If you’re wondering about the point of the protests in Auckland at the presence of a US nuclear warship, and an accompanying “defence industry expo,” then you are not alone. “Pablo” at Kiwipolitico is sympathetic to their cause, but just as bemused: “What is the point of the protests?” he wonders.
There seems to be several different elements in the protests. There are pacifists who are against the presence of warships of any sort as well as those who profit from the misery of war. There are those who are against the so-called “death merchants” but who do not necessarily object to naval forces (perhaps seeing them as a necessary evil). There are those who are anti-nuclear. There are those who are anti-imperialist. There are those who support indigenous sovereignty. There are those who are anti-American. There is some overlap between these factions but the core appears to be focused on two things: the defence industry Forum and the presence of the USS Sampson as symbolic of conjoined war-mongering evils.
He points out that the overwhelming number of expo participants are not Bob Dylans “masters of war,” but “logistics and support providers who often also have civilian branches to their businesses … At worst, one might consider them “enablers” rather than direct purveyors of instruments of death. Be that as it may, it is easy understand why pacifists are opposed to the Forum.”
The protesting against the US warship is less complex. There are “other nuclear powers represented at the celebration,” including “China and India (and France and UK in lesser capacity), as well as a host of regional navies including Australia, Indonesia, Japan and several Pacific Island states. Ships from Singapore, South Korea and Canada will also participate.”
Yet as he points out, the anti-nuclear protestors
seem to have given a pass to the Chinese and Indians [and others] while focusing on the US boat. The same is true of the anti-imperialist crowd, who also are concentrating their attentions of the USS Sampson but seem unconcerned about the neo-imperialist ventures of other countries represented… So that basically means that much of the protesters are anti-American more than anything else.
Any reason to be anti-American, and these folk will grab it. And yet they do have every selfish reason not to be:
That stance has been made a bit harder to justify now that the USS Sampson has been diverted to do earthquake relief duties in Kaikoura. After all, it is hard not to look silly when the focus of your protests is on a ship that is involved in humanitarian relief operations on your home soil and yet you ignore the authoritarian and often repressive histories of other countries represented in the visiting fleet. This is particularly true if the crowds at the naval expo, watching the fleet review and waiting to board the ships on open house day are larger than the number of demonstrators. Clearly they are not getting the message the protestors want to impart on them.
So could it be possible then, helped perhaps by the very visible support being tendered by a US ship, that thirty years after ANZUS was ripped up and nuclear ships banned from entering New Zealand waters, that New Zealanders in general are finally becoming more adult about the American defence umbrella that helps protect us down here in the Pacific (because Galt knows our own navy and air force are barely capable)?
The irony, however, is that as we finally become more adult about that whole relationship, the President-elect has been talking about withdrawing from it.