Brendan Simms on US role in NI

Brendan Simms, at the University of Cambridge, writes on the role of the United States in the Northern Ireland peace process. The last three paragraphs are of particular interest:

As Mary Alice Clancy has shown in her well-researched
article “The United States and post-Agreement Northern Ireland,
2001-2006″ (Irish Studies in International Affairs, 18 (2007),
155-173), pressure from the two Bush administrations was central to the
IRA decision to move towards complete de-commissioning of their
arsenal. So close was the relationship between the Americans and the
Unionists after September 11 that David Trimble’s advisors not merely
had sight of one of Haass’s speeches before it was given, but even
wrote substantial parts of it.

In time, Haass became increasingly convinced of Gerry Adams’s
centrality to the whole process and his attitude to Trimble cooled. It
is perhaps not surprising that such a strongly “realist” figure as
Haass should have inclined towards a deal between the two “extremes”.
His successor Mitchell Reiss, however, was more in the tradition of
liberal interventionism and was instrumental in ratchetting up the
pressure on Sinn Fein after the notorious Northern Bank robbery and the
lynching of Robert McCartney in 2004-2005. This principled stance was
of a piece with President Bush’s famous “Second Inaugural” speech of
January 2005 which made the export of democracy the cornerstone of
American grand strategy.

Of course, even now American policy in Northern Ireland has never
been just about those “dreary steeples”. One of the reasons US
diplomats have followed developments there with such interest is their
hope that some insights can be applied to Iraq. That in itself is
neither surprising nor reprehensible. But one hopes for the sake of the
people of Northern Ireland that they are looking for a compromise
involving (some of) the extremes, rather than a “deal” which simply
carves up the province between them.

Dr Brendan Simms
is Reader in the History of International Relations at the Centre of
International Studies at the University of Cambridge and co-President
of the Henry Jackson Society.

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