Yes, you are quite right, I feel sure. But there is a difference between a politician caving in and reneging on his election promises because it is politically expedient to do so, and confronting a bully who is about to punch your lights out and do you some serious injury.
Something done out of fear is generally likely to be corrosive and destructive of the self and of one's self-respect - but there's a lot of it about. Like RC churchgoers, for example, who go to confessional because - well, if they don't, they believe they will be damned, because God loves you and is your friend and wants you to confess and pray for forgiveness, or something.
But there's a difference between a fear of a threat of something imagined like that and a threat of something more existential and that is really very likely to happen. Lange knew from New Zealand's economic history (e.g., why it even has a role in the EU CM in the first place) that the economic excommunication threatened by the French was not an empty threat but something that they could and probably would pull off if they lost patience with him, and he couldn't take that risk. It would have been politically reckless and could have led to economic suicide. So he caved in. No option really.
Similarly, for example, where you live under Islamic Sharia law, apostasy is a sin against Allah and is punishable by death. You know it's going to happen, so you don't do it. You stay in the Islamic faith. Allah is your friend.
So, imagine having this friend in the shape of the US, who is a bit like Allah in that you had better do as he wants, or else.
We would all be wise to be very, very afraid of such a friend.
I don't suppose that those police/SAS/GCSB personnel who screwed up or committed perjury in the Dotcom case did so because they were basically stupid or dishonest. I suspect they more than likely had high professional standards and integrity and were likely very good at their jobs. But you can really act out of character and make all kinds of professional mistakes if you come under unbearable pressure from a powerful friend to do something that you know is intrinsically wrong.