Cosying up to Americans brings big costs for Key

17:00, Aug 04 2013
Key and Obama
BEST OF BUDDIES: John Key and United States President Barack Obama.

Since American soldiers protected us from a possible Japanese invasion in the early 1940s, New Zealand prime ministers have had a long and proud history of sucking up to the United States.

After World War II, national security was handled by the police. But around the early 1950s, American-inspired anti-communism sweeping the Western world saw us form the SIS and join Anzus.

This meant that when the US invaded Vietnam we were obliged to help. Prime Minister Holyoake apparently supported the unwinnable war less than he let on, and only contributed the bare minimum to Vietnam.

Yet in 1972, Mr Holyoake's reluctant military commitment to the US eventually led to the defeat of his successor, Jack Marshall, when Labour, with the support of the growing anti-war movement, turfed National out.

Sir Robert Muldoon sucked up far more to Margaret Thatcher over the ridiculous Falklands War than he did to Ronald Reagan. But Sir Robert's support of visits by American nuclear warships contributed to our growing peace movement.

It was National MP Marilyn Waring's intention to vote against the government on an anti-nuclear bill that brought Sir Robert down and saw David Lange come to power.


Prime Minister Lange didn't suck up to the United States - on foreign policy. His heroic Oxford Union defence of our anti-nuclear stance was his finest hour.

Yet his government blindly embraced the American neo-liberal economic theories developed at Chicago and Harvard.

So far, these theories hadn't been tested on an entire country, with the exception of Chile, who had some state-of-the-art torture equipment to make sure that the playing field remained level.

These economic reforms - as American as charter schools - led to Mr Lange's downfall.

Don "Gone by lunchtime" Brash would have sucked up big time had we given him the chance, but it is John Key who is the prime minister who has sucked up to America the most in recent times. Has Mr Key's unfailing allegiance to the US interest done him any good?

The raid on Kim Dotcom was essentially initiated by American commercial interests. The overgrown German kid alleged copyright infringements weren't greatly hurting anyone here, though his free fireworks probably caused some unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions.

But US commercial interests have a great champion in the Prime Minister of Hobbiton. Yet, as any Third World leader can tell you, with friends like the United States, who needs enemies?

The Dotcom raid revealed that the GCSB was operating illegally and elevated an internet tycoon who had donated $50,000 to a Right-wing Auckland mayor into a Pirate-Party-style anti-establishment hero.

Since then, Mr Key's sucking up to Uncle Sam has caused him no end of problems. The raid on Dotcom has indirectly helped wipe out coalition buddy ACT, and launched the whole sorry GCSB saga - the bill, the leak, the inquiry into the leak, and now the inquiry into the inquiry into the leak.

Collateral damage has seen faithful coalition partner Peter Dunne go MIA and a Parliamentary Service manager has had to take a bullet.

Who will be the next black hawk down? Mr Key has been forced to do a Sergeant Schultz and admit that he didn't know what was going on - all thanks to his strong belief in Mom and apple pie.

During his first term, even though he was presiding over a crisis caused by US financial institutions, Mr Key, with a relaxed and moderate style, cruised. But his close relationship with American interests has caused him no end of hassle of late.

So does John Key blame the US for the situation? Course not. If only he'd said to the Americans, "We're not carrying out a ridiculous raid on Kim Dotcom simply because he's lost you a few million in royalties", his present woes would not exist. But that would require spine.

Though the GCSB saga may have lost Mr Key some sleep, it hasn't hurt him in the polls - yet. But if Mr Key's deference to the superpower that finds Ed Snowden a dangerous criminal and George Zimmerman an innocent man does lead to his eventual downfall, it wouldn't be the first time that such a thing happened to a Kiwi prime minister.

The Dominion Post