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Column: Should Ireland join NATO?

Forging closer ties with NATO could enable Ireland to combat global terrorism writes Colm Ó Broin.

Colm Ó Broin

IRELAND’S POLICY OF neutrality is seen by many people as an outdated relic of the Cold War and our colonial past. Faced with the common threat of global terrorism and the challenge of promoting freedom and democracy, there is an argument that more cooperation with NATO could bring benefits to Ireland and the international community.

Many believe that we should do more to help the United States and other countries in their struggle against brutal terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Al Shabab, who have committed horrific attacks on civilians throughout the world.

Ireland already cooperates with these efforts to some extent. We allow US troops to stop in Shannon on their way to Afghanistan, while eight Irish soldiers are currently in that country training local security forces as part of a NATO-led UN mission. Earlier this year a French military intervention prevented Al Qaeda-linked terrorists from over-running Mali. Irish troops are now stationed there as part of an EU mission to train the African nation’s army.

We also have more direct experience of aiding a NATO member in the fight against terrorism – having helped Britain to stop republican attacks in the UK for decades now.

Promoting internal reform

There is another way in which joining NATO could enable Ireland to combat terrorism and to promote freedom and democracy; as well as helping members to reduce attacks by Al Qaeda and its allies, another way of reducing terrorism would be to persuade NATO members to stop engaging in terrorist attacks themselves. We could work ‘inside the tent’, promoting internal reform instead of carping powerlessly from the sidelines.

For example, we could encourage the US to stop its drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A recent report from Amnesty International clearly shows the terrorist nature of these attacks. People in the areas affected live in constant terror of drones, describing them as “angels of death”, while local children have even reported their fear of blue skies due to the fact that drones do not operate when it is cloudy. The report outlines the reckless nature of the attacks and the hundreds of civilians who have been killed by them.

However, figures for civilians deaths are hard to estimate because the US assumes that any man it kills who is “of military age” (18-60) is a combatant. By doing this they have declared that all male adult civilians in the area are targets.

Even worse are the so-called ‘double-tap’ attacks, where drones follow up an initial strike by firing a second missile at people who rush to the scene – a tactic regularly used by Al Qaeda, as it happens.
Further details of the Amnesty report are discussed in this report on The Young Turks, an American online news show.

Uploaded by The Young Turks

Promoting democracy and transparency

Regarding the promotion of democracy, by joining NATO we could, for example, lobby the French government to stop supporting repressive regimes in Algeria, Morocco, Chad and other African states. If we had of been in NATO in 2011 we could have encouraged them to end their support for Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was being challenged by pro-democracy protesters.

Even more importantly, if we had of been members in the early 1990s we could have influenced France to end its support for the fanatical Hutu government in Rwanda which went on to commit genocide against the Tutsi minority in that nation. We could also have urged them to send troops to Rwanda to stop the killing, instead of sending troops to rescue the killers as they did in ‘Operation Turquoise’.

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Last but not least, if we were in NATO we might have more success in persuading the UK government to tell us what they know about the Dublin-Monaghan bombing, the biggest crime in the history of the our State. Seeing as we have been helping them to prevent terrorist attacks in the UK for the past 40 years it would be nice if they could reciprocate a little and let us know, for example, whether they carried out the attack, an atrocity described by an Oireachtas committee as an “act of international terrorism” due to the evidence of British security force collusion in the bombing.

While joining NATO is one option Ireland could pursue in the future, another would be to stop aligning ourselves with the amoral foreign policies of the world’s major powers and to continue our proud record of peace-keeping under the United Nations.

Colm Ó Broin is a freelance journalist. He blogs at Middle Class Dub.

Read Colm’s other articles for TheJournal.ie here and here.

We’re interested in your ideas and opinions – do you have a story you would like to see featured in Opinion & Insight? Email opinions@thejournal.ie

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Colm Ó Broin

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