Matt McCarten on politics
Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: US warms to us only as its world influence fades

Hillary Clinton. Photo / Simon Baker
Hillary Clinton. Photo / Simon Baker

It's funny having Hillary Clinton come to visit us. In the past, the radical staunchies would come out in mass protest to yell out to the latest United States imperialist representative to naff off.

We only had a secretary of state from the world's only superpower come every decade or so, and we did our best to show our independent spirit. This time it wasn't the same.

Her presence reminded me of when we were kids and the Queen would come to see her colonial subjects. It seemed to be a big deal at the time. But it's the same for the Queen and the US Secretary of State. I really don't think we give a toss about her majesty, nor if we get to play with US war toys or not.

Frankly, Kiwis don't care anymore. This is a healthy sign.

We all know the rifts between us over the Anzus treaty are long forgotten. My view on it was it was more about then US secretary of state George Shultz understanding he had a deal with our prime minister, David Lange, to let a known non-nuclear ship into our waters.

That compromise allowed both sides getting what they wanted. Lange couldn't get the deal through his caucus and was too gutless to go back and admit it to Shultz. The ill feeling could have been avoided right from the start if Lange was a better politician and just told the Americans the truth.

Domestic politics are understood by everyone. Instead, Lange humiliated them by promoting the nuclear ship ban as one of a plucky wee nation standing up to the world's nuclear bully. Lange made his name at their expense.

They never forgave him, and have taken 25 years to forgive us. We got turfed out of Anzus, which was actually a blessing. That so-called military alliance never guaranteed that the US would come to our aid if we were in trouble. It just meant we'd have a conversation with Australia and the US if one of us were attacked.

The only thing it got us into was making us fellow criminals by invading other people's countries in Southeast Asia and a few other scraps we haven't been told about.

The truth is, Kiwis like Americans and we've been loyal US allies for years. While we didn't go into Iraq, we happily chugged alongside the US war machine in Afghanistan. The Wellington Declaration Hillary Clinton came to sign was intentionally meaningless.

I'm sure the real purpose of the visit was getting our Prime Minister on his own and have him whisper sweet assurances our soldiers would stay to prop up the crooks in Kabul. Given Key's inclination to grovel to anything American, even if it is just a movie company, I'm sure he was a pushover.

Our Government and their advisers fudge the real future for us. Fortunately, most Kiwis get it. The days of military alliances are over. It's all about trade deals. The US is the undisputed military lord of the world. But it's not the invasions that matter. It's the resulting occupation that bleeds them, and the US knows it's fading.

Spending on its military-industrial complex, lack of economic planning, cutting social infrastructure and handing its rich back their taxes means their future is bleak.

This century is about the new economic powers, notably China, followed by India, Brazil and, funnily enough, Pakistan. Their middle classes are booming while the US' (and ours) are shrinking.

The US hasn't changed its stance to us as some belated recognition that we were right. It has more to do with its declining economic dominance.

One of the good outcomes of the Anzus rift was that we learned to be more reliant on ourselves and build new relationships. Our future and economic wellbeing is with Australia and Asia. We sense it.

That's why when Clinton and Key grandly signed the "Wellington Declaration", most Kiwis stifled a yawn.

- Herald on Sunday

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