danger of ‘black swan’ events in the form of a sudden and total breakdown in the world economic order, and/or its supply of fossil fuels, or of a nuclear disaster, whether accidental or intentional. Total economic breakdown does not seem that improbable given the soaring debt to GDP ratios of many countries in the EU, Japan and then the USA. Panic can set in at any moment. This situation implies not getting further into debt on unnecessary defence expenditure.
g.) A failure to recognise that New Zealand’s best defence lies not in military expenditure, but in rigourous diplomatic action in defence of, and towards the further development of, international law. (The government’s down-grading of the diplomatic service over the past few years and its recent performance on the UN Security Council, where it failed to condemn the Saudi assault on the Yemen, thus being seen to condone international criminality, are both moves in the wrong direction.)
Question 2: What changes in the international environment, including the relations between states, non-state actors and international institutions, will affect New Zealand’s interests and what might this mean for the Defence Force?
These are some of the key aspects of the international environment that are subject to rapid change:
a.) The continued and accelerating expansion of ‘silk road’ China; its burgeoning alliance with Russia and the USA’s increasing preoccupation with containing it.
b.) Huge economic implications of the growth of the economies of such as Brazil, Indonesia, India and Iran. The future development and increasing coordination of the SCO, which will soon involve more than half of humanity.
c.) The potential for the use of Chinese economic power to either take over the Bretton Woods institutions, or side-line them.
d.) The weakening of the European Union and its increasing independence from American foreign policy. (This latter trend to increase rapidly, should MH17 prove to have been brought down by a Ukrainian fighter aircraft. The JIT’s findings are due in July – but reportedly, subject to a Ukrainian veto.)
e.) After its failures in Libya and Afghanistan, NATO will almost certainly never again deploy outside Europe and the Mediterranean. Unless New Zealand envisions fighting another European war at some future date, its armed forces can, to all extents and purposes, ignore considerations of NATO inter-interoperability.
f.) As the USA pivots its resources towards the attempted destabilisation of Russia and the arduous containment of China, its Middle Eastern policy is undergoing radical change. No longer dependent on Middle East oil supplies and having, (from the point of view of Israel and that of its allies in the American establishment, ‘successfully’) set in train the Balkanisation of the Middle East, the region is to be left, armed to the teeth with American weaponry, to find its own ‘balance of power.’ With Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran being invited to partake in a Mexican stand-off, and acute water shortages looming, the Middle East will become a hotbed of failed states and resentful sectarian terrorism – and ground zero for a not inconceivable nuclear war.
g.) Consequent upon f.) above, there is a strong possibility of a major interruption in supplies of fossil fuels.
h.) The continued failure to amend the constitution of the UN, will result in the continuation of the global community’s failure to effectively combat climate change. Consequently, over the next few decades, the world will become increasingly dangerous and anarchic.
NZ’s future long-term security needs would be better met by subsidising the move away from fossil fuel dependence, than on military intervention in conflict zones, which are not existentially critical. As the world fills with refugees from states failing due to climate change, to the proxy resource wars being waged by the great powers and to poverty trapped population growth, unrestrained by a growing wealth factor, NZ’s defence forces should be deployed for home defence.
Neutrality, combined with universal national service, along the Swiss model, would seem the sensible option. Given its contiguous land frontiers, the Swiss defence forces are structured to fight conventional wars. New Zealand’s would need only to be structured to demonstrate to a potential sea-invasion force that, should its vessels survive NZ’s initial conventional missile defence, the casualties it would subsequently suffer in a prolonged guerrilla war, would be intolerably high.
Question 3: What are the roles that the Defence Force should perform to keep New Zealand secure and advance our interests abroad?
To advance New Zealand’s interests abroad, a key policy has to be that its defence forces avoid gratuitously making enemies. Other than refraining from spying on other nations at the behest of the United States, an activity, which many potentially friendly nations regard as hostile to their interests, one of the best ways to avoid making enemies is to ensure that armed New Zealanders are not sent overseas to kill citizens of other nations. Nor should New Zealand’s defence forces be used to increase the lethality of participants in local civil wars. With the exception of uniformed UN peace-keeping missions, laws should be enacted making it impossible for armed New Zealand defence personnel to be deployed in other states – other than to receive (and not give) training. Even with UN missions, great caution should be exercised regarding the nature of the mission in question. The UN, as at present constituted, seems quite capable of authorising wars of aggression, as it did in the case of Libya.
As with Switzerland, other than on humanitarian missions, New Zealand defence forces should be deployed exclusively within New Zealand’s territorial area of responsibility as listed in question 4.
As a rider to the above, long-range naval missions, such as patrolling the Straits of Hormuz, or containing piracy off the Somalian coast, represent a misuse of limited resources and an ever present risk of involvement in more serious conflicts that do not require our involvement.
No doubt, a case could be made for collaboration with Australia and Indonesia in the protection of sea-lanes heading south from Singapore. However, why should NZ, with its puny military budget and a negligible indigenous mercantile marine, take responsibility for the protection of shipping in distant seas to which other nations, with far more at stake and far greater military resources, are already committed and to whose capabilities, New Zealand’s feeble contribution will not make any noticeable difference?
Weigh risk (just one suicidal Somali fishing boat could sink half of New Zealand’s deep-water navy) v. benefit (training alongside larger navies to prepare for involvement in their distant wars.)
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?
Assuming that a prudently governed New Zealand avoids being dragged into overseas wars of others’ instigation, and setting aside black swan events, for which forward planning is nigh impossible, rapid climate change has to be the major challenge. Terrorism is only a challenge if the government insists on pandering to its ‘natural allies’ and participating in Islam’s civil war. Given its low population and its wealth of natural resources, New Zealand’s food security should be guaranteed, despite the first two or three degrees of global warming. That is provided that a displaced population of Australia, further forward in the climate change firing-line than New Zealanders, doesn’t insist on its right to clamber on board and share our rations!
The major problems will come later – maybe in two or three decades’ time. At this point two major events have the possibility of impacting our shores. The first is massive flows of refugees from equatorial regions, displaced by climate change and resource wars. Some of these flotillas of refugees might arrive from failing states in the form of fully equipped and armed, naval expeditionary forces.
The other challenge will come, when the Antarctic ice cap melts and the big lolly-scramble for its resources starts among the, by then, resource starved and powerful nations of the Northern Hemisphere. Under these circumstances, New Zealand would be ill-advised to follow Australia in trying to keep hold of its territorial stake in Antarctica. Both New Zealand and Australia would simply get smashed aside in any such attempt. Instead, there should be a tidy living to be made as a transport café and service centre, supplying the hostile fleets of would be exploiters, as they head down that way. (This is of course, conditional upon our defence arrangements being sufficient to impress the travellers that New Zealand would not be worth the hassle of an attempted occupation.)
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?
Priority one should be to ensure the security of New Zealand and those for whose protection it is directly responsible. After that is done to the best of its abilities, New Zealand can best contribute to global peace and security on the diplomatic front – by promoting changes in the UN constitution and standing up for the rule of international law under all circumstances.
In the present, anarchic system of fully-sovereign independent states, in which the individual players’ alliances and policies are in a constant state of flux, New Zealand should avoid the mistake of believing in the permanence of friendships. The government should look after New Zealand’s national interest and not be gulled into prioritising those of other nations such as Australia, or, as it just has been, of the USA and UK in Iraq.
We can do nothing to help Australia other than offering sound advice (which, almost certainly will go unheeded) while it pursues its current foreign policy of aggravating its Islamic neighbours and abandoning its sovereignty to the Pentagon. Australia and New Zealand might be able to cooperate in guarding their mutual sea space, in shared training facilities and in making arrangements for their citizens to seamlessly serve in the other’s armed forces, but in little else.
Only if Australian foreign and defence policies undergo a significant reappraisal should there be room for additional military cooperation.
The fact is that if Australia manages, through a misguided foreign policy, to so aggravate Indonesia and/or other Asian nations, that it gets itself invaded, such a war would be highly likely to spill-over onto New Zealand shores. Under such circumstances, at current levels of manpower and funding, there is no way that New Zealand should risk committing its scant forces to Australia’s defence. As things stand, Australian foreign policy seems based on a belief that it can risk affronting other nations with impunity, as the USA will always be there to come to its defence. New Zealand should hope that Australia’s gamble pays off – but should itself, refrain from taking a similar gamble.
Question 6: How should the Defence Force operate as part of the all-of-government effort to protect and advance the nation’s interests?
After the Ministry’s own first line responders, New Zealand’s defence forces should have the role of being the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management’s second resort in civil emergencies.
In their military role, the defence forces should be responsible for training the citizens to protect themselves and to survive, both against foreign invaders and during any breakdown of the civil infrastructure that is currently relied upon. They should be readied to protect the immediate territory and the exclusive economic zone and other dependencies to the extent that in so doing, the security of the whole is not jeopardised.
Question 7: What is the Defence Force’s role in contributing to New Zealand’s national resilience to unforeseen events and natural disasters?
First resort – both in remedial action and in universal on-going training and preparation of the citizenry.
Question 8: What should be the Defence Force’s role in the development of New Zealand’s youth?
Administering universal national service and ensuring that participants regard it as an activity worthy of their attention. A major function will be to ensure that New Zealand’s youth enters adulthood physically fit and, thereafter well set up to lead healthy adult lives.
Question 9: What capabilities does the Defence Force need to carry out its roles effectively, now and in the future?
Not in order of priority:
a.) To be able to respond to natural disasters both at home and overseas.
b.) To offer the government the option to deploy peace-keeping/observer personnel on UN secondment overseas, should it so wish.
c.) To be able to provide basic and advanced infantry training for the whole nation in conducting guerrilla warfare, with procurement and stockpiling of equipment to match.
d.) To be able to maintain and conduct advanced aerial reconnaissance and fisheries protection functions. The defence force does not need AFVs, nor does it need frigates for the defence of other nations’ aircraft-carriers against submarines. What it will need, when the developing global crisis justifies it, is both land and sea-based surface-to-surface missiles and patrol vessels equipped with up-to-date armaments, including possibly, mine-laying capabilities.
e.) Maintain a GCSB capacity for New Zealand’s own intelligence and cyber defence purposes and alongside it, (a MFAT responsibility?) a foreign, office-based, intelligence service capable of monitoring and analysing the vast array of information openly available on the Internet.
For instance, someone in government could, and such a service would, have warned the Prime Minister that his recent trade mission to Saudi Arabia was going to coincide with his hosts being fully preoccupied both by a Royal Family reshuffle and an aerial assault on their neighbour. More seriously, before making its decision to commit troops to the war against ISIS in Iraq, one cannot help feeling that the government was blissfully ignorant of the extent to which the USA had been responsible for setting up the ISIS enemy, just how conflicted were its interests and how little the US, Turkey and the other Arab states were committed to the conflict against it.
In addition to the above questions, New Zealanders are also invited to comment on any other defence-related issues they regard as significant.
a.) Forward planning requires crystal-ball gazing and is at best a hit and miss business. The world’s leading non-governmental, crystal-ball gazing operation, devoting itself entirely to questions of international relations and ‘defense,’ is Stratfor. https://www.stratfor.com/
Every five years, Stratfor issues a forecast for the coming decade. The most recent such forecast was issued in February of this year. Its contents are summarised in this blog. https://khakispecs.com/?p=699
Subsequently, I wrote a commentary on the Stratfor forecast https://khakispecs.com/?p=734 which, if my arguments are valid, should dissuade any would be policy-maker from accepting Stratfor’s forecast as gospel.
The realisation of the Stratfor vision of the USA’s triumph in the current competition for global dominance, is by no means certain. Far more likely is the emergence of a multi-polar world. Those who have risked all by joining the USA in its bid for ‘full spectrum global dominance,’ may well find that they, for no gain, have lumbered themselves with a future burden of ill-will from other powerful global players.
b.) There needs to be some agreed procedure for arriving at a national consensus, before New Zealand armed forces are committed to warlike operations outside the zone of primary responsibility detailed in Question 4 above. The case of the recent entry into the Iraqi civil war is a case in point.
There were a total of 4,753,229 Constituency and Party votes cast in the 2014 general election. 2,257,755 (47%) of these were cast for the ACT and National parties. The other parties opposed the deployment. Furthermore, while some of the voters for the other parties might well have been in favour of deployment, one can assume that many of those, who voted for National, were not.
Immediately prior to the election, the leader of the National Party announced that the option to enter into the Middle East war was not on the table. Then, within a week or two of its re-election, it became clear from announcements made in Washington and from PR prepping of NZ public opinion, that the new National government fully intended to enter the war. Given the lack of any developments in the ISIS situation on the ground in the interim, it is not improbable that this intention was known to senior members of the National cabinet at the time of the Prime Minister’s pre-election announcement of neutrality. Many voters would have been misled into giving their vote to National in the belief that their vote could not lead to their country’s joining the USA and the UK in their feeble attempt to mop up the mess of their own creation.
There was certainly no popular mandate for this deployment. New Zealand troops have been inserted into a potentially lethal situation with no clear indication that they have the support of the majority of their fellow countrymen. This is not a situation which is fair to the personnel involved. Constitutional procedures should be established to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future.
Footnote. In the hope of establishing some credibility for the ideas advanced above, I attach a brief bio.
I passed out from the RMA Sandhurst in December 1961. I subsequently served eight years in the British Infantry of which, the final two years were spent in the Middle East. After a tradecraft course on the technical aspects of gathering HUMINT, I attended an Arabic language course prior to secondment to the Trucial Oman Scouts. From there I was given a small team of Arab assistants and stationed as a Desert Intelligence Officer in the Sultanate of Muscat & Oman.
I was tasked with monitoring local tribal politics and particularly, with the protection of BP’s new pipeline from sundry groups of ill-wishers. On finishing my service with the Army, I took a degree in Politics & International Relations and with my wife, established a business in York, training diplomats and businessmen. Many of our clients came from the Middle East (including senior personnel from the Iraqi Ministry of Information and the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Petroleum.) After ten years of too much international travel, we sold up the business and decided to emigrate to New Zealand. Together with our three young children, we arrived in NZ in 1985, as one of the first entrants under Aussie Malcolm’s Entrepreneurial Entry Scheme.
Having (proudly) taken New Zealand citizenship, I kept myself to myself, concentrating on the establishment of a business in Blenheim, until the Coalition of the Willing invaded Iraq in 2003. I was already familiar with Iraqi politics, my initial briefing having been obtained direct from King Faisal II’s former Foreign Minister, with whom, when in my teens, I had dined on a regular basis and whose son was, and has remained, a close friend. After the overthrow of King Faisal, I had followed the activities of the subsequent dictators of Iraq with informed curiosity. By the time we ended up with post-First Gulf War, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, it was apparent to me (as it must have been to any reasonably well-informed observer) that the claims by western powers that Saddam possessed, and intended to use, nuclear and biological weapons, were pure fabrications, made for the purpose of mongering a war that advanced the interests of both Israel and the major oil companies.
I was more than relieved when Helen Clarke, despite the contrary urgings of the National Party and the mainstream media, managed to distance New Zealand from the Coalition of the Willing’s egregious breach of international law. Since then I have paid close attention to the emerging disaster in the Middle East. I have written several articles, published in the NZ International Review dealing with NZ defence matters. Last year, prompted by anxiety over the future of four grand-children, all under the age of three and of the generation that will reap the whirlwind sown by the current policies of the Western Alliance, I started a blog at www.khakispecs.com Looking through past postings, I realise that this blog will already have dealt with many of the nine questions put forward by Mr Brownlee in his request for submissions from the public.
Subsequent to my lodging the above submission with the Ministry of Defence, I received comments on it from a former British Naval officer, who certainly knows his stuff when it comes to questions of defence. Among several minor comments, he made the major point of whether or not my proposal for national service, in an irregular warfare oriented, self-defence force, would be affordable? I had deliberately omitted going into any detail on this subject, as it would be one that the responsible personnel in the Ministry would be able to determine for themselves. I therefore submitted the following addendum to the MOD:
Basically, such a defensive posture should not be costed according to the criteria applied to the current conventional defence budgets. Expenditure could be managed to fit whatever budget was allocated, according to how many of the age catchment were actually called forward; the duration of the call-up term; the frequency with which reservists were called back for top-up training, and how much they were paid. Not only would the hardware requirements demanded by the present conventional and overseas interoperability posture, be reduced (at least until, as it can be expected to in the future, the threat situation deteriorates further) but there would be significant savings to be offset against the budgets of other ministries. Unemployment would be reduced; the crimes of bored-youth would be reduced; the nation’s fitness and long-term healthiness would be increased. Importantly, given the increases in multicultural migration and the widening of social divisions between New Zealanders that will follow on from the current rapid growth in wealth inequality, the experience of shared national service would increase social cohesion – or at least slow down the emergence of social stratification in which the parties drift ever further apart. In an emerging crisis, a united nation, which can rely on itself for its defence, rather than be dependent on others, will benefit from increased self-confidence and morale.
Another way of looking at the proposal’s feasibility and asking whether it would place too heavy a strain on New Zealand society, would be to look at Israel. New Zealand, with its GDP of $200 billion and a population around five million, currently supports 9,000 regular defence personnel and 2,000 reservists. With a population of eight million, a GDP of $290 billion and a per capita GDP $7,000 less than New Zealand’s, Israel, supports full conscription: 160,000 regular forces and 630,000 well trained reservists. It has developed a significant nuclear warfare capacity, a most powerful air force and navy, which together with the army, conduct regular mobilizations and warlike operations on land, sea and air. Israel’s air force maintains more than 600 modern aircraft, its Navy, 6 submarines, 48 patrol boats, 8 missile boats and 3 corvettes. Its Army is equipped with 4,000 modern tanks and about 10,000 other AFVs (armoured fighting vehicles.) Of all the above accoutrements of an effective defence policy, the only thing that New Zealand would be called on to match would be the ratio of reserve forces to overall population.