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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 13 June 18, 1968

Alliances must be more than defensive — Bridging The Gap Between The Old And The New

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Alliances must be more than defensive

Bridging The Gap Between The Old And The New

Defence and foreign policy are being discussed from a viewpoint that is now decidedly old-fashioned and some of the conventions of this discourse urgently need to be revised or rejected. According to this viewpoint the world consists of a number of states, most of them nation-states, which are the units of action at the global level, cither directly or through intermediate groupings. Hence the term "international politics" and the presumption often underlying it that nations are and will remain the prime actors in global politics. (I don't like the word "global" either, but at least it is free of this particular connotation.) On this view the nation-state serves at the global level the role of the individual in domestic politics. Nationalism attaches sanctity to the sovereignty of nation-states. These ought to have freedom of action, unrestricted policy choices, governments based on consent (the only principle of legitimate authority), and equality in the world community. The latter is therefore a democracy: one state one vote. We have tiny Mauritius and barren Mauritania equated on this view with the USA and the USSR.

An extension of this view is that the United Nations is a world community of nation-states, a world democracy, marred perhaps by the absence of China. Within the UN are intermediate groupings which play a role rather like that of political parties in the domestic politics of party-democracies. These groupings include the British Commonwealth, the Communist bloc, the Afro-Asian bloc and the Western bloc (the actual terminology, of course, varies). There are also alliances, but these are on the whole bad because they tend to circumvent the objectives of the UN (Rousseau in modern clothes!) and they do not adhere to the principle of equality between states. The main causes of tension and threats of war arise from the inability of the Western and Communist blocs to sink their differences and get on with the task—the only task that matters—of bringing the poor countries of the world up to their level of affluence.

I could go on filling in details; but this is indication enough of the kind of approach to world affairs adopted by those who often hold the floor. I have not the time and Salient has not the space to explore all the misconceptions embodied in this approach. But one or two general points about the view of the world to which I object need to be stated. The first is that the notion of sovereignly—always a woolly notion—is more and more a fiction and therefore the moral values attached to it are incapable of being supported. The notion furthermore of networks of relations mainly channelled from within nation-states through their governments either direct to the UN or via respective blocs is a gross oversimplification. The notion of a nation-state, even, is hard to relate to reality.

Let us suppose, instead of this outmoded view, that the world community is a system broadly analogous to a system like the internal-combustion engine or a tree. There is a danger in this comparison, because the purposes or functions of these mechanical or biological systems and their components are fairly clear, whereas those of the world system are not. The latter, like the other systems, however, consists of parts or subsystems interacting and changing and may be studied from various perspectives and at various levels.

If we think of the world like this the first points we become aware of are that it must be a very complicated system and that it is changing fairly rapidly, the rate of change is accelerating, and the direction of change is not pre-ordained. The complexity is so great and our viewpoint is so limited that our conception of this system must be incomplete and uncertain and it must be affected by our own values or purposes. It is therefore a subjective conception and this, of course, applies to my own elaborations on it.

W. E. Murphy, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Victoria University.

W. E. Murphy, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Victoria University.


I would not myself call it an international system, because this places undue emphasis on nations, nor would I concentrate attention on political aspects to the exclusion of other aspects that can be highly significant. The term "world system" or even "global system" would be better. At the same time we must recognise that, though their significance is changing and in some important ways diminishing, nations or states are major components of this system—in the jargon of political science we might call them dominant actors in some respects and we agree that in some parts of the system they are likely to remain so for years to come.

Ideally a system, if it is to survive, should contain only co-operative elements, not antagonistic ones, and it should try to overcome or expel or modify antagonistic ones introduced from outside. But our system not only contains hostile element but has various and even contradictor was of dealing with them. One way is association —integrating or unifying hostile elements that the hostility is overcome or at [unclear: led] reduced. The other is dissociative—keeping them apart, minimising the points of [unclear: conta] and thereby the friction (as, for [unclear: examp] in balance-of-power policies). Worse [unclear: sb] something in between is often attempted so that the hostile elements are neither [unclear: ke] far enough apart nor close enough together and the situation becomes dangerous.

Relations or communications between [unclear: t] components of this system are extremed complicated and are certainly not restricted to "proper channels", which on the old [unclear: vic] would be nation-states. There are a [unclear: gr] many non-national entities as well as nation ones in the system. We have many no governmental bodies which operate signficantly within the system and their number are multiplying quite quickly. We also has a lot of organisations or bodies maintain by groups of governments and some them, like the postal arrangements, are [unclear: ev] more comprehensive than the membership the UN. These, too, are multiplying. Transactions of immense variety takes [unclear: pla] between these bodies. Personal and [unclear: gro] attachments and loyalties change all [unclear: t] time, so that, for example, teenagers [unclear: mig] feel that they have more in common [unclear: w] teenagers in other countries than they [unclear: hy] with other age-groups in their own country Here "identification" is the jargon word [unclear: a] it is obvious as soon as you think about that the range of identifications [unclear: possi] depend mainly on education and [unclear: econom] circumstances. The poor man who know nothing beyond the land he works from dawn till dusk has a very small range indeed. The teenage cult belongs to the [unclear: afflue] world.

Let us therefore classify countries in rough way as primitive, traditional, mode and ultramodern. These might broad correspond with substance, barter, [unclear: mon] and credit economies respectively. [unclear: T] modern state I would link with the [unclear: internal] combustion engine and the ultramodern [unclear: w] the computer. There is, of course, [unclear: mu] overlapping. One country in the primitive traditional group already has nuclear weapons. Person and groups in each of the [unclear: fir] three are trying to move their countries or societies up the scale, usually with outside help. A modern country might be helping one or more traditional countries to become modern, while at the same time trying to move itself up to the ultramodern class. The tendency is therefore to progress up the scale, but it is jerky and uncertain.

In moving up the scale identifications change. Primitive and traditional societies attach themselves to nationalism and the nation-state is their ideal. Modern societies grow out of the strait-jacket of nationalism and try to establish larger bases of loyalty such as the EEC. Comecon and the Nordie Council (though this process, too, can be uneven). In the modern and ultramodern we find (following Johan Galtung) new forms of identification. The subnational form is a reaction against impersonal values of large modern and ultramodern societies: groups like the hippies try to form selfcontained societies of their own, rejecting national policies and commitments The crossnational kind expresses not the rejection of one's own society but the extension of loyalty to another, because of the increasing interpenetration of modern and ultramodern societies which brings then citizens into a variety of meaningful contacts with other people of groups abroad. The transnational differs in that it rejects national identifications, as the old-style Marxists used to and many Vietnam war protesters do today, as well as some teenagers and perhaps mercenaries in tropical Africa. The final kind is supranational, engendered by loyalties attaching to the 600-odd inter-governmental organisations that already exist.


The vast majority of people in primitive and traditional societies are untouched by this new range of identifications. In modern and ultramodern countries, on the other hand, national boundaries are coming down or being penetrated and political, ecomonic and cultural interdependence increases rapidly. To disentangle this intermeshing of institutions and loyalties is no longer possible The modern and ultramodern countries seem destined to draw even closer together.

Barriers such as the Iron Curtain are rusting away. Even the two super-powers are being drawn together by their associates and by the inexorable logic of the nuclear world. dictating test-ban and non-proliferation agreements about H-bombs. Conflict-absorbing arrangements are necessary products of this situation.

The modern and ultramodern societies are Europe. the USSR. Japan, Australia and New Zealand. They try to help the traditional societies to bridge the gap to modernity, but they do not seem to be able to cross that gap. One of two countries might manage to get across by their own efforts those of the USA. Canada, almost all South Africa, for example But the large populations seem destined to fall farther behind, mainly because of increasing pressure on limited food resources. So the shape of the world community at least until the 1980s can fairly confidently be drawn in outline.

It is a shape that is at once reassuring and saddening. The danger of nuclear war, it this major trend continues and fate is kind, will largely disappear. Indeed the danger of war of any kind within and between the modern and ultramodern societies is likely to diminish, since associative rather than dissociative ways of dealing with antagonisms are likely to be adopted in the integrating affluent communities Ideological commitments in this segment of the world are weakening.

The situation and prospects of the primitive and traditional countries seem quite different. Intense nationalism, dissociative way of treating antagonisms, frustration arising from the widening gap between expectations and achievements, and the multiplications of war threats are what must on present evidence be expected. Interventions of various kinds by the modern and ultramodern countries are likely, but conditioned by the increasing integration of those countries. The military in the poor countries, being relatively efficient, achievement-oriented, purposeful and nationalistic, will have enhanced prestige. There will be internal wars in poor countries and wars between them and on the periphery of the two worlds, the rich and the poor.

This, then, is the changing global system as I see it To this evolving world system New Zealand must adapt her policies and here in brief are the implications that I deduce from this series of propositions about the way the world is changing. First, Australia and New Zealand are being drawn closer together by the general integrative forces I have mentioned and also by the particular logic of then situation They form a geographically isolated group which shares a long flank with the troubled world of the primitive and traditional countries and must be affected by the turmoil that seems inevitable in and among those countries. From time to time they can expect to be threatened by outbursts of violence on this long front. Whether or not this drives the Anzae community into full politically union, the two countries are becoming increasingly united economically and culturally and their policies must converge. They may have to face a war threat alone, at least for a period. because of complications like the danger of it confrontation of super-powers if either intervened on their behalf. They must therefore build up then defensive strength on a joint scheme which does not presuppose that they will always have allies supporting them. They may even have to develop their own nuclear weapons.

This is not to say that alliances are undesirable: they are essential. Australia and New Zealand both live beyond their means and must go on doing to if they are to continue their economic development. Defence in the modern world is enormously expensive and they need to share its burden with allies and gain whatever deterent effect alliances can provide.

No stimulus

The Cold war, however no longer provides an adequate stimulus for alliances NATO and the Warshaw Pact are nourished less as time passes by fear of war between Russia and the West than by the exigences of the German problem Only the USA has viewed SEATO purely its an anti-commnunist league. If alliances are to persist in the absence of a clear and present danger they will need to be economic and cultural as well as defensive. So long as the superpower confrontation problem exists, alliances with countries other that the USA seem particularly desirable. One such country must be Japan; but Japan's image in the rest of Asia is unattractive and likely to become more so as her gallop along the road to affluence leaves the poor countries plodding even farther behind. An alliance with her would strain traditional friendships with countries like Malaysia and sorely test our. diplomatic skills.

Various UN agencies provide bridges across the gap between the primitive-traditional and the modern-ultramodern parts of the world and New Zealand must do what she can to maintain these and to extend them as the gap widens. But she can no longer regard the UN as a major guardian of peace and protector of small powers, UN helplessness in the face of trouble in Asia is evident enough. Moreover UN resolutions about Pacific islands have tended to distort orderly political and economic development. New Zealand will undoubtedly do what she can within the UN to help ease tensions within the poor part of the world .and between the two worlds of the rich and the poor, as well as between conflicting racial groups: but the outlook here is not encouraging.

A policy of neutrality or non-alignment for New Zealand is not feasible. She is irrevocably in the camp of the well-to-do. Her destiny is tied by unbreakable bonds to that of Australia. But, more important in the long run, neutrality or non-alignment are policies stimulated by the logic of the Cold War and will have no basis when this competition between communist and non-communist countries is largely submerged as I think it will be in the next few years. by the profounder division of the world between the primitive-traditional and the modern-ultramodern segments. There will of course be a period of transition and world was will remain a danger until this period ends. But the two super-powers have shown themselves to be keeply aware of this danger and anxious above all to avoid it Whether they will be able to deter China or some new member of the nuclear club from starting a nuclear conflict is a matter of deepest concern.

These are the main implications for New Zealand defence and foreign policy in the global system as I see it. I could add to them and enlarge on them if time and space permitted. I cannot see many policy choices The inter-meshing or integrating processes have already gone too far and short of nuclear catastrophe, are irreversible.