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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Time to cut the M-FAT

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The most useless of all our government departments. Take a knife to these bastards now.

Much has been said of Labour's sluicing through the gutters with Phil Goff holding aloft their little dirt file of every bullshit thing Don and Lockie said to the Yanks in private like it was Lady fucking Liberty's torch of bloody freedom. Did they say it and is it as bad as Labour makes out? Probably. Owwwww - National likes America. No shit. It sounds like the usual arse-licking, sell-out, Amerika-worshipping, credulous performance of kow-towing we expect from any National Party politician. We don't need Goff to breach every ethical rule in the book to convince us of that. He used MFAT notes, of informal discussions to tell us the blindingly obvious. Now no opposition members will have MFAT officials to assist them in meetings thanks to his brazen affrontery to sound practise. When given the power and privilege he has chosen to abuse it. Typical, dirty Labour.

But what of MFAT and their "assistance." Are they to blame? Is some little Labourite lacky in MFAT behind it? Nothing from that organisation would surprise me. Let me explain:

MFAT chooses almost exclusively Masters graduates as staff. MA's in particular. This creates a class of academics that are expected to conduct our affairs overseas and provide policy to the government. Academics are good at using, formulating and proliferating jargon, writing reports that no-one is expected to actually read let alone action, having no sound grasp of reality, and finally, being well over-paid for the services provided. In short they are professionally adept at the art of doing nothing.

So this class, this brotherhood of officials, secreted in Hellington, decides how we interact with the World. Precious little in the way of policy seems to be set by the political masters - and most of their information comes from and is filtered by the Ministry. So let's look at their achievements:

* Australia bans our apples in the 1920s, only just thought of taking it to the WTO for a dispute resolution this year after 70 odd years of doing nothing.

* France launches a terrorist bombing on us in 1985 (Rainbow Warrior), and instead of mustering diplomatic support and using the UN and our contacts to pressure France, they do nothing and we accept blood money from France in exchange for turning the culprits over to them.

* French culprits set free within months and given medals and promotions (all of which everyone else on the planet knew would happen and said would happen) and they do nothing.

* The Solomon Islands starts it's descent into anarchy with spiralling inter-ethnic violence. The Solomon's government begs us for help because they cannot solve the problem themselves. MFAT advises Phil Goff that we should studiously do nothing until they have solved their problems themselves at which point we will provide the support that they no longer need! This sounds insane but this is exactly what happened. It was the Australians that finally decided to do something, initiated the dialogue and organised everything, even inviting us along - at which point the NZ media crowed about how we were doing something on the assumption that we had something to do with it - but we were an afterthought and had in fact made the situation worse by our inaction despite the retrospective lie that we had not done nothing.

* The French colonial territories in the Pacific, despite being the scenes of massacres, forced de-population and , nuclear testing and general oppressive policies that occur with colonies, a scurge that the UN was mandated to deal with, is openly congratulated and welcomed by us because our policy is to do nothing. We encourage French aid to even our own territories! The PM goes on about how France has a great role to play in the Pacific! Straight out of the MFAT bible, that one.

* We have a seat on the World Bank and the nut-job, Uber-Amerikan warmonger, Wolfowitz is put up for the vote by the US. Well, it wouldn't be MFAT if we didn't do nothing and vote in favour of a rampant militarist to control the heart of international banking system and loans to vulnerable countries. Who better than one of the architects of aggressive warfare by the world's only superpower? What a safe pair of hands. Thanks MFAT.

* We had a South African Embassy, a virtual Afrikaaner Nazi outpost on NZ soil until 1984. Our role in the defeat of Apartheid at the MFAT level was virtually nothing until the Fourth Labour government.

* Some poor Kiwi sap by the name of James Kirkwood is in a Louisianna jail for 7 weeks while the Poms are out almost immediately because MFAT though it was best just to, you know, do nothing.

* There are bound to be many more incidents, decisions, indecisions and inactions out there to illustrate enumerable instances of the do nothing policy.

* Last, and the worst of all by any standards was our culpability for the Rwanda genocide. We spent days furiously lobbying and pulling in favours to get that spot on the Security Council back in '93. This would be Don McKinnon's crowning achievement. Brought up in America as the son of a diplomat (and now Commonwealth Secretary-General) Don, though a politician, was a natural MFAT man. During our month chairmanship in April 1994 (shared with Colin Keating) on April 7th to be precise the 100 days of genocide in which almost a million Rwandans were massacred began. In January The Canadian peacekeeper reported to Kofi Annan (the useless head of peacekeeping operations) that genocide was imminent. By mid-April at least it was obvious what was occuring. For the record:

April 15 was the first of two days of UN Security Council debate on next steps in Rwanda—for which the Rwandan ambassador was present and about which he reported back to the interim government in Rwanda.  Over that same weekend, aware the UN Security Council was in retreat, the interim Council of Ministers, the genocide’s architects, met in Kigali and decided to take the program of extermination to the rest of the country.

So America's little helper chairing the UN's highest body. What a proud moment. I bet almost everyone reading this has no idea that the fate of Rwanda affectively lay in our hands. As an MFAT nadir, this was just unfathomably monumental. Oh sure, it's not our fault, America and France would have blocked anything... whatever. We had our chance, on the world stage, and we did nothing and almost one million died.

Everything else I have to say on the matter really is nought after that revelation I understand, but by way of a conclusion I offer the following:

Now they have to deal with political appointees of the calibre of Canadian High Commissioner and hack Labour MP Graham grey man Kelly, the life-long unionist fuck-knuckle that disgraced himself and the country with his idiotic comments, and they have to put up with bloated Jonathan Hunts who disgrace himself and the country and diner table shagging High Commissioners like... oh he was a National office holder stooge, but you get the drift. They have to behave diplomatically around all sorts of people. They all come from academic backgrounds. This combination means they tend to avoid taking action and prefer to do nothing as to not upset anyone. The advice they tender to ministers is similarly grey and static judging from the bland blatherings and implict upholding of any status quo position or acquiesence to whatever our bigger brothers say we should do.

There is this absurd notion floating around, although never stated overtly in print that I can find - a sort of a myth - that not only was NZ one of the founding members of the UN, but that Peter Fraser had a strong hand in it's foundation and strongly advocated for smaller states in the UN. I find that all rather hard to believe. Given the fact NZ still had not cut the "official" apron strings of British dependency (The Statute of Westminster) the idea is somewhat laughable. We have no track record of independence of thought or action whatsoever.

We like to think we are a little battler nation and can be proud of our record and hold our heads high in the great pantheon of nations... blah, blah, blah. But the truth is quite different. We are not willing to sell our vote because we simply give it away. We have no international sense of our own position as an independent state and even less, negligently less, of our own regional position and responsibilities let alone the moral fortitude to swim against the weakest tide.

MFAT needs a radical shake-up begining with some non-academics with practical experience of the outside world being appointed. The other half of the equation are the politicians; and quite frankly I think there is more hope of successfully reforming MFAT!


At 4/8/05 1:05 pm, Anonymous Ryan said...

Tim, Helen Clark's government has persued a pacificist and at times almost isolationist policy alienating itself from its traditional allies in Canberra, Washington and London.

NZ is economic backwater, with ever diminishing regional or global influence.

BTW, you can eliminate the Ministries of Womens, Maori, Pacific Island Affairs while you're downsizing MFAT.

Bring on the meritocracy.

At 4/8/05 3:21 pm, Blogger Cathy Odgers said...

Agree entirely with either getting rid of MFAT or making the bastards earn their money by doing things proactively for NZ overseas.

Re The Kirkwood case, their response was we do not interfere in other jurisdictions issues and it was a private employment situation. I have had this response from them when a similar incident with myself happened. I was fleet off foot enough though to leave the country immediately I was in. Having an AMEX card helped too with regards the plane ticket.

Well, fine then. If they are going to have such a hands off approach then best we get rid of the lot of them!

In the Kirkwood case his UK coworkers were all home immediately. Why? Because the UK helped them that is why.

At 4/8/05 5:45 pm, Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

I like how everyone silently agrees to ignore your little anti-American rant :-) You cite real-world examples why we should dislike France at a foreign policy level, but fail to cite similar examples of why we should reject closer contact at the MFAT level with the USA.

Ryan has it right - NZ is an economic backwater, with minimal influence. We don't even bother to use what limited military and economic influence we have over the Cooks, let alone any other Pacific nation.

At 4/8/05 7:23 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

AL: As I try to ignor your pro-American rants :-). Although I'm a bit more gratuitous with the invective than yourself.

MFAT, or a department similar, is vitally necessary for us because we are "an economic backwater, with minimal influence" etc. At present, and in the past they have let us down. If we had some well-travelled businessmen instead of PhD's in jargonology as our reps it would be a good start. Cocktail circuits don't require doctorates. This may be slightly dodgy as an example but Hitler used a champagne salesman to negotiate and seal a pact with Stalin, his bitterest foe who used the guy who gave us the name for a more practical cocktail - formerly an impossibility.

I'm for cutting the crap out of MFAT, but to do that requires a political will to re-evaluate our foreign policy objectives. "Pacifism" is on the button as far as criticism goes. Our do nothing Solomons approach was because the over-riding concept is that we are peace-keepers and not peace-makers. When people are dying in our backyard (let alone Rwanda) MFAT says we can't do anything because our job is to keep a peace rather than make one. The most we've ever done was for Bouganville, where we lent a warship to have a meeting on and then flew people to Burnham for another meeting. That was good and worthwhile (which is why I left it off the list!) but was a low-impact job that we thought we were up to - anything else would be viewed as an impossibility by them viz: Solomons crisis.

I'm for talking to the US as equals (no, don't laugh... stop laughing) rather than lackies a la Australia at present. They sold their vote on the UN to the Yanks for a dodgy trade "deal" that promises to let them have beef access after 15 years (at which point all the mid-west Senators will turn around and reneg on it). That is not a scenario we should take. The only countries to vote in favour of Israel's ghetto wall at the last UN vote was Micronesia, another US de facto puppet territory of whose name I forget, Israel, the USA and Australia. Don't tell me the Aussies would have done that were it not for that far distant promise of beef access. They are pathetic.

We should embrace collective security on equal terms with our partners that take our needs into consideration not just the big boys. We have US spy stations here and yet it seems we can't have access to all the info. That is unacceptable. Where is our spy station in Hawaii? CHCH airport is a de facto US air base. Where is our base? Where's the quid pro quo? We are whoring ourselves on a freebie basis.

I want to see an independent policy. It certainly need not be "pacifist". We've chipped glacially away at trade barriers by joining the "Cairnes group" and pushed Mike Moore into the WTO - so maybe Nat wannabe Tim Grosser is one of the good guys in that respect. But as far as our diplomacy goes we need to shape up and stop being so passive and negligent. Our collaboration with France to prevent independence of the Pacific territories is a disgrace.

At 5/8/05 9:13 am, Blogger gazzadelsud said...


well tim, you are a curmudgeonly old git. Your take on MFAT is unfortunately very fair, and you are right to point to our disasterous inactivity while all the time proudly proclaiming the the craven inactivity represents NZ "punching above its weight"

given that our diplomatic weight is somewhat south of any real countries, this means we are taken as seriously as - hmmm, the cooks?

at least you have to BUY the vote of other Pacific Governments, we GIVE ours to almost anybody.

On the US, well i disagree, but so be it, I happen to think they are the leading power of those economies that share our economic and cultural outlook and that we should recognise and respect that.

I also (as you do I feel) believe in realpolitik - there is no happy ever after in a grubby atavistic little world.

Consequently pissing on the strongest big guy on our side doesnt seem the cleverest path to influence or prosperity? You don't have to slavishly follow but it seems sensible to recognise a few home truths.

i would also point out that if we had a bit more credibility in Washington, we could maybe have sprung that bloke?


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