Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Toys for the boys

The government released a defence white paper today, basicly a long-term plan for the NZDF. Or, in English, their shopping list. So what does NZDF want? Big, fancy ASW planes, for hunting down Soviet (not an error) submarines. Big fancy cargo planes for hauling tanks to the Middle East, the same ones Australia has. Some of that sweet "cyber" woo-money GCSB, SIS and all the other cool kids are getting, so they can be all hip and cool and William Gibson like SF fans were in the 80's. And they want us to spend $20 billion over 15 years to buy them all this.

Bluntly, we should tell them to fuck off. Because what's apparent from this wish-list is that NZDF are wanting toys for the boys, not anything related to our actual defence needs. Meanwhile, the cost will be at the expense of higher-value investments, such as schools and hospitals.

NZDF wants the same kit everybody else has, both for status reasons, so they can keep up with the Americans and Australians, and for "interoperability" - so they can fight other people's wars, the wars the New Zealand public opposes. Their case for better armoured vehicles is all because the Middle East is an "increasingly challenging and higher threat environment for defence force deployments". Or, we could not fucking go there. Its not like we want to be there anyway, after all. Buying NZDF this gear, giving them these capabilities, puts them on the table as an option when the US wants to form another coalition for its next stupid imperialist adventure. Denying them that capability keeps us out of the US's stupid wars, keeps us safe.

Especially when the capability they want comes at the expense of things we actually want the NZDF to do. The big fancy cargo plane NZDF wants as a replacement for the current Hercules? It will need a long runway to take off, won't be able to land on rough airstrips, and there will be only one of them rather than four. So, the basic role of delivering aid to the Pacific after disasters, the one the planes actually get used for and that the public overwhelmingly supports, will be sacrificed for a gold-plated status-symbol useful only for providing logistical support for other people's wars. Those ASW planes? What we actually need is something to monitor illegal fishing, do post-disaster damage assessments, and look for lost ships - not fucking imaginary submarines from thirty years ago. As for "cyber", it's woo and always has been, a buzzword used to scam funding from gullible politicians. And insofar as its not, don't we already have an agency, the GCSB, supposedly dedicated to that already?

And then there's the opportunity cost. Because that $20 billion over 15 years, more than a billion dollars a year, is a shitload of money and will come at the cost of other programmes. That billion dollars a year? That's not just the pathetic paid parental leave extension the government is currently threatening to veto, but a full year (and probably more). Its two thousand new state houses every year. Its a 50 percent increase in police numbers, or the elimination of tertiary fees, or a doubling of science funding. Or its the annual increase required in our health budget - which to be blunt, saves more lives than NZDF ever has and ever will. All of these investments are worth far more to us as a society than a bunch of useless planes and guns so defence ministers and generals can play at their fantasies of war (really, can't they just fuck off and start a larp?)

Eisenhower was right:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.

Time to stop stealing. Time to stop paying for NZDF's toys.