The future of European defence
Last week French President Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for more co-ordinated European Defence Force initiatives. At first glance this may seem to be of little relevance to the Irish householder who has enough problems to be dealing with. Until we reflect on the changing nature of warfare. The days of boots-on-the-ground invasions of countries like Afghanistan will become rarer as cyber warfare and biological warfare become more common.
Remember the spate of cyber-attacks over the summer, one of which almost shut down our health system? Look at the collapse for WhatsApp this week, critical communication infrastructure for many. We are all exposed to almost daily scams and identity theft. Energy security resulting from geopolitics threatens us this winter. And what about the covid pandemic? While still most likely a natural occurrence, it has clearly demonstrated exactly how a biological war could be executed. Cyber attacks on our energy grid, banking and public services are almost certainly possibilities in the future.
In the past we could co-ordinate with the UK on defence measures. That is becoming less and less possible as the UK follows a swash-buccaneering global Britain future and is less interested in working with its near neighbours. Last week saw the UK off to the south China sea to try to protect Australia from supposed Chinese aggression.
It could therefore be argued that we will need to align ourselves increasingly with EU defence initiatives. Ireland however has been neutral almost since independence, we are for example not members of NATO. Neutral nations, such as Switzerland, generally have very strong defence capabilities. Ireland does not, we just traded on our remoteness as an island nation and were far enough away from everywhere to be somewhat ignored by invading armies. Not so in the new world of cyber and bio-warfare where there is no such thing as remote.
If we look to the US, one important driver of US success as an economy was the close ties of business with the military. DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency), the US military’s program of research has led to all kinds of inventions, including communications satellites, the internet, and driverless cars. Europe doesn’t have an equivalent organisation, and this is one of the reasons why Europe lags in innovation and why we are so dependent on US companies coming to Ireland to invest and create jobs.
The nature of defence is changing, and the threats, which in the past seemed very remote, now have the capability to reach right into our homes and threaten our livelihoods, our health, and our quality of life. Defence is also a big economic driver and creator of jobs. As the world order changes, defence spending can not only protect our way of life but also create jobs and boost the economy at the same time.
What do you think? Stick to our historic principles of being neutral, having no enemies and looking after our own defences? Or pool sovereignty and join forces with the EU and become part of a new military-industrial complex responding to new forms of warfare?
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