In defence of the realm

Once were warriorsDefence personnel cuts announced recently are no surprise. Yet again. it’s less than a year since the last lot. It’s a pity that the projected savings can’t be put to use in restoring our defence forces to a modicum of credibility.

This on top of an intention to cut $300 million from the police budget without reducing front line effectiveness.

Yeah, right.

Our servicemen and women have shown time and again over many years that they’re as good as it gets. The problem is that their numbers are pathetic and their major equipment disgracefully inadequate. Not to mention inadequate pay and conditions that go back at least half a century and probably longer.

Why weren’t our politicians (on either side of the house) as careful with our money when they opened the chequebook to the finance companies with a breathtakingly incompetent absence of no-brainer basic conditions which have cost Ewen Mee billions? When they gave unaffordable tax cuts to the better off? Shelling out ever increasing amounts on consultants? When Key and his sycophants proclaim that our current retirement age is affordable?

Remember when we had allies?

I do. When I joined the Royal New Zealand Navy in 1958, support vessels and coastal patrol craft aside, the RNZN fighting fleet comprised these actual warships:

  • 1 Dido class light cruiser active plus 1 in reserve.
  • 4 Loch class frigates active plus 2 in reserve and 2 Rothesay class building.
  • 2 minesweepers in commission (used as corvettes) plus 2 in reserve.

We could hold our heads up in comparison with those allies committed to watching our backs. Since then it’s been downhill all the way. We now have:

  • 2 Anzac class frigates.

Much of the time, one or other—or both—of those frigates are in refit or deployed far from our shores. One frigate versus 1 hunter-killer submarine—goodbye frigate.

We spend up large on unemployment benefits (as a Chinese official asked Joe Walding years ago: “Has all the work been done?”); solo parent support (how does a baby have only one parent?); and tummy-tuck operations, but we’re too far in hock to meet our real world obligations. I wonder how our “allies” feel about that. We can pay accident compensation to a prisoner who injures himself while escaping from prison but we can’t honour even half of our committed foreign aid contribution of a paltry 0.7% of GDP.

Air inferiority

In the year I joined the navy my contemporaries in the air force were flying de Havilland Vampire jet fighters and English Electric Canberra fighter bombers. I don’t know how many were operational at that time but we owned or borrowed 63 Vampires and 31 Canberras.

Now we have no fixed wing combat aircraft.

Zero. Zilch. Nada.

We’re a maritime nation, seriously dependent on trade, shipping is our lifeline. We have no effective means of defending our shipping lanes, let alone keeping out tens—maybe hundreds—of millions of Asian refugees who’ll be looking for a home when rising sea levels cause the major coastal cities of India, Bangladesh, and the South East Asian river deltas to submerge and when Himalayan snow loss results annually in the Ganges, the Mekong, the Yellow River and all the other great Asian life-sustaining rivers drying up and devastating their agricultural output.

How enthusiastic will the Aussies and the Yanks be when we beg for their help after we’ve spent decades—generations even—abusing their good will?

Once were warriors indeed.

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