Too Much Intellectual Curiosity – Not Enough Fox News.


WHAT WOULD YOU EXPECT from a course devoted to “Strategic Studies”? A reasonable expectation, surely, of a university course devoted to the study of global strategic issues is that it would be ideologically neutral. After all, the struggle for global advantage: economically, militarily and diplomatically; is driven by a wide variety of international actors. Breaking down the conduct of nation states by passing it through a single ideological lens (of whatever manufacture) could hardly be described as good scholarship. It would risk turning out students who were singularly ill-equipped to identify and interpret the strategic issues at play on the international stage. Than can hardly be the goal of a course called “Strategic Studies” – can it?

Which is not to say that powerful nations, the United States in particular, have not in the past actively rewarded, rather than discouraged, a lack of intellectual curiosity, professional competence, and fundamental human empathy. The administration of George W. Bush, for example, was famously suspicious of fluent speakers of Arabic. They feared that such people might “go native” – i.e. demonstrate too much understanding of the nation the United States was planning, in flagrant disregard of international law, to invade. The government of the United Kingdom similarly distinguished itself by requiring it advisors to provide spurious grounds for joining the US in its illegal invasion of Iraq.

If by “Strategic Studies” is meant the training of students to view international events from a single, thoroughly biased, perspective; and to dutifully supply their employers with material based on falsified data and outright lies; then intellectual curiosity, professional competence, and fundamental human empathy might, indeed, prove prejudicial to rapid advancement in their chosen career.

Having read his Newsroom posting entitled “Russian Aggression Exposes Gap In NZ’s Diplomatic Toolkit”,  it is very difficult to avoid the suspicion that Professor Robert Ayson subscribes to something disappointingly close to the above definition of Strategic Studies. It will doubtless come as no surprise that the professor’s perspective on New Zealand’s foreign relations locates the United States of America squarely in the centre of the big picture.

Interestingly, the posting begins with what amounts to a huge sigh of relief that the dangerously heterodox Winston Peters is no longer this country’s Foreign Minister.

The good professor wastes no time in reassuring his readers that: “Labour ceased subcontracting foreign policy to New Zealand First after the 2020 election. Peters’ quest to advance free trade discussions with Russia and its Eurasian economic partners, which was written into the 2017 coalition agreement, is now history.”

The notion that New Zealand might derive considerable benefit from distributing its export eggs across several baskets clearly does not fall within Professor Ayson’s definition of strategic studies. Also excluded, presumably, is the idea that the Russian Federation is a strategic player meriting a level of analysis more rigorous than the shrieking of Fox News.

Clearly, the brand of Strategic Studies favoured at Victoria University relies heavily on setting forth the measures best calculated to disrupt and punish the activities of a frightening cast of international bogeymen, the biggest and baddest of which is, of course, Russia – as it has been, off-and-on, since the late-nineteenth century.

TDB Recommends

Judging by his enthusiasm for the concept, Professor Ayson appears convinced that the most helpful contribution New Zealand can make to discombobulating the Russian bogeyman is to join with the United States and its other sycophants – sorry, “allies” – in imposing “autonomous” (i.e. unauthorised by the United Nations Security Council) economic and diplomatic sanctions.

In other universities, strategic studies professors might encourage their students to calculate how close such unilaterally imposed sanctions come to actual acts of war. In these other universities, strategic studies professors might even invite their classes to consider the consequences of the economic sanctions imposed on Japan in 1940 – most particularly the “embargo” on oil and scrap-metal exports. To what extent were such strategic gestures intended to produce a strategic response? Did the USA’s “autonomous sanctions” make Pearl Harbour inevitable? Was that their purpose?

Certainly, as one reads the professor’s post, it is difficult to rid one’s mind of the image of him bouncing up and down with excitement at the prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Not only would an invasion allow the Ardern Government to join “a largely Western chorus of condemnation” and announce (probably reluctantly) New Zealand’s own autonomous sanctions against the Russian Federation, but it would also vindicate the “Bogeyman School” of strategic studies.

That the current Foreign Minister might be a less than fanatical convert to the Bogeyman School clearly concerns Professor Ayson: “Partway through 2021, Nanaia Mahuta – Labour’s replacement for Peters – publicly expressed concerns about Five Eyes auspices being used to criticise the human rights records of other governments (in this case China).”

As well she might! In the eyes of some strategic scholars (although probably not those at Vic) the “Five Eyes” penchant for throwing their weight around descends in a direct line from the egregious Anglophone imperialism that transformed millions of Chinese citizens into opium addicts – reaping super-profits for the same British drug cartel that seized Hong Kong.

Not anymore!  Professor Ayson is certain that: “whatever remains of that sentiment is unlikely to stand in the way of New Zealand joining a Five Eyes statement condemning a Russian invasion. Such an act of military aggression by one sovereign state on another is a good fit with the group’s traditional intelligence and security agenda.”

Is Professor Ayson on record demanding an equivalent statement of condemnation when three of the Five Eyes Powers engaged in an act of military aggression against the sovereign state of Iraq in 2003? Or, was he one of the depressing number of New Zealand strategists who appeared to regard the waging of aggressive war (for which politicians were executed at Nuremburg) as a “good fit” for this country’s “traditional intelligence and security agenda.” Fortunately for New Zealand’s excellent international reputation, our prime minister, Helen Clark, did not.

It is always possible, of course, that there is at least one student attending Professor Ayson’s classes with sufficient gumption to ask why the United States does not accord to President Vladimir Putin the same right to defend his nation’s sphere of influence as it claims for itself. For very nearly 200 years the “Monroe Doctrine” has warned-off from the entire Western Hemisphere any and all powers with designs to project their power within it. That same plucky student might also inquire of his professor why sauce for the American goose is not also sauce for the Russian gander? It would certainly be interesting to hear Professor Ayson’s view of what the most likely response of the United States would be if Russian troops took up positions alongside their Mexican allies along the Rio Grande.

One shudders to think of the grade an essay advancing these ideas and questions might receive from the head of Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Strategic Studies. One suspects, at the very least, a fusillade of academic criticism would rake its author’s position.

Too much intellectual curiosity – not enough Fox News.


  1. Why would anyone take any notice of the claptrap that Robert Ayson writes when there is superb commentary and analysis elsewhere?

    ‘It is 2022 and regime change formulas don’t work, color revolutionary magic which worked for decades doesn’t work and even expanding old-school military hardware around the troublesome Eurasian nations of the multipolar alliance no longer works.

    The old magic doesn’t work the way it used to for the ghouls in Washington, London and Brussels.

    It used to be so easy to wave that old wand and watch a troublesome president have his brains blown out on live TV or suffer a violent coup.

    There were a thousand and one ways to eliminate a pesky nationalist politician which had been honed over the Cold War years, and it seemed that all 1001 had been tried… several times over in some cases.

    If two towers were required to collapse into rubble or a nationally elected government (or twelve) overthrown by a conveniently weaponized mob, then a shadow government apparatus would get the job done without too much ado or resistance of merit.

    The beat went on and on like a broken record until some time in 2013… when something changed.

    That change took the form of a couple of nations that realized that without a new set of rules and a new song to dance to, this dark magic was going to lead the world into an inevitable dark age. While some within those nations were more than content adapting to that sulfur as long as they were promised good seats ruling in hell, others with a bit more moral fibre said no to that option.

    Maybe the leading intelligentsia of these nations saw something in their ancient civilizations that was not worth flushing down a toilet, or maybe they just didn’t like the idea of submitting to a degenerate self-proclaimed elite masterclass… but whatever the motive, they started disrupting the magic tricks and things began changing.

    After 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya blew up nicely but no matter how many times the old spells were cast, Syria just wouldn’t crumble.

    What made matters worse, was that oil-rich Venezuela also wouldn’t crumble either despite the vast majority of south American governments having been corralled into a coalition to support a new self-proclaimed president whom some dubbed Obama 2.0.

    Belarus didn’t fall as expected, and Hong Kong didn’t gain independence as many neocons promised.

    Iran survived years of sanctions and even a couple of near-hot wars with the USA and Israel in 2007 and 2020, but still it thrived going so far as to join a Eurasian security and economic coalition in 2021. Even tiny Yemen which was supposed to break apart within weeks of Saudi-led bombing still stood strong after 7+ years of war against near-impossible odds.

    Ethiopia (aka: China’s most strategic gateway into Africa) didn’t fall either despite millions of dollars of foreign funding spent and weaponized terrorists re-framed as “freedom fighters” for an international audience.

    Many were also surprised that Afghanistan’s Taliban not only fended off the world’s biggest military force after 20 years of combat, but the much-abused central Asian nation found itself on a new track towards becoming an active gateway of the Belt and Road Initiative.

    Old school military big stick techniques that worked so well in bygone pre-nuclear ages are also not working too well. Despite an array of international military bases numbering over 800, international biolabs numbering over 200 and military treaties with dozens of states in Russia and Chinas’ backyards, key participants in this Anglo-American led war drive are also not playing along as they were expected to.

    After all, India was supposed to be a part of the Pacific NATO but instead is now adopting Russian military hardware while joining a security pact whose members include both China and Pakistan… both of whom India was supposed to mortally hate. Across the Arab World, key western assets from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the UAE are all doing business with China and have followed India’s lead by adopting Russian-made military hardware making US-military hegemony across the heartland an impossible dream to hold onto.

    Mortal enemies like Azerbaijan and Armenia who were at each others’ throats just over a year ago, are slowly overcoming their animosity and vectoring towards a new set of relationships defined by Iran, Russia and the growing International North South Transportation Corridor that is moving quickly through the Caucasus.

    Muslim Brotherhood operatives in Egypt who took power in the wake of the havoc of the 2011 Arab Spring soon gave way to a nationalist resistance under a leader who even began financing large scale African infrastructure like the expanded Suez Canal.

    Even Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Turkey was no longer the golem for hire that the Anglo-American sorcerers fancied when Erdogan realized how disposable he actually was and began making alliances with Russia and China. Erdogan undoubtedly recognized in the collapsing Euro and NATO model, an unattractive sinking ship he no longer wanted to ride.

    And who could blame anyone for not wanting to get on the Trans Atlantic economic joy ride at this point in the game?

    Only a devout CNN devotee or Yale business graduate might miss the elementary fact that the casino bubble that was once known as the Trans Atlantic economy is careening towards a hyperinflationary implosion with nothing but hyperbolically-growing unpayable debts holding it all together…..’

  2. Academic independence and freedom seem to have slipped far down our universities’ lists of priorities… Sad to see that we are that much closer to Banana Republic status.

    • In Vino- “ Academic independence and freedom seem to have slipped far down our universities’ lists of priorities “ assumes that our universities have the freedom to prioritise, when it is government which now requires universities to be run as businesses, with their primary purpose of quality higher education very much a secondary purpose.

      • if you’re lucky an education is a by-product of shoveling money into the universities coffers..if you’re lucky

    • Exactery.

      It’s all about bums on seats and increasing their property portfolio of telephone box student accommodation

  3. Quite so. The professor definitely has a uni-cultural academic past: studied under Sir Lawrence Freedman (he of the Blair Doctrine)
    member of the Lowy Institute (that vulgar israeli) and written about Schelling (of the Rand Corporation). I wonder if my father came across Schelling at Harvard…
    I’ll give him Hedley Bull though.
    Anyway, he was never rated on The Terrace by anyone of substance, he’s pretty second rate and uncultured; very obviously just a good Shabos Goy helping those demented Ashkenazi psychopaths Nuland/Kagsn et al recommence ethnic dib dabs.

  4. Yes i read that article on Newsroom a few days ago and was aghast at the ignorance of prof Ayson. If that is the standard we have fallen to in our universities then we are indeed doomed.

    • garibaldi, Remember though, that the alumni of past years contributed enormously to curtailing the slithery VC of Victoria University’s efforts to rebrand it – with zero evidence that an ethnic rebranding would improve anything very much at all – and at least he is vamoosing now – and should stick to the animal nutrition which apparently is his zoo of expertise – but I think there’s still some philistine money grubbing marketeers at VU continuing to ride rough shod over the last of bona fide teachers still up there, sadly.

  5. CT Agree 100%. Ayson appears to be disgracefully partisan for a person in his position.

    I could barely stomach reading his Newsroom posting catapulting New Zealand back into the Cold War mentality of post WW2. I note that he is a graduate of Waikato University, so no surprises there, although I would have expected his brief stint at Kings College, London, to have cleared a few of the cobwebs from his grey matter. Why Newsroom published this so-called academic, without comment from other Strategic Studies Profs – and I think that there have been, and hopefully still are, a couple of good ones – is the issue here.

    Who owns Newsroom ?

  6. I note that Ayson’s VU bumf states that he has held official positions with the New Zealand Government, and somewhere there is also a picture of him sitting next to the PM, the one who makes scones for pop singers. I wouldn’t denigrate intellectual curiosity, but the seemingly symbiotic relationship between government policy and Ayson, looks rather like a chicken/egg situation to me.

  7. Ten thousand years ago, humanities population funneled down to about ten thousand. Those that braved the cold brought with them the best food, cloths, technology, stories, organisation, coordination and planning. Construction on this scale is something that if you lye cheat or steal, it’s just overwhelming obvious.

    Although no one can speak monkey, we know that the bad monkey says in its language that a predator is coming. Then the good monkey drops th banana and runs only for the bad monkey picks up the banana and eats it’s it.

    Humans reject lies as a matter of course but 10,000 years on there’s been a bit of the bad monkey syndrome because as the civilian version of the bad general – I mean what the good professor dedicated to the studies of things strategic tells us. This golden generation with the most wonderful gifts imaginable has arrived to pick up the fruits.

  8. Chris
    The other day you kindly explained how journalists instinctively know journalists to follow the ‘leaders….helped by state funding g the profession of course.
    I bet academics have the same instinct to ‘follow the funders’.

  9. Did he go to Harvard with Jones? Everyone of standing apparently has gone to Haarvard.

    We operate from two locations. This public site,, is based in Auckland. Newsroom Pro, our paid subscription service for corporations, government agencies, local councils, NGOs, and other premium clients, is based in Wellington.
    The independence of our journalism is supported by our partners in the corporate and tertiary education sectors, as well as by private donations from New Zealanders. To add your support to our independent voice, make a donation using the Press Patron platform link here.
    Co-Editors are –
    Mark Jennings co-editor Auckland
    Mark Jennings’ career in journalism extends back to the late 1970s and, until the founding of Newsroom, was primarily anchored in broadcast news.
    After 10 years in front of the camera in Australia from 1979-89, Mark returned to New Zealand and began a 27-year career with MediaWorks. He has mentored successive generations of acclaimed and respected journalists, and was responsible for launching Newshub across TV Three and Radio Live.
    Mark writes about the media industry, business, and the tertiary sector.
    Tim Murphy co-editor Auckland
    Tim Murphy is the former editor-in-chief of the New Zealand Herald, and led the newspaper and its digital channels through rapid change in the first two decades of the new millennium.
    An experienced journalist with a background in breaking news and political reporting, Tim served as chairman of the Media Freedom Committee for five years. He was also a member of the executive committee of the New Zealand Press Council.
    For Newsroom, Tim writes about politics and Auckland issues
    They have Rod Oram who I have always liked for cool business info and predictions.

    A site on NZ ownership and finances of media:,-media-and-democracy-research-centre/new-zealand-media-ownership-report

    • Robert Ayson seems to be a grad of the University of Waikato, aka Deck Chair University, then to Kings College, London – which used to ace it in maths – but I think he’s a social “ science” sort of fellow – then some place in Australia.

  10. Kissinger’s aim and achievement was to manoevre the USA, closer to both China and Russia, than they were to each other. Enabling USA to play them off against each other while extricating itself from SE Asia.

    Now, could Putin and Xi turn the tables? Putin invades Ukraine, then China invades Taiwan producing a 2 conflict scenario, always USA’s worst fear and now a more feasible option for adversaries, thanks to USA’s enfeebled leadership.

  11. Kissinger’s aim and achievement was to manoevre the USA, closer to both China and Russia, than they were to each other. Enabling USA to play them off against each other while extricating itself from SE Asia.

    Now, could Putin and Xi turn the tables? Putin invades Ukraine, then China invades Taiwan producing a 2 conflict scenario, always USA’s worst fear and now a more feasible option for adversaries, thanks to USA’s enfeebled leadership.

  12. Heaven forbid defending Fox, they just came out disagreeing with Bidens Russia policy.

    As the the professor, living proof of the decline of the academy. Who’d pay to be tutored by him or associated f**kwits?

    • remember before covid when we were about to go to war with north korea

      ‘oceania is at war with eastasia, oceana has always been at war with east asia’

      now it seems we’re about to be at war with eurasia….whoda thunk?

  13. Is it just me or do all those big guns on those repurposed bulldozers look like metaphors for erect penises? Shrek dicks? i.e. big, green? Get your dick out, stiffen it up then go and shoot people. Personally, I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t.
    What the world needs now is love sweet love.
    Dianne Warwick. Original.
    And about 900,000,000,000,000,00,000,000.00 metric tones of proper Ecstasy Powder.

  14. I’m reading a lot between the lines in that the only way to get the kind of change needed to overcome a threat to humanities continued existence in an organised fashion, is that the New Zealand Royal Airforce remains flightless (no air combat force) and rudderless (no frigates). Y’know, the great changing of things great and dandy. Just great.

    The important part of change is what is impacting the bottom line, y’know? Which toxic masculinity took your lunch money? That is in as simple a question, encompasses the hope of humanity. As if the hope of humanity rests solely on disbanding all “war like” capabilities (in commas).

    This “hope,” that new Zealanders remain deeply engaged in rejecting war like capabilities, is a person struggling to remain hopeful, even though there is no hope

    And I don’t think that we have achieved any hope at home, even though hope has been thoroughly defeated abroad. But hope remains high as long as we can just cut funding the NZDF.

    (Okay enough of the bullshit)

    To even achieve the most basic response and reasonable counter to climate change will require the most Powerful State Humanity has ever created. For that will require some one, or a team of people, who we will remember, like how we remember Genghis Khan, or Sun Tzu.

    And I can inform the meat universe that the priorities will include insuring that there is a strong army, navy, and airforce.

      • Everyone who isn’t jacked into the digital universe, lives in the meat universe

        More seriously, Xi Ping is readying China for war. Boys are not allowed to consume pornography and must watch 80’s cartoons so they don’t turn into sissy’s. And we need to match that it stay relevant to world affairs with out own developments.

  15. Regarding “the shrieking of Fox News” you will be surprised to find that their top pundit, Tucker Carlson, supports your point of view and has been critical of the gung-ho hawks in the Washington establishment who are always look for the next war. To the extent that he’s being accused of being unpatriotic.

    Essential viewing:

    Chris, maybe you should tuning in to Tucker more often. You guys have more in common than you might think…. LOL

  16. NZ’s tertiary education system isn’t about edukayshon at all!

    It’s about indoctrination of neoconsevatism in partnership with neoliberalism without any critical thought.

    ‘Pay to Play’ where you will never fail as long as you pay the fees.

    If this generation, the Mels are supposedly the highest educated generation ever. Why is the country so fuck’d up?

    They don’t know or want to learn any history, nor do they care about history. They’re in a place where you can dream up a future and everything will be kapai. Because it’s the ‘Boomers’ fault and all that have preceded them, fault. But that’s not history! That’s their fact!

    Wankas! The lot of them and the indoctrinators!

  17. Chris: “….the dangerously heterodox Winston Peters….

    Would that he’d been even more courageously heterodox! It’s apparent that he was shouted down, possibly by MFAT. Not long after the 2017 election, I wrote to him about the restarting of free trade talks with Russia. Some weeks later, I got the most extraordinary response, signed by him. It was an egregious anti-Russia rant: the consensus in this household was that it had been written by a MFAT flunkey, and Peters’d signed it without reading it.

    I was so shocked by it that I didn’t respond, which I now regret, even though it would have made no difference.

    It’s indisputable that, prior to the 2020 election, had the PM and cabinet not hidden he Puapua from Peters, he’d still be in parliament.

    “Did the USA’s “autonomous sanctions” make Pearl Harbour inevitable? Was that their purpose?”

    I think that nobody can now be certain that it wasn’t. It doubtless wouldn’t’ have been the first time that the US policy establishment had done a cost:benefit analysis of a particular course of action, and decided that the price in lives lost was worth it. And it most certainly wasn’t the last, as we’ve seen. And if it wasn’t, the Pearl Harbour attack was the most catastrophic example of the unintended consequence.

    If commenters here would know the origins of all that cold war nonsense, I recommend David Talbot’s book “The Devil’s Chessboard”. It’s about Allen Dulles, he who founded the CIA, and about the rise of America’s secret government.

    It’s instructive to note Talbot’s account of the closing stages of WW2. He writes that Churchill wanted to put the entire Nazi high command up against a wall and execute them. It was Stalin who stopped him. Stalin said: “History will say that we were afraid to try them”. Thus we had the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Yet the world had been told ad nauseam about Stalin’s brutality: it gives pause, that it was he who stopped the act of brutality contemplated by Churchill.

Comments are closed.