Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Rules to Avoid Banishment From Grey-Lynn: No 2

Rule Number Two: Do Not Believe in the Importance of a Viable Defence Force

For some reason believing it is really important that our tiny underpopulated unspoilt country should be able to defend itself is particularly unpopular. This I do not understand. What could be contentious about defence?

Right now New Zealand is woefully equipped. There are simply too many areas we fall down in to mention, and to single any out for special praise would not be fair to all the other failings. For this reason, and to try to stem the feelings of vulnerability a good look at all our gaps inevitably raises, we’ll only talk about axing the Air Combat Wing of the Air Force. At the same time we also appear to be doing our very best to distance ourselves from our natural and historical allies. It does not strike me as a particularly good idea that we should be doing things like removing our Air Force combat capabilities and drawing away from our mates who do have Air Forces at the same time. Surely it is a case of one approach or the other.

In fact, what should we call the Air Force now that we have stripped it of its Force? The “Air Ask Really Nicely” perhaps? The problem is that although that seems ridiculous we have not been asking these questions. What the hell are we going to do if we need an Air Force – we can’t very well borrow one.

It puts me in mind of the Albanians. They took defence very seriously, as you would if you were a country that had five or so different owners during World War One and about 100 over the centuries.

In the late 60s they split from defence arrangements with Soviet Russia and then the Warsaw Pact altogether. So, after losing the deterrent value of these friendships Albania had to protect herself. It was decided that the best way to self-reliant defence was to build pill boxes in backyards and issue rifles to every household. So it was that 750,000 bunkers and pill boxes came to be built. The idea being that if anyone invaded then the entire citizenry would take up positions inside these boxes and the invader would have to fight for every inch of the country. Mad maybe, but effective. Point being that if we are going to break off our good relations with our allies – by doing truly stupid stuff like bailing out of ANZUS – we’d better have a plan B.

Because bailing out of ANZUS was truly stupid. If the shit ever hits the fan again we will go running back behind that banner as quickly as possible, all high-minded moral positions on Nukes will disappear faster than Chief Executives at Maori TV. And we’ll be damned lucky if they take us back: twenty years of looking down our noses at the most powerful nation on earth and of not keeping up with regional defence responsibilities with Australia will not be forgotten or forgiven easily.

The only argument that is ever wheeled out for the way we have let relationships rot and our services atrophy is that we don’t need them now. Rubbish, crap, baloney, bollocks bollocks bollocks. And bollocks again. Are we to believe that for some reason after millennia of conflict humans have decided not to have any more wars, or at least if they do they will leave NZ out? Unless we have that in writing somewhere I’m not buying it. Preferably in writing that means more than, say, the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.

Thing is that all this talk of benign strategic environments is rubbish. It is about as clever as declaring peace in our time. Just 60 odd years ago we were at war with half the world. We were fighting Germany, even though after the First World War they had taken steps to ensure that that wouldn’t be happening again. On what evidence have we decided that there will be no eventuality where an Air Force might come in handy? That being matey with the US might not be useful, even vital?

It boils down to something that sounds a bit boy scouty, just without the lawsuits:

You can’t be sure things wont happen, but you can be prepared in case.

And why this viewpoint is anathema to Grey-Lynn I truly cannot fathom. From the reactions I used to get, before I learnt to keep such opinions private, to, say, advocating keeping our military strong and up-to-date you’d think I was suggesting that we should use said imaginary military for whale hunting and permanently getting solo-mothers off the DPB.

It is incredibly un-PC to realise that we are vulnerable without protection. This is odd as that statement and belief is as self evident as saying ‘water is wet’ or ‘Brian Tamaki does pretty well out of that God racket’. It is a simple truth, yet somehow this ill-informed flower-power hangover means prioritising defence is about as popular in these circles as supporting George W Bush.

Which Brings me to the next rule, don’t support Geeorge W Bush (this rule is particularly important)………


At 7:42 AM, Blogger TomV said...

I think you overstate how far we've pulled away from Aus/US. We've sent troops and advisors to both Afghanistan and Iraq and contribute reasonably for our size and resources.

You've also chosen to focus on the Air Combat Wing, the most useless, non cost effective piece of the defence force we ever had. There are few scenarios where having spent billions on a handful of US castoff fighters would make a blind lick of difference.

There are valid and serious concerns about the rest of our defence forces, and these need to be addressed, but getting rid of some aging, useless skyhawks, and not wasting money on boys toys to replace them is the high point of recent defence policy.

At 12:34 PM, Blogger Rich said...

In case you hadn't noticed, Albania was and is absurdly poor - part of the reason for this is that they spent money and time on weapons rather than economic development. Also, when state socialism ended, all the weapons fell into the hands of criminals, making the country not only poor, but infested with well-armed, violent criminals.

In air defence terms, the only countries that could mount an air attack on NZ are the USA, Britain, France, Russia and possibly China. I don't believe that we could ever defend ourself against any of that lot - they all have nukes and at least 10 times our population. Fortunately none of them have any reason to attack us.

And yes, I do live in Grey Lynn (well Herne Bay - close enough...)

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Rich said...

Another point: The Repulic of Ireland is neutral, has even less effective defence forces than we do (and always has done) and has avoided attack through a world war (and despite occasionally strained relations with its nearest neighbour).

At 5:24 PM, Blogger Simon Pound said...

Goodie - somewhat literal minded comments but welcome indeed.

Tom - Skyhawks are/were useless, granted. But to scrap them without even looking at replacements is stupid. Perhaps if we were to chip in to the Aussie Air Force seeing we train with them anyway that could have been a compromise - to do away with all combat capabilities in your Air Force is so obviously short sighted I don't know why I have to point it out.
What alternative can be suggested?
But you're right, greater concerns are evident elsewhere but this is the point I was choosing to make.....
And I do worry about our relationships - Britain dropped us higher and harder with less reason, why should 'with us or against us' US be any more loyal?
Not being conspiracy theory guy, just preparing for the worst.

Rich - I had noticed Albania was/is extremely poor.
I think it is classic the way they 'lost' millions of weapons in the early nineties - they are fucking nuts. Couple this with their love of blood feuds and Ponzi schemes and they certainly are a basket case and no real comparison to NZ....
That is why I chose to raise it - they at least had a plan B, where is ours.......

As to who could attack us - that is not the point I'm making - what alternative is being offered - the do nothing approach? Australia is getting really pissed off with this attitude...

And to Ireland. They have a dreadful history of cosying up to any kind of bad guys if it helps with their personal interests. Fair enough in a way but also not comprable to what we should be doing.
The fuckers sent a consolation telegram when Hitler topped himself, if moral blinkers are what is required to achieve neutrality you can keep it.
Don't get me started on Switzerland.

Anyhow, thanks for the comments, though I fear you may be taking me too literaly and not getting the really basic and non-contentious point - what do we expect to be able to do if the shit hits the fan?

At 6:51 PM, Blogger TomV said...

I used to think that having a NZ wing as part of the Aus Air Force, with us contributing financially and supplying pilots would be a good solution, as jets stationed in Aus could get here just as quickly as Auckland based jets could get down south anyway, but the variance between Australias and NZs response to the US invasion of Iraq has put significant doubt in my mind, as to a certain extent, my solution would make us captive to AUs foreign policy.

Solution wise I think the current administration has some good ideas but hasn't gone far enough. We should have a strong meduium range Navy , a cargo/surveillance based air force, and an Army pretty similar to what we have now, just better equipped.

My approach is that we can't get even close to affording to have the level of defence that could provide deterrence to a serious threat from a major nation, so we should focus on protecting our waters from piracy, having an army capable of dealing with limited incursions or uprisings, and providing a reasonable level of support to the international community when it meets our interests.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Rich said...

Tom: Just a geeky point, but Australia's F18s do not have the range to cross the Tasman and engage in combat operations.

At 12:41 PM, Blogger TomV said...

bummer. I suppose they could station a wing here, but as I said, I'd have serious issues as to how far we'd surrender independance in foreign policy

At 10:05 PM, Blogger sagenz said...

Rules to avoid pissing off your loyal readers...
Post more!
please ;-)

At 12:25 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Could you explain your argument about why our strategic environment is anything other than benign, Simon? I haven't seen anything to indicate otherwise. If you think that terrorist attacks in the US three years ago, or the more recent ones in Bali, somehow mean we are in a strategically different position, I would be interested to hear why.

At 12:58 PM, Blogger Simon Pound said...

Strategic environments are never benign. I would be very interested to hear if you felt that there was no possibility that any of our not too distant likely expansionist neighbours, such as China or Indonesia, could forseeably threaten us.
I'd say it is a fair reckoning that these powers are likely sources of non-benign activity in the next 50-100 years.
Not certainly but best to be prepared.
The redrawing of China's borders that is bound to happen in the next fifty years as they grow, probably encompassing some of eastern Russia, and the ongoing Taiwan question will destabilise this entire area.
Terrorist attacks in Bali could be seen as evidence of non-benign activity but if that grates with you it is no biggie for my point.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Rich said...

I suspect that an attack on NZ (given that we aren't on the way to anywhere, and don't have huge amounts of oil) would come *after* an agressor power had gained victory over Australia, Japan, etc. Given that they had achieved this, and neutralised other opposition (in the case of China the US and Russia might be expected to object), any defenses we have are likely to prove nugatory.

China (and Indonesia even more so), does not currently have a blue water navy (see for details on Chinese plans for aircraft carriers). A conventional attack on NZ would require one, and I would expect them to take 25 years at least to build such a fleet. (It took Russia a bit longer than that).

I think we'd have 25-50 years warning between a neigbour starting to go feral and us actually being attacked. If this were to happen we'd have to think about buying fighter aircraft / training pilots / sucking up to suitable protectors but we'd have a very long time to do it.

At 10:12 AM, Blogger sagenz said...

it depends on whether you would cross the street to stop a mate having six levels of shit kicked out of him. helen, jordan and other helengraders would obviously not. some people have morals, unlike your favourite swedes jordan. Our forces used to be thoroughly integrated with the australian defence forces. our security was guaranteed during WWII and when we were part of the alliance.

A clintonian/helengradian limp wristed response to 911 would have significantly ramped up the threat as the islamofascists used force to spread jihad. the reason you can twitter on about benign strategic environments, jordan and rich, is the continuing willingness of the americans and australians to guarantee our security. will the left ever stop trying to take free rides at somebody elses expense

At 4:09 PM, Blogger michael fasher said...

The dumbest two aguments for not having an effective defence force which contradict each other.One that nobody will ever threaten us,well anything with a finite possibility will eventualy happen so you can never say never.And two that wecouldnt defend ourselves anyway,which isnt true if you use a bit of creativity.
Well which is it !It has to be one or the other you cant have it both ways.
hers what we need to have real deterrence value for an effective defence force, lets start with the navy.
buy at least four type 214 conventional submarines off germany and equip them with modern hievy weight torpedos,new sub harpoon antishipping and land attack missiles,and acquire or develop long range land attack cruise missiles such as tomahawk with both conventional and nuclear warheads.upgrade the two frigatesand seasprite helicopters with the full array of weapons and sensors they are capable of carrying and replace the 12 knot fleet replenishment ship with the american supply class with a cruise speed of 22 nh 90 helicopters equiped as antisubmarine warfare and also sea mine counter measures.Then you would have a navy that could fight(heaven forbid).
Why?Well the our navy needs to be capable of two missions defending new zealand against all possible threats and defend shipping to major trading partners.
to defend shipping we need an escort capability that can escort shipping protecting shipping from submarine surface and long range air threats at an average speed of greater than 20 knots (faster than conventional submarines)from here to japan our most distant major pacific trading partner non stop.Thats where the frigates are usefull and why the fleet tanker needs replacing by a faster ship.
The other mission is just plain defending new zealand and thats why the most cost effective comabat vessels are conventional submarines here are the key attributes of a modern conventional sub that enable a small navy to be highly effective in combat
1.reasonable cost to buy and run about the same as a frigate
2 can operate in any air threat enviroment no need to have air supremecy
3 can be effective against any other warship even carriers{canadian,dutch and australian subs have defeated in exercises us carriers}
3 can launch cruise missile atttacks against hi value land targets and ships docked in port
4 have strategic range(20000kilometers unrefueled)and therefore can strike back at any enemy globaly
5 have long underwater endurance,older conventional subs could only stay submerged for one or two days but modern electric boats have whats called air independant propulsion systems which increase underwater endurance to up to three weeks.
the next generation such as the viking class will be able to spend an entire three month mision underwater
6 nuclear capable weapons,Isreal utilises the type 800 submarine as the sea based component of its nuclear forces in 2000 it tested acruise missile developed for it off the coast of shri lanka hitting a target inland from 1500 kilometers away.
theres more that you could do but all of these things are not beyond new zealand doing and would sure make one hell of an effective dtterent


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