Editorials: Defence and offence, Western hypocrisy and power

Irish neutrality

Defence and offence

Irish neutrality is an ongoing hot potato, not least because the Irish government and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, wants to gobble it up and fall in totally with NATO and EU militarism while always proclaiming ‘neutrality is not at risk’. The so-called Consultative Forum on International Security Policy of mid-2023 provided no justification for any change, especially abolishing the ‘Triple Lock’ on the deployment of Irish troops overseas, but Martin and the Irish government pretend it does. See the StoP report on that ‘Forum’ for more details https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/2023/10/18/stop-report-on-consultative-forum-on-international-security/ A move in the Dáil to get rid of the Triple Lock could happen at any time; see the Irish Neutrality League leaflet on this at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53559581373/in/dateposted/

However there are various other developments and pressures taking place, not least in the mainstream media (especially The Irish Times) to support moving closer to NATO. And regular comments in mainly British media, and sometimes from unionist politicians, allege Irish ‘freeloading’ off NATO, by relying on British ‘defence’. This only makes sense if a) you accept the militarist mindset that Ireland could be invaded or attacked in some way by, presumably, Russia and b) you don’t see NATO policies as themselves antagonistic and likely to inflame international tensions, again with Russia. And a British report recommended that the UK strengthen its military presence in Northern Ireland, see https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/politics/leo-varadkar-defends-irelands-security-commitments-after-london-report-accuses-dublin-of-freeloading-on-defence-4506500

The Irish government is an enthusiastic fellow traveller with NATO. It does not proclaim any desire to join NATO (because that would cause an uproar since ‘neutrality’ is still supported by a considerable majority of citizens) but participates in various forms of cooperation, e.g. https://www.irishtimes.com/crime-law/2024/02/09/ireland-enters-wide-ranging-agreement-with-nato-aimed-at-countering-russia-threats/ We would not say that there is no threat to Irish-linked undersea cabling by Russia but we can be clear that any such threat is part of NATO-Russia antagonism and the best way to tackle this is through active neutrality and engagement with the parties, including working for a solution to the war in Ukraine. Who could best save Europe from war? The militarist and war-making NATO or a small country who, along with others, decided to work in an innovative and imaginative way to defuse situations and build peace?

INNATE supports nonviolence and nonviolent civilian defence and social defence (the latter including defence of social and cultural being more than it is of territory, although that too). However we recognise that within a military approach to defence there is such a thing as “non-offensive defence”, i.e. a defence of territory which cannot be construed to be offensive and therefore does not give rise to arms races and international antagonism over military developments. It would appear that the Irish government, while still paying (increasingly unrealistic) homage to Irish neutrality, has never actually heard of this concept of non-offensive defence but instead wants to go the whole way to put all its eggs in the NATO style militarist basket. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. Unfortunately with NATO it is possible that in due course we will have to duck for cover – and in modern warfare, as in Gaza, there may be nowhere to hide.

War is not a game. http://innatenonviolence.org/posters/Children_and_Conflict4_Not%20game.pdf

How the West was one

…… hypocritical power abuser

In ‘the West’ we think we are the best, nay, more than that, we know we are the best in the world. This editorial aims to briefly explore that concept. It is not that we do not value ‘western freedoms and democracy’ but that these need qualification in description and have sometimes been dependent on the putting down, literally or metaphorically, of others.

Western empires are thought to be well in the past but their effect more than lingers on in plundered wealth. India was one of the wealthiest areas of the world when Britain took control, initially through private enterprise. When Britain left India it was at the bottom of the wealth pile. But the legacy of empire is still controversial and Britain and France, for example, are generally unwilling to consider that legacy. The aftermath of colonialism is still very obvious in Northern Ireland where the 17th century plantation is the primary root of division; while the Good Friday Agreement has helped make some progress in dealing with that division, it has also, in its consociational elements, copperfastened it.

While Ireland in general (not the unionist part) lauds its anti-imperialist and anti-colonial history, its simultaneous involvement in British imperialism is not necessarily marked. The 19th century British army – that body which actualised empire through violence and repression – was one third Irish. Most Irishmen who joined may have done so for survival and a job rather than a commitment to queen and empire but that was who and what they served.

Today the wealth of the Republic is largely due to tax paid by US multinationals who came partly, or in some cases primarily, because of the low business taxes. A considerable amount of this was and is diversion of tax which should certainly have been paid in other, often much poorer, countries, since such companies are adept at moving profits to where is most advantageous to them in terms of paying tax. This is Ireland creaming off wealth from elsewhere.

And the Irish government, in a country which was once anti-imperialist in terms of international policy, is rapidly trying to join former imperialist powers, and others, in the creation of a pan-European empire which is projected, and euphemised, as a peace project but is now in reality about power and control. We have only to look at what has been happening in relation to EU border control to get a glimpse of the future; and yet far more refugees and migrants are hosted in the (poor) countries neighbouring conflict zones than ever get anywhere near (rich) Europe. Europe often lambastes the USA for its imperial adventures but the EU is rapidly heading towards being another global superpower.

Ireland, which because of colonialism exported vast numbers of citizens, is now under pressure from right wing ideologues proclaiming the island is ‘full’. The government has continued with a grossly unfair system of direct provision for asylum seekers which is contrary to any reasonable definition of human rights but is also an insult to the memory of the Irish people who had to emigrate for economic reasons or to survive in the past.

The ecological crisis is largely the product of the rich, industrialised, West. Certainly relatively newly industrialised countries such as China are now major contributors of greenhouse gases but overall those who have created the problem are those who have the most resources to at least partly ‘buy their way out of it’, and least likely to suffer now or in the future from global heating. While movement on the issue is taking place it is largely at a glacial pace and nothing like the resources which are available are being thrown at it – and Irish green policies are woeful.

The West’ is proud of its democratic values but what are these worth? Both the UK and USA have systems which at the top are unrepresentative of the population. The UK’s ‘first past the post’ system is medieval at best, highly unrepresentative, and has largely favoured right wing politics – and policies which would never have had a chance of being implemented had there been a fairer system in place. The US system, while it does possess ‘checks and balances’, is at the top the preserve of those who can raise massive amounts of money – a system favouring right wing and business interests – relative to others. And even that system is at risk in the USA as the right wing seek to overthrow accepted norms. And in Europe various citizen rights are being curtailed, often due to populist right wing pressure. Whistleblowers on state crimes may not be executed but they can be persecuted beyond reason, as with Julian Assange.

Nor are the powerful countries of the West peaceful. Recent decades have seen wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya (undertaken on dubious grounds even within establishment thinking) which have led to further misery and destabilisation, in the case of Libya contributing to violence and destabilisation in a whole region, and the West has also supported war in Yemen, for example. The slaughter in Gaza currently has been strongly supported by the USA, militarily and financially, and also backed by Germany and to a lesser extent Britain. It was the imperialist Balfour Declaration of 1917 by Britain which eventually led, through different processes and wars, to the seizure of Palestinian lands by Israel. And if the USA and Britain had not overthrown the democratic government in Iran in 1953, to prevent the nationalisation of western oil interests, how different the history of that country and the region might have been. Western arms companies contribute in a major way to violence worldwide. NATO nuclear policies, including those of Britain and France, are a danger to the whole world. And wars outside of areas of perceived western interest, e.g. Sudan, get ignored.

An article in this issue by Peter Emerson looks at some issues in relation to Russia, Ukraine, eastern Europe and the Caucasus. We maintain strongly that NATO’s move to the borders of Russia – a country twice invaded from western Europe during the 20th century – was a major contributor to the current war in Ukraine.

There are various simplicities included in the above. And none of the above justifies the negative and violent policies of other countries such as Russia or China where human rights range from much worse to non-existent. But far from the West being awake to the realities of its policies, past and present, and their effects, it seems it is asleep at the wheel when it comes to self awareness. This makes for a mountain to climb for the future. It is however the task of social and political change movements to pull the wool from people’s eyes and show the reality so more positive politics can progress.