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Tim Dower: How will our actions be perceived?

Author
Tim Dower,
Publish Date
Wed, 24 Jan 2024, 11:34am
Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

Tim Dower: How will our actions be perceived?

Author
Tim Dower,
Publish Date
Wed, 24 Jan 2024, 11:34am

Six Defence Force specialists are off to the hot zone in the Middle East. 

Judith Collins has been at pains to stress they won't be in combat roles, and won't be going into Yemen itself, where the Houthis are launching their attacks on shipping from. 

The job is defined as helping to protect shipping routes and playing a part in bombing targets in those parts of Yemen under Houthi control. 

We're being told it's wrong to conflate the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea with what's going on in Gaza. 

Thing is, the Houthis do conflate those two, and their main backers —Iran— see Israel as the ultimate enemy. 

So, effectively, by joining this US and UK coalition under the banner of protecting trade, whatever message we're intending to send is going to be perceived in a different way in that part of the world. 

I'm not saying we shouldn't in the long term be looking to have closer ties with the US or the UK. 

I think it would be to our advantage to negotiate a way into the AUKUS alliance, and to upgrade our military significantly in the ways that would require of us. 

So, playing our part here is kinda timely. 

But do we want to be at the beck and call of any other nation, especially when it comes to the Middle East? 

Is getting involved in the attacks on the Houthis a contradiction of our stated position on Gaza? 

I guess that depends on your position on that. But isn't perception the important thing here? How will our part be perceived in the Middle East? 

So, in summary: do we need to show some solidarity with our traditional allies over the Red Sea attacks? well yes, we do. As a trading nation, we rely on safe shipping routes. 

Do we need to have better ties with our traditional allies? Yes, it's a volatile world right now. 

But we also need to remember that sometimes being a good ally is like being a good friend. 

And sometimes being a good friend means confronting your friend and being prepared to speak your mind bluntly when what they're doing, or not doing, is wrong. 

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