Sunday, July 04, 2004

Lange on nukes and self-perceptions

The Herald has a long and detailed interview with David Lange, where he talks about his election and time as PM, Helen Clark, the Treaty "partnership" and various other things. One of the more interesting bits is on our anti-nuclear policy. Lange thinks that the idea that our nuclear ban is an impediment to better trade relations with the US is a gross misconception. The real problem is that we've already given the Americans everything they wanted on that front:

they can sell anything like here, they can invest anything here, they can have airlines here til it comes out our ears. They can own land. Why would the Americans give us anything?


Look, we could get a nuclear weapon and put it on hire trailer and take it around A and P shows all around New Zealand, and it wouldn't give us a free trade agreement. It is absolutely irrelevant.

And he's hit it right on the head. Because of our strong free-trade position, we have nothing to give them, and therefore they have no reason to give anything to us - especially when doing so would have significant domestic political costs.

There's also a few interesting comments on our attitude towards the larger powers. We no longer seek validation from a pat on the head from the hegemon. The uphevals of the 70's and 80's - the perceived betrayal by Britain when it abandoned us for the EEC, and outright bullying by the US in response to our desire to run our own country - coincided with what Michael King called "the indigenisation of Pakeha culture", and led to a new perception about our place in the world. Rather than being subserviant, we would be independent, and pursue our own values rather than those of whoever was biggest on the block. And we're comfortable with being small; we have no need to swing our dick on the world stage. To the extent we pursue national greatness, it is in sport, in our diaspora, and in being a country that people want to live in.

Some people are not happy with that - witness NZPundit's passing comment that we are "a silly little self-absorbed country of no importance and no influence" - but for most of us, it's enough.