Sunday, May 23, 2010

On calling Truth to Power -

Eavesdropped over at TF's place.

The glimmer of hope, that he might see through the falsehoods of the "Clinton has signed a treaty with the UN to stop arms sales in the US", has gone. He found "confirmation of the fact" in some obscure little on-line European rag. Der Spiegel it is not.

Now the topic du jour is a speech by Mexican President Calderon to the US Senate. Apparently (I have not yet found the full transcript) he had the temerity to comment on Arizona's new "anti-alien" law. Without greater knowledge of what was said by Calderon, that goes no further here.

The reaction - not just from TF but from Congressmen down to Joe Inthestreet - has been far more interesting.

"How DARE he try and tell the US how to conduct its affairs".

Well, friends and gentlemen, that reaction brought back to mind a situation which arose between the US and an ally, and which resulted in the ally being turfed out of the ANZUS Treaty.

Why? Well, the ally passed a law that said no-one was allowed to send nuclear-powered ships into their waters. That really got up the collective noses of the US Defence Department and US political machine. If a squitty little country like NZ was going to ban nuclear powered ships, who would be the next? An example would be made unless the law was dropped and nuclear-powered (and armed) US naval ships allowed free and unfettered access to NZ ports.

That demand has been repeated to the NZ government by every US chief diplomat to present his warrant to the government in the past 25 years.

Now let me just pause there for a moment and regain my breath.

On the one hand, we have Americans mightily upset because an outsider and guest commented on their laws in the Senate.

On the other hand, (and I do not believe for a moment that the instance is unique) we have the US telling another country, an ally no less, how and what laws to put in place "or else..."

See a parallel there?

Perhaps David Lange (then Prime Minister) said it best at the Oxford Union -

We have never been part of strategic defence. The only nuclear weapons which presumably were brought by our allies to New Zealand in the past have been tactical weapons. We decided we didn't want to be part of someone's tactical nuclear battle. It's just about as bad as being part of somebody else's strategic nuclear battle. But that has not in any way diminished the deterrent power of the Western alliance. We have not given comfort to the Soviet bloc. We have not undermined the West.
But the result has been that we have been told by some officials in the United States administration that our decision is not, as they put it, to be cost-free; that we are in fact to be made to pay for our action. Not by our enemies, but by our friends. We are in fact to be made an example of; we are to be ostracised, we are to be convicted of some form of heresy and put on probation. We are going to be kept there until we are compelled to resume our seat in the dress circle of the nuclear theatre.

We have been told that because others in the West - and their advocates are here tonight - carry the fearful burden of a defence which terrorises as much as the threat it counters, we too must carry that burden. We are actually told that New Zealanders cannot decide for themselves how to defend New Zealand, but are obliged to adopt the methods which others use to defend themselves.

Lord Carrington [the Secretary-General of NATO] made a case in Copenhagen recently against the creation of nuclear weapon free zones. He argued that if the people of the United States - as advocated by my friend over there - found themselves bearing the burden alone, they would tire of bearing it. Now that is exactly the point. Genuine agreement[s] about the control of nuclear weapons do not cede the advantage to one side or the other: they enhance security, they do not diminish it. And if such arrangements can be made, and such agreements reached, then those who remain outside those arrangements might well and truly tire of their insecurity. They will reject the logic of the weapon and they will assert their essential humanity. They will look for arms control agreements which are real and verifiable.

And there's no humanity at all in the logic which holds that my country, New Zealand, must be obliged to play host to nuclear weapons because others in the West are playing host to nuclear weapons. That is the logic which refuses to admit that there is any alternative to nuclear weapons, when plainly there is.

It is self-defeating logic, just as the weapons themselves are self-defeating: to compel an ally to accept nuclear weapons against the wishes of that ally is to take the moral position of totalitarianism, which allows for no self-determination, and which is exactly the evil that we are supposed to be fighting against.

So, I say that the US has the right to reject anyone "telling them what to do".

But in so doing the US must also remember that other nations have the right of self-determination too.

That realisation must include that the right of self-determination must be acceded without any attempts on the part of other powers - including the US - to influence their decision-making process.


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Al said...

It is that kind of logic which has driven me away from supporting my government.