Blog No. 182.
PART I MURDER IN BAGHDAD AND CLIMATE CHANGE IN CANBERRA: BACKGROUNDS FOR A NEW AUSTRALASIAN DEFENCE POLICY.
As is apparent from the last two khakispecs blogs, the world around New Zealand is rapidly changing. Given the amateurism built into democratic political systems and the failings of the mainstream media, NZ policy-makers are going to struggle to keep up. In the first month of the new decade, the wake-up alarms have been clanging with extra urgency – most noticeably in Baghdad and Canberra.
In Baghdad, Trump, by use of a drone, dropped his loudest clanger with his long-premeditated murder of a diplomatic opponent. The whole event shows how little the modern world, with its infinitely more powerful tools of murder, has advanced its morality. The leaders of the ‘free’ world, valued allies of both Australia and New Zealand, conduct themselves and arrange murders as though they were still living in the dark ages of medieval Italy. In doing so, they not only make their allies accomplices in the eyes of many, but look well on the way to ushering in a new dark age of international anarchy. Fortunately, western immorality is not all that Soleimani’s assassination has revealed.
Most impressive was the Iranian riposte. Even a middle-ranked power, now has access to precisely targetable, intermediate-range missiles, capable of deterring the armed might of an aggressive superpower. Khomeini (some would argue with the connivance of Trump) did no more than the minimum he had to do to control the emotions of his outraged population. At the same time, he gave a practical demonstration of the potentially lethal accuracy of Iran’s missile armament, while ensuring that he did not force Trump into having to launch a full-scale war on Iran.
Iran’s immediate aim, which it shares with China and Russia, is to get the USA military out of Iraq and gain uninterrupted access to its Syrian and Lebanese allies. Through Hezbollah’s missile inventory, it will also give Iran the ability to keep the Israeli enemy in its box. Clearly, Iran’s longer-term ambition is to see a total withdrawal of US military forces from the Middle East, with Middle Easterners being left to govern their own affairs.
The American willingness to take the Iranian riposte on the chin on this occasion and without further escalation, demonstrates another aspect of changing times. America is now conscious that Iran’s technological advances are such as to make a conventional assault on Iran disproportionately costly in terms of military losses, the jeopardy it would impose on its Israeli ally and the probable crashing of the global economy. Trump is perfectly competent to assess a deal in terms of costs versus benefits. There are no longer grounds to support the argument, often heard in Washington’s think-tanks, that Iran is under such obvious threat from the USA that it must either be developing, or intend to develop, nuclear weapons. Iran no longer needs such weapons in order to deter a US aerial assault or ground invasion.
The status quo emerging post-the Iranian missile attacks on USAF bases in Iraq, is one which will allow Iran, at its leisure and through its regional proxies, to implement an asymmetrical strategy of pin-prick attacks on American targets. Other than either a certainly disastrous attempt at a full-scale military assault on Iran, or a comprehensive and politically indigestible diplomatic effort at reconciliation, there will be nothing America can do to prevent this.
So much for the lessons emerging from Baghdad: what about those being (or not being) learnt in Canberra? The tragedy that has overtaken so many Australian communities, as Australia leads mankind’s entry into the Pyrocene era, has been well recorded on TV newscasts. As too, have been the climate-change denying comments and feckless conduct of Australia’s political leaders and opinion-forming media (Murdoch.) I remember at school being fascinated by the fact that Sauropods, the longest of the dinosaurs (30 metres?) had such a disproportionately tiny brain that it probably took up to twenty seconds for an attack on their tail to be registered by the central processing unit at the other end. Coal-Fired
The rule of Australia’s dinosaurs is not just a problem faced by the less than 1% of mankind that are Australian citizens. Australia is striving to steal economic advantage by not pulling its weight in combating climate change. Worse: at COP 25 in Madrid and the Pacific Forum in Tuvalu, it was seen to be actively sabotaging the efforts of other nations to avert the climate catastrophe.
COP 25 Tuvalu
After the current fire season, it must finally dawn on the Australian electorate that the time is ripe for a serious reassessment of their situation and for their dinosaurs to be replaced by more intelligent life-forms. There will be a new, climate-aware, fire-hardened generation coming to influence. It will be for them to reappraise outdated political structures, evaluate national aims realistically and earnestly question policies, once held sacrosanct and now no longer appropriate.
This next generation of Australia’s leaders will have to examine the constitutional arrangements that led to their nation giving political power to such selfish, vested interests and such myopic leadership. A constitutional convention is urgently needed and, most importantly, ways found to so democratise the process that the grass-roots have a better understanding of, and take a greater interest in the political life of the nation.
Australia’s failure to control its bush fires has a direct effect on New Zealand. Smoke from Australian fires blows over New Zealand, some asthma sufferers have been admitted to hospital due to inhalation of Australian smoke, and NZ fire-fighters are deployed to Australia, when they might well be needed at home. If Australia fails to overcome its environmental challenges, it will be New Zealand that will have to host an unending flotilla of Australian boat-people.
Compared to Australia, New Zealand, which has banned all further fossil fuel exploration and allows its Green Party a major say in determining government environmental policy, is far in advance of its retarded neighbour. However, it is not just in an environmental policy that Australia’s policies directly affect its smaller neighbour and traditional ally. There is also the problem of defence and Australia’s stubborn adherence to traditional policies based on the situation at the end of WWII.
Many New Zealanders find American conduct in the Middle East and Afghanistan over the past thirty years, culturally unacceptable. Perhaps this is less true of their fellow Antipodeans across the Tasman, who have embraced America’s culture and military with greater enthusiasm. However, both countries find themselves in the same dilemma in regard to trade and defence. Both are heavily reliant on trade with China and both (Australia, to a greater extent and New Zealand to a lesser extent) have based their defence policies on alliance and cooperation with a USA that now views China as a potential military adversary and is openly making preparations accordingly.
That situation presented no serious problem while the USA and those inclined to ally themselves with it, were supremely confident in its economic and military dominance over China. Over the last few years and particularly since the Trump presidency, the situation has changed. As China’s growing economic and military strength and ambition have become ever more obvious, America has come to treat China as a hostile adversary, both economically and militarily. As the USA is in the habit of viewing other nations as being either with them or against them in their global adventures (and of exerting ruthless pressure on those who are struggling to decide) Australia and New Zealand are going to be faced with having to make a choice. Part II of this blog, in February, will deal with the vital question of defence policy.