The Tight Five: From the moment the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour on Sunday, 7 December 1941, the five Anglo-Saxon powers - the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - have, like a closed fist, constituted a whole considerably greater than the sum of its parts. Guarded by its own supra-national priesthood of spies, soldiers, businesspeople and journalists, the Anglo-Saxon imperium brooks no challengers.
GLOBAL SHARE MARKETS teeter on the brink. The Eurozone rocks backwards and forwards. Even China, the world’s workshop, looks a bit wobbly. Is there nothing solid left in this world?
Though they’ll never admit it, the mandarins at MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) know the answer to that question. They were taught it by the people David Lange long ago derided as “geriatric generals”. And these, the retired senior officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force, learned it the hard way – in the crucible of war.
What did they discover? What is it that still possesses the strength to hold us up – even when the rest of the world is falling down?
The five fingers of the Anglo-Saxon fist.
Let’s count them off: there’s the United States of America, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and us, the smallest finger of the fist, New Zealand.
At the end of the Second World War it was this, the great alliance of what Winston Churchill liked to call “the English-speaking peoples”, that stood watch over those regions of the planet not dominated by the war’s other great victor – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Oh yes, I know, there was the United Nations – that sophisticated Manhattanite, resplendent in her glittering ideals and high-minded notions. And later we met the European Economic Community. But the real power, the hard power, the power that kept capitalism humming, remained exactly where it had finally and irrevocably coalesced on Sunday, 7 December 1941: in the long, strong fingers of the Anglo-Saxon fist.
America dominated. Unscathed by bomb and shell; unmatched in wealth and productive power; unchallengeable in her atomic might; the United States looked forward to an “American Century”. But this did not mean that the other four fingers were powerless.
Great Britain and her empire might have been crippled by the war, but she remained an old and undefeated state. Her ruling class could call upon centuries of guile and an instructive imperial legacy. If the USA saw itself as the new Rome, then Britain claimed “the special relationship” of the Greeks.
And the English-speaking dominions? Canada, Australia and New Zealand. What would their contribution be?
When Russia got the Bomb, Canada’s strategic straddling of the Arctic circle gave the USA the crucial few minutes it needed to respond to a Soviet first strike. Australia and New Zealand, positioned with equal strategic facility beneath Asia’s vulnerable underbelly, promised instant power projection north, into the Indonesian archipelago; west, into the Indian Ocean; and east, across the island-dimpled Pacific, to South America.
Spread wide, the Anglo-Saxon fingers encompassed more than half the planet. Striking together, in a closed fist, they were all but invincible.
For the fist to retain its strength, it had to remain united. Politicians with independent ideas: men like Jack Kennedy, Harold Wilson, Pierre Trudeau, Gough Whitlam and Norman Kirk; constituted a serious problem.
Serious, but not insoluble.
Because, in the decades since the Fist first came together it has brought into being its own, very special, priesthood. For these: intelligence and military officers; diplomats and trade representatives; businesspeople and journalists; the Anglo-Saxon Fist is a whole infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. The loyalty of this secret priesthood is not given to weak and ideologically compromised governments, but to the hegemonic power of the Anglo-Saxon imperium – and woe unto anyone who stands in its path.
Had the fourth Labour government not been presiding over New Zealand’s indoctrination into the new Anglo-Saxon creed of neoliberalism, while, simultaneously, implementing its deeply subversive anti-nuclear policy, it would have been as ruthlessly undermined as the government of Norman Kirk. Fortuitously, Rogernomics and the fall of the USSR persuaded the priesthood to wait.
That policy of wearing-down and waiting-out has borne fruit. New Zealand’s pinky finger is once again firmly embedded in the Anglo-Saxon Fist.
And, if you want to know the detail of how that was accomplished, I recommend Nicky Hager’s Other People’s Wars.
This essay was originally published in The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times, The Greymouth Star and The Waikato Times of Friday, 9 September 2011.