Happy New Year.

I have been pretty dormant as of late because the lead up to the end of 2022 involved household Covid, some work demands on me and stresses on my wife (she was caught up in that cluster-F of academic “reorganisation” at a certain NZ university) and the usual holiday preparations. Plus I have been dealing with some health issues, including a somewhat slow recovery from knee replacement surgery. It has been a strange, unhappy year in world affairs for the most part, which gave me this feeling of impending doom for most of it even though we, as a small family with one young child, have weathered things pretty well. We shall see if things get better in 2023.

KP has become a bit of a vanity project of mine, which is a pity. I am the administrator and sole financial supporter of the blog. Lew has decamped to short-format analysis and opinionating, which is a KP loss. I have yet to find anyone who will join KP as a co-blogger who does things like feminism, identity politics, modern Left dynamics in NZ and abroad, etc. Perhaps people are warned off by the experiences of others who came and went but I am happy to consider anyone who can write intelligibly on these type of topics and who does an ego-check before standing on the KP soapbox.

KP have seen its readership numbers slowly descend since Lew left, averaging < 100 views per day. We are now a micro-niche platform, if that. In order to supplement my increasingly scarce posts I have added some of the “A View from Afar” podcasts that I do with Selwyn Manning. Many of the topics are what I would address here anyway, with the added benefit of having Selwyn as an intelligent interlocutor with whom to exchange ideas and opinions.

We did pass the million view mark sometime this year. I did 40 posts, about half of which were AVFA links along with a couple of public notices. We are up to 16,557 comments, of which 2,336 are mine. Since its inception in 2009 KP has published 1, 242 posts, of which 704 are mine. This year the majority of posts received comments although as in previous years those that were NZ-centric got the most attention. Sometimes I feel that I could write about a nuke going off somewhere north of NZ and the response would be “but there was a nice green glow in the evening sky that day and surely the pavlova crisis needs our more immediate attention.” Just kidding.

KP does have a loyal cadre of readers and commentators, for which I am grateful. I say that I part because I have seen a proliferation of “experts” on things that have been addressed here over the years, including violent extremism and terrorism. It is good to have more coverage of political violence in all of its guises and motivations even if there is a sort of reinventing the wheel aspect to all of these new analyses. I say this because I was involved in dealing with the root causes of violent extremism while in US government service in the 1990s and because I have professionally written for 35 years on various aspects of political violence. In any event, 2022 was certainly a year to broaden focus on rightwing extremism in all of its seditious and subversive manifestations, so the expansion of public attention on the subject in general is very much warranted.

This year the focus of most KP posts were international relations and security, including the Ruso-Ukrainian War and PRC machinations in the South Pacific as well as the response to them in the region and beyond. I wrote on a few other things (including the rise of an indigenous socialist president in Chile early in the year) but the trend was to cement the KP as a foreign policy-oriented blog with a NZ perspective.

In any event, KP will continue to chug along for the time being. If anyone has the time, inclination and chutzpah to propose to join me in the endeavour, I am all ears. You will not get rich by doing so but you can get things off your chest and even engage with our small community of dedicated readers on a regular basis as a type of network broadening exercise.

I wish all KP readers a healthy, happy and productive New Year. As for me, I am starting it by outlining my first essay of 2023 titled the Era of Continuous War, which is about how the erosion of international rules, rise of intolerant authoritarian politics that transcend formal government structures both within and across national borders, the advent of sophisticated weapons and new tactics (say, in the use of drones) and the (economic, political, social) dislocations caused by Covid and subsequent pandemics will lead to the 2020s and perhaps beyond being in a state of continuous war involving States, proxies and non-State actors in what will largely be low intensity conflicts of open-ended duration but which have the potential to escalate and widen into something much worse.

And on that optimistic note, I say Cheers to you all!

19 thoughts on “Happy New Year.

  1. I for one hope you can keep KP functioning. My politics aren’t yours, but your commentary is always stimulating and thought provoking.
    Keep up the good work and I do hope 2023 works for you.

  2. Feliz año nuevo, Pablo. I hope 2023 will be kinder to you and your family than this year has been.

    Your wise analysis is always appreciated – it would leave a big hole at the top of my go-to list of sources I know I can trust for what is happening in this old world if KP was no more. I’ve learned much from you over the years I’ve been reading your column; I hope that will continue and that you find a co-contributor to Kiwipolitico in the near future.

    All the very best!
    Di T.

  3. Thanks Jim,

    And best to you and yours, KP is all about informed opinion and debate.


  4. All the best for 2023 Pablo. The COVID years, and people’s personal travails have left few unaffected by all manner of psychological stress. As you allude to, the NZ monetarist/bums on seats education model continues to bite more than a few practitioners in that arena.

    KP may be micro-niche, but I would still bet on some of the Pipitea House. denizens checking it out!

    As a non academic I enjoy your posts because it seems like being in one of your lectures when you present the intricacies of how International relations actually work. Nuance and multiple layers of contradictions and competing interests within larger frameworks and narratives. Have you considered notifying KP posts on Facebook or Instagram to reach extra readers?

    Public intellectuals seem ever fewer in these digital times of instant gratification & short attention spans, so hopefully Kiwi Politico continues.

  5. “I would still bet on some of the Pipitea House. denizens checking it out!”
    I would be astonished if they didn’t. The occupants of Pipitea House stand to gain considerable knowledge from one of our most distinguished and experienced overseas imports ‘Pablo’.

    As an occasional lurker (NY resolution to follow KP more assiduously in future), my interest lies in the rise of Right Wing extremism. Having had some past experience of such individuals – who I would describe as akin to the fore-runners to NZ’s current crop – it is to be hoped Pablo you will continue to provide us with your thoughts on the subject from time to time.

  6. Much thanks TM.

    All the best to you and yours.

    I hope that this year will be improvement on last but am not banking on it. Opening the borders to PRC visitors is going to be a high risk strategy, IMO. It is clear that with NZ’s high rates of vaccination and the weakening so far of Covid variants, the government feels it can bow to business pressure about the critical importance of overseas tourists to the NZ GDP (even if it does not trickle down much outside the tourist economy and is not essential to NZ economic well-being). I have no doubt that the foreign student sector is clamouring to re-open our universities and English language training schools as well even if there again, the trade-offs involved do not always lead to a net benefit for NZ.

    Moreover, even with the dropping of pandemic mitigation mandates, the seditious sociopaths in groups like VFF, Counterspin and Groundswell have simply moved on to other grievances, mostly involving the Deep State and awarding equal rights in policy-making and society in general to historically marginalised/oppressed groups. And then there is the era of conflict dawning upon us…

    I am glad that you enjoy my approach to writing this blog. Initially I envisioned it as a more personally ideological form of writing, different and more informal that academic books and journal articles as well as media op eds. Now it is a counter-balance to my work writing, which has to be impartial and more client-oriented even when addressing general geopolitical and strategic themes. My objective in both types of writing is to offer some analytic depth to subjects that, as you rightly note, are often treated as no more than clickbait by media outlets. That in turn allows publicity-seeking charlatans or neophytes to offer opinions that are seldom grounded in deep subject knowledge. Add to it the proliferation of self-publishing platforms like Patreon and Substack, and you get every Joe and Jane with an opinion offering their views–which is then often picked up as clikbait by the corporate media. I prefer to take the path less traveled.

    As it is, I sometimes link KP posts to my FB pages and the business twitter account.

    I am not sure if the nice folk in Pipitea House spend much time reading KP or listening to the podcast. I have had some unpaid, non-contracted involvement with DPMC on the subject of violent extremism but so also have an assortment of academics and community leaders who do not necessarily have background in the subject. In fact, I applied for a position as a Director of the newly created National Centre of Research Excellent for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (which is a mouthful, so I prefer to use the Maori title: He whenua taurikura. I also applied to be on its Board of Governors. In both instances my applications did not make it past the first round, which is significant since the Centre and candidate selection process was run by DPMC.

    The people who were selected to be co-Directors just happened to also be part of the selection committee and neither has significant background in violent extremism or terrorism (one wrote about white supremacists in the 1980s and returned to the subject after March 15 while the other writes about colonial and post-colonial trauma amongst Maori). The entire selection process–where the Director of the Otago Peace and Conflict Studies Centre was initially named as Director only to (be forced to) resign two weeks later, opening the door for the selection committee members-turned-candidates to be installed. Weird, I’d say.

    In any case I will try to do my bit on this forum and elsewhere to contribute to public discourse about subjects I am familiar with. Which is also why I need to find someone who knowledgeably writes about things that I am not competent to address. Cheers.

  7. Thanks Anne.

    I removed the duplicate comment. I cannot figure out how to eliminate the strange message that pops up when comments are made (something about a fatal error), including my own comments. But I can see the duplicates when they go through (sometimes they do not) so can remove the extras.

    I appreciate your ongoing support, both here and over at the Standard (which I occasionally lurk at). One of the ironies in my current situation is that in the 1990s before moving to NZ I was involved with Leadership Analysis and Net Assessment groups in the US security community where we brought in psychologists, sociologists, and other experts who could help us develop profiles of those who were most likely to join terrorist groups of both the Left and Right. I contributed by helping differentiate between guerrilla groups with legitimate grievances based on socio-economic and political inequalities and those, such as the narco-militias and racist groups, who used terroristic violence for their own selfish purposes. I also helped develop profiles of various leaders in my area of competence (Latin America). None of this background experience has ever once come up in my dealing with NZ government officials.

    Anyway, one of the general profiles for those inclined towards violent extremism that we developed back then was angry, marginalised, socially dysfunctional young men (16-30) who had no affective relationships with females. They tended to not have girlfriends or wives, did not get along with their mothers and sisters, aunts, etc, and tended to be rejected or scorned by females who were the objects of their attentions. This increased their rage, which then made them prime material for recruiting campaigns where the blame for their predicaments could be attributed to the State, imperialism, feminism, corrupt government and other sources other than their own failings. The issue was summed up nicely by an old CIA hand who listened to a presentation we gave outlining the general characteristics of potential extremists. When we were finished he remarked that “basically what you are telling us is that it all starts with guys who can’t get laid.”

    Today, thirty years later, we call those guys “incels.” The question is whether the NZ intelligence community and security services are connecting the dots when it comes to general characteristics of the violent extremists in our midst.

    I hope that you have a happy, healthy and productive year.

  8. Spoonley… Otago Peace and Conflict Studies Centre…Dept. of PM & Cabinet… appears to be thumping great conflicts of interest and stacked decks all round in this particular scenario.

  9. TM:

    As I have painfully learned, one aspect of “small country syndrome” is shoulder-tapping and “one hand washes the other” nepotism. Once you’re in, you are in. There is a brown table parallel to the syndrome as well. TBH, the guy from Otago might have worked out but IMO got sabotaged for some reason. The most problematic person is the Victoria academic. Just one look at her twitter history will tell you all that you need to know about why she is problematic, beyond the fact that she has zero experience with the study of, much less practical experience with dealing with extremist violence, ideologically motivated or otherwise ( a distinction that I am pretty sure is lost on her).

    My sense is that rather than a serious think tank working on understanding the causes, manifestations and warning signs of, and proactive as well as reactive solutions to the problem of radicalization and violent extremism, this is an exercise in feel-good PR window dressing. I suspect many in the immigrant/targeted minority communities will agree.

    If National wins this year its funding will be cut off and it will die. There will be zero impact on the co-Directors.

  10. Greetings, this is completely unrelated, but with your strong Argentinian background I thought you might be interested in this (you have probably seen it already, but others may be interested too)


    As a woman and mother, I find it fascinating; and heart-breaking, the lengths these Russian parents have to go to, to secure a safe and optimistic, a freer future for their children. It shows how much of a hole Russia is digging for itself. Also how much we must still realise and value the freedoms we have in the West, that we don’t even have to start to think about these things for our children. I feel for these women, and their partners. The fallout from this blasted war touches every part of Russians’ lives, even the very youngest. Growing up in Argentina! But so far from home. Kind regards, Happy New Year to you and yes, keep on trucking. Keep our minds alive :-)

  11. Thanks Barbara,

    Happy New Year to you and yours. I am biased when it comes to Argentina but the decision of the Russian moms to give birth in Argentina is a (however forced) stroke of genius. Growing up in Argentina is bound to be infinitely better than growing up in Russia, plus there is a long-established Russian community in the country, so there are “touches of home” upon which to rely and network. The children get birthright citizenship and if the mother’s wish, pathways to citizenship are relatively simple and quick. Plus, there are no sanctions levied by the international community on Argentina!

    Plus, Russia stinks at (soccer) football while Argentina is, well, you know…

    Very good move, IMO.

  12. Thanks :-). I tried not to look at the soccer (lol – soccer?) – I couldn’t help but think of the wives and the dogs (interesting equation) if the Argies lost – and then wondered if they would still cop it, even when you (you ?) won :-). And then there was all the controversy over the Iranians, the Qataris … and David Beckham lol. It all seemed a bit ho hum here in our household. It doesn’t help that you (largely) have to pay to watch it. We watched it when on free-to-air tv and loved it. Better than that other thing they play here (which I don’t understand at all lol)

    Thanks for your insights. Always appreciated. The subtexts to our lives :-)

    PS I am reading another ‘spy’ novel at the moment – ‘Shadow State’ by Luke Harding. ‘Murder, mayhem and Russia’s remaking of the West’. Published 2020, so before the current conflicts. It tells you a lot about the way Russia works. Such a retrograde nation (nation? I hesitate to call it that, it implies some kind of civility). Goodness knows how 2023 will pan out with the Ukraine invasion. I still fear a WW3 in the back of my mind – I read/watch the best reports I can get hold of (like deustche welle – we can not access anything more detailed or explicit) and my conclusions are intuitive.

    Thanks so much, take care :-)

  13. PSS you will have to post another spiel – about anything, will do! – so we can move on into 2023.
    I feel like I am living a little in the past on your blog atm !

  14. Barbara:

    Had Argentina lost there would have been plenty of domestic violence and animal abuse to be sure. My household is the opposite of yours in that because of my upbringing we are pretty fanatical about Argentine soccer. My kiwi-born wife and son have gotten the vibe, so we followed the tournament with keen interest (I watched about 65 percent of the games live because I pay for the soccer channel on Sky). The controversies were a welcome antidote to the fawning “sportswashing” exhibited in the official media coverage. The vote to hold the WC was bought with bribes by would-be hosts to FIFA brass (as was the previous one in Russia), and the human rights of the hosts is contemptible. Plus it became a celebration of the vulgar rich, with not only VIP seats and boxes but VVIP seats and boxes for the ultra wealthy (where they could drink freely). That whole part stunk and it was good to see the push back even if now Iranian players are paying the price for their mild expressions of solidarity with their female counterparts at home. As far as for how other favourites fared (especially Brazil): ha ha ha!

    I will resume writing again along the lines I mentioned in my Happy New Years post, which unfortunately is about what I see as a coming era of conflict that will extend to the end of this decade and perhaps beyond and which may start out as a series of low intensity events but which has the potential to escalate into something much worse. A bit dreary I know, but that is where my head is at.

    Oh, and please be careful with the use of the term “Argies” around Argentines (not Argentinians). The term was popularised by the British during the Falklands/Malvinas War and is treated somewhat like the N-word by my erstwhile compatriots.

  15. I didn’t mean to make light with my comments about the Football World Cup. The truth is that it was all a bit much, as you say – all the negativity and controversy swirling around it. The corruption.
    I can’t remember the last time we watched a World Cup match. I’m sure it must’ve been when the Italians won. I remember their playing was so stylish. That must be decades ago lol
    And I apologise for my use of the moniker ‘Argies’. I do not know its origins. I almost called the Italians ‘Itis’ above, but changed my mind. (There may be some subtle censorship creeping in here !) And as for the ‘N-word’ I remember there was a brief time when it became respectable – at least, informally. My son and his cohort used it all the time, like some kind of badge of honour. ‘Respect’. And of course it popped up all the time in their music, hiphop etc. I think, officially, it was only permitted use by their own. But my son and his friends wouldn’t care a jot about that, he was just an urban kid, getting around …. it was part of that street culture.

    The poor Brazilians subsequently lost Pele.
    I couldn’t help think there was something meaningful in his passing at this time.

  16. I am almost at the end, watching Timothy Snyder’s lectures on the history of Ukraine.
    For your readers here, I post a link to the 2nd-to-last lecture, which includes poetry from later-20th century Ukrainian writers and poets; some of whom died in the gulags.


    for those who are interested.
    I was moved.
    The history of Ukraine is complex – you need to know it to understand the conflict going on there. It was the foundation of Russia – that name, ‘Russia’, comes from the Vikings, the Rus, who settled in Kyiv way back in the 10th century and before. That striking emblem we see on Zelenskyy’s sweater comes from that time, it is of the Ukrainian Vikings, the Kievan Rus.
    Later there were historical unions with Poland, under the Polish-Lithuania state (16-18th century). (That Lithuania was then so much bigger than it is now.) A lot of Russian identity comes from Ukraine. That is why this ‘war’ can be seen to be a Ukrainian War of Independence – a time to assert its history and its sovereignty, really in the face of a usurper. Its also the reason malheureusement why the current Russians are removing so many artifacts from museums of southern (Kherson) and eastern Ukraine.
    I’m not sure if this post is appropriate here, whether its what you want on this site, but I think its important, and revealing; and fascinating. I was always more of an historian than a political scientist ;-).

    Kind regards.

  17. Thanks Barbara,

    I am sure that KP readers will find your links of interest so I appreciate you providing them.

  18. HV.

    Sarcasm is fine by bogus porn email addresses for reply are not. Says a bit more about you than KP commentators and violates basic KP rules.

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