Friday, June 08, 2007

20 years nuclear free and no better off

The long and sorry tale of the fourth Labour government's eventual prohibition on nuclear arms and nuclear powered vessels says a lot about the internal tensions in that government at the time. David Lange capitulated to the far left of the Labour party, which for reasons partly of hysteria, but mostly the insidious anti-Americanism infecting their minds, saw nuclear powered ships banned and even a banning of conventionally powered ships that the US did not categorically deny had nuclear weapons.
The background to this is something the left today is in denial about. The USS Buchanan was conventionally powered, had no means to deploy nuclear weapons, so the likelihood it would carry nuclear weapons was fairly obviously nil. Nevertheless, the US had a broad "neither confirm nor deny" policy, for obvious strategic reasons. However, the shrill harpies of the left (and it was Margaret Wilson, Helen Clark, Ann Hercus and others) didn't think that was good enough - they cared next to nothing about relations with the US. This implied a moral equivalency between the US and the USSR, which is nothing short of disgusting.
Some see it as a coming of age, and believe there was some sort of broad support by "that generation" for the nuclear ban. In fact, it split the nation and I wasn't supportive of it. Even though the Cold War saw many actions by the West that were difficult to defend morally (support for fascist dictators against communist ones), the fundamental point was that the Soviet Union and its empire was expansionist and evil. Only by denying how evil it was, how utterly oppressive, life destroying, authoritarian and anti-reason that system was, could someone see that deterring its military aggression was immoral. Most of those who now live in the EU, but who until recently were part of the Warsaw Pact see this. The supposed liberal credentials of some on the left who turned a blind eye to this must be questioned.
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The Green Party press release on this shows clearly how anti-Western the anti-nuclear movement is. Keith Locke said:
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"In fact, George W Bush is escalating the arms race with the Star Wars weapons programme and his nuclear missile shield, while the British government is spending billions on a new generation of Trident nuclear submarines. Nuclear Free New Zealand shouldn't shrink from criticising existing nuclear states for further developing their nuclear arsenals and delivery systems"
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What about India and Pakistan Keith? What about Iran refusing to accept IAEA inspections? What about North Korea, a brutal dictatorship dedicated to wiping out the South Korean government, now holding nuclear weapons? What about China, itself an authoritarian one-party state?
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The truth is that the anti-nuclear campaigners wanted the West to disarm unilaterally. Some thought naively that in some sort of John Lennon moment, the USSR and China would also lay down their arms (even though they were more than willing to execute citizens who disagreed with them), but others didn't really give a damn.
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Without nuclear deterrence, there is little doubt that North Korea would have sparked a second Korean War (it did start the first). There is also little doubt that the USSR would have been more aggressively expansionist (think it wasn't? Remember Afghanistan).
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As ACT's Heather Roy has pointed out, the ban on nuclear propulsion was largely motivated by dangers that are imagined rather than real. Indeed, the Somers Report (dismissed wholeheartedly by Labour) points out how the US naval fleet emits less radiation than Auckland hospital does in a year. The nuclear propulsion ban is irrational and childish. Rational debate on this is almost impossible, as many on the left don't want it, and take an approach to risk management that the Greens love - prove it is safe. Well, on that basis nobody should ever use motorised transport, or eat almost anything.
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Phil Goff's naive press release (honestly does he believe this crap? He's smarter than that) calls for worldwide nuclear disarmament. The simple truths are:
- Some countries will not disarm, even if others will. It would be foolish for our allies (US, UK and France) to disarm unilaterally, while other states that are not allies wont (China, Russia, North Korea).
- Verification of nuclear disarmament is impossible with dictatorial regimes, so any commitments cannot be confirmed independently. In other words, while Russia, China and Iran are authoritarian and non-transparent regimes, any agreement to disarm cannot be trusted.
- The ability to manufacture nuclear weapons will never go away.
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In other words, until the End of History IS true, unilateral or multilateral disarmament by Western countries and Israel, of their nuclear deterrents is very unwise. If most countries co-existed peacefully without aggressive intent, without wanting to destroy other governments (like Iran, North Korea, Russia and China all do to greater or lesser extents), then nuclear weapons would be redundant. It wont happen because a peaceful country that threatens no one bans its allies from visiting with their vessels.
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The number of nuclear weapons in the world declined significantly after New Zealand banned nuclear weapons/nuclear powered ships. You'd have to be mentally unhinged to believe the two events are linked. The reason it happened was because the USSR dismantled Marxism-Leninism, let go of its oppressive empire in eastern Europe and no longer threatened Western Europe, the USA and its Asian allies. Russia, the USA, France and the UK have all cut their arsenals. The USA and Russia by over half. It was Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, George Bush senior, Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin that did most for reducing nuclear arsenals
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New Zealand can claim not one iota of credit for that.

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