Hehir on supporting “the family”

Liam Hehir writes in the Manwatu Standard:

My brother and I grew up on the same family farm but now live in different parts of the country. We are independent of one another, we are busy pursuing different priorities and each of our lives is truly our own. That doesn’t mean that the familial bond between us is meaningless.

If he makes some request of me, I would always give it very serious consideration.

As it is with families, so it is with nations and there is a natural affinity between those countries that share a Britannic inheritance. Winston Churchill spoke of the common bonds of the “English speaking peoples”. New Zealand historian James Belich has written of it as the “Anglo-World”. The term that seems to be vogue now is the “Anglosphere”.

But whatever you call it, it is a very real phenomenon. Some historians say that future generations will look upon the Anglosphere as we look upon the ancient Greeks and Romans – an interlocking group of nations and cultures forming a common civilisation. Along with Britain and the United States, its core members comprise Canada, Australia and New Zealand – as exemplified by the “Five Eyes” security alliance.

This closeness is not based on race. An Italian American has little ancestry in common with a British Pakistani or an Australian Aborigine. There is no such thing as a “Canadian” or “New Zealand” ethnicity. Our familiarity is instead bound up in shared traditions like the common law, habeas corpus, trial by jury, free enterprise, private property, freedom of speech and, of course, the English language.

That we find ourselves fighting shoulder-to-shoulder is not because of any blood fealty, but because our shared culture leads us to see the world in similar ways.

A very elegant explanation.

Another occasion that comes to mind is the Malayan campaign during the Cold War. New Zealand participated in this British-led fight to save the South East Asian peninsula from the Communist yoke, contributing warships and airstrikes. It was a 12-year war of difficult jungle fighting and bombing but, unlike the Vietnam War, it ended with an Allied victory.

Today, Malaysia has a system of government modelled on the British tradition and remains part of our extended family through the Commonwealth. It is a flawed but functioning democracy that gives lie to the notion that Muslim majority countries cannot also be fundamentally free societies. The fight was worth it and we can be proud that our ancestors did their part.

Malaysia is better than many countries. I do wish they’d stop arresting their opposition leader on trumped up charges though.

Does this mean that we should follow our Anglosphere partners without question? No. New Zealand should only ever go to war when such actions are justifiable in the national interest. Our support should never be taken for granted.

I wouldn’t lend money to my brother for a business venture I would be convinced would fail. I also wouldn’t lend him money to do something illegal, like set up a drug ring. In the same way, New Zealand’s backing for any military intervention should always be subject to the same caveats.

Basically Hehir says you always treat requests from your “family” seriously, but you don’t automatically say yes to them.

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