Defence – A Libertarian View

Moral Justification for Having Military Forces
Libertarianz holds that the role of government is to protect its citizens against the initiation of force. Consequently, provision of a defence organisation to protect against the use of military force against New Zealand is part of the proper function of government.

Practical Justification
History has shown that the most militarily aggressive nations are those with totalitarian or authoritarian governments. It is true that there are no such militarily aggressive nations in our immediate vicinity, and that the benevolent Australia protects our Western flank.

The only overtly militaristic nations with amphibious forces large enough for the task are Indonesia, China, Russia and possibly India. All of which would have to come through or round Australia first to threaten us directly.

This is the “benign defence environment” claimed by Helen Clark.

Unfortunately, this is a view almost Napoleonic in its outlook on current military technology and prowess, and in a post-9/11 world this view needs a radical rethink.

Three lessons from past history demonstrate the point.

  • On the 8th of December 1941, New Zealand felt safe from harm. On that day in Singapore and across the International Dateline at Pearl Harbour, Japanese pre-emptive strikes began a campaign that brought Australia within a hair’s breadth of becoming a battleground. Had that happened, New Zealand, too, would have been directly attacked, as Darwin was. It took approximately six months for a modern military force to advance across a hemisphere of the globe.
  • Since then, innovations in military technology have continued apace until, in the Gulf War of 1991, the fourth largest army in the world was vaporised before a prime-time TV audience in about 100 hours.
  • The attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 made clear to those with eyes to see that acts of terrorism such as these could be carried out anywhere, anytime – and by anyone with an axe to grind, either real or imagined.

Military campaigns have been increasing exponentially in ferocity and velocity throughout the 20th Century and will continue to do so into the 21st. But the military force that took part in 1991 took much longer to train; this is why we need a standing defence force: It takes longer to train a competent defence force than it does for a (previously impossible) crisis to arise.

Islamic terror attacks are an example of “asymmetric warfare”, requiring concerted intelligence and military action to defend against attack, and to hunt down the attackers and those who support them. In this action we have common cause with other Western countries.

The Asia/Pacific region has itself always been one of the most politically volatile in the world as terrorist acts in Bali and Indonesia as well as political unrest in East Timor, Fiji and the Solomons testify. This volatility has been and will continue increasing against the backdrop of a violent likely fragmentation of Indonesia, and an arms race as more Asian nations augment their military arsenals with nuclear weapons or attempt to match the increasing military sophistication of Red China and North Korea.

Yet, in spite of these indications, successive New Zealand Governments have decided to mould our defence forces into a paramilitary police force useful only for United Nations peacekeeping missions. New Zealand’s defence forces are acting as Helen Clark’s application for the job of UN Secretary-General. This is not their function. Nor is it the function of the Australian Defence Forces to defend us, or to constantly repair the few worn-out Hercules aircraft that now represent what’s left of our Air Force.

Our Army—the current premier service in the defence forces—is essentially a light infantry force bereft of air support, heavy artillery, armour and proper logistics. Unlike the past governments who could point to defence alliances with the USA to rectify these deficiencies, the current Labour government seems determined to rely on the UN—an organisation incapable of protecting its own soldiers in Bosnia or Sierra Leone, let alone carrying out its missions in those countries.

A defence force is an insurance against an insecure future, a future so terrible to contemplate given our current relative peace and prosperity that it would seem impossible to ever occur. Yet the technology that has brought us prosperity has also increased the velocity with which international events deteriorate into conflict, and has increased the ferocity of those conflicts.

Blinding oneself to these facts will not erase their existence; the truth is that if New Zealand wishes to remain “freedom’s ramparts on the sea”, then provision must be made against future conflicts now. It is the government’s job to make that provision—provision for a proper, effective independent defence force. Here is how Libertarianz plans to do just that.

Defence Proposals
A Libertarianz government would seek to:

    The Libertarianz will enter into mutual defence treaties only with free societies. Said defence treaties will permit the committing of military forces only if the rightful territories of ourselves or our treaty partners come under unprovoked attack or verified threat of imminent military action by a third nation. Said treaties will specifically include the right to use pre-emptive force should a military or terrorist force be shown to be preparing to attack.
    A Libertarianz government will remove all legal obstacles that would otherwise impede individual citizens from fighting as mercenaries in foreign territories in support of foreign causes they wish to support.
    We recognise four key areas in the Defence Forces.
    The Intelligence Service, the Air Force, the Navy and the Army.
    Because the threat to New Zealand at present is low, a largely part-time military built around a cadre of professionals is all that is required. There is little wrong with the current size of New Zealand’s defence forces; but they urgently need to be properly equipped.

Intelligence Forces
A Libertarianz government would review the Military Intelligence arm of the Defence Forces with a view to improving its capability to monitor the movements and strength of any likely foreign aggressors and foreign terrorists in our region.

We will not set up our intelligence forces like the secret armies depicted in cinematic portrayals of the CIA, MI5, etc. The simple objective is to reduce the likelihood of a surprise attack similar to that on Pearl Harbour or the Bali bombing.

Combat Forces
The four main types of overt military action that could be waged against New Zealand are:

1. Terrorism

2. Some form of aerial or naval interdiction.

3. Aerial bombardment

4. Amphibious invasion

The Libertarianz proposed constitution preclude the use of military forces on the citizens of this country, therefore domestic terrorism acts will be dealt with by an appropriately funded Police force. Thus the combat component of the Defence Forces will be arranged to respond to the three remaining forms of attack, and to offshore operations against clear terrorist threats.

The Air Force
History has shown that it is easier to defeat an army while embarked at sea than when deployed on land. Combine this with the fact that aircraft have been the decisive weapons in all major naval battles after World War 1 and it is obvious that the best defence against amphibious invasion is a well-equipped Air Force.

Thus we will reverse the damage done by Helen Clark’s government and obtain new multi-role combat aircraft (such as the General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F16 Fighting Falcon), able to carry out airborne interception, ground support and maritime strike. We will also seek to update and replace our maritime surveillance (Lockheed P3K Orion aircraft), tactical transport (Lockheed C130 Hercules aircraft) and our tactical helicopter (Bell UH-1 Iroquois) fleets with newer, more modern aircraft.

It is expected that much of this equipment will be made cheaply available from at least one former ally, as was, for example, the F16s deal signed by then Defence Minister Max Bradford, and foolishly abandoned by the Clark Government.

The Navy
The Navy’s most effective role is as maritime escort, oceanic patrol and in anti-submarine warfare. None of these roles can effectively be carried out round the clock by land-based air units, so helicopter-equipped frigates will continue to be favoured for this role.

To this end, we advocate buying a third and a fourth frigate to augment the two ships we already have. We believe that the ANZAC/Meko class frigates are perfect for this role. Chief among their assets is the ability to be rapidly modified should that need arise. For instance the Harpoon ASM consists of 4 launch tubes bolted to the deck, as they are in the Australian WIP version ANZAC class ships.

The Army
Our proposed withdrawal from UN operations and our determination to defeat an enemy before they reach our shores leaves the Army with a minor role. The clear exception to this is our Army’s Special Forces, who in an age of Islamic terrorism have a role in hunting down a common enemy in support of our allies.

The Army is slowly having its outdated equipment replaced, mainly to have some credibility as a UN peacekeeper. Libertarianz would continue this process but in the cause of defending our borders and at a reduced rate until the deficiencies of the other services had been addressed. Thus, in the short-term at least, only urgently needed equipment would be purchased, or equipment needed to support Special Forces anti-terrorism actions overseas.

In the long term, dependent on the terms of our mutual defence treaties, the Army will be reorganised and re-equipped so that its infantry battalions and artillery regiments are at full strength and equipped to levels found in European/American light infantry battalions. In particular Libertarianz would seek to address deficiencies in body and vehicle armour, anti-tank and anti-aircraft capabilities, and long range artillery.

It should be emphasised that the Army will contain the largest proportion of part-time personnel.

Overwhelming evidence from history has shown that mechanised forces can defeat larger armies quickly and with a minimum of casualties. Therefore we would seriously investigate reorganising a portion of the Army to create a credible mechanised force probably modelled on the US Army’s Armoured Cavalry Regiment. A mechanised version of the Army may have its personnel numbers reduced commensurate with a dramatic increase in mobility and firepower.

These policies, coupled with the fact that private gun ownership will not be suppressed, will provide a land defence capability far superior to that which we currently have.

The current Labour Government has paid lip service to the idea of replacing the many obsolete or worn out items in the Army’s inventory, but our equipment levels are still worse than threadbare by modern military standards. Past governments have run down the Defence Forces, and Labour’s gutting of the Air Force and neutering of the Navy ensures that future Army expeditions have to rely totally on other nations for naval- and air-support. Helen Clark justified her actions by declaring that New Zealand existed in a benign security environment. The stupidity of that statement has been underlined in the blood of terror victims from New York to Bali.

Our current military malaise has been cultivated by several previous New Zealand governments who prefer to rely on organisations such as the UN, SEATO and the like – a policy which has required successive New Zealand politicians to send New Zealand servicemen to die in battles far beyond our borders. Not one of these “peace-keeping” missions has improved the defence of New Zealand, and has produced the obscenity of ill-equipped New Zealanders providing target practice for several conflicts’ combatants.

Our recent East Timorese adventure demonstrates that today’s politicians still universally subscribe to the Magnificent Seven school of defence theory, where NZ forces ride to the aid of downtrodden third world peasants. Yet that commitment simultaneously diluted defence funding and the defence force itself. Critical equipment upgrades of obsolete systems were delayed even further even as part-time soldiers—with civilian jobs in a very lean marketplace—were being committed wholesale to East Timor, something which previously had only occurred in times of dire emergency.

Our under-equipped troops are paid by NZ taxpayers to defend NZ taxpayers. Libertarianz believes it is about time we brought NZ troops home, and equipped them to do the job they enlisted for. Those who wish to fight evil in places like East Timor and Yugoslavia should do so themselves as private mercenaries, instead of placing the lives of New Zealand servicemen at risk in battles that are not our own.

The chief difference between the Libertarianz defence policy for New Zealand and those of other parties is an insistence that New Zealand be defended. It is not able, and nor is it our responsibility, to keep the lid on conflicts across the globe. The lives of New Zealand servicemen must be respected; they must be adequately equipped and supported; they must be risked only where no other option exists; and then only in the defence of this country. This is a key plank: We will never commit troops to foreign soils in response to anything other than a direct threat to New Zealand’s security.

Robert Winefield
Michael Murphy
Libertarianz Defence Review Team
Auckland, February 2005