Re: Yank IRA wisdom

From: Charlie (
Date: Wed Apr 26 2000 - 14:58:44 MDT

On Wed, Apr 26, 2000 at 02:59:10PM +0100, Rob Harris wrote:
> ..... One group, "republicans",
> want control of Northern Ireland for themselves (naturally - everyone wants
> to rule, right?), and their method of achieving this is by bombing innocent
> members of the public in NI and the rest of the UK (this has included many
> children).

Gross over-simplification and grossly unfair to the republican movement.
You omit the fact that the unionists practiced systematic discrimination
against catholics up until the late sixties/early seventies. You omit
the fun little festivities such as the marching season. You omit the nice
guys from the UVF and UFF who are just as partial to murder and maiming of
their opponents as the IRA. You omit the complete fuck-up by the British
government in 1971-76 -- who, to be fair, didn't have a clue what sort of
meat-grinder they were sticking their dick into, and who didn't realise
that the Paratroop Regiment *weren't* trained in police and counter-
insurgency duties. You omit the fact that even if Sinn Fein is willing to
take a moderate route and go into disarmament talks, they *can't do so*
unless they can pursuade the Provisionals to go along with them, and that
the Ulster Unionists are in the same bind vis-a-vis the UFF and UVF.

Indeed, there's a deterrence issue here. To coin a metaphor: both sides
are holding a loaded pistol to each other's head, and you've got the
British government off to one side pointing a rifle at the both of them
but also trying to talk them down. Nobody wants to shoot, but everyone's
terrified that if they lower their gun they'll die. The only solution is
to try to build enough trust to let both sides relax their trigger fingers
and put the guns away -- but it's hard to do that, because the most radical
individuals on either side are in a position to confirm the worst fears of
their enemies, and indeed have a positive motive to do so (because it
cements their own importance within their own faction).

The problem with insurgencies is that it's very hard for them to stop
fighting, unless they have a very strong leader. Whenever one group
develops a fit of sanity and decides that maybe negotiating isn't the
first step on the road to surrender, their out-voted hard-liners splinter
off and start shooting people again. This is a large part of the reason
why the troubles in Northern Ireland went on for thirty years, despite
there only ever being a couple of thousand people willing to take up
arms in the first place.

For example, about the only reason we still have a peace process today is
because the hard-liners of the Continuity-IRA self-destructed two years
ago, by blowing up and killing 26 catholics: that bomb was really intended
to scupper the peace talks, but instead it massively alienated their
own community (as well as just about everyone else everywhere). But the
Unionist terrorists managed to do pretty much the same thing, albeit on
a smaller scale.

(Moral of story: insurgencies have a way of getting out of control and
are very hard to stop once they achieve a life of their own, as long
as there's any constituency behind the terrorists.)

-- Charlie

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