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Challenges for Defence and Foreign Affairs Policy

Challenges for Defence and Foreign Affairs Policy

Speech Notes to Wellington Branch New Zealand Institute of International Affairs by Hon Max Bradford MP Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence

"Challenges for New Zealand's Defence and Foreign Affairs Policy"

12 September 2001

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle" Edmund Burke

At 2:00 am this morning I ripped up my speech notes prepared for this lecture.

Today's dramatic, tragic, and cowardly events in the United States have almost certainly changed the world's defence and security paradigm forever.

I have tried to revise my thoughts so they are not an over-reaction to the most cruel acts of terrorism this world has seen, all in the name of a God that I thought we all shared.

Over the coming months we will see comparisons to other "similar" acts in history, but this is incomprehensible by any historical or moral standard I can recall from my knowledge of history.

Pearl Harbour doesn't come close. As treacherous an act as that was, at least there was a state of war throughout much of the so-called civilized world at the time. Reasonable foresight and planning should have forewarned the US military then.

Things are different now.

Today's terrorism knows no boundaries, respects no nation and no individual.

Today's terrorists regard civilians as much part of their war as the people we train to become the military in whom we entrust our security and safety.

Indeed, civilians seem to be the main instruments and victims of terrorism, all in the name of a religious fervor I simply don't comprehend. Do you?

Today, we have seen the US attacked at the symbols of its economic and military strength, Wall Street and the Pentagon.

A foiled attempt was aimed at the very heart of its democracy, either the White House or the Capitol. Fortunately it failed.

There will be few people in the world who don't have a close link, reaching beyond the images of CNN, to someone who was involved or killed today.

I had my first this morning.

An American friend of mine has lost a close friend of his on one of the planes that was deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center. She called her husband from the plane to say they had been hijacked, but didn't know what the terrorists' demands were.

I doubt she, and the other 90 passengers and crew ever knew. Perhaps it was a blessing, given the scale of the carnage now becoming evident in downtown Manhattan.

How does this relate to the topic of my address?

Imagine the emotions of Americans and people around the world.

It starts with bewilderment, and the incredulous question: "how could this happen to us?"

Anger and resentment will be submerged for the moment as we fear for the safety of relatives and friends. We will undoubtedly see the human spirit rise to help neighbours and strangers you expect in times of war and extreme adversity.

Soon it will turn to anger, resentment and, inevitably, to retribution.

It is this last emotion that will impact on the world's present paradigm of defence and security.

No doubt there will be recrimination about the adequacy of the US, if not the world's, intelligence systems to track and stifle terrorist activity.

It isn't a question about not doing intelligence any longer as the pacifists and political parties like the Greens and the Alliance who would have us dismantle the systems already in place.

In future, unless someone has a flash of brilliance resulting in a new way of dealing to the terrorist groups, I expect the activities of the intelligence communities around the world will have to increase their reach and surveillance.

So the threshold between the rights to personal privacy, and to personal, as well as community, security will inevitably change.

How will the balance between two fundamental, perhaps contradictory, rights in a true democracy change?

These are the rights to civil liberty and to security. Preserving our freedoms, while nation states like ours protect them from barbaric acts by terrorists, have to become more critical components of defence and security policy.

One of the casualties will in future, I suspect, be the influence of the UN and many of its agencies.

As much as we all accept the importance of the UN in providing a framework for managing national or international disputes, a realistic look at its record shows it is becoming less and less able to deal to the big issues of today.

The UN has done a wonderful job in East Timor, with military assistance provided by involved nations like New Zealand and Australia.

Unfortunately the UN has largely failed in the events that matter.

It could not deal with the threats posed by Sadaam Hussein. It could not cope with the Balkans. It cannot provide the solutions in the Middle East, especially the Israel-Palestine crisis.

Nor has it any answers to the rising tide of terrorism. Small, highly motivated groups cannot be touched by multi-lateral organisations like the UN.

What notice does the Al Quida (Osama bin Laden) organisation take of the UN?

Or the Real IRA which is exporting its poisonous brand of terrorist expertise around the world?

Times like these should make us think hard about what is important to our democracy, what are our key values, and who our real friends are.

For too long in this country, we have been lulled by the politically correct into thinking we can play both sides of the fence, and that we don't face any threats.

I say to those people they are wrong, very wrong.

Freedom is important to all of us, but more often than not we take it as an inalienable right, carrying few responsibilities.

Freedom is something we have to protect and nurture every day, at home and abroad.

Would we think any differently than ordinary Americans do today, if some terrorist madman had flown a plane full of New Zealanders into downtown Auckland, or the Beehive?

Of course not, yet many New Zealanders think we don't have to get involved in the defence and security relationships that help protect Americans, and us, from such cataclysmic events as we've seen today.

Yet that is the received wisdom of the Clark Government: to place inordinate faith in the ability of the UN to protect our freedoms, to pull away from our friends into a cocoon of invincibility and invisibility, and to pretend we live in a "benign strategic environment".

And who are friends? New Zealand seems to be prepared to drift into a never-never land of trying to be everybody's friend.

It won't work. We will end up being no-one's friend, because they don't know what we stand for and, increasingly, can't rely on us to do the "hard jobs".

Today's events should force us to take a look in the mirror.

We need to confront who we are; what we stand for; what are our essential values; and whom we want to count as our true friends when our backs are to the wall.

The babble of the politically correct, who would have us take the soft options will not be acceptable after today's events.

Chris Patten, the EU External Relations Commissioner, said this morning that "this is one of those days in life that one can actually say will change everything."

He is right.

These factors will inevitably shape our foreign and defence policy in future.

The real issue is whether New Zealand will help lead, merely follow, or even worse ignore, the shifting defence and foreign affairs paradigm now really upon us.

At present, I would argue New Zealand is dangerously off track.

For all intents and purposes, the US treats us like a third world country on defence and foreign policy issues. The trouble is they see us as only wanting something from them - like a Free Trade Agreement - without putting much back into the relationship.

In two years we have raced apart from Australia, our strongest and longest friend.

We can't even share a common view on the strategic environment our two countries face, as was shown during the debate over the huge changes the Clark government has introduced on defence structure.

The shocking revelations of a possible army conspiracy to capture defence policy and the bulk of defence funding, set out in the now infamous Gordon document, is a sign of palpable weakness in our national spirit.

That one arm of our defence force thinks it knows best and is prepared to conduct a clandestine campaign against the government of the day and the other services they may have to go to war with one day, is a rottenness at our core.

This is the subject of a paper on its own, and was the core of the paper I ripped up at 2:00 am this morning.

Save it to say that a judicially led, independent commission of inquiry, with powers to subpoena and take evidence under oath is the only way to prove or dis-prove the existence of a conspiracy.

Was there an army-led conspiracy that achieved its aims of destroying the air combat wing and purchasing too many unsuitable APCs? If so, then the Clark-led Government may have reshaped our defence forces in a quite scandalous and dangerous way.

The public deserves a full and transparent answer to these serious allegations.

I believe New Zealand is really at a crossroads.

We can face up to the new realities around us in our region, and now in the world as a result of the terrorism aimed at America's democratic spirit, or we can pretend we are far enough away to ignore it.

America and many other countries will tighten their security and their borders. We will have to do it ourselves.

Can we blindly take refugees from the very part of the world that is probably the fountainhead of terrorism?

If we can't guarantee the veracity of our borders and our citizens, then why should we expect others to open their borders to us?

We have to be realistic, not idealistic, as we face up to such fundamental re-assessments.

I don't pretend to have the answers. I doubt anyone does.

But for the last 2 or 3 years, the nagging doubts about where we are heading as a country, so evident to many New Zealanders in the economic and social field, is now a full frontal issue in defence and security issues.

We are on the wrong path at present.

While this paper doesn't pretend to offer a solution, or a policy, accepting we are on the wrong path is the first key step to getting on the right path.

The new face of ugly terrorism we have seen today is without doubt the most serious and far-reaching threat to our freedom and our security than at any time since the Second World War.

The question for us all is whether that challenge of changing direction is accepted.

The alternative - unacceptable in my view - is to just drift along in fog of a post-Cold War peace long gone.

Max Bradford MP 12 September 2001


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