European military power: a museum piece?

by | Nov 12, 2010


When I was small, I was taken to London’s Imperial War Museum (above) and I had a good time.  With the EU and NATO lowering their military ambitions, I’m starting to wonder if we shouldn’t set up some sort of Post-Imperial War Museum to explain our recent military adventures to future generations, as I muse in Canada’s The Mark:

Readers of serious European newspapers – admittedly a dwindling breed – should know where to find Kabul, Kandahar, and Kunduz on a map. NATO’s fight against the Taliban has given us a passable knowledge of Afghanistan’s major towns and cities.

But what about Bunia and Goz Beïda? Asked to identify these places, many Europeans might guess they could be found in the Star Wars universe. But they are real – located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and eastern Chad, respectively – and they feature significantly in the recent military history of Europe.

In 2003, French troops were deployed to Bunia under the European Union’s flag of Congo to fend off militias. In 2008, Irish troops were flying the EU flag in Goz Beïda, tasked with protecting supplies to refugees from Darfur. A Chadian rebel group attacked. The Irish escaped with no casualties, although some aid workers complained that the soldiers failed to fight back.

If anyone ever builds an EU War Museum to rival the Imperial War Museum in London, it will include displays on these engagements. But museum guides may have to explain that, after the Chad mission ended in 2009, EU soldiers never returned to Africa.

Read the rest of the article to find out why.  In the meantime, readers are invited to suggest items that should be on display in my EU War Museum.  I’d certainly want to include some of these Action Man-style uniforms, apparently worn by Belgian Special Forces (yes, they really do exist) that deployed to Chad…

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