A British militarist’s view on Irish neutrality

It wasn’t a book I found particularly gripping or enlightening but I have just finished Tim Collins: Rules of Engagement. I thought it was mainly jingoistic, self-congratulatory and unsurprisingly celebratory of militarism.

However, the short section on Ireland’s neutrality he raised while accepting an honorary patronage of Trinity College Philosophical Society was a little challenging, so here it is;

‘Is Ireland’s traditional neutrality valid in modern times?’

I explained that it was my belief that we in the West were at war with an enemy who resented all that we stood for culturally and religiously. For complex reasons, which I contented were better understood in Ireland than in the US, the faceless enemy, global terrorism, had gone to war to address a feeling of injustice and to fight what they collectively perceived as the oppressor. These were the actors out with any nation state and therefore had no truck with diplomacy. They spoke the language of violence, but meeting this with violence was no answer in itself. That said, I suggested that all nations had a duty to become engaged in the war against terrorism, if only to show solidarity and to assure their citizens of some form of security – and that included Ireland. The faceless enemy could only be brought to the negotiating table if its violence was stifled by a blanket of security, as we had seen on the island of Ireland itself after thirty-five years of terrorism.

The enemy, I explained, did not recognise Ireland’s neutrality, nor did it understand it. Seeing the St Patrick’s Day celebration in the US, they would recognise that Ireland had a special relationship with the US and to them their enemy’s friend was also their enemy. Thus they would never accept that Ireland was neutral. Ireland, I urged them, must add its modest defence forces in order to claim a voice on the debate on world affairs, using its influence to moderate the US outlook on the world and in turn to moderate the old-world attitudes to the US. If that were successful, then Ireland, along with the UK, could act as an interlocutor for more productive, cordial and progressive ties between the US and the EU, so damaged by recent events.

My final point was that as long as men treated each other as less than men, then fear would lead to violence, which would lead to conflict and thus more fear. The way to break the cycle was to insist on the highest standards of treatment and justice for all and I urged this influential university to continue to demand those standards in all the actions of nations and to lead the way as they had always done.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mark,

    Yes that is well argued piece – it is rumoured he may be offered a seat in the Senate – if it is not abolished by FG.

  • pith

    “it was mainly jingoistic, self-congratulatory and unsurprisingly celebratory of militarism.”

    And what did you think after you read it?

  • Brian Walker

    Tempermentally and politically Mark, Tim Collins is a world way from you, although only just up the road, so to speak. Calling him a “militarist” however is unfair, I suggest. He’s a thinking strategist and a passionate one, not a militarist, a pejorative term that implies shooting from the hip at every opportunity and a belief in military domination. He is one of the most poweful critics of operations in Iraq remember. True, his idea of using the military to gain influence may clash with some notions of Irish neutrality but not with others. I think it would have been recognised by the likes of Mulcahy and McEoin who built up the Defence Forces. After all, that’s what they were doing after WW2 when neutral Ireland developed its UN role. Now ok, you and many others may condemn the invasion of Iraq and the Nato deployment in Afghanistan and thank your lucky stars Ireland never joined Nato. But is what Collins says so out of line with Ireland’s posture today? As he reported his own Phil speech:

    “I urged them, must add its modest defence forces in order to claim a voice on the debate on world affairs, using its influence to moderate the US outlook on the world and in turn to moderate the old-world attitudes to the US.”

    It seems to me quite a creative role for the Republic, although I doubt if they’ll take it up.

  • Mark McGregor

    Well Pith I thought after 2/3s of the way through it suddenly sounded like a different writer had taken the pen. Instead of a level-headed former SAS man we got a damaged man ranting and demonstrating writing with anger being useful and therapeutic for the author but a little tedious for those wanting honesty and insight. It became score settling and a little unseemly given his attempts to position himself as a soldier thinker.

    The above passage was the only element that gave me any pause for thought. Over 300 pages and less than half of one really interested me. Though I’m not one for army stories from anyone.

  • Only Asking

    Why do you find it challenging?

    I thought it was mainly jingoistic, self-congratulatory and unsurprisingly celebratory of militarism.

    What did you think of his damning words on the MoD re his treatment and on cuts.

    He raises some points on military tatics during war, what did you think of those?

  • Mark McGregor

    Brian,

    I’d suggest having never met me you know nothing about my temperament. I’m probably a lot worse than you imagine.

  • Mark McGregor

    Only asking,

    I thought it read like a disgruntled former employee lashing out.

    I thought using his resettlement course cash to go on holidays in Spain was interesting.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mark,

    I certainly wouldnt bother reading such a book and rely on others to do the hard work for me in ascertaining if they contain any nuggets of interest – which that ‘extract’ certainly is. So thanks for that, I will move him across into my ‘has something of interest to say’ category.

    But can you clarify when you say “However, the short section on Ireland’s neutrality he raised while accepting an honorary patronage of Trinity College Philosophical Society” Do you mean that the ‘section’ is directly from the book or from a speeech he ‘raised’ in Trinity.

    He is certainly very complimentary to us natives and I wondered if he had tailored this to suit his audience? Senate seat awaits.

  • RepublicanStones

    Basically an attempt to scaremonger Ireland into joining the War of Terror.

  • Mark McGregor

    Sammy,

    I sadly sat and typed it out word for word from the book. I assume the actual speech would have been a little different.

  • Only Asking

    I thought it read like a disgruntled former employee lashing out.

    Employee? lol He deals with that in the book. Extensively. The British army personnel are NOT employees, they have a covenant with the British nation, if they were employees things would be a lot different. He argues very strongly in favour of employee status.

    Disgruntled, is he really ‘disgruntled’. I doubt any person could be treated as he was and not bear some untoward feelings abouit it, but he isn’t point scoring in this book. His life story is the story of the BA, the insights by this former insider have been hugely valuable. There’ve been no more cuts by the MoD since.

    I thought using his resettlement course cash to go on holidays in Spain was interesting.

    Jesus. Such trivia and you find it interesting. What did you think of what he had to say on giving sweets to children in the Iraqi conflict situation?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    RepublicanStones,

    I have to say, I suprised myself by seeing the attacks on the twin towers very much in tribal terms i.e. an attack on my own tribe (the Westerners) and although not supporting either the Iraq War or the current occupation of Afghanistan (although I was in favour of the iniital invasion) I feel we have so obvioulsy got so much in common with the US and British strategic interest but that its not clear how that should be reflected in our foreign policy.

    But as the Irishman, Mr Collins above, very reasonably remarks we should use or “influence to moderate the US outlook on the world and in turn to moderate the old-world attitudes to the US”.

    Can’t see any reason to argue with that.

  • Forgive me but I am feeling a little Rip Van Winklesque. Since when did Tim Collins gain the credence to commentate on Ireland’s position on anything.A militarist most certainly but a diplomat hardly.

    Being the croppy lie down Irishman that I am, I will doff my cap to the fair Tim and simply say Thank you shur!!!!

    Rossa

  • Seymour Major

    I have met Tim Collins and seen him give military historical presentations on TV. I have not ceased to be impressed by his military knowledge.

    I have not read the book but the passage you quote raises an old chestnut that has been debated in Ireland for years, going back to the time when De Valera refused to join Ireland with the Allies in WW2.

    What Ireland should be asking itself is (1) Do they benefit from Nato’s world defence strategy? If so, (2) should they support it?

    Ireland could support Nato not just in terms of sharing its military resources but I would have thought its geographical position would make it an ideal location for a naval base.

  • Mr Brightside

    As Dante said, “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those, who in time of crisis remain neutral”

  • Skid Marks

    I wear marks and spencers y fronts lol

  • RepublicanStones

    Sammy, if by that he means Ireland uses its leverage (the fact it has no and never had imperialist tendencies, and was infact a victim of such, historically speaking) as a bridge to both temper the US’s desire to deliever democracy at the point of a gun to nations and cultures for whom the idea is a novelty and secondly to try and better the image of ‘The Great Satan’ as it is seen by some, in the middle east, i think, whilst an admirable aim, it is pie in the sky.
    As I have mentioned before, the people who need to be targetted (not mlitarily) are those in the Arab street (or Islamic street), to prevent them being recrutited by the Islamic basement. This theory is from the Arab journo Rami Khouri. The basement are the nutters who hate the west for what it emobodies, the street are those who dislike the western govts for what they do. You address the issues which concern those on the street, you cut off or at least severely restrict the supply for the basement. I don’t think we in Ireland would have any influence over addressing the concerns of the Arab/Islamic street. Thomas Friedman even thinks merit in this idea. To portray it as West V Rest is self-defeating.

    Seymour, Ireland does support Nato. The Partnershipr for Peace framework allows for this, as is seen with Irelands involvement in Kosovo under the non-Article 5 contingent.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    SM,

    Does he still justify the IRAQ invasion? Military knowledge is one thing defending a shocking military adventure you were actually involved in is another and Mark’s description of him as a ” jingoistic, self-congratulatory and unsurprisingly celebratory of militarism” will have a few takers here in Ireland including myself, if that is the case. But of course he may have admitted his and Britian’s mistake?

    Mark,

    Lucky for you he didnt have that much to say on the subject in question.

    On a minor technical point most printers even cheap ones usually bundle in software that will interpet printed words when you scan the page in.

    Mr Brightside,

    re. “As Dante said, “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those, who in time of crisis remain neutral”

    So Collins can sit it out elsewhere with Hitler, Stalin and Churchill et al?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    RS,

    Yes I agree with you regarding Arab street and it would be interesting to know what Timmy thinks of this – as most British commentators on the right, a large chunk of the Labour Party and almost all of the Tories (and of course almost all of Ulster Unionism) simply cannot ocuntenance the fact that their shocking war in Iraq (and the often disgraceful behaviour of their troops) is in any connected to the outrage and violence directed at the West.

    It is an absoloute disgrace that Ireland’s good international name has via Tim and other Northern Ireland soldiers, been tarnished by association with the military adventure in Iraq.

    Having said all that, I think SM is right when he points out that we benefit from Nato and we need to play as full a part as we can ( your points re. Kosovo noted) in a way that maintains as much of our position on neutrality as possible.

  • Seymour Major

    Sammy,

    I would not be inclined to call the Iraq war a Nato war since it did not have the support of France and Germany

    I wont be drawn on the merits (or otherwise) of the Gulf War. I’ve said enough on other threads and it is not really relevant here.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    SM,

    RE. “I would not be inclined to call the Iraq war a Nato war since it did not have the support of France and Germany”

    I was not suggesting it was – at least not deliberately.

    RE. ” wont be drawn on the merits (or otherwise) of the Gulf War. I’ve said enough on other threads and it is not really relevant here.”

    Again I was not (deliberately) asking for your opinion but rather Timmy’s as you were suggesting you have some knowledge of him – and his views on a recent war he fought in are.

  • Freddie

    I wonder does the fecking eejit mention the time he chucked a live grenade in amongst a bunch of his SNCOs? Give no credence to that lunatic. He’s wired to the moon.

  • Tim
  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Tim,

    it is an iteresting website but a bit pointless because unfortunately for Timmy his work is so secret he cant actually say what it is – but luckily there is clue as some chappies appear to be pointing rifles and one seems to bearing an Ulster resistance beret.

  • Barnshee

    Hilarious

    What the fuck use would the Irish be?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I must say, this incident map on Tim’s company website is a rather impressive way of telling the news.

  • Men abed…

    Tim Collins is a prat.

    Anyone who thought his Henry V effort was anything more than embarrassing is totally clueless.

    Anyone who thinks that we’re under attack from Islam so much so that we need to run rampant over their territory needs remedial help.

    Anyone who thinks that Ireland did not provide practical support to the US during its wars just hasn’t been paying attention.

    Collins parochial effort is no more than the usual Unionist drivel masquerading as something more.

    It’s not even serious in British terms.

    Collins is a buffoon with spook contacts, hence the BBC exposure.

    But Britain is already way more sceptical about these clowns than NI is, so no change there then.

  • Turnpike

    What on earth could the Irish military do…? I was in Killarney recently at the same time as Mary Mc was visiting. The army were present and I honestly thought they were part of some re-enactment from the war of independence/civil war period….i.e. the 1920s

  • Paul O’Toole

    Surely it is a complete non-sequitur to say that for Ireland to “claim a voice on the debate on world affairs, using its influence to moderate the US outlook on the world and in turn to moderate the old-world attitudes to the US” she must first send the Irish defence forces to Afghanistan.

    Does anyone really think that by sending a few soldiers to join Americas crusades anyone is really going to sit up and start listening to what Brian and co. have to say on American foreign policy?

  • kensei

    Ah Paul, uou beat me to the punch.

    “I urged them, must add its modest defence forces in order to claim a voice on the debate on world affairs, using its influence to moderate the US outlook on the world and in turn to moderate the old-world attitudes to the US

    Is it likely that Ireland would get any influence or just used and abused. Like, you know, the way the UK were over Iraq.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Kensei,

    re. “Is it likely that Ireland would get any influence or just used and abused. Like, you know, the way the UK were over Iraq. ”

    No but you have to have a coherent sensible defendable policy – Ireland relies on Yankee goodwill (though it is clearly in the Companies interests too) that many of their leading company HQ are situated in Ireland for tax purposes ie they pay feck all compared to the US plus the many more that invest here.

    Great words are one thing we need to be careful not to feck them off – just as with the Lisbon treaty (like it or loathe it) the Plain People of Ireland knew they could not afford to feck the Europeans off.

  • greagoir o frainclin

    “What the fuck use would the Irish be? ”

    Cannonfodder!……as was always the case.

    Surprised you didn’t know that Banshee man!