Media Link: “A View from Afar” on NZ security strategy and the end of neoliberalism in South America.

datePosted on 09:49, June 11th, 2021 by Pablo

I have not had much time to blog in recent weeks but continue the weekly series of podcasts with Selwyn Manning. This week we discussed efforts to develop a comprehensive national security strategy for New Zealand that goes beyond Defense White Papers and annual reports from various security agencies, then turned to recent elections in South America as an indicator that neoliberalism is well and truly dead as an economic policy approach and, perhaps more importantly, as a social theory. You can find the episode here.

4 Responses to “Media Link: “A View from Afar” on NZ security strategy and the end of neoliberalism in South America.”

  1. Edward Main on June 13th, 2021 at 13:40

    Hola Pablo

    Nice to hear South American issues being discussed!
    Just thinking of Chile and the impending changes due to the renovation of their constitution.
    Do you think there is a new school of thought that will take over from The University of Chicago “ Chicago boys “ given the impending demise of neoliberalism?

  2. Pablo on June 13th, 2021 at 14:24

    Hi Edward,

    Yes, I think that the constitutional changes will not only remove the more obvious dictatorial legacies of the Pinochet constitution but will make it harder for socio-economic elites to continue to entrench their structural advantages via the constitution. what follows after that is hard to discern at this point but a return to some form of welfare state, even if stripped down to core functions like health, education and welfare, is likely in the cards. As I said in the podcast, the post-pandemic era and failures of neoliberal based governance means that the State is being “brought back in” to its proper role as macroeconomic manager and public good provider.

    I have to give credit to President Pinera for his understanding of what the 2019 demonstrations were really about and for his agreeing to engage in the constitutional review and redrafting that is now about to take place. There will be much debate and negotiation to come but we may be finally seeing the end of the long authoritarian tail–at least politically speaking–in Chile.

  3. Edward Main on June 13th, 2021 at 17:23

    Just thinking of the Defense White Paper.
    It was interesting to pick up on the fact that our
    military is army dominant which is surprising given our island nation status.

    Two things come to mind.
    If our navy is to become more relevant why not think about
    swarm tactics? Smaller more powerful craft and more of of them ?
    For the air force are they thinking about the use of drone technology ?

    With the advent of hypersonic missiles what role will armies play in the future of war?

  4. Pablo on June 14th, 2021 at 13:09

    Edward,

    In reverse order, the answers are that all three service branches are using drones for tactical reconnaissance, S&R and general patrol duties. The number of drones and their capabilities are a well-kept secret (only the Army is recognised as using them) but as far as I know there are no lethal drones operated by the NZDF (although it is likely that some of them could be modified to carry weapons). Drones are a good force multiplier–relatively cheap, cost efficient when operating when compared to manned aircraft, and easier to maintain and operate. Small tactical drones like the Kahu Hawk used by the Army are little more than model airplanes, but I assume that the other services have more robust platforms in their inventories.

    Swarm tactics are useful in relatively congested or narrow spaces where rapid evasive manoeuvring is difficult, including waterways (say, the Malacca or Taiwan Straits), but less so in open waters where manoeuvrability is less restricted. More importantly, the RNZN does not have the capability, even including its drone arsenal, to swarm anybody. Besides the small number of grey hulls in the fleet, a significant number of these are idled due to a lack of personnel to crew them. The two frigates are being retrofitted in Canada for long-range conventional maritime duties (ASW, surface warfare), and both inshore (Lake class) and offshore (Protector class) patrol boats (4 total) cannot carry the amount of missiles and/or drones to swarm aggressors. It is possible that the P3s and their successor P8s could cluster drop torpedos or missiles at surface targets and/or submarines, but that is a pretty inefficient way to use ordinance given the sophistication of detection and guidance systems in homing torpedoes and missiles these days (to say nothing of the defensive capabilities of opposing navies, which would find it relatively easy to shoot down such ASW/patrol aircraft). Plus, NZ simply does not have the budget or manpower to mass and launch land-based swarm attacks (even) for defensive purposes. It would be better served by laying mines at the entrance to major harbours so as to make it harder and more costly for aggressor navies to enter them, then engage in a land-based defence.

    That brings up the Army. Other than the SAS and the combat engineers and medics who deploy overseas on peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions, the NZDF is a defensive force without significant expeditionary reach. The lack of autonomous lift capability is a sore point for both NZDF as well as ADF officials, since the latter often have to pick up the slack when it comes to moving NZDF personnel abroad. The lack of armour, limited artillery capability and infantry focus of the Army means that its best use should come in a guerrilla/unconventional/SOLIC-style war on home soil against foreign adversaries. Since that is an improbable scenario, the bulk of the Army’s kinetic focus is on counter-insurgency in our near abroad, with the SAS left to deploy to more distant regions when international security partners request them.

    From my experience it seems that most island countries, be it Cuba, Singapore or Taiwan, engage in some form of “hedgehog” defence where they dig in and develop unconventional tactics that serve as a death by a thousand cuts to the aggressor. Since wars are no longer wars of annihilation where the defeated society is wiped out or completely subjugated, raising the costs in terms of time, treasure and effort to an invader trying to achieve a favourable military solution pursuant to a political objective is a good way of deterring aggression in the first place. That is because cost/benefit analysis of undertaking such a venture would likely advise against it. I am not sure if NZDF strategists think in these terms but if not, they should.

    As for hypersonic missiles, I fall back on the old adage used by both intelligence and military planners: when the opponent goes high tech, the best counter is to go low tech. Proof of the wisdom in those words is provided by the Taliban and Iraqi insurgents/resistance fighters.

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