The jihadist fighters of Islamic State camped in northern Iraq and Syria will hardly be quaking in fear behind their black balaclavas if they have read yesterday's speech by John Key on the threat he claims they pose to New Zealand's national security.

They would not have been surprised by the limited scale of New Zealand's yet-to-be-approved contribution to the American-led Operation Inherent Resolve. That is almost always more symbolic than substantial for such deployments. It is the nature of that contribution which speaks volumes. In this case, it is pretty minimalist.

The likely dispatch of some unspecified number of military advisers to help Iraq's armed forces beat back the jihadists is in line with the contributions of other countries. But NZ's response, which falls way short of the gung-ho stance of Britain, Australia and the United States, might - given all the glowing language about the normalising of defence relations between Washington and Wellington - have been expected to have been more forthright or enthusiastic.

It is now a case of where the US, Britain and Australia go, we still go ... well, sort of go. It may be enough to satisfy Washington ... well, sort of. It may be enough to convince sceptics at home that NZ really does have an independent foreign policy ... well, sort of.


Ignore the "we're at war" headlines which popped up on websites after the Prime Minister's speech. We ain't. The military advisers - if they go - will be confined to base.

The barbed wire fences will be there as much to keep them in for their own safety as to keep the forces of evil out.

That will make their job even harder. The Americans spent squillions on retraining, re-equipping and remotivating Iraq's military.

They only succeeded in re-arming Islamic State after fleeing Iraqi troops.

With Key ruling out "boots on the ground" in the form of the SAS, NZ's deployment has "exit strategy" written all over it. The approach is classic John Key. Do enough to keep everybody reasonably happy, even if not ecstatically so.

The Greens are determined to be the exception - even though Key agreed with co-leader Metiria Turei that sectarianism is the problem in Iraq and that NZ cannot fight Iraq's battles for it.

Across Parliament, other parties were also quick to highlight their points of difference with Key's view.

But the real story was the surprising degree of consensus about what needed to be done to counter the threat posed by Isis against what New Zealand's allies might think needs to be done.