Wednesday 28 September 2016

Ireland is irrelevant in the brutal global reality of 'realpolitik'

Published 05/07/2016 | 02:30

Teddy Roosevelt: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick’
Teddy Roosevelt: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick’

In the 1990s, the concept of 'realpolitik' was regarded as a relic of the Cold War period. A combination of economic downturn, military adventurism, a succession of crises in the Middle East and the widening gap between rich and poor - not forgetting Isil - have ensured that realpolitik has a receptive audience once more. A pragmatic concept, it has its origins in the Germany of Bismarck and each successive generation reinvented it. The foundation of realpolitik is based on a number of interlinked assumptions:

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• The law of the strong is the determining factor in politics, thus sovereignty is not a natural right.

• Ideas in politics matter but essential truths are irrelevant.

• Modernity has changed the nature of statecraft. Public opinion is more important.

German historian Johan Droysen said the era of small states was over: "In political life, as in manufacturing, only mass structures will come to anything. Alongside the world powers of Russia, America and China, the German race must either crumble or join with the southern European states."

After a century and a half of diplomacy, Germany and its allies have achieved their target: the European Union. After the Second World War, historians began to talk about the 'Sonderweg' (special path) that Germany had taken since the middle of the 19th century.

Increased scrutiny was directed at the notion of realpolitik. Heinrich von Treitschke was the new apostle of realpolitik. He believed that right and virtue should be sacrificed to a grand idea, the might and prosperity of the people - das Volk. As far as Britain was concerned, a unified Germany was worrying. In the face of realpolitik, Britain tried to raise its imperialism to a new height by talking up the 'white man's burden'. The Germans stated that Britain had "invented a whole regiment of venerable platitudes about their long-term intentions for peaceful co existence: all true in the abstract, all irrelevant to the concrete issue". George Bernard Shaw agreed with Germany, referring to the British foreign office as little more than a "Junkers club".

Henry Kissinger, in his book, 'A World Restored', spoke approvingly of Teddy Roosevelt's motto: 'Speak softly and carry a big stick.'

Halford Mackinder, the English geographer, warned that the cult of realpolitik was more deeply embedded in the German national psyche than the western nations had yet grasped. This was amply proved after Brexit, with the reaction of the central European countries. As a country, Ireland is irrelevant. The EU operates on the exclusive principle of self-interest. It is the end that justifies the brute means and conscience is taboo.

Hugh Duffy

Cleggan, Co Galway


Micko's positive attitude inspires

When the great Mick 'Micko' O'Dwyer was asked recently what his formula for longevity was, his succinct reply was: "Exercise, good food and a positive attitude." This is a very profound statement validated by the lifestyle of its author, who epitomises a life lived to the full. His passion, commitment, good humour, positivity, optimism and determination have made him a national treasure. Mick O'Dwyer is living proof that good mental health is based on a positive attitude, sensible self-maintenance and altruistic service to others. There is a strong affirmative correlation between exercise and good mental health.

A regular programme of age-appropriate exercise causes the body to release chemicals called endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body.

The health benefits of building an aerobic programme of exercise of your choice - such as a walk, a jog, a run, a cycle or a swim - into your daily schedule are considerable. Regular exercise is a great way to burn off tension and to disable negative sentiments. It relieves stress, boosts the self-confidence and induces a feeling of well-being.

Not everybody can achieve the remarkable success of Mick O'Dwyer. Nevertheless, a kind word, a good deed, a helping hand or a local sporting, community or social involvement, repays the giver in spades with feel-good factor. Volunteers are always needed and their active participation is not only beneficial to others but also to themselves. When you do good, you feel good.

I don't believe for a moment that we are a nation of knockers, pessimists and killjoys.

While we may have a few chronic whingers in our midst we are, by and large, buoyant, optimistic and well able to celebrate. We can count our blessings for living in this beautiful country, where most of us have a decent quality of life.

We have friends and loved ones to whom we can turn in times of need. We have the means to make enough money to live on and we have the absolute pleasure of sport, leisure, recreation and social activity at our disposal.

Instead of being a constant complainer and moaner, it's far healthier to make a positive contribution in whatever way one can. No one enjoys the company of a person with a chip on their shoulder, or one who constantly plays the blame game.

Billy Ryle

Tralee, Co Kerry


David Marcus's career at the 'Press'

David Marcus was a truly great literary editor and books page editor. He gave me reviewing work when I was a staff journalist with 'The Irish Press'. In the hard copy of your Saturday paper (July 2) there was an error in a pull quote which misquoted what the reviewer, John Boland, had written.

The pull quote claimed that David Marcus's New Irish Writing page had been published for many years in 'The Evening Press'. Not so. It was published in the morning paper, 'The Irish Press'.

Hugh McFadden

Harold's Cross, Dublin 6W


Kenny and the 'Endapendents'

Since coming into Government, Enda Kenny has done a great job of turning the Independents into Endapendents.

Anthony Woods

Ennis, Co Clare


Respect the will of the people

Those supporters of the Remain campaign who want a second referendum to allow the Brexit sinners atone for their misdeed only serve to display their contempt for the will of the people.

If the small margin of victory had been in their favour, they would be calling for it to be respected on the basic democratic principle that 50pc plus one is a valid majority. If we are truly democrats, then we must accept the will of the people even if it clashes with our own agenda. To do otherwise is the beginning of 'might is right'. I believe this is a road that few of us wish to travel.

Michael Gavin

Balllyfermot Avenue, Dublin 10

Irish Independent

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