Editorials 24 June 2010

The NZ Herald focuses on the topical :

Tensions between generals in the field and their civilian masters are a fact of life. Armed forces chiefs are able to focus solely on battlefield strategy and having the necessary manpower and resources.

The purview of politicians must be wider, not least in considering the popular appetite for war.

Not surprisingly, generals often become impatient at what they consider interference in the prosecution of a war. In moments of candour, they might convey their annoyance to well-trusted aides. Otherwise, they keep their counsel.

They know that if such sentiments become public knowledge, their position becomes untenable. Such is now the case with General Stanley McChrystal, the United States commander in Afghanistan.

And he has paid the price.

General McChrystal’s blunder is the more unfortunate in that his strategy is the best chance of achieving a stability in Afghanistan that will pave the way for an orderly exit.

His approach has eschewed lofty goals, such as embedding a model democracy, and concentrated on “Afghanising” the conflict through the rapid training and arming of Kabul’s forces.

He also understands the importance of gaining a settlement with more pragmatic elements of the Taleban, thereby creating a political consensus. The present “surge”, which has achieved mixed results, is an attempt to accelerate that outcome.

The eminent sense in General McChrystal’s strategy means he has not been without his defenders. One of the more interesting was the much-maligned Afghan President.

A spokesman for Hamid Karzai said he believes General McChrystal is “the best commander the United States has sent to Afghanistan over the last nine years”.

A sad end to a fine career.

The Press looks at the breath testing of spectators for a school by rugby match:

The scene outside the front gate of Christ’s College on Tuesday was extraordinary.

Eight police officers were lined up administering breath tests to spectators arriving to watch the annual Christ’s College-Christchurch Boys’ High School rugby match. The police were required to enforce a zero policy imposed by Christ’s College for the match in an attempt to stop the drunken yahoo off-field brawling that has, over the last decade or so, become a feature of the encounter.

The policy seems to have been a success. For the first time in years, the game passed off without an outbreak of violence or indeed any untoward incidents at all. No-one was arrested or ejected from the ground, in a striking contrast with last year’s event which was, as Inspector Derek Erasmus observed, notable for “baton charges and multiple arrests”.

Something we have seen recently is that a huge amount can be done within the current Sale of Liquor Act.

The Dom Post opines on the departure of from :

Broadcaster Sean Plunket has finally made good on his threats to quit Radio New Zealand National to seek fresh fields. Though his willingness to ask hard questions will be missed, his decision – a long time coming, given his testy relationship with his masters – will be good for him and might even be good for the company. …

Plunket’s departure, alongside suggestions that Robinson will retire within two years, gifts RNZ’s chief executive, Peter Cavanagh, and the board a rare opportunity. Does today’s three-hour mix of hard news and the odd joker work as well now, in a multi-media environment, as when the hour-long programme launched 35 years ago?

And the ODT finally comments on the China protest:

According to the police, a number of witnesses were spoken to after Green Party co-leader Russel Norman complained of assault by Chinese security agents attending the visit to Parliament by China’s Vice-president, Xi Jiping, last week.

Presumably, these included members of the force stationed at Parliament Buildings.

Police also studied film footage and photographs of the incident, and had sought, to no avail, to speak to the Chinese alleged to be involved.

It was concluded – quite swiftly in the circumstances – there was insufficient evidence to substantiate a prosecution.

This should be no surprise.

The prospect of the police mounting a sufficiently strong case was weakened as soon as it became clear that Dr Norman had apparently moved from his initial location at the foot of the steps to Parliament’s main building to the entrance of the Beehive to be very much closer to the point at which the vice-president passed, thus himself contributing to a degree to the predictable response by Chinese security guards charged with protecting their leader. …

The fact remains that he was allowed to have his protest – his “free speech” action was not suppressed and could be heard loud and clear, although it must be considered a certainty the Chinese security guards had not the faintest notion who he was.

Successive New Zealand governments have in the past decade or more routinely expressed concern – on behalf of Dr Norman and other protesters – to Chinese visitors about the infringements of human rights in China, while successfully maintaining a relationship that has resulted in China becoming our second largest trading partner.

That relationship is hardly to be jeopardised on the strength of one MP’s needless behaviour.

Working out rules for MPs (or others) protesting should not be difficult.

Should they be allowed in an area where they can be seen? Yes.

Should they be allowed in an area where the target of their protest can hear them? Yes.

Should they be allowed close enough to a VIP that they could seriously humiliate them by grabbing them, spitting on them, throwing or squiriting something at them – no.

So the question is merely how wide should the corridor be, which they can’t cross into. I’d say around 10 – 12 metres. You can protest very effectively still at that range.

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