The Dim-Post

November 3, 2015

US ship vists

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:52 am

Vernon Small writes:

The New Zealand navy has issued an invitation to the United States to join in the navy’s 75th birthday celebrations next year, potentially ending the 30-year freeze on military ship visits here.

However, sources said while an invitation had been issued, it was not yet clear that a ship would visit. It could be some other “asset” from the US Navy.

New Zealand’s nuclear free policy, enacted in 1985, bans nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ships from entering ports here. The law change saw New Zealand suspended from membership of the three-power Anzus alliance with the US and Australia.

While the law requires the prime minister to confirm, to his satisfaction, that any ships are not nuclear armed or powered, it has in practice always required the US to drop their “neither confirm nor deny policy”.

The US has made it clear surface vessels are not nuclear armed, and it will be easy to ascertain from public records whether it is nuclear powered.

I don’t know how this will play out. I do know that our diplomatic and military elites will be ecstatic about the prospect of US naval visits. They have an obsession with rebuilding our strategic alliance with the US so we can join them on their various military adventures that borders on the pathological.

Which is weird, to me, because when you think of US military policy over the last half century it is mostly a series of catastrophic blunders. The propensity to make terrible mistakes which kill countless people and have dire long-term geopolitical consequences is pretty much the last quality you want in an ally. But that doesn’t seem to trouble the great minds at our defence or foreign ministries.

45 Comments »

  1. Well the US doesn’t really want us along for their adventures, we’re not well enough equipped and only get in the way. They’ll let us send a few token soldiers, and if we’re unlucky one will get killed occasionally. But it will probably only be someone from South Auckland, not from an electorate that matters, like a wealthy white one. But the US does like the propaganda value of having a coalition of willing **** lickers (the **** means “boot”, honest) so they give us real biscuits in return, not just brownie points. So all in all, it makes perfect political sense.

    Comment by R — November 3, 2015 @ 7:16 am

  2. “The law requires the prime minister …”

    How quaint. As if that matters any more.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — November 3, 2015 @ 7:25 am

  3. The anti-nuclear movement was largely a product of the cold war, but it also linked several interrelated issues into one single message. Nascent nationalism, post-Vietnam anti-Americanism, a certain romanticism on the left towards the USSR and a belief it provided a balance to unbridled US power, all under laid by a strong moral argument in favour of the mass rejection of nuclear weapons made the anti-nuclear movement a formidable alliance. However, the end of the cold war, the removal of any immediate threat of normalised nuclear war, and 9/11 drew much of the venom from the anti-nuclear movement. So to my mind, the left needs to be careful on this issue that it isn’t guilty of its usual habit of indulging in re-fighting old battles on a changed landscape.

    The hopeless ideological confusion and political cowardice of the “left” in New Zealand (most recent example: Labour saying it’s support for knighting Ritchie McCaw doesn’t mean it has shifted its opposition to knighthoods. FFS, you morons. Just say you oppose them and why) means it almost certainly will fall back on the glorious certainties of the past and oppose US ship visits on tenuous anti-nuclear grounds rather than seek to use the issue to build a new consensus around relevant issues.

    “…I do know that our diplomatic and military elites will be ecstatic about the prospect of US naval visits. They have an obsession with rebuilding our strategic alliance with the US so we can join them on their various military adventures that borders on the pathological…”

    Our elites received wisdom hasn’t changed since the Russian naval scares of the 1870s-80s. To them New Zealand is a weak, insignificant colony that must seek collective security lest the Tsarist/Imperial German/Imperial Japanese/Soviet fleet hoves into view on the horizon and promptly enslaves us all under a dark light of non-Britishness. Their collective security consists of embracing the dominant Pacific naval power as a craven client state and hypocritically supporting the UN whilst lying to the world about being an honest broker. The idea that NZ in 2015 is smaller sized first world country with no realistic military threat but ideally situated to be capable of defending itself against a threat should one appear doesn’t enter into the heads of our imperialist elites.

    Comment by Sanctuary — November 3, 2015 @ 8:07 am

  4. The current argument is…

    …if the United States and China go to war in the Pacific Ocean or South China Sea, assisting the United States will help ensure the passage of our goods.

    I find this incredibly unconvincing. In the case of war, a neutral party has a high chance of retaining trade with one or both parties. When the smoke clears either party will resume trade and allow free passage of goods.

    If a scientist told you his theory, you’d expect them to have tested it against the alternatives. Very rarely does this appear to happen in thinking about military matters – particular counterfactuals are considered ‘out of bounds’, begging the conclusions that are arrived at. Our defence policy seems to have more to do with satiating the egos of the brass and Brownlee than it does with our needs as a sovereign independent South Pacific nation.

    Comment by Kawakawa — November 3, 2015 @ 8:12 am

  5. I’m with you there Kawakawa, do we also welcome the Chinese navy to our ports to balance out our FTA with China? TPPA and American warships?

    Comment by Neil Miller — November 3, 2015 @ 9:09 am

  6. Yep, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (great name that) sent three ships to Auckland in 2013.

    Comment by Conrad — November 3, 2015 @ 9:14 am

  7. do we also welcome the Chinese navy to our ports to balance out our FTA with China?

    We’ve already had Chinese ship visits. The whole thing is theatre, albeit with potentially deadly consequences.

    Comment by Kawakawa — November 3, 2015 @ 9:17 am

  8. I’m not sure which is more depressing – the pathological wishes of our military/intelligence establishment to have closer and better relationships with the US, or the pathological hatred and distrust of the US displayed by likes of the Greens and various peace activists. Dear old Keith Locke popped up in the media as soon as news of the invitation was announced, predicting that the PM wouldn’t be able to allow a ship visit. He reminds me of one of those Japanese soldiers, holding out in the jungle 20 years after the war ended.

    Comment by Nick R — November 3, 2015 @ 9:19 am

  9. well i guess they did play a minor role in defending NZ in World War Two but hey why should be show appreciation!

    Comment by rjs131 — November 3, 2015 @ 9:25 am

  10. well i guess they did play a minor role in defending NZ in World War Two but hey why should be show appreciation!

    By that logic we should welcome the Russian blue water navy as well with open arms.

    Anyway, the whole ‘get closer to the US’ logic utilising naval visits as a pretext is completely redundant. From a strategic positioning perspective, we’re already recommenced involvement in RIMPAC exercises since 2012.
    It’s basically a photo op.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 3, 2015 @ 9:32 am

  11. We intercept data for them, we have signed up to a massive free trade agreement with them, we spend our days waffling on endlessly on their media platforms, we have participated in every military engagement they’ve asked us to.

    Comment by unaha-closp — November 3, 2015 @ 9:45 am

  12. Not everyone has such a jaundiced view of the US.

    A Green Govt could ban any military connections with the US, China, France, Australia, the U.K. and just about every other country.

    And withdraw from all our peace keeping operations as those rely on all those other countries and be prepared not to be engaged with them in disaster relief.

    Comment by NeilM — November 3, 2015 @ 9:54 am

  13. NeilM – there’s a world of difference between maintaining defence connections for the purposes of disaster relief, supporting UN mandates etc. and active engagement in a strategic alliance.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 3, 2015 @ 10:06 am

  14. It’s not policy. It’s law. Simple as that.

    If Key/McCully want to change the law, they can make the case to do so. They would probably get it through Parliament, but that’s just a guess. It would certainly cause no end of trouble along the way.

    But if they don’t want to change the law, do they want to break the law instead?

    “Every person who commits an offence against this Act is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.”

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — November 3, 2015 @ 10:30 am

  15. “he propensity to make terrible mistakes which kill countless people and have dire long-term geopolitical consequences is pretty much the last quality you want in an ally. ”

    Conversely, the USA is unquestionably the dominant military power in the world, and more specifically in the Pacific. There is a certain pragmatic logic to having close ties to a dominant power. It’s not as if there is an equally dominant power with a superior record in military decision-making that we could choose to be close to instead.

    And of course there’s the moral dimension – while the USA has its flaws, it is basically a democracy, which is something that can’t be said for its two closest military competitors.

    But my feeling is that Danyl’s view is that NZ doesn’t really need military ties with anybody, regardless of how efficient their military/strategic decision-making has been.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — November 3, 2015 @ 10:33 am

  16. It’s another example of how Central Government is disconnected from the people. What are we doing? We have kow-towed to the United States on everything, from the sublime to the downright ridiculous, since National got into power here in 2008. Gay marriage, which was not put to a referendum although a flag change is being put to a referendum. Ridiculous. The signing up to the TPPA, which a large amount of people were opposed to. And now this.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — November 3, 2015 @ 10:33 am

  17. It *is* an insane thing to want, but if you consider that the official line on the ANZAC disaster is still that it was a glorious exercise in nation-building and a Sacrifice for Freedom, it’s not really out of character.

    Comment by ObjectiveReality — November 3, 2015 @ 10:35 am

  18. @ kalvarnsen #15: The United States has not made any decent decision making in regards to strategic military moves for well over 40 years now. I believe the Cuban missile crisis springs to mind as a wholly legitimate fight to engage in as it could have potentially affected the US and all other western countries. However, since then, we have had Vietnam, in which a lot of innocent Vietnamese people were killed so that the United States could put their stamp of authority there; we have had Afghanistan, where the population were (and are) happy to live in the way to which they are used to, and despised thus unnecessary US invasion of their right to choose to live the way they want; we have had Iraq, which can be boiled down to a spat over oil and material wealth courtesy of George W and his homophobic acolytes; and now we have the US sending troops to Syria, interfering in another way which is not their responsibility to get involved in, twisting the realities of another way to suit their own personal agenda to retain themselves as the economic powerhouse of the world.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — November 3, 2015 @ 10:40 am

  19. @ ObjectiveReality #17: So what does that mean? That we no longer want or feel we need nation-building and a Sacrifice For Freedom? If we continue to pander to the United States on every piece of legislation we push through Parliament, including but not limited to military moves and social legislation, then we are not truly free but are actually enslaved.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — November 3, 2015 @ 10:43 am

  20. You can add Grenada, Panama, Kosovo and Libya to Daniel Lang’s list as well (not to mention a whole heap of clandestine meddling).

    Comment by Conrad — November 3, 2015 @ 10:53 am

  21. “So to my mind, the left needs to be careful on this issue that it isn’t guilty of its usual habit of indulging in re-fighting old battles on a changed landscape.”

    Sorry to embarrass you Sanctuary, but I agree with almost everything you say in that post, especially the above,with the possible exception of your tone in the final paragraph. Perhaps its the halo effect of the world cup win.

    Comment by Tinakori — November 3, 2015 @ 11:26 am

  22. Daniel Lang: ” Gay marriage, which was not put to a referendum although a flag change is being put to a referendum. Ridiculous.”

    That really depends on your interpretation of gay marriage. If it’s a human rights violation to allow legal marriage of some couples but discriminate against others, as strongly argued by many, then it makes less sense to let the public vote on it as opposed to having parliament simply fix the inconsistency in law.

    The flag isn’t a human rights thing. It’s just a flag.

    Comment by izogi — November 3, 2015 @ 11:39 am

  23. Being engaged in the international community involves dealing with difficult moral dilemmas.

    One ship visit or not is hardly going help us through those.

    A retreat into an isolationist position doesn’t absolve us of any lack of action.

    Comment by NeilM — November 3, 2015 @ 12:34 pm

  24. pathological hatred and distrust of the US displayed by likes of the Greens

    Gareth Hughes just returned from a tour of technology companies in the US. He looked very happy about it.

    Comment by Kawakawa — November 3, 2015 @ 12:44 pm

  25. Strengthening our military relationship with the US has some symbolic benefit in associating New Zealand with the most powerful country the world. On the other hand, by keeping its distance, New Zealand gains moral prestige and authority amongst the wider international community, especially those jealous Europeans, the increasingly assertive Chinese, and the angry Russians. It is pretty obvious to me that the latter is the strategically wiser option.

    If it came to actual war between the US and China, clearly NZ would side with the US quick-smart and this posturing would be quickly forgotten.

    But more simply it’s probably just so that the government (National or Labour) can get more visits to the White House.

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — November 3, 2015 @ 1:09 pm

  26. If the Greens don’t have a peculiar preoccupation with the US how come they don’t protest the regular French navy visits.

    Comment by NeilM — November 3, 2015 @ 1:15 pm

  27. If the Greens don’t have a peculiar preoccupation with the US how come they don’t protest the regular French navy visits.

    Because the French send conventionally powered boats to NZ.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 3, 2015 @ 1:22 pm

  28. It is pretty obvious to me that the latter is the strategically wiser option.

    One’s “moral prestige and authority” is another’s “moral arrogance and preaching”.

    Positioning yourselves as being morally superior to people who are stronger and more powerful than you – this has been tried before. The Greeks were civilised and morally superior to the Romans. The Romans were morally superior to the Goths. The Chinese were morally superior to the Mongolians.

    We need to be friendly, not stand-offish. We need to be as courteous, kind and inviting to all, as we can possibly be. We need to invite the Americans, we need to have visits from all.

    Comment by unaha-closp — November 3, 2015 @ 1:40 pm

  29. Neil, Seb and Unaha have all taken the “perfectly sensible, and there’s no elephant” line. One visit is fine, no biggie. On the surface (lit and fig, they’re not subs) this seems quite reasonable.

    Except, to repeat – it isn’t currently possible. They have a policy, we have a law. Question to the PM: “Can he confirm … ?” What is his answer, without having it contradicted by the Pentagon? The only option is for the USA to state publicly that any ship meets the legal requirement. In other words, to shift their position.

    It would be a diplomatic coup for New Zealand to change American policy. Realists in their administration would probably be happy to. Others would not.

    Do Key and McCully want to fight and win an internal Pentagon battle? As they say in “Yes, Minister”, that would be … courageous.

    (NB if you remember the 2005 election, this was Brash’s problem. His “solution” was to reach for a referendum. It was a fudge, and it didn’t work. The law will be changed, or not changed.).

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — November 3, 2015 @ 2:10 pm

  30. Edit – misrepresenting Seb a bit, sorry.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — November 3, 2015 @ 2:10 pm

  31. Question to the PM: “Can he confirm … ?” What is his answer, without having it contradicted by the Pentagon?

    In reality we know there aren’t going to be any nuclear weapons (or elephants) on the boat.

    The PM can say that he, upon considering “all relevant information and advice” available, is satisfied that there are no nuclear weapons on the ship. He does not need to “confirm” with the Americans. The Pentagon can then put out their usual – neither confirm or deny – and all the realists are happy.

    Of course, some less realistic types might be upset.

    Comment by unaha-closp — November 3, 2015 @ 3:05 pm

  32. It would be perfectly legal (imho) for Key to “reasonably believe” that a given US ship does not breach our anti-nuclear legislation.

    First, we know which US ships are nuclear powered and which aren’t … so that’s easy: https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL33946.pdf.

    Second, we “know” that the US has retired all the weapons systems capable of delivering a nuclear warhead from a surface ship: http://fas.org/blogs/security/2013/03/tomahawk/

    So, as long as the ship in question is not a submarine or a nuclear powered surface ship, Key could quite honestly and (imho) accurately claim that it meets the requirements of NZ law.

    Comment by Flashing Light — November 3, 2015 @ 4:05 pm

  33. I never thought the anti-nuclear movement in New Zealand was anything to do with the cold war, or even much about the United States specifically. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I always thought the anti-nuclear movement developed in response to the French nuclear testing in the Pacific. It was partly due to the concern about nuclear war, and partly opposition to French colonialism in the Pacific. It got transferred to being partially focussed on the US because one part of being anti-nuclear was to oppose people bringing nuclear weapons here, and the US was the country that wanted to do that.

    The end of the cold war has probably made the risk of nuclear war less, but it hasn’t made nuclear war less of a bad thing. Abolishing nuclear weapons is still a good idea.

    Comment by Can of Worms, Opened — November 3, 2015 @ 5:06 pm

  34. “if the United States and China go to war” – I think we wouldn’t be selling much milk powder, somehow…

    Comment by richdrich — November 3, 2015 @ 5:06 pm

  35. “The United States has not made any decent decision making in regards to strategic military moves for well over 40 years now.”

    Wouldn’t you say that committing to defend Western Europe from a Soviet invasion was a good decision?

    But actually, I wasn’t arguing for the quality of American strategic decision-making, which I agree has featured more mistakes than good decisions. I was just saying, there’s no alternative hegemon with a better record, and there’s a certain logic to having a good relationship with the hegemon no matter how blundering that hegemon may be.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — November 3, 2015 @ 6:39 pm

  36. “Because the French send conventionally powered boats to NZ.”

    The USS Buchanan was turned away despite being conventionally powered because the US refused to unambiguously state that it didn’t carry nuclear weapons, even though almost everybody agrees that there were no nuclear weapons on board.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — November 3, 2015 @ 6:42 pm

  37. “If the Greens don’t have a peculiar preoccupation with the US how come they don’t protest the regular French navy visits.

    Because the French send conventionally powered boats to NZ.”

    And the French no longer carry out nuclear tests.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — November 3, 2015 @ 6:53 pm

  38. @karlvansen – you are quite correct.

    I meant to answer NeilM’s disigenuous troll by pointing out that the French have been quite happy to comply with our reasonable requests without prevarication.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 3, 2015 @ 7:23 pm

  39. @Kumara: The Americans don’t carry out nuclear tests either. In fact they stopped well before the French did.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — November 4, 2015 @ 12:34 am

  40. Because the French send conventionally powered boats to NZ.

    Danyl’s post wasn’t about nuclear armed ships it was about our relationship with the nefarious US.

    Someone mentioned Lybia as an example of this nefariousness. That intention was driven by France. France is still a colonial power in the Pacific and has yet to compensate for the damage done by nuclear testing.

    I think it reasonable to ask where he moral consistency is.

    At present Obama is the White Hiuse, on the other hand there are truely nasty people like Assad and Putin.

    It’s easy enough to go on about evil nameless “elites” and how we should have nothing to do with them but looking about the world at the moment I think there might be more pressing issues.

    Comment by NeilM — November 4, 2015 @ 10:19 am

  41. Danyl’s post wasn’t about nuclear armed ships it was about our relationship with the nefarious US.

    Actually, his post was about our defence apparatus’ weird and inexplicable obsession with following the US’s lead despite a wealth of evidence to suggest such an approach yields unclear national security benefits (if national security is taken in a literal rather than metaphorical sense).

    Furthermore, given that we don’t have a comparative defence relationship with France – notwithstanding that NZ is OK with French boats berthing here since they comply with NZ law – it makes your statement even more of a red herring.

    If NZ was resisting French overtures then you might have a point re moral equivalence. But that isn’t happening so I’m unclear what your point is.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 4, 2015 @ 1:19 pm

  42. Kalvarnsen wrote: The Americans don’t carry out nuclear tests either. In fact they stopped well before the French did.

    Indeed. And when the USA and France were both carrying out nuclear tests, which country’s nuclear tests were New Zealanders actively protesting against?
    I think that pretty much proves that anti-nuclear campaigns in New Zealand are not motivated by anti-Americanism.

    Comment by Can of Worms, Opened — November 4, 2015 @ 9:27 pm

  43. @Can of Worms: That’s true, but I think Kumara’s reply shows that a lot of NZers conflate nuclear propulsion, nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons tests, while the non ship visits rule only takes a position on the first two.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — November 5, 2015 @ 1:19 am

  44. #22 – izogi: Marriage isn’t a human right. It is a privilege conferred on to the public by the Government and the Government has the right to make that a broad spectrum or a narrow spectrum, but the Government also has the responsibility to listen to the people. So that’s why I would have like our same sex marriage legislation to have been put to a public referendum.

    “The flag isn’t a human rights thing. It’s just a flag.” I agree. That’s why it makes no sense for it to go to a referendum. It is, as I stated, ridiculous.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — November 8, 2015 @ 1:49 pm

  45. Hi Daniel. I wasn’t referring to marriage itself as the human right. I personally think it’d be reasonable to do away with ‘marriage’ in law entirely and (in legal terms at least) only have Civil Unions or some other legal recognition of status when it’s useful to recognise two people as legally connected for those reasons.

    But the law gets into defining what “marriage” is in legal terms and, believe it or not, being able to call themselves “married” is something that’s very important to many couples, no matter what their sexual orientation. Saying that one type of couple can be “married” and that another can’t is discrimination according to section 21 of the Human Rights Act, which is in turn referenced and affirmed by section 19 of the Bill of Rights Act.

    When Gordon Copeland went as far, in 2005, as trying to have marriage specifically defined as being only between a man and a woman, the Bill was reported by the Attorney General as being inconsistent with the Bill of Rights, although part of his Bill was seeking to amnd the Bill of Rights so as to make this discrimination more clearly legal.

    Comment by izogi — November 9, 2015 @ 10:00 am


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