Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: August 7

The New Zealand flag flies at half mast after two New Zealand soldiers were killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. Photo / Greg Bowker
The New Zealand flag flies at half mast after two New Zealand soldiers were killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. Photo / Greg Bowker

We've been in Afghanistan over ten years already but just another year will make all the difference apparently. The Press (Must stay the course), the Dom Post (Don't let soldiers' sacrifice be in vain) and Herald (Deadly attack shows troops still needed) editorials this morning all urge the Government not to 'cut and run' from the deployment.

With very few edits they could have been printed by those papers in the late sixties as New Zealand's involvement in Vietnam became increasingly contentious. The comparison has always been rejected by both Labour and National governments, but the similarities are growing stronger each day: pressure from the US to be - and stay - involved, the propping up of a corrupt regime, and severe doubts about the loyalty and abilities of the local army. With the provincial reconstruction project we even have an updated version of the infamous 'hearts and minds' strategy and, with another attack on our forces overnight (see Patrick Gower's Second attack on Kiwis' Afghan base), it looks likely to have the same long-term outcome.

Paul Buchanan asks some detailed questions about the attack, pouring doubt on the claim that no enemy dead were recovered because the Taliban carried them away - see: Some questions about the ambush. Inflated enemy body counts were one of the main tools the US military used to deceive the public (and themselves) that they were winning the Vietnam war.

The New Zealand Defence Force makes the obligatory noises about the Afghans getting ready to take over but 'do not sound convinced' writes John Armstrong in Deaths underline need to get out. He says we are stuck in a military mess for reasons that have long since disappeared: 'To be even more blunt and mercenary, the Afghan deployment has served its foreign policy purpose in helping to rebuild defence ties with the United States. That job done, it is time to go.'

While New Zealand questions the cost after seven deaths, the conservative estimates of Afghan civilian deaths range from 15,000 to 30,000. No Right Turn says that, amidst the standard military clichés, the crucial question that needs to be asked is 'were these deaths "worth it"?' His analysis of what we are defending is damning: Not worth it.

If you fall into water hard enough it has the same result as hitting concrete. The Maori Party's chances of a 'soft landing' over the water claim is looking more remote, even as they meet yesterday with both Maori groups and the Prime Minister. While Sharples is promoting a 'united front' amongst Maori, their coalition partner is headed in a very different direction: 'Mr Key rejected suggestions that water rights could be resolved on a pan-Maori basis, saying such rights were best sorted out "river by river, iwi by iwi" - see: Adam Bennett and Claire Trevett's Sharples expects water fight to head for courts. This is not a new tactic suggests Chris Trotter - see: Return of the 'divide and conquer' rule. He says the Iwi Leader's Group has to decide whether it will negotiate one by one or stand united with the tribunal and the Maori Council: 'The latter course would align them in a politically significant way with the needs and aspirations of non- elite Maori: the beleaguered whanau and hapu who constitute the primary victims of National's neoliberal policies. Looking at the large number of Pakeha opposed to asset sales, Maori might then decide to practise a little "divide and rule" of their own.'

National has clearly decided on its priorities: 'Mr Key said he was hopeful the Government would be able to incorporate the tribunal's advice into its decision-making but it was "hamstrung" by the market' - see: Kate Chapman's Asset sales delay quite likely, says Sharples. The Government will listen politely to, but ignore, any recommendation by the tribunal to delay the sales and is preparing to vigorously fight any challenges in court - see: Rob Hosking's Govt ready for legal battle on Mighty River Power - Key.

Any legal setbacks will open the way for overriding legislation. Sharples and Turia can organise as many hui as they like but if there is a united Maori front they will find it increasingly difficult to avoid the choice Mana leader Hone Harawira put to them on TV3's Firstline this morning: 'the Maori Party is either with their people or they're with the Government on water ownership' - see: Harawira on the Maori Party's water rights dilemma.

Other important or interesting political items today include:

* The easy poll pickings for Labour's 'small target' strategy may be over says Danyl Mclauclan - see: Polls, August 2011 to August 2012.

* Innovation is not only possible in the state school system but is already happening writes Colin James - see: Is "partnership" the only route to school innovation?.

* Eric Crampton thinks the NBR has the big numbers that everyone has been looking for on the rebuild - see: Christchurch Costs. The CBD blueprint is actually quite conservative and the result will be a fairly standard city layout says Rod Oram - see: Rebuild needs a rethink. The Government will socialise any profits from insurance claims from properties it has purchased - see: Joelle Dally 's Govt 'won't share' gains on earthquake properties.

* Most of the christian right has already given up the fight against same-sex marriage, according to Grant Miller, unwilling or unable to challenge the 'equality' argument - see: Gay debate a lost opportunity.

* Charter schools will not save Act says Richard Long. National needs to find Colin Craig a safe seat - somewhere on the Auckland's North Shore should do nicely - see: ACT brand has been irredeemably damaged.

* Finally, John Key is the undisputed facebook friend king but how are the political parties doing in the campaign for cyber support? - see: Martyn Bradbury's Which NZ political party is winning the Facebook war?.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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