Bryan Wall: War, What Is It Good For?


From top President Micahel D Higgins joins members of the Defence Forces at the annual 1916 Leaders Commemoration Ceremony at Arbour Hill cemetery in Dublin in May; Bryan Wall

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.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column usually appears here every Monday. Read more of Bryan’s work here and follow on Twitter:  @Bryan_Wall


25 thoughts on “Bryan Wall: War, What Is It Good For?

  1. Jake38

    “…….PESCO just makes it official that our neutrality is a farce and always has been.”

    I agree. Ireland is not neutral. Ireland is defenceless.

    I suggest it is unlikely Mr Putin will pay much attention to our much vaunted “neutrality”>

    The sooner we align with someone with teeth such as NATO, the better.

      1. Rob_G

        No he didn’t; he had an invasion plan ready to go. It’s just that things didn’t go too well in the Battle of Britain, and he wasn’t able to implement it.

      2. dav

        well if we’re going to be respectful to hitler make sure to use the term “herr” , ffs

    1. Owen C

      Ireland is situated directly to the East (UK), West (US) and North (France) by three of the world’s five democratic nuclear superpowers (Israel and India being the other two, and perhaps Pakistan depending on how you view the military there). The notion that we are fighting some noble neutral crusade is laughable. We have freeloaded on the back of our unique geographic position and fortunate geopolitical alliances. I don’t really care about PESCO or an EU Army one way or the other, but its ridiculous to think we can just accept our incredibly cheap and fortunate defensive benefits in a world where the biggest dangers are no longer nation states that will somehow respect either political neutrality or which can be ignored due to geographic constraints. We should have an honest discussion about how we want to be involved in any interactions with failed or rogue states or any transnational organised terrorist networks which may require dealing with at a military level abroad. An EU-level agreement does not seem like a terrible idea, but I’m open to whatever argument deals with it best. Hiding behind neutrality is a cowardly way of failing to recognise how and where these dangers exist.

      1. Yep

        “We have freeloaded on the back of our unique geographic position and fortunate geopolitical alliances.”

        And long may it continue.

        1. Owen C

          At least that’s honest (and rational). Lets at least ditch our holier than thou attitude to neutrality though. Lets at least admit its a self serving policy which avoids the human and fiscal cost of having a properly functioning military.

      2. Cian

        Agreed. I’d add that as an island nation we are less likely to be invaded – it is logistically difficult.

        And the UK wouldn’t like to see a hostile power here – they would have stopped Herr Hitler from invading out of a fear for their own protection.

        But it is a discussion that needs to be had.

  2. Dr.Fart MD

    way too much to read. but i’ll offer an opinion anyway; we have a tiny army and the EU don’t need it whatsoever, but by joining we are then a target and more on the radar for terrorists than we would be before. we also don’t have the kind of money they want us to put in. we’ve paid way over our fair share during the recession. taking on 42% of all the EUs bank debt. It is fine to say “no. we aren’t joining.’ with a stiupaltion that we’ll get involved if theres war with russia or the states or whatever happens. any other decision is pointless and just posturing and tryna be stately. we have the worst government we’ve ever had, and we’re not even in a recession. the army should do a coup instead.

  3. A Person

    ” 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”

    Good man Brian, only FG MEPs are named. Any comment on the fact that your comrades have been deducted pay for not turning up to the Dail?

    No bias there. With regard to the first quote, how is our neutrality always been a farce.

    1. Bryan Wall

      I’m not a member of any political party and have no allegiance to any of them. TDs not turning up to work is a farce. No two ways about it.

      The FG MEPs are mentioned because they’re the ones who published the document which is pretty blatant in its abandonment of any pretence of Irish neutrality. At the same time we have FG saying that Irish neutrality is protected and there will be no EU army. One hand doesn’t know what the other’s doing, or doesn’t care, apparently.

      1. A Person

        Sorry Bryan, this is entirely my point. I too have no political allegiance. However, every post from you on here is towards the left. How many shinners voted for the proposal? How many turned up? I agree that Irish neutrality has to be paramount. But why make it a FG thing?

        1. Bryan Wall

          “The FG MEPs are mentioned because they’re the ones who published the document which is pretty blatant in its abandonment of any pretence of Irish neutrality.”

  4. Charger Salmons

    Never mind, the brave pilots of the Royal Air Force will protect Ireland in the event of a military or terrorist strike. Ireland’s crop-sprayers are just not up to the task.
    A few years ago on the hush-hush Civil servants from the Department of Defence and Department of Foreign Affairs with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) entered into a bilateral agreement with British counterparts: the RAF, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministry for Defence, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
    Which is why the Peacock Taoiseach looked an absolutel gowl when he threatened to ground British planes flying over Irish airpsace in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.
    Mind you,I wouldn’t worry too much about the idea of an EU Army advancing much under the reign of the next EU President Ursula Von Der Layen.
    Generally considered the worst German defence minister ever she faced a parliamentary investigation over claims of poor management and nepotism in relation to her department’s awarding of contracts and close relationship with defence consultants.
    She also copied and pasted other people’s stuff in her doctorate.
    Still,unlike her predecessor,she’s generally not mullahed by lunchtime.

    1. ReproBertie

      “Which is why the Peacock Taoiseach looked an absolutel gowl when he threatened to ground British planes flying over Irish airpsace in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.”

      You know this is not what happened but, like all good Sasamach drones, never let the facts get in the way of a good sound bite.

  5. eoin

    I’m still waiting for the debate about our deployment in war-torn Mali where we are now actively fighting the group known as Islamic State. No-one here much has sympathy for Islamic State but to me, they’re not much worse than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Regardless though, who decided in my name that we should be fighting Islamic State at all?

    1. ReproBertie

      The people we elected to the Dáil voted 77 to 39 in favour of deploying the Ranger Wing as part of the UN Mission in Mali.

      Do you want a referendum on every military deployment?

      1. eoin

        Oh there was a 2-hour debate on the deployment alright but the fact that Ireland is now actively fighting Islamic State was overlooked.

    2. Cian

      Eoin, If you want a say in it – then put your name forward for the next general election.

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