I am sitting at my desk on a still Sunday afternoon listening to laughter outside accompanying the clack of croquet mallets on the adjacent lawn. All is peaceful in this quiet backwater of senior citizens.
Yet, awakening this morning to face the complete lack of local TV news, I turned instead to a well-respected Middle East based broadcasting channel. I heard a cacophony of sad news about food shortages (Afghanistan), anti-government riots (Sri Lanka), European conflict with resultant misery (Ukraine) and the aftermath of the terrible and, what is now, frequent slayings of a group of children in their place of learning (USA). I heard the political leader of the United States clearly stating that should China and Taiwan get into armed conflict, the US would support the island nation created in 1949 when divergent political thoughts in China caused the emergence of what has become a very successful and hardworking nation.
It seems strangely unfair that the world is made up of a dichotomy of life’s clearly unfair choices, resulting in post-trauma effects that will see world shortages of grain, escalation in the price of oil, displacement of millions of hitherto happy people and possibly a dive towards financial misery everywhere.
Meanwhile across the Tasman the brand-new government of Australia has, in its first week of taking control, already dispatched its new foreign minister to both Japan and Fiji. The latter visit was clearly linked to the possibility of small South Pacific nations succumbing to the golden largesse of the major Sino power to the right of Manchuria. There is history here. In the 1970’s the then governments of New Zealand and Australia were becoming concerned with the appearance of both Russian and Chinese influence in this idyllic corner of the world. They became initiators and major financiers of a shipping line linking our two countries with a number of small nations who could easily have been wooed to permit, under the cover of fishing treaties, the capability to create maritime bases south of the equator.
History often repeats itself. It is relatively easy to imagine Chinese bases in the Solomons. Further east the enormous economic fishing zones surrounding multi-island nations with large geographic spreads must look attractive. The Solomons are short of funds and in some cases are fearful of global warming reduction of their shorelines. They may choose to forget the enormous largesse that the trans-Tasman powers have bestowed upon them for several decades.
Now New Zealand combines the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs with the portfolio of Trade. But it is very clear that trade, for many years, has dominated the thrust of the various office holders. At the same time our country has severely wound down its defence forces especially in the matter of materials. While this is partly understandable it may be that there will be a call for a swing back towards international compatibility matched by suitable strengths of uniformed personnel and hardware – whether on land, sea or in the air. Even large drones are now seen as a very useful tool in both observational and projectile controls.
This is not meant to be alarmist. But just how safe are we locking ourselves behind our coastline even if that fortress mentality was initiated by a pandemic?