The Rangers’ current re-enactment of Beau Geste in the deserts of Chad may have come as a surprise to observers who thought that the Irish state had a policy of neutrality, or some kind of history of anti-imperialism. Clearly it represents a return to a much older tradition, demonstrated most gloriously in the seventeenth century when we colonised Montserrat.
It’s also sparked off a regrettable outburst of what Ruth Dudley Edwards would call a congenital character flaw in the Irish nation. That is, our tendency towards cynicism and begrudgery. Really, some of the aspersions that I have heard being cast on our socialist Taoiseach beggar belief.
Let’s get this straight. Irish troops are in Chad, as per the UN Security Council, to support the democratically elected government of Idriss Déby. Ah, our cynics say, but isn’t Déby a common-or-garden African strongman who runs an extremely corrupt and repressive regime, while being convincingly accused of having rigged his re-election? And I say to that, you’re missing the point. The mature democracies of Western Europe and North America are supporting the government of Chad, so Chad must be a paid-up member of the Free World. What are you, a Chomskyite or something?
Our cynics further suggest that this all has to do with courting the French. After all, although Chad formally got its independence in 1960, it has functioned as a de facto French protectorate ever since. Obviously these are the same cynics who reckon Kosovo’s “supervised independence” is all a sham. They further suggest that the French need a fig leaf for their neo-colonial intervention there and the Dublin government has stepped into the breach. These curmudgeons will also impute, with a nudge and a wink, that Bertie is simply trying to butter up Sarko with an eye to becoming President of Europe.
For shame! One would think that Ireland didn’t have an independent foreign policy and was simply reduced to cheerleading what bigger and more powerful countries decide to do! I also strongly resent the slur on Bertie’s character, implying that he’s only in this for himself and isn’t capable of an idealistic display of muscular interventionism. On the contrary, I firmly expect the Henry “Scoop” Jackson Society to reward Bertie’s idealism by declaring him a Hero of Democratic Geopolitics. The Ulster Unionist contingent among the Scoopies may look askance, but I believe their objections will be argued down.
Some of our more scurrilous wits are saying that, if Irish troops are to undertake peacekeeping missions, they might be better deployed in the pubs of Limerick. Really, that is beneath contempt. I challenge you to say that to Willie O’Dea’s face.
It really does get you down, doesn’t it, this debilitating cynicism in our public life? Surely what we need is more comic-opera wars to raise national morale.