Louise Richardson

Louise Richardson

ONE TRUSTS that Tánaiste Micheál Martin’s recent failure to give Louise Richardson her full, proper title of Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE) was a lapse in his usual respect for British authority and not an effort to obscure this impressive title. Dame Richardson has been appointed to chair the Government’s Consultative Forum on International Security Policy but the Government, according to Martin, has no plans to abandon neutrality. Micheál said Lou, or Dame Richardson, “has a strong expertise in security policy” and will “play a hugely positive role in chairing the discussions”.

Richardson certainly has a strong expertise in security policy – western security policy that is – and as such is well known in the world of geopolitical academic circles in Europe and North America. Throughout her book, What Terrorists Want (Random House, 2007), she refers to the United States as “us”, “we” etc. (Louise holds US citizenship.)

About the attack on Afghanistan after 9/11, Louise Richardson writes: “We did not use the mechanism of NATO or any other international institution to fashion or implement a response. We felt strong enough to react on our own, and so we did. An undersecretary of defense later explained that the United States had been ‘so busy developing its war plans that it did not have time to focus on coordinating Europe’s military role’.”

On how containing terrorism can “strengthen our hand”, she writes: “There are any number of ways in which engaging the international community in the campaign to contain the terrorist threat can strengthen our hand. At a practical operational level, it can help us to track and capture militants, curtail their funding, and impede their operations. At a political level, it can enhance the legitimacy of our position by casting the conflict as one between those who believe in the rule of law and those who don’t, rather than simply one of the strong against the weak or the United States against the rest.”

This is one clever dame.

Louise Richardson, whose academic credentials are impressive – her stint as vice chancellor of Oxford University gives a hint of this – got into a spot of bother when she opposed the removal of the controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford. Rhodes was a white colonial diamond magnate after whom Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, was named.

A bit closer to the bone, the 10 northern hunger strikers who died in 1981 attracted Lou’s attention and she opined: “They starved themselves to death in order to win political prisoner status… The ultimate goal of any war must be to deny the adversary what it is that he wants. Terrorists want to be considered to be at war with us, so to concede this to them is to grant them what they want, instead of doing our utmost to deny them what they want.”

The notion that the Forum on International Security Policy is not intended to undermine neutrality has perhaps not been enhanced by Dame Richardson’s appointment as its chair.

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