Are you against violence to achieve political ends?


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.

9 Responses to Are you against violence to achieve political ends?

  1. ANOTHER JUDE March 25, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    Jude, do you REALLY have to ask, `…is the army just used to invade other countries?`. Of course!!! Britain spends a mint on so called defence, I have never heard any mainstream British politician ask why. Only the likes of Galloway, Benn and other principled left wing types. The British have a fetish with their military, every member of their royal family is clarried in medals, they all had to go to Sandringham or whatever it`s called. You can see them at football grounds, the three branches all represented, carrying out the FA Cup at Wembley on Cup Final day, you can see poppies on their shirts every October/November. The players, managers, fans stand, heads bowed, paying respects to their boys. Never asking what exactly they were/are doing thousands of miles from home. Never thinking `why do they kick in people`s doors, drag their sons away, murder the natives?` Yet, as soon as someone attacks them, whether militarily or politically they complain.

  2. Michael Goodman March 25, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    Jude, the requirement for a standing army has nothing to do with invading other countries, repelling invasion or “international peacekeeping”. It is to ensure that the social order remains as those who benefit most, wish it to remain. With us on the bottom and them on top.

  3. Iolar March 25, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

    On reflection, should we not consider the views of John Maclean (1879 – 1923)? He posed questions about the role of armies and violence in the context of the commandments, “Thou shall not kill” and “Thou shall not steal”. His writing provides us with food for thought. As a consequence of the robbery that goes on in all countries, our respective countries have to keep armies and that inevitably armies clash together. There always was and perhaps always will be individuals who will fight to the last drop of someone elses blood. We have lessons to learn from the destruction and violence arising out of World War I, World War II and subsequent wars. Whatever happened to the view, “the war that will end all wars?”

  4. Antonio March 25, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    An army can also be used as a bargaining for other spheres not necessarily concerned with war. The larger the army a country has and the better equipped that army is, the more likely that country is to get a seat at the table with the ‘big powers’ to discuss and influence policy on international economic trade issues.

    Why are Britain and France members of the G.8 and the U.N security council ?? Their respective economies are much smaller than the other members like USA & China.

    Germany does not have a seat on the U.N security despite being a larger economy than Britain & France. (losing w.w.2. is of course a crucial reason why Germany was and is disallowed a seat on the UN security council.)

    A point on another aspect of it all

    Every country in the E.U has committed to defend each other member of the E.U in the event of one state coming under military attack. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say every E.U slashed it ‘defence/war’ budget by half over the next year, well perhaps the Russians would feel a little more confident about defending the right of Russian speakers(re. invade) in the small EU member states of Lithuania and Latvia.

    Countries need to spend vast sums of money otherwise they could one day in the future fighting a war with depleted resources. Armies are not necessarily established to defend against a military invasion but rather to act as a deterrent against invasion in the first place.

  5. Ryan March 25, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    I would say its the height of stupidity not to have an army or protection of some sort to defend your country, whether an invasion is likely or not. Even though Ireland has a small population doesn’t mean we cant have a strong army. An example of this is the Russian- Finish Winter War in the 1930’s, the whole world was shocked when the small Finnish army repelled an invasion from the mighty Soviet Red Army and cost it over 300,000 Soviet soldiers lives. Yes, anyone who knows the History of that war will say that Finland had to meet the demands of the USSR anyway by conceding some of Finland’s territory but that’s not the point, the point is Finland was able to defend itself and wasn’t a sitting duck.

    The World at the minute is relatively stable but history clearly shows that this can easily change and for Ireland, small or not, to be sitting defenceless is not only a serious neglect of its people but also one of embarrassment. I know Ireland would never be a force comparable to that of the United States Army but we should pour the money used currently for the Army into giving the soldiers far better training (special forces type training), better weapons and better and more mobile armoured vehicles.

    • Jude Collins March 25, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

      Thoughtful comment, Ryan. But isn’t that to opt into the might-is-right and use-violence-for-political-ends school of thinking? Which brings us back to our own little NE corner…

      • Ryan March 25, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

        Jude, I don’t think one solution fits all. I mean, would non-violence have been of any use for the Russian or Polish people against Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany? No, because the overall plan was to relocate and exterminate those people. Hitler had mass propaganda to convince Germans that the Polish and Russians were sub human beasts. Of course it was great violence that brought Nazism to its knees, so it was certainly justified.

        But to focus more on our situation here in the north, I’m not an expert on the troubles, I’m in my early 20’s but my mother was nearly killed when hit in the head by a plastic bullet fired by the RUC before I was born and my father too was involved, like a lot people, in the troubles, so I do have some detailed knowledge. My opinion is non-violence and politics is the best way for Nationalists to achieve our political aspirations of a United Ireland in todays world, I firmly believe the pen is mightier than the sword, especially in the case of the 6 counties. Was republican violence in 70’s, 80’s, etc justified? in my opinion, yes and no. Obviously no innocent person killed by republicans was right but as we know the very state here was behind the murder of innocent people, whether through British soldiers, the MRF, one of their own terrorist groups, or collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries. That’s not to mention that the fact that Britain is occupying 6 counties of our country. So there was a lot to back up the Republican argument for violence.

  6. giordanobruno March 25, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    The point about violence is that it should always be a last resort.
    Just war theory may not be an exact science but it is a good starting point..
    The violence inflicted here by the IRA was not a last resort in my opinion,though I know you may disagree. To me it had no reasonable chance of success (Brits Out of Ireland) and it was disproportionate in methods and in length.
    And, to save time, I think all those statements could equally be applied to the Iraq war and many other recent examples of adventurism by western governments.

  7. ANOTHER JUDE March 26, 2014 at 12:37 am #

    Some very interesting posts here, what an intelligent blog you run Jude!! Ryan makes valid points regarding the evils of NAZIism, the Jews and others who went meekly to their deaths would have been better resisting. As for violence being used for political gain here, there were no pacifists during the conflict. EVERY political party supported violence of some sort. The Unionists backed the state forces one hundred per cent, they may have occasionally given off about loyalist killings but only because they felt the RUC and co. were paid to do that. The Alliance party supported the state forces, as did the SDLP. Sinn Féin backed the IRA, naturally. Must google the Russian-Finnish war!