On the war path

This article is a translation of "Op oorlogspad"

These days a ‘Manifesto for the Reinforcement of Dutch Defence’ has been issued by a group of retired generals and former politicians, and signed by a rather broad cross-section of prominent gentlemen from the world of defence policy, commentators, and politicians in general. Too broad in fact, for even the biggest name in the modern Dutch peace movement, Mient-Jan Faber, has added his signature. I have elsewhere written about his re-education as NATO volunteer.

The Manifesto is a sad story. Its message, logic, and language, everything is defective. Are we to win the war with that bunch? ‘The crises in Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa, and the threat of terrorist attacks are not marginal phenomena, but are having direct consequences for our security and for the societies of the European countries’, the Manifesto argues. How true. But what are the causes of these crises?

All of them have arisen in the period following the Soviet defeat in the arms race by the United States. Since then the American defence budget hovers around a level roughly half that of global military expenditure, more than the combined budgets of the next 10 largest countries. We are part of that military machine, through NATO or otherwise.

But instead of working for a world order oriented to peace, just development and to safeguarding the biosphere of planet Earth, the West under American leadership right after 1991 began a forward march which has meanwhile brought us at the very borders of Russia and has set the Middle East and North Africa on fire.

For in the same year 1991 Undersecretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz stated that the US would have a free hand for ten years to eliminate all remaining client states of the Soviet Union. Only then Washington would have to begin counting with a larger opponent such as China.

It took much longer, but Yugoslavia (1994, 1999), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011) have abundantly made clear that this was not just small talk. The American role in the civil war in Ukraine and in the still raging uprising against Assad in Syria remind us that this crusade is ongoing. The Netherlands has supported all military adventures undertaken under American leadership without abstaining even once—unlike Germany, France, Belgium, and others.

The suggestion of the Manifesto is that a lack of Dutch defence effort should be held at least partly responsible for this mess (this is evident from the first lines, one can almost forget the rest because the conclusion is already implied here, viz., higher defence outlays). After all, with too little in the way of armaments the ‘defence of our security’ (note the language—it is either the defence of something, say, freedom, or the interests of business, OR security, but let’s leave this aside) and ‘supporting and enhancing the international legal order’ are made impossible.

So what about the international legal order: Yugoslavia and Iraq were attacked without a UN mandate, and in the case of Libya the mandate was executed in such a way that Russia and China rightfully felt cheated. And then, what was the nature of the justice behind Milosevic’s death in his cell, a suspicious death according to his Dutch lawyer, Steynen; or when Saddam Hussein was hanged amidst cheers of his detractors, or Gadaffi murdered in a beastly manner after a NATO tip-off?

Just prior Hillary Clinton had travelled to Benghazi to insist on a ‘rapid conclusion’, and after the Colonel had been caught and slaughtered, she amused a group of collaborators in the State Department with the words, ‘We came, we saw, he died’—a paraphrase of Julius Caesar’s ‘veni, vidi, vici’ (I came, saw, and triumphed). Is that the legal order that we defend?

Apparently so, because the Dutch have supported all these policies without fail, and to top it all our ministry of economic affairs also sponsors the Clinton Foundation with 4.4 million euro, as does the Ukrainian oligarch, Victor Pinchuk, and other generous donors. Shouldn’t that money have been better invested in our education system?

However, for that cause no Manifesto will be drafted by prominent Dutch politicians. That is left for students to defend by occupying Amsterdam University buildings. And yet that is where our future lies, not in raising the level of armaments.

Kees van der Pijl

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