The Prime Minister has told a BBC interviewer New Zealand's military contribution to the war against jihadists in Iraq and Syria is "the price of the club". Mr Key's candour can be applauded but not its message. When New Zealand commits armed forces to a foreign conflict, even in a (hopefully) non-combat role, it should be entirely of its own volition, on its own judgment that the mission is justified, well-equipped, clear and achievable. Not for the reasons Mr Key has given.
"Ultimately are we going to say we are going to be part of a club like 'Five Eyes' intelligence," he said in London. "Are we ultimately going to be able to rely on members of those clubs to support us in our moment of need. We know when it comes to the United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain and others, that we can rely on them. Even if [New Zealand's] contribution is small, there has to be some contribution. It is the price of the club."
Is it? The previous Government decided not to join those allied countries in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That unprovoked, ill-conceived mission was based on inflated intelligence, fantastic expectations, no clear objective and no exit strategy. Helen Clark's decision to stay out of it was soon vindicated but, more important for New Zealand, the decision did no apparent harm to the country's standing with its allies.
The healing of the nuclear rift continued, helped no doubt by the Clark Government's earlier decision to support anti-terrorist action in Afghanistan, and intelligence sharing had never faltered. Even in the depths of the nuclear crisis, when New Zealand was ejected from Anzus, intelligence links were carefully maintained. If we are in any "club" that carries a military price it is not Five Eyes.
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The Anglophone countries that are New Zealand's natural allies have learned not to take this country's support for granted.
The anti-nuclear declaration was a statement that New Zealand will make its own decisions and while the allies took some time to accept it, they have seen the policy survive several changes of government.
National adheres to it more in resignation than conviction. National, as Mr Key has just confirmed, still believes New Zealand's security requires a military contribution every time the allies take action. If the Government had better reasons for sending soldiers to the latest mission in the Middle East, the Prime Minister would have stated them.
He has been in no hurry to join the action against the "Islamic State" in Iraq and Syria, unlike his Australian counterpart, who dispatched aircraft and special forces to the Gulf as soon as the US decided to stop the Isis advance.
Mr Key preferred to take steps to prevent potential terrorist recruits leaving this country. He decided not to send SAS units or any combat forces to the war zone. New Zealand's possible military participation would be limited to training roles, and even that remains uncertain.
If, as he now suggests, we are proceeding simply for the sake of solidarity we would do better to sit this one out. The "club" could probably bear it.