The Prime Minister's landmark speech on national security has two messages for New Zealanders, but they are somewhat discordant.

One says that the rise of Islamic State means New Zealanders can no longer assume their country continues to be exempt from terrorism. The second is that despite that threat, the marginalising and ultimate elimination of Islamic State is a battle that Iraqis have to fight - not New Zealand.

The first message is a sea-change. It is a massive wake-up call. No longer can New Zealanders adopt a "she'll be right" nonchalance to events elsewhere. It is somehow fitting that John Key has made such a declaration on Guy Fawkes Day - an occasion when New Zealanders make light of the first clear-cut attempted act of terrorism on English soil.

That New Zealanders are now at risk of being injured or killed by fellow citizens at the behest or influence of outside forces - as the Government claims - should be a profound shock in a country which has been almost completely free of political violence in its post-colonial history.


Apart from the Greens, few will quibble with the new rules on cancelling passports announced by the Prime Minister.

However, having stressed the threat posed by Islamic State, Key says New Zealand is not taking a "boots on the ground" approach to military intervention in Iraq.

New Zealand's contribution to Operation Inherent Resolve - as the Americans are dubbing the military intervention by a 60-plus member "coalition of the willing" fighting Islamic State - looks like being minimalist.

As befits its new status as a temporary member of the United Nations Security Council, New Zealand appears to be putting more effort into seeking a diplomatic solution to the civil wars in in Syria and Iraq.

Key's view is that the only lasting solution to the Islamic State problem is a political one whereby different religious and ethnic groups take a recognised role in the governing of both countries. Once that is achieved, the attraction and influence of Islamic State will sharply diminish.

Key may be right. But can New Zealand - as a Security Council member - stand back and watch the continued slaughter and displacement of innocents in the meantime, barely lifting a finger bar sending some military instructors to beef up the Iraqi armed forces?

Waiting for diplomacy to work in the Middle East is the very definition of optimism. It is the Baghdad version of Waiting for Godot.