Wake up alarms in security: Hugh Steadman suggests grounds for a new antipodean defence policy.

AuthorSteadman, Hugh

The world around New Zealand is rapidly changing. Given the amateurism built into democratic political systems and the failings of the mainstream media, New Zealand policy-makers are going to struggle to keep up. The wake-up alarms have been clanging with extra urgency--most noticeably in Baghdad and Canberra.

In Baghdad, Trump, with Israel's active connivance, dropped his loudest clanger with their long-premeditated murder of a diplomatic opponent. The 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 conduct themselves and arrange murders with impunity as though they were still living in the dark ages of medieval Italy. Some of the opprobrium cannot help but be shared with their allies in New Zealand and Australia who, by their lack of protest, become accomplices. 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 super-power. Khomeini did no more than the minimum he had to do to control the emotions of his outraged population. 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 United States military out of Iraq and gain uninterrupted access to its Syrian and Lebanese allies. Maintenance of Hezbollah's missile inventory will also give Iran the ability to keep its 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.

Changing times

The American willingness to take the Iranian riposte on the chin 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 military losses, in the jeopardy it would impose on its Israeli ally and in the probable crashing of the global economy. Trump is perfectly competent to assess a deal in terms of costs versus benefits. No one can now argue that Iran needs nuclear weapons to deter a US aerial assault or ground invasion.

The status quo emerging in the aftermath of the Iranian missile attacks on US Air Force 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 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 overtook so many Australian communities, as Australia led mankind's entry into the Pyrocene era, were well recorded on TV newscasts. As, too, were the climate-change denying comments and immobility of Australia's political leaders and opinion-forming media. Evidently, Sauropods, the longest of the dinosaurs (30 metres?) had such a disproportionately tiny brain that it took up to twenty seconds for an attack on their tail to be registered by the CPU at the other end. (1)

The immobility of Australia's dinosaurs, their tails dangling in a bonfire, is not just a problem faced by the less than 1 per cent 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 (2) and the Pacific Forum in Tuvalu, (3) it was seen to be actively sabotaging the efforts of other nations to avert the climate crisis.

Assessment need

After the recent fire season, it must dawn on the Australian electorate that the time is ripe for a...

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