Aukus’ logic is morally wrong and New Zealand must resist it
OPINION: The Aukus alliance between Australia, UK and US has triggered a dangerous line in comments questioning Aotearoa’s nuclear-free status.
Many opinion writers who comment on international and security issues seem to prioritize a militaristic worldview over all other perspectives. The latest is Matthew Hooton, who writes that “the long peace between the great powers since has been a historic anomaly supported only by nuclear deterrence.” There hasn’t been a long peace, unless you take into account people who live outside nuclear-weapon states.
The truth is that the great powers have relentlessly attacked each other through proxy wars that have killed and injured countless civilians with conventional weapons in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Hooton describes New Zealand’s anti-nuclear legislation as “extreme” and incorrectly claims that no other country has adopted anti-nuclear laws. In fact, over 80 countries have signed the 2017 Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Treaty, and by ratifying it, several have adapted their own national laws to make nuclear weapons illegal.
* Distance between New Zealand and its allies increases as Australia brings nuclear submarines to the Pacific
* Aukus shows that the United States is engaged in the Indo-Pacific
* France will invoice Australia for an agreement on torpedoed submarines
Similar talking points were offered by Ben Thomas on RNZ Nine at noon earlier this week, albeit in a more relaxed manner, calling New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy a ‘shibboleth’ and, like Hooton, suggesting that some people think former Prime Minister David Lange helped end the Cold War with his speech during the Oxford Union debate. I never heard anyone say that. I think no one thinks so.
Thing Political editor Luke Malpass also called New Zealand’s nuclear-weapon-free status a “fundamental myth” last week, calling it “puritanism” and suggesting that nuclear weapons will be more important to our security in the world. future than they could have been in the cold war.
What is striking about these comments is that they present the militarist worldview as unchallengeable. It is a long-standing rhetorical device of those seeking to perpetuate militarism. It is touted as “the only way”, and anyone who questions it or suggests an alternative is seen as living in an alternate reality. This is precisely how those who represent powerful interests have always sought to prevent gradual change in the past.
However, the questions we should be asking ourselves are deeper than the benefits of our non-nuclear status. We should ask ourselves where our security comes from and, given that Aotearoa is built on peace for collective prosperity, how we can foster a more peaceful world. My choice would be more diplomacy, more ability to help prevent conflicts and more dedication to the main challenges of our time: climate, equality and nature.
New Zealand rightly rejected nuclear weapons in the 1980s, and we have consistently challenged their existence. Australia simply has not been able to do it the same way, as it is explicitly pursuing the security benefits of nuclear weapons by embracing the US nuclear umbrella. What this umbrella means is that Australia has received a guarantee from the United States that if a country attacks Australia with nuclear weapons, the United States will retaliate with nuclear weapons.
There is a reason why proponents of “nuclear security” generally do not talk about what guns actually do. To suggest that New Zealand should be more like Australia on nuclear matters is to embrace this constant threat of mass murder by vaporization, shock waves and radiation poisoning caused by the detonation of a nuclear warhead. In the face of the humanitarian reality of nuclear weapons, this kind of thinking not only seems morally repugnant, but also seems to abandon any ability to shape a better future.
A big problem with those who see militarism and nuclear weapons as inevitable is an apparent lack of imagination. They apparently cannot imagine the world would be a safer place without thousands of weapons of mass destruction pointed at London, Beijing, Moscow, Washington and Paris, on high alert, ready to be launched at any moment. They apparently can’t imagine how to move from so-called nuclear deterrence to a world where it’s just not right for countries to constantly threaten their civilians with massacres.
If we are to enjoy a peaceful future, Aotearoa should do the exact opposite of what Hooton and Malpass suggest. We should forge closer relationships with others who share our anti-nuclear values - and there is no shortage of such countries.
We must increase our diplomatic capacity to build relationships and contribute to conflict prevention and peace. We need to focus our international energy on climate solutions and the urgent transitions we need in energy, food and transport. Instead of concentrating our diplomatic and security efforts on the five eyes, we should strengthen our relations, for example, in the countries of Asean, in Latin America and, of course, in our neighboring Pacific islands, free of weapons. nuclear.
Some will always seek to narrow the view of what Aotearoa could or should be in the world. There will always be pressure to align with the aggressive military might of the US, UK and Australia.
We should resist this. This is not the way to a secure future, it is morally wrong and it is not inevitable.
Thomas Nash is co-director of the independent think tank New Zealand Alternative and was involved in the successful campaign for the 2017 Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.