The release of the 2016 New Zealand Defence White Paper last week has sparked an unusual amount of media coverage of defence issues. Arguments have raged for and against additional defence spending and most of the major newspapers have offered editorial views, including The Dominion-Post and the Otago Daily Times. Some regular contributors to Incline have been at the forefront of this commentary and analysis and in lieu of a standalone post this week, we thought we’d share some of the coverage.
In a piece at The Spinoff, David Capie took issue with some of the more excitable press coverage that followed last Wednesday’s launch, arguing the obsession with drones and cyber warriors missed the point that the White Paper’s focus on New Zealand’s neighbourhood means it has a good chance of finding support from future governments of all political stripes. Robert Ayson has been as prolific as usual, arguing in the Dominion Post, that the $20 billion committed in capital spending means “the government wants its successors to have real military options for operations further afield.” But, he warns decisions need to be made soon, “the clock is ticking.” CSS Senior Fellow Peter Greener makes a similar point about future spending in this Radio New Zealand story. In another piece published in the Lowy Interpreter, Ayson argues that New Zealand’s White Paper shares with its recently published Australian counterpart a common focus on maritime strategy, but a different view on the geographical focus for those efforts.
Coverage outside New Zealand can be found over at The Diplomat blog, with a summary by Ankit Panda that stresses the White Paper’s views of Asia’s changing strategic environment. In another post on the same blog, Nicholas Dynon, the editor of Line of Defence, focuses on the cyber dimension of the White Paper, arguing that for all the talk of an enhanced cyber capability, New Zealand is really playing “catch up.” Around the region China’s state-run news agency Xinhua ran a short piece on the launch. In its summary of “new strategic challenges” it noted “increases in defence expenditure in Southeast Asia” and “degraded relations between Russia and the West” but perhaps not surprisingly didn’t mention the White Paper’s concerns about the East and South China Seas. Nor did it pick up on the fact that China is described as an “important strategic partner”.
It would be remiss not to point to some of the more critical accounts. In an essay at Werewolf, Gordon Campbell argues defence spending is jumping ahead “in leaps and bounds without any rational cost/benefit analysis” and says it makes no sense to link the defence budget to a fixed proportion of GDP, when we don’t do the same for any other public service. But perhaps the most negative response to the White Paper has come from across the Tasman, where the Executive Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Peter Jennings has fired a broadside, calling it a “look south” strategy, that suggests New Zealand is going through “some kind of existential crisis about the shape, purpose, cost and direction of New Zealand Defence.” (And that’s one of his kinder comments). Look out for a response from Professor Ayson at the ASPI Strategist blog any day now!
UPDATE: Rob's post is now available here.
Barely a week on from the White Paper’s long-awaited arrival, there is already much to ponder. And there is still a lot more to come. On July 4, a symposium hosted in Wellington by Victoria University’s Centre for Strategic Studies, Massey University’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies, and the NZ Institute of International Affairs, will interrogate the White Paper further. We hope to see you there!