Tuesday, July 27, 2010

50 Years of UN missions

This weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the Irish Army's first participation in a UN Mission. 1400 troops were deployed to the Congo in order to stabilise the newly independent country which was in danger of breaking up due to the separatist movement in Katanga province. Over 6000 troops would serve there over the next four years. 26 soldiers would die in combat, nine of them in the one incident. This incident, known as the Niemba ambush occurred just three months into the mission. A squad of 11 men were ambushed by hundreds of Baluba tribesmen. The two survivors reported harrowing detail of murder and mutilation. Since the Congo, The Irish Army has sent troops to Cyprus, Sinai desert, Lebanon, East Temor, the Balkans and more recently Liberia and Chad. In all 84 Irish soldiers would loose their lives fighting on UN missions.

Taoiseach Mr Brian Cowen and the Chief of Staff Lieut. Gen. Sean McCann and Congo veterans at the Defence Forces commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the first deployment of Irish peacekeepers to the Congo

The Irish Army, some back ground

The Irish Army was founded in 1922 after the Anglo Irish Treaty. Its first duty was to fight their old comrades who believed that the treaty was a sell out. In this 11 month civil war the New Irish Army comprehensively defeated the IRA, something which the British had failed to do in two and a half years. The Irish Army led by men such as Michael Collins, Richard Mulcahy and Sean MacEoin had one major advantage. As former leaders of the IRA they knew how and where the irregulars operated. However the new army's reputation suffered from allegations of atrocities in the final weeks of the Civil War as the conflict descended into vicious guerrilla war, mainly in Co Kerry. The most controversal incident occured in Ballyseedy co Kerry where nine republican prisiones were killed it what was probably a deliberate retailition for a previous attack which killed five soldiers.

This truly remarkably picture shows the IRA leadership meeting in March 1922 in an attempt to avoid a civil war. Within a very short time these men would become bitter enemies. From left to right: Sean MacEoin (pro Treaty), Sean Moylan (anti treaty), Eoin O'Duffy (Pro Treaty), Liam Lynch (anti Treaty), JJ O'Conell (pro Treaty) and Liam Mellows (anti Treaty). MacEoin and O'Duffy would both become leading generals in the prosecution of the war. Lynch would become Chief of Staff of the anti Treaty IRA and Mellows would lead the attack of the four courts which would trigger the outbreak of hostilities. Lynch and Mellows would both lose their lives in the conflict.

At the end of the Civil War the Irish Army numbered 55,000. The new bankrupt state could not afford to maintain such a large army so plans were put in place to reduce it in size to 20,000. This massive demobilisation caused friction particularly among the officers and in March 1924 an incident occurred at the Curragh that cold be described as an attempted coup. However the civilian authorities succeeded in maintaining control of the army in what was a crucial moment for Irish democracy. A lasting effect of the demobilisation was that Ireland was destined to be a country with a small military. I believe this is a great pity as the Armed Forces could be the source of great pride and tradition as is the case in many other countries.

The Irish Army increased in size during the Second World War (or "the emergency" as it was known in Ireland) for fear of a German or possibly even a British invasion. Ireland remained neutral during the war in what was seen as a test of its independence. It passed that test however many feel, myself included that a glorious opportunity was missed to join the International community in the fight against Nazi Germany. While Irish neutrality has always been based on the fact that you don't enter into military alliances with a nation with whom you have a territorial dispute with, Ireland nevertheless could have joined the war effort after the Americans had entered the arena. Not only was there a moral obligation to fight Nazi Germany but had Ireland done so the country would not have missed out on the post war boom that the rest of the western world enjoyed. Ireland was isolated after the war. We were not even permitted to join the Untied Nations until 1955. The 40s and 50s turned out to be a time of poverty and emigration for Ireland.

Eamon De Valera had a very strict and rigid interpretation of Irish neutrality during the Second World War.

The deployment to the Congo marked the army's coming of age in the modern era. The aforementioned Niemba ambush is the most well known incident from our time in the Congo mainly because of the heroic last stand nature of the battle. Hoverer Irish soldiers were involved in a much larger engagement in Jadotville in September 1961. The siege of Jadotville took place during the UN offensive into Katanga province to prevent break away Prime Minister Moise Tshombe from consolidating his position in Katanga. During the operation a UN base in Jadotville consisting of 156 Irish Soldiers from A Company 35th battalion was attacked by approximately 3000 Katangans, mainly Baluba tribesmen led by White Katangans and other white mercenaries from Belgium, Rhodesia and South Africa. A fierce five day battle raged. Well dug in Irish troops inflicted approximately 800 casualties on the enemy with perhaps as many as 300 killed. There were no Irish fatalities although seven men were severely wounded. The battle did not end well for the Irish. After five days of fighting the isolated Irish battalion ran out of ammunition and food. A Battalion of Swedish troops attempted to reinforce them but were bombed by a Katangan Fouga Magister Jet. The Irish Battalion was forced to surrender. Although it is generally accepted by historians that the Irish troops were badly let down by their UN masters and that the troops themselves were blameless, there was a certain amount of shame attached to the surrender. Those involved did not get a heroes welcome upon their return. Their commander, Commandant Pat Quinlan in particular was blamed even though many credit him with eventually bringing all 156 soldiers home. It was not until 2004 that a thorough military investigation cleared all the soldiers of any wrong doing and the appropriate medals were awarded accordingly.

One of the few images to be captured of the fighting in Jadotville

When the Northern Irish troubles broke out in 1969 the Irish government became reluctant to send troops overseas in large numbers for fear they would be needed at home. I know many people who have served in the army and most say that of all the places they served, none was as tense as the border with Northern Ireland. However, in 1978 Ireland contributed to the UN mission to southern Lebanon by sending an Infantry Battalion. A Battalion would remain there until 2001. The Irish forces would lose 47 personnel in the 23 year mission, most to IED's and roadside bombs.

As of the 1990s the Irish Defence Forces went through an intense modernisation process which saw it eventually being equipped in a manner that would rival any modern European Army. This was seen most notably in Liberia which in my opinion was one of the most successful UN missions. The large UN force of 20,000 were given an aggressive mandate to confront rebel forces. The UN successfully stabilised the country and oversaw the transition to democracy which ultimately saw Afircas first female head of state elected. Furthermore, the psychotic former President and mass murderer Charles Taylor was arrested and is currently before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The Irish Army played a significant role in his capture.

Charles Taylor was one of Africas most brutal war lords and dictators. He commited unimaginable atrocities in his country during his 1997 to 2003 leadership. Under pressure from George Bush who was meeting Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo at the time, the Nigerian authorities arrested Taylor and deported him back to Liberia. He was arrested by Irish Soldiers at Monrovia Airport who escorted him to The Hague.

I am very proud of the Irish Defence Forces. However I am not naive. We have a permanent defence forces of less than 11,000 personnel. The Air Corps in tiny and the Naval service, while highly professional consists only of 8 coastal patrol vessels. I would one day like to see this change. A large effective military which a country can be proud of is good for a nation. In reality we do not have many defence concerns and you well might argue that a larger defence forces is not necessary. However the military is an example of where people give something back instead of the "what has the state ever done for me" attitude which seems to dominate nowadays. I would go so far as to be in favour of conscription of some sort. Other neutral countries like Switzerland and Sweden do so. It would do the many delinquents of this country no harm. Do something for the state first, then maybe you can start asking questions of it. In the meantime I look forward to observing and commenting on many more worthy Irish UN missions.


Dan said...

Ted, Ted, Ted..

I agree with so many of your opinions but conscription is one step way too far! It's like when people say "You should be forced to vote" or "People died for your right to..." blah, blah, whatever.

Gary said...

A very enjoyable and interesting article. I especially enjoyed reading a little about some of the Irish Army's history.

As for conscription, we had it briefly during our Civil War and again from just prior to World War II until after Viet Nam. It was a major factor in my own decision to enter the Naval Officer program at UC Berkeley (I was about to be drafted!). For us, except during the war, it prove to be a failure and the "all volunteer military" we have today is far more professional and capable then what existed during "the draft". I am aware that the system seems to work in some places, Switzerland, for example, so it might work out but be prepared for considerable resentment and conflict for questionable gains.

Ted Leddy said...

Dan & Gary

Many European countries, even non NATO ones have conscription. Dan, if you are going to spend your life living off the state, as many people in Ireland do, you should first be made do something for that state. The collapse in working class values, mainly thanks to the excesses of the welfare state have led to the complete breakdown of normal society in some parts of our cities. If the family is not there, the criminal element is likely to replace it, unless, maybe the army can step in. Imagine if all the delinquents of the country were forced to do a year in the Army Navy or Air force. They could learn a trade, earn some respect for themselves and others and realise that there is something more important than themselves. Perhaps upon completion of a year or two they could receive credits that benefit them in some other way. It wont save them all, but it will save a lot. You remember how pointless transition year in school was. Why not send the nations 16 year old's to the armed services instead. Give them some pride in themselves and provide them with practical opportunities.

In terms of actually fighting wars, I have no doubt that a volunteer army is more effective. People who really don't want to be there are never going to make great soldiers. But the situation I am talking about is more about the participation. And as you know, there are many valuable trades to be learned in the armed service that prove to be highly practical in non military life. The armed services needs medics, mechanics, communications experts and technicians of all sorts. I would like to see the Irish Defence Forces working as an institution that provides opportunities for young people and is a source of pride for the whole country.

thesystemworks said...

This is very interesting, particularly the parts about the Congo mission and the Civil War.

On conscription: I think it can be advantageous to provide military TRAINING (as oppsed to conscription to fight actual wars) for all youngsters or the unemployed. It creates a well-rounded, disciplined workforce that can attract investment. High-profile praise on the Israeli workforce has been given by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates recently. They found Israeli graduates to be head and shoulders above their counterparts in other countries, as the practical skills learned in the military - initiative, teamwork and the ability to work under pressure - was something you don't tend to get at university.

Buffet visited the ISCAR plant he invested in in 2006 when Hezbollah rockets weere landing in the parking lot. He said that the Israelis made him feel he was in safe hands. They were trained to operate on the battlefield, so the day-to-day running of a comapany, even in a potentially dangerous spot, was a breeze.

Dan said...

I forgot to say, very interesting article Ted. I enjoyed reading it.

I agree with "thesystem works".

But Ted, I'm disappointed and a even a bit insulted by "Dan, if you are going to spend your life living off the state..."

I've pay PAYE tax, VAT, Stamp Duty, motor tax and would happily pay water charges & carbon tax etc. but I certainly DO NOT live off the state.(What the f#%k?) If I ever find myself out of work or with kids then I'll expect to receive unemployment benefit and children’s allowance like everyone else but that would be paid for with my tax Euros not yours.

Gary said...

Maybe I did not make myself clear. I believe compulsory military service would have several direct and long lasting benefits for the population, several of which you have mentioned. I can also see how a professional "voluntary" service is often a better course. There are examples of successful use of both systems (compulsory service in Israel and Switzerland works very well, voluntary service works much better in the USA).

While the benefits of the training are a big plus, the motivation to service remains the vital element. Only the effected population can deal with that part of the question.
You can see from the responses you have already received that this is a subject that can evoke strong opinion on both sides of the issue.

My only point was that both sides have good points and the issue needs careful consideration, primarily by the effected population.

Ted Leddy said...


Very interesting points. I too admire the Israeli model. Even though national service in Israel is obviously far more of a necessity than it is in Ireland. However there is always one thing that has surprised me about Israeli society. Like most western societies (unfortunately including Ireland in recent times) Israel has a conventional criminal problem. I would have thought that a nation so wrapped up in the conflict with the Arabs would have zero tolerance toward conventional criminality. I also would have thought that the normal type likely to be involved in criminality would have no interest in doing so in Israel because, as we discussed, the military training creates such discipline. Yet Israel seems to have the same social problems as the rest of us. where drugs and crime are a serious issue. What is your take on this ?

Ted Leddy said...


I have just re read my comment and realised I put it in quite a clumsy way. Sorry about that.

When I said Dan, I was adressing that part of the question to your good self.
When I said " if you are going to live of the state", I was directing that accusation not to you but to anyone who would.

Just for the record, I'm not Ronnie Reagan or Maggie Thatcher. I believe in a welfare state of some sort. Childrens allowance and unemployment benefit for the deserving is a good thing. It's the lazy minded welfare state that keeps people in poverty and encourages them to aim low that I cannot stand. It's like a form if left wing corruption. The governement promises to increase welfare, the recipients are naturally pleased and agree to vote for that party. It's part of the welfare economy. Paying out so much money guarantees that there is a certain amount of money in circulation and that consumer spending remains at a certain level. In the meantime, nothing ever changed in the poorer areas.

thesystemworks said...

Hi Ted.

Drug abuse has increased in Israel in the last few years, but what has been most remarkable is the rise of organised crime since the 1990s. This is largely down to the mass aliyah of Russian Jewry. Also, Netanyahu's loosening of the banking laws during his first term has made Tel Aviv a bit of a money laundering haven.

The arrival of Jews from the FSU had enormous benefits in terms of the skills and education the olim had, and the increased diversity it brought. The downside has been organised crime, something never seen before. Also, the Russian tendency to see citizens as servants of the state, rather than vice-versa, and the kind of totalitarian mindset some of them have, can damage democracy in Israel. But thats another story. Its the over 300,000 non-Jewish Russians (with strong or distant Jewish ancestry) that make up Israel Beiteinu's core vote, along with many Druze Arabs.

However, I must say that street crime, violent crime and homocides are all quite low in Israel. I don't know for sure what makes this so. The murder rate is lower than Switzerland and most European countries. Generally, you have little to fear walking the streets of even the poorest neighbourhoods (could never say this for Dublin!). Attacks and muggings are remarkably low. Arab areas are rife with pickpockets though, targeting tourists and chasing any non-Arab girls they see.

I would still consider Israel to be a low-crime society. Drug abuse I would class as a victimless crime in the first place. It has increased by major leaps in recent years, but it was starting from a comparitively low point in the first place.

thesystemworks said...

''The governement promises to increase welfare, the recipients are naturally pleased and agree to vote for that party. It's part of the welfare economy.''

Very true. Labour in this country treat crummy estates as their orchards... they don't want these people moving up.

The stuff about boosting aggregate demand and keeping money flowing is just this Keynesian nonsense. Its the most persistent economic fallacy of our times. I don't know how that man got away with what he did.


Ted Leddy said...


I agree entirely. There are merits to both. Who could forget the chaos caused by the draft during Vietnam. Clearly a volunteer army suits the US.

As for the question of motivation, this is tricky. Many many people would neither be suited to nor motivated for military training. However a Norweigan friend of mine explained to me recently that in his country, only about 60% of those conscripted actually do do the tough military training. The rest are required to participate in another form of service to the state in a civil capacity. Perhaps such a model would suit Ireland.

Gary said...

Without addressing the idea of general compulsory service, I personally have always favored some sort of requirement to perform service while a person was receiving unemployment and/or welfare compensation. This could involve military service or other public service, even something as simple as street cleaning duties. -Just a thought...

Paul said...

'It would do the many delinquents of this country no harm. Do something for the state first, then maybe you can start asking questions of it. '

I know where you're coming from I've only got to look at some of the people in England to understand that. But I still disagree it makes for authoritarianism.

As regards to Irish participation in the fight against Nazism. There was an immense Irish contribution. A Guardsman Chorlton of the Irish Guards won a VC in Northern Germany in April 1945. Around the same period I believe a lesser specimen sent a note of condolence to the Nazi regime over the passing of their Fuhrer, his name escapes me. A note sent to a regime a huge number of his countrymen had fought against. Great article on the IDF though, they are superb lads, it was said in Bosnia, that if you were acting up having had a tad too much slivovitz, the best military police to get nicked by was the Irish. Another story.

Paul said...

'However, I must say that street crime, violent crime and homicides are all quite low in Israel. I don't know for sure what makes this so. The murder rate is lower than Switzerland and most European countries. Generally, you have little to fear walking the streets of even the poorest neighbourhoods (could never say this for Dublin!). '

The low crime rate is because you have active citizenship and liberal firearms laws. Its entirely right for a government to trust its people with guns and allow them to defend themselves. Care to compare the figures for aggravated burglary for England and Wales with Israel or Texas? Those States that allowed CCW permits saw less crime, as do the Channel Islands and Northern Ireland. You can Google the Home Office British Crime Survey if you want evidence. I intend to blog more on this.

Ted Leddy said...


I know what I am saying sounds harsh but I don't agree that conscription is authoritarian. Many of the social democracies in northern Europe have some form of draft that seems to work well.

There were quite a few Irish VC's during WW2 and I have personally met many veterans.

De Valera is an extremely controversial figure even today. His not of condolences was a spectacular blunder. It received widespread international press at the time and it contributed to the post war isolation I mentioned in the post. In fairness to Dev, I think it was his strict application of neutrality at as well as an opportunity to irritated the British, something he enjoyed doing. He probably underestimated the international backlash. He never had fascist or Nazi sympathies. He actually spoke out firmly against Italian and Japanese agression at the League of Nations in the early 1930s. He was also close with Ireland's Jews, mentioning them by name in the 1937 constitution.

I have sympathy with your arguments on gun control. But I think the situation in Israel damages that argument. Everybody in Israel is armed, even when they are on the street or in the pub yet there is a notable crime problem. I would guess that crime is probably lower in Israel than most British Isles cities but higher than in northern European nations. If I am right, this would be a valid argument against the theory that liberal gun laws means less crime, given that there are so many guns in Israel.

Ted Leddy said...


Once again we are in agreement. Money for nothing is bad for the givers and the takers in my opinion (excluding the genuine needy of course)

Paul said...

'I would guess that crime is probably lower in Israel than most British Isles cities but higher than in northern European nations. If I am right, this would be a valid argument against the theory that liberal gun laws means less crime, given that there are so many guns in Israel. '

I don't think you're right there; incidentally many north European countries have liberal laws on gun control and the Swiss the most liberal of them all. Yet their crime is low. As to the UK's laws well just look at the British Crime survey. The most authoritarian gun laws in Europe yet gun crime has increased four fold since 1998.

As to Dev, he is and remains an enigmatic figure and IMHO a deeply malign one. He was under no pressure whatsoever to send that telegram, also he must have known by then of the Nazi regimes criminality. However others have spoken of his social incompetence, he was incapable of realising how others would judge his sentiments and actions. He possibly did not have fascistic leanings, although many republicans certainly did. I suspect he was like a more extreme version of Charles de Gaulle, a staunch nationalist, one who acted rigorously in his nations self interest and was indifferent to upsetting others.

Ted Leddy said...


On Israeli crime, i agree it's fairly low but given the Israeli Palestinian conflict I expected it to be much lower like it was in Ireland during the troubles. I suppose I thought that a nation involved in conflict has an arena for the disaffected youth to express their anger, unlike the hooded yobs we have to deal with. The result is a country with little conventional crime. I was surprised to read about the level of sophisticated criminal gangs that exist in Israel.

On Dev, his decision to send that telegram was inexplicable. And you are correct, he will be forever associated in this country with economic and social backwardness. The term "Dev's Ireland" refers to just that.

But putting him in a political box is indeed dificult. It reminds me of Sean Russell, a prominant IRA man in the 1919-21 war. He was one of the most hard line rejectionists of the treaty. But he not only rejected the new Free State Government (1922-32), he continued to reject the new state (as a sell out to the republican cause) even after De Valera came to power in 1932. Anyway the guy ended up in Spain during the civil war fighting for the republican government but in reality he trying to get arms for a new war against the 6 counties. He ended up getting captured by the fascists who, get this, handed him over the the Nazis who at the outbreak of the war, agreed to finance him and send him back to Ireland where he could organise a bombing campaign against Britain. To cut a long story short he took ill because of wounds received in Spain and actually died on board a U-Boat while he was being secretly transported back to Ireland. He wad buried at see.

The funny thing is, there is a statue of this guy in a park in Dublin and it regularly gets vandalise by left wing groups who think he was a fascist and by right wing groups who think he was a communist. I don't think he was either. I think he just hated the Brits.

Kelly said...

Great job did in the post "50 Years of UN missions"! It helps a lot. Thanks. That is great. It is really a helpful information. Keep up the good work... Excellent stuff with wonderful information!


Ted Leddy said...

Thanks Kelly, Glad you found it interesting.

Apologies all for my terrible grammar in the comments section. Commenting from my iphone does not allow me to do spell checks.

Anonymous said...

There are still one or two things that are good about this country. One of those is that we don't conscript. To me it seems absurd that, just because I'm born within a particular state, that I have to pledge my allegiance to it, in the form of doing military service. There are 101 reasons why someone might not/cannot join the army. These reasons need not even be explained. Its a choice. Let those who want to enter service do so. This way, the best soldiers emerge. After all there are no shortage of takers. This is the way in Ireland whether I'm a net giver or taker to society... thats an irrelevant point if you take it to its natural conclusion.

Moreover, the Irish army should be disbanded. At a cost of One Billion Euros- Every Year- Its a luxury we cannot afford. Our sand bags should be laid by European troops. (mostly Irish guys, in some of the same Irish barraks- just bankrolled by europe-which we contribute to). This will not happen in the near future, or maybe never at all, because of the notional and romantic regard in which the army is held. But this is likely to be under pressure in the next few years, or decades, as the reality of the budgetary crises becomes clearer.


Paul said...

Ted, I hate to say it but I think Eoghan may be on the money with regards to the future of the Irish Army. I disagree with him of course and regard the IDF as a great bunch of lads. But what he has described might be the future, moreover the future Ireland voted for with Lisbon. No longer an Irish army and no longer a sovereign nation either. It will take the Euro boffins a bit longer to work on Britain, but that obscene autocrat Von Rumpuy could still have a go. Not least as Britain has been weakened by years of socialism. The EU= Centralised power, zero democracy and liberty.

Ted Leddy said...


Sorry about the late response to this, I have been attending a family event for the last few days.

Eoghan, like you I am generally pro Europe. But I think your call for the disbandment of the Irish Army is way off. While it may seem that Ireland has little security needs this is not necessarily true. First of all we have several terrorist organisations operating on this island. The Army is involved in gathering intelligence against them. But that aside it would be highly irresponsible to disband the army. Once or twice a century the world tends to turn on its head. We have no idea what type of world we will be living in in 50 years time. The rise of India and China could conceivably edge Europe out of world power status. For all we know this could be a politically unstable part of the world in decades to come. One Billion Euro per annum is not an unnecessary luxury. It is in fact a tiny defence budget that any responsible nation would and should have for its own security.

You seem to think the EU should be responsible for Irish security in a similar way to the federal system in the US, relegating the role of the Irish Army to something akin to the National Guard. EU integration will never reach that level. A common Army means a common Foreign Policy. We saw during the Iraq War how deep the divisions are in Europe when it comes to global security.

Paul, I do not agree with your assessment of Europe. While I do get irritated by excessive legislation from Brussels I am generally a supporter of the European project. The main reason being that I believe the benefits of economic and political stability in a democratic EU far out weigh any nationalist sentiment that you or I feel about erosion of sovereignty. Given the unimaginable levels of bloodshed, war and dictatorship that Europe has seen from the outbreak of war in 1914 until the Balkan civil war in the 1990's I think some loss of sovereignty is a price worth paying for peace and prosperity. Some may argue that the European project has eroded sovereignty, perhaps but it has also eroded nationalism which was the cause of so much bloodshed. This is a good thing in my book.

Ted Leddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

'The main reason being that I believe the benefits of economic and political stability in a democratic EU far out weigh any nationalist sentiment that you or I feel about erosion of sovereignty. Given the unimaginable levels of bloodshed, war and dictatorship that Europe has seen from the outbreak of war in 1914 until the Balkan civil war in the 1990's '

Ted, seriously how much of that bloodshed was due to nationalism? The conflicts within Europe were all brought about by a desire to see a centralised power and integration. From Napoleon onwards. Nationalism did kill certainly but it was a fly in the ointment by comparison with the Franco/Germanic centrist movements of Napoleon/Kaiser-Hitler etc. The fact remains that Ireland for instance fought for a right between 1919-1921, to be governed by their parliament. A legitimate struggle that of course led to a democracy (leaving aside the civil war of course and Dev's machinations later). But I would agree that British rule certainly in the south then had no legitimacy. Many British would say the same (incidentally I think Kevin Myers strongly disagrees but he's only right when he talks about the north IMHO).

Yet here we have Britain and now Ireland ceding all of their sovereignty (or most of it) to an unelected commission. Doesn't that kind of go against history and common sense? You know as well as I do that the European Parliament is not in fact a legislative body. Von Rumpuy nor Cathy Ashton never won elections. It is that simple I'm afraid. I'm also scratching my head trying to work out where this project has kept the peace? Four letters dispute that NATO. Anyway back on topic the IDF are a good example of a small professional military, held (for now) democratically accountable.

Ted Leddy said...


This is a very interesting debate which we should probably do in greater detail in a future post.

But my view on this is as follows. While NATO unquestionably did wrestle the Soviet Union to the ground and liberated Eastern Europe in the process, it did not necsscarily democratise Eastern Europe. This was more the EU's doing, hence why all of central and Eastern Europe is today democratic where as the former southern soviet republics are still authoritarian.

The peace and prosperity that follows EU membership was what lured the Warsaw Pact countries into the democratic world. This is also true for Europe's right wing dictatorships in Spain, Portugal and Greece.

I see the EU as a compromise between left and right. The great John Hume described the EU as the greatest peace process ever conceived. It guarantees workers rights and investors rights. It embraces the center and squeezes out the extremes. If you want to be in it and to share in its economic success (which was brought about by free trade across the union) you must be completely and totally democratic in every way.

The creation of a common economy has harmonised interests across Europe. This has led to less tension between nations and ultimately to the greatest period of political stability the continent has ever seen. A side effect of the great free trade block is that borders have literally broken down as well. When you remove the borders that divide people, sometimes the divisions fade away with them. Slovenia is in the EU now, Croatia will follow soon and eventually Serbia will too. Think about this, 15 years after they butchered each other they are negotiating entry into a common economic block. Say you have a Serb town in Croation territory. It is a sore point if it is locked behind a border and difficult to travel to Serbia from. But, if the border is removed and you can pass freely to and from it, and if everybody is thriving economically, you will find that nationalist sentiment will gradually lessen. This is currently happening in the Balkans just as it did throughout Western Europe in the post war decades.

I believe extreme nationalism has caused many wars in Europe. The Balkans imploded because Serbs thought they were better than croats and Bosnians.

Hitler was a German nationalist who believed that ethnic Germans in neighbouring countries should be reunited at the expense of the national integrity of those countries. His persecution of the Jews was also based on extreme nationalism.

Mussolini was a nationalist who fantasised about a greater Italy that could rival the ancient Romans.

In Ireland we too know how love of your country can be a dangerous thing.

I would dispute your view of centralist power. I don't see any similarity to the Napolean/Kaiser/Hitler model and that of the EU which consists of entirely democratic nations.

That said I believe the EU commission does have too much power and would like to see it limited, or at least, the commissioners elected. But I do not buy into the Brussle's is killing our democracy line.

Paul said...

With the greatest of respect Ted, you ignored my point. The fact remains that the Dail, a legislative body has ceded authority and continues to do so to an unelected commission. A simple fact. You argue well of course but as a lawyer not a historian, a lawyer selectively retrieves information to base a point of view around. A historian of course will do that, but will look at the wider picture. A better way of describing the analogy would be to look at a judicial inquiry, like for example the Saville inquiry. Two sides form opposing views and present evidence, the Judge sums up and takes supposedly both views into account. The historian should be a Judge, you argued as an advocate.

But centralising European power was the motivation behind Napoleon, Kaiser et al. With regards to German nationalism where you said 'Hitler was a German nationalist who believed that ethnic Germans in neighbouring countries should be reunited'. That view could be applied to Bismarck quite fairly who founded modern Germany. However what Hitler wanted and also Napoleon and the Kaiser was all of Europe, not just the parts where disparate elements of their diaspora lived.

Again the Balkans in the 1990's, two factors were at play, radical Islam (which is overlooked) and Serbian nationalism. The latter is strongly exaggerated. Either way the EU did nothing, NATO stopped the conflict and in fact did most of the nation building. The EU may have played a benign way arguably elsewhere in Eastern Europe, at the expense of sovereignty. However I do not see anything to be gained from Britain or Ireland to such imperialism that we pay through the nose for.

Ted Leddy said...


I suppose when you feel strongly about something it is difficult to be an impartial historian and not an advocate.

"The fact remains that the Dail, a legislative body has ceded authority and continues to do so to an unelected commission."

The EU commission is I believe flawed but I remain a supporter of the wider European Union. For the record I am not a United Sates of Europe man. I believe in Free Trade and open borders among members but am against the creation of a political Union or anything resembling a European super state. It is a debate I look forward to having with you in the future, perhaps in the context of a post on this issue.