Like the world needs another army

6th December 2000

THE EU’s Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) is such a good idea that everyone wants to lend a hand.

Countries far from the centre of Europe, such as Turkey and Russia, let it be known that they would lend a few troops if they were needed.

The RRF will spring to the aid of the little guy, like the Bosnians and the Kosovars.

So this is great news for the Chechens and the Kurds (not to mention Crossmaglen). Any day now they will be delivered from their tormentors by our heroes in the RRF promising human rights, cultural freedom and self-determination.

Hello?

Our relationship with Russia is far too important to allow things like the carpet bombing of Grozny to get in the way. The Turks are prospective EU members so their genocidal war against the Kurds will have to be overlooked.

And as for Crossmaglen, well, the wall to wall military occupation is courtesy of the country providing one fifth of the RRF troops.

So who will the RRF be liberating? What actually is the point in having the RRF?

It seems that the Europeans are miffed that the Americans provided most of the military power used in the Balkans. The Europeans are embarrassed and they want to ensure it won’t happen again.

So now we’re a bit wiser about the RRF.

Firstly, it won’t attack anyone who has the ability to hit back. Only beatable bad guys.

Secondly, its theatre of operations is not defined. There’s nothing to stop it being deployed in Africa and Asia.

Thirdly, many of its own members have dodgy records on human rights and the rights of minorities.

But above all it is a tremendous boost to the arms trade. Although most of its units will be taken from its existing armies, new gear will have to be bought.

Here in Ireland, we are already tooling up for Partnership for Peace. All of the funds gained from the sale of barracks is to be spent on the military.

Now that we have committed a light infantry battalion to the RRF we will have to spend more on new equipment, on standardising existing equipment with other states and on buying helicopters to make our lads rapid enough for the RRF.

Even the FCA are to be entirely re-equipped for the new dispensation.

What we are buying into here is a European army that will be deployed in Europe’s political and economic interest.

In itself it is a disastrous policy based as it is on regional military strength and competitiveness, which has had dire consequences for humanity throughout the last century. But for us, a country with our experience of colonialism to get involved, is disgraceful.

The underlying push for this new militarism is from the arms trade.

The world now spends about $700 billion on arms each year. This is down from $1,000 billion 10 years ago. The end of the Cold War hit the arms trade hard.

But now the trend is reversing. Sales are up and are set to rise further. A new army won’t do sales any harm.

The vast majority of conflicts are based in injustice and poverty. The way to solve these conflicts is to ensure prosperity and an equal distribution of wealth.

Instead, we are involved in a regional economic club – the EU – which now wants an army to back up its interests.

I know that there are supposed to be safeguards. Our commitment is supposed to be to the United Nations.

But in reality we are sleepwalking into a military situation that we may find very hard to extricate ourselves from.

Ireland has a unique historical perspective in Europe. We have learned that future peace depends largely on justice and not on policemen.

This year we will spend £500 million on defence and £200 million on overseas aid. We need to reverse these figures.

We have a far more valuable contribution to make to international affairs by speaking up for the counties of the South.

The trend is: peacekeeping, peacemaking, PfP and now RRF. Where to next?

As well as that…

Europe’s Record in Ireland

IN all this planning for the RRF there is the assumption that Europe stands for peace and democracy and all things good.

This came to mind with the recently screened documentary on Long Kesh prison in the North. At the height of the blanket protest the European Court of Human Rights ruled decisively in favour of the British in refusing special political status to the prisoners.

The whole prison struggle had the effect of reinvigorating the conflict and it is no exaggeration to say that it probably postponed the Belfast Agreement by 10 years.

The European Court found against the British on a number of occasions but when tight came to tight it bowed to its political masters.

I can’t think of one single positive input from Europe’s institutions or politicians into conflict resolution in the North. And now they want to solve the world’s problems.

Under no circumstances were the IRA to be recognised as a political body, no matter how badly prisoners were treated or what effect it had on the wider community.

I suppose that’s why the prisoners were all released under a political agreement to which Europe made no contribution but now fully supports. Nice one, lads.