Is Ireland willingly walking into an EU army? This is the question that was dismissed during the recent elections as if it was some kind of conspiracy theory.
But the fact is that alongside climate change, it should have been at the forefront of every debate. Instead, it barely got a mention.
Ireland’s involvement in an EU army has been assured via its commitment to the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) arrangement.
Ireland joined PESCO in 2017. But what does that mean? A factsheet published by the EU itself lays it out clearly. PESCO means “increased investment in defence” along with “further integrating and strengthening defence cooperation
If that in itself seems somewhat unclear, uncertainties are brushed aside a few lines later. The factsheet states:
The aim is to jointly develop defence capabilities and make them available for EU military operations.
To make sure that the involved states are living up to their PESCO commitments, each country will publish a yearly report known as a National Implementation Plan (NIP). This is so each state will know how everyone else is “contributing to fulfilment of the binding commitments it has undertaken”.
On top of this, states’ spending on national defence will be monitored.
Given the amounts of money involved, someone is going to profit from all of this. And in this case it’s the arms industry that stands ready to reap the whirlwind of increased defence spending.
This is not hidden from the public. In the European Defence Agency’s (EDA) own publication, European Defence Matters Magazine, it’s made quite clear what the role of industry is when it comes to increasing EU militarisation.
Take Eric Trappier, the CEO of Dassault Aviation, and the current president of the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD).
During an interview in the aforementioned publication, he pointed out that “Industry, has developed very good working relations with all EU institutions”. And new initiatives like PESCO create “opportunities” for the arms industry.
He also argued that “appropriate governance” for the industry is needed. Presumably he doesn’t mean greater regulation. This is seemingly confirmed when he says there’s a need for “an EU political and legislative environment that is fully adapted to the defence specificities”.
But that’s not all. In an EDA report about the EU’s “capability requirements” out to 2035, it notes that it’s important that the arms industry is able to supply states with the weapons they need.
This includes “future cutting-edge technologies”. In the introduction the report states that it “does not consider the ethical and legal aspects” of the weapons and technologies it discusses.
This makes sense when you get to the sections on human “augmentation” and “enhancement”.
These enhancements include the use of exoskeletons, “Cybernetic augmentation, genetic alteration and/or nanotechnologies to enhance human cognition”.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s also the potential use of pharmaceutical drugs to increase the “resilience of individual soldiers” to various biological, chemical, radioactive, or nuclear threats.
The “use of enhanced individual soldiers” is later mentioned as one of a number of “Key future military capability requirements”.
Is it any wonder that this wasn’t discussed during the elections and has been largely ignored?
For a start, some of it reads as bizarre and other parts are typical given the world we live in; bizarre given the discussion of human augmentation and typical because, as usual, if someone’s going to profit it’ll be large corporations.
So to even mention PESCO would open a can of worms as it were. All of this would have to be discussed.
But that can’t be allowed to happen because promises have already been made that can’t be reneged on. Ireland’s commitment to its lack of neutrality has been assured for a long time now.
PESCO just makes it official that our neutrality is a farce and always has been.
The mainstream political position can be summed up by a document published last year by Seán Kelly, Mairead Mc Guinness, Deirdre Clune, and Brian Hayes in their roles as MEPs.
In the document, which discusses Irish neutrality, they argue that much of language in debates about Irish defence spending uses “outdated language”.
They insist that “Ireland is vulnerable” to terrorist attacks. And for this reason they say they “support reinforced security and defence cooperation in Europe”.
At the same time, they also take note of Ireland’s lack of neutrality over the years which they describe as “practical, flexible, and pragmatic”.
And they insist “Taking a more proactive position in the security and defence policy of the future is in our national interest”. And all this while claiming Ireland will remain “non-aligned”.
People disconnected from the realities of daily existence get to define the so-called “national interest”. There’s nothing to be gained by an increasing militarisation of society.
PESCO ensures that and much more.
It ensures increased defence spending here, involvement in wars abroad, and a tidy profit for the arms industry. In a remotely democratic society this would be open for debate.
But it never was and it never will be unless a large amount of pressure is brought to bare on the political elites who believe that turning Ireland into a branch of the EU military is something to be lauded.
In Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell wrote:
It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours.
Our case differs, but only slightly. We have politicians doing all the shouting while the soldiers will eventually do the fighting with the arms industry profiting.
Some kind of open debate is needed. The last thing Ireland needs is to be dragged into a conflagration with Iran and Russia. And that means resisting every attempt at militarising our society.