Tuesday, March 18, 2003

English backs the US

After calling for the SAS to be withdrawn from Afghanistan, Bill English has changed tack and now says that we should back our traditional allies. They're attacking Iraq, and so we should go along for the ride. For some reason, this makes me think back to primary school, when teachers would say things like "if they jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?"

Quite apart from the moral issue, National's position goes against the grain of the our entire foreign policy for the last two decades. Post WWII, the central theme of our foreign policy has been support for multilateral institutions and international law. We've been strong supporters of the UN, and more recently of GATT and the WTO, because we think that as a small country we need a strong framework of international laws and agreements to protect our interests. Likewise, we've been strong advocates of collective security, both through arrangements with our traditional allies (ANZUS; the Five Power Defence Arrangement) and through contributing to UN peacekeeping. While we traditionally toed the line set by the US, for the past twenty years we've been pursuing a more independent (but still very much multilateral and internationalist) foreign policy, because those traditional allies told us they wouldn't play with us anymore if we didn't accept their nuclear ships and weapons.

Given this historical multilateralist stance, why the hell would we want to throw our lot in with the Axis of Poodle? Collective security? But where is the threat? The only people who think Saddam is a danger to anyone other than his own people are Bush and his flunkies; his neighbours aren't concerned, so why should we be? Freeing the oppressed Iraqi people? A worthy goal, but isn't there a better way to do it? Do we have to bomb the Iraqi people in order to save them, or destroy the UN in order to save it?

Really, the only reason I can see for Bill English coming out in support of the US is that he's afraid that if he doesn't, Gerry Brownlee will. And that's hardly a good reason for ignoring our long-term interests and goals.

(With fond memories of Mr Ash and 5th-form history class)