This article is a translation of "Op oorlogspad (2)"
The shrinking of the armed forces is extensively explained, but the Manifesto does not tell us that this follows straightaway from the changes in the nature of their possible deployment: from the defence against a large-scale conventional invasion in a designated sector, the north German plain, to a mobile intervention force.
In the Cold War era we had an army corps composed of two standing divisions (the 1st and 4th) and one mothballed in reserve (the 5th). But we no longer need such a line-up. Certainly one may deplore the ‘abolition’ of the 900 tanks and a large part of the 4 000 lighter armoured vehicles, but then they were part of the defence against the Warsaw Pact forces. The same goes for the reduction of the number of infantry battalions from 17 to 9, something also following from the re-engineering of a conscript defensive army into an intervention force of professional soldiers. When NATO in 1999, 50 years after its founding date, exploited an illegal intervention in Yugoslavia not sanctioned by the United Nations, to restructure the treaty organisation towards an ‘out of area’ military machine, that would have been the time to publish a Manifesto!
Meanwhile the ‘abolition’ of the armoured materiel was not necessarily ‘a meaningful contribution to international security and peace’, to cite the Manifesto.
Of the tanks, 115 were sold to Austria, 52 to Norway, and Finland also wanted 100 of them. Not exactly a case of ‘swords into ploughshares’, but OK, not a delivery to a war zone either. It was a different matter with the 100 Leopards which were sold to Canada in 2007, for deployment in the ‘reconstruction’ of Afghanistan, in other words, in a war zone. A delivery to Indonesia was prevented by the Second Chamber of Parliament, with apologies by secretary Hennis who would have liked a different outcome.
With the armoured cars there was even less restraint, Of the YPR, the most common Dutch armoured vehicle, 25 were sold to Bahrain, an unstable mini-island state in the Persian Gulf where a democratic movement has been repressed with violence (and Saudi support). 441 were delivered to Jordan and 431 to Egypt, then still under Mubarak. In 2013 Jordan received a further 60 Cheetah armoured vehicles for 21 million euros. And so on and so forth. In other words, the Netherlands is arming the Middle East, only to complain afterwards that the ‘defence of our security’ is in danger. Because Egypt may have been brought under the dictatorship of the army again after a military coup, but Jordan is a no less unstable factor and when the jihadists will have finished with Syria and Iraq, Jordan will be the next target.
So if the signatories of the Manifesto for a Reinforcement of the Dutch Defence are really serious about the ‘defence of security’, they should for instance pay attention to the Dutch exports of new and used military equipment instead of calling for higher defence expenditure.
This latter position would suggest that a return to the military situation prior to 1991 would be a realistic option and that this option would also serve the interests of the security of the Netherlands. But the only way to further that cause is to break out of the spiral of mounting tensions in Europe and the world, for which the United States and NATO are primarily responsible.
Kees van der Pijl