Independence and Foreign Policy: New Zealand in the World since 1935

By Malcolm McKinnon | Go to book overview

Independence and power

The Vietnam War broke the foreign policy consensus of the early 1960s and even the end of the war did not fully restore it. But the war was important for other reasons central to the approach of this book. New Zealand's involvement in it was part of a wider series of developments that marked the end of the Commonwealth phase in the history of New Zealand's foreign policy. The linkage between the war and these developments is most concisely expressed by the fact that New Zealand fought the war alongside the United States, not Britain. Britain's retreat from global power was a central event for New Zealand in the 1960s and early 1970s. That in turn markedly weakened the role of an association that had been at the centre of the conception of an independent foreign policy. How would New Zealand deal with this new world, in which power might press much harder than before against the interests and values of this particular national community? Could New Zealand have an independent foreign policy, as that had been understood at the beginning of the 1960s? Would not it have to turn into something entirely different?

We can discern two ways in which the issue was approached in the later 1960s, ways which correspond to our categories of interest and dissent. The right was most preoccupied with the British and American retreat, the prospect of New Zealand isolated and powerless in a hostile world. The left was preoccupied with the unpalatable and unwelcome American pressure for New Zealand to support America's role as global policeman. In both cases, national, or nationalist, considerations played a part, and in both respects therefore the notion of independence in foreign policy took on new meaning. The formulation of thinking in these new ways was particularly evident in 1968-69, against the backdrop of rapidly moving events in Asia. We conclude this short section by considering the 'independent foreign policy' of the third Labour government.


Nationalism

Fifteen years before the Vietnam War, unease in New Zealand over too close an association with the United States in respect of the latter's policy towards

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