Education must reflect global complexities Education
is the key to New Zealand improving its foreign and security
policies, writes Robert G. Patman.
One of the key challenges facing New Zealand education in the
21st century is to expand our understanding of a transformed
global environment, and provide the analytical tools and
critical insights to enhance the effectiveness of New
Zealand's security and foreign policies.
Since the late 1980s, the global security context has been
profoundly affected by the aftershocks of the end of the Cold
War in the late 1980s and the impact of deepening
It is the intensification of technologically driven links
between societies, institutions, cultures and individuals
which has made the world seem a much smaller but, sometimes,
more fragmented place.
In the post-Cold War security environment, globalisation has
been associated with major trends like the diminished primacy
of the Westphalian state-centric structure; the rise of
irregular warfare, involving insurgency, warlordism and new
forms of terrorism: and the diminished capacity of the
world's only superpower, the United States, to fashion
international responses to perceived problems.
If 9/11 demonstrated anything, it is that extraordinary
economic and military power in the 21st century no longer
guarantees invulnerability. This limitation also applies to
rising powers like China and India within the international
The diffuse process of globalisation has accelerated to the
point where the structure of world politics has ceased to be
unipolar in nature and is now approaching a post-hegemonic
age, an age that is too complex and too connected to be
dominated by one state alone.
In many ways, New Zealand has been a major beneficiary of the
new global environment. Established New Zealand policies like
strong support for the United Nations and UN peacekeeping
seemed to be in sync with the multilateral peace operations
of the post-Cold War period.
Similarly, New Zealand's non-nuclear stance, which might have
looked idealistic in the mid-1980s, took on a more pragmatic
hue after the Cold War when global concerns about nuclear
proliferation have multiplied.
Meanwhile, 9/11 and the war on terror helped to bring the
closest political and military ties between New Zealand and
the US since the nuclear row of the mid-1980s. At the same
time, New Zealand's continued push into the Asia-Pacific
region culminated in a Free Trade Agreement with China, the
first agreement of this kind between a Western country and
But there are no grounds for complacency. A globalising
international environment will prove to be far more demanding
in terms of New Zealand's foreign and security policies than
either a bipolar or unipolar landscape. For one thing, New
Zealand must manage its close relationship with two potential
rival powers, China and the US, without alienating one or the
In addition, the security implications of continued global
warming are expected to loom large in the future, and New
Zealand will find itself under domestic and international
pressure to take on a greater leadership role.
Moreover, while the SAS and the 140-strong NZDF Provincial
Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan have now ended or are ending
their roles in Afghanistan, New Zealand's highly regarded
armed forces will almost certainly be asked to make a similar
contribution to another trouble-spot reasonably soon.
Of course, New Zealand's ability to respond to some of these
pressures will be constrained, in part, by the limited
financial and military resources of the country.
But New Zealand can and must do better in the provision of an
educational experience that reflects both the increasing
breadth and complexity of the contemporary global context.
First, there must be recognition that the idea of national
security transcends national defence, and increasingly
encapsulates the linkage of many different political,
economic, environmental and military factors so that
developments around the globe can have a direct or indirect
impact on the national interests of this country.
Second, and not unrelated, it is important to build closer
links between academic specialists in the relevant security
and foreign policy areas and government agencies charged with
the implementation of policy. At present, quite rigid
compartmentalisation between theorists and practitioners
often hinders New Zealand's ability to maximise its policy
and intellectual resources on crucial international issues.
Compared with countries like the US, we are a long way behind
in utilising links between the universities and
Third, given that many of the foreign and security problems
confronting New Zealand and other countries are by definition
multifaceted, there is a need for greater co-ordination
between different government agencies, particularly between
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of
Fourth, New Zealand television should devote more time and
space to international affairs. At present, in the 60-minute
evening prime-time news slots on both major New Zealand TV
channels, about five minutes is typically devoted to
Like or dislike it, New Zealand is critically dependent on an
increasingly interconnected world. It is about time
television news coverage here started reflecting this
Taken together, these steps would not cost a huge amount of
money. But they could be the difference between failure and
success in the making of New Zealand's foreign and security
After all, sound policy-making is not just about responding
to external events. It is also about having the capacity to
interpret and anticipate events in the international arena.
• Robert G. Patman is a professor of international
relations at the University of Otago.