A few weeks ago Bryce Edwards wrote an interesting column called ‘New Zealand’s Military future[i]’. He provided links to numerous recent articles which discussed the current government’s Defence Review, and the question of how much New Zealand should spend on its military. The most prominent commentators Edwards linked to were Chris Trotter and Karl du Fresne, both of whom argued that New Zealand should seriously consider increasing its spending on “defence”.
I’m going to declare my cards very clearly before going any further: I think that increasing New Zealand’s “defence” spending is both wrong and absurd, and I agree with commentators like Bob Jones and Richard Jackson that New Zealand’s “defence” budget should be zero dollars. I think that a much better and more historically appropriate term for “defence spending” would be “offence spending”. But for the purposes of this blog article I am going to strive to put my ideological position to one side. I will use the neutral term “military spending”, and I will refrain from making any comments about imperialism, nationalism, how nasty and dangerous China might be in the future, and so on.
Instead, I will focus very narrowly on some claims both du Fresne and Trotter make about the size of New Zealand’s military spending and how it compares to other countries. Both commentators blithely and confidently claim that New Zealand doesn’t spend very much at all on its military, especially in comparison to its major allies: the US, UK and Australia. Trotter says: