Friday, October 21, 2011

Against interoperability

I've finally finished reading Nicky Hager's Other People's Wars. The takeaway lesson from it? We need to oppose our military's dangerous desire for interoperability.

If you ask kiwis what we want our military to do, you'll get an answer along the lines of "defend New Zealand, help out in the South Pacific with disaster relief, and do our bit in UN peacekeeping". Because we have no enemies, and sheep don't have guns, in practice the latter two are more important than the first. So we want a military that is good at keeping the peace and rebuilding schools.

Interoperability helps with none of these things. Instead of being about reducing conflict and giving aid, it is about being able to seamlessly integrate our military into that of the US and UK. It is about the air force's expensive planes and the navy's expensive frigates and the GCSB's expensive spies being able to "drop in" to a foreign command structure, without any problems. And the only purpose of that is so we can help fight their wars.

Other People's Wars has concrete examples of this in practice. The Orion we sent to the Persian Gulf to "hunt Al Qaeda" slotted straight into the US command structure and was used to provide surveillance cover for their invasion of Iraq. The frigate we sent there for the same purpose ended up doing escort duty for US troop transports, against explicit NZ government instructions. The GCSB spies we sent to Afghanistan walked into positions in the US headquarters, plotting targets for US drones to kill. Its about making us better vassals, not about protecting New Zealand.

And its expensive. The latest upgrade to the Orions, whose sole purpose was to make it easier to integrate them into the US command structure, cost upwards of half a billion dollars. That's half a billion dollars that could have been spent on military equipment that actually served our interests. Or on schools and hospitals.

We should not be doing this. Our military should work for us, not the US. It should be designed around our needs, not America's. As for how, the best way to remove the problem is to remove the capability. Parliament holds the purse strings; it should refuse to fund further training and purchases by our military which directly undermine our foreign policy in this way.