There’s a letter in today’s Irish Times which raises an interesting point. The Kerryman writing it wants to know the need of the southern state to have an army:
“Why do we feel it necessary to ape our neighbours with a conventional standing army? Which of the European powers could we repel in the unlikely event of a military invasion?”
He then goes on to make a case for having a “counter-terrorism” arm to the gardaí because of the need “to confront threats posed by our armed criminal gangs, paramilitary groups or zealots of the al-Qaeda hue”. He also believes the state’s fishing industry requires protection.
What he’s putting forward is a financial argument: there’s no point pouring money into having a standing army when it wouldn’t stand a cat-in-hell’s chance were the state to be invaded. He might have added that the prospect of invasion is low on the list of possible concerns for the people of the south.
I’m in at least partial agreement. What’s more I’d extend his argument to our next-door neighbour. Britain’s defence budget is just short of £38 billion per year. Is there a high expectation that Britain will be invaded? Or is the army just used to invade other countries?
Which brings us neatly from the financial argument to the moral one. It’s taken as a given that we here must resolve our differences by sitting down and talking them through. Peaceful democracy, use of the ballot rather than the bullet to achieve political ends is what distinguishes the decent citizen from the thug and terrorist.
Nice idea; pity that those who preach it, like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, don’t believe it for a half-second. Otherwise they would stop wasting money on a standing army, navy and air force. If you don’t intend to use violence or the threat of violence to get your political way, why spend money on armed forces?
“But if they’re invaded, they’d need an army to protect them”. True. Except who’s planning to invade Britain? Or the US? And are we saying that physical violence is justified when your country is invaded? No wonder dissident republicans argue that the only thing Britain understands is armed resistance. Oh, and hypocrisy. They probably understand that as well.