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Dutch Goverment Falls over Afghanistan Mandate

It is a rather late stage in the game for the war effort in Afghanistan to claim its first political victim. But yesterday night the Dutch governing coalition broke up over the question of extending its mandate. And that less than a week after narrowly surviving a debate over the (purely symbolic) support for the war in Iraq back in 2003. The political process has its own pace in the Netherlands.

The Guardian has a quote:

"A plan was agreed to when our soldiers went to Afghanistan," said the Labour leader, Wouter Bos. "Our partners in the government didn't want to stick to that plan, and on the basis of their refusal we have decided to resign from this government."
Bos is pretending that the Dutch did their turn and will now have accomplished a virtuous task when they go home. His coalition partners, in turn, are pretending that their plans and conditions were ever intended to have consequences. The political process has its own rationality in the Netherlands.

A European Saves Americans on Flight 253

The 9/11 attacks and the failed Christmas Day airplane bombing have two things in common: US agencies had enough information about the terrorists and could have intervened if they had properly analyzed and shared the information that they had, but instead another systemic failure - as President Obama called it - has occurred. Like with United 93 in 2001 it was again the passengers, in particular the Dutchman Jasper Schuringa, who subdued the Nigerian terrorist.

Yep, it was a European. And it is documented well. It is, however, not well documented what exactly happened on United 93. Nevertheless a movie was made that defames the German passenger Christian Adams as the "stereotypically weak-kneed Euro-pacifist," even though no information suggests that he acted that way. Hollywood should apologize by making a good movie about Flight 253 with a Dutch hero.

And while we are at it: The Dutch are also taller than Americans, probably because of better health care and more comprehensive welfare systems. So, perhaps Obama's health care reform will prevent further terrorist attacks ;-) Nah, I hope the systemic problems will be fixed. And to be fair: The system, including the much criticized No-Fly List, has probably prevented a few attacks, but such success can't be quantified and does not make headlines.

Endnote: Thanks to Robert Farley for the related post "But Bob Kaplan Said that Europeans Have Lost Their Will to Live!"

I used to be big fan of Kaplan, when he published The Coming Anarchy in the early 90s, but I got more and more disappointed by his writings since the turn of the millenium. I am not sure to which article Farley refers to. It could be this month column Let's Go, Europe about the "neopacifism" in a "debellicized Europe," which can only make a difference in the naval sphere. Or it is his November column The Fall of the Wall, where he argues that "We may have gained victory in the Cold War, but lost Europe to apathy and decadence in the process." Kaplan was so nice and took the 20th anniversary of the first ever peaceful revolution in Germany (our best contribution to the 20th century) as well as the revolutions in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which are now part of the EU, as an opportunity for Eurobashing:

What does the European Union truly stand for besides a cradle-to-grave social welfare system? For without something to struggle for, there can be no civil society—only decadence.  Thus, with their patriotism dissipated, European governments can no longer ask for sacrifices from their populations when it comes to questions of peace and war.

Of course, Jasper Schuringa's initiative on Flight 253 won't change Kaplan opinion about the decadent, neopacifist, debellized, unpatriotic Europeans.

Britain to leave Iraq (in shame?), increase troops to Afghanistan

In an anticipated move, Gordon Brown announced that the remaining 4,100 UK troops will leave Iraq by the end of July.  Mr. Brown is quoted by the BBC:
I feel that the task that we set out to do is being done and that's why we can take a decision to bring most of our forces home.
The Times Online is less cheery, characterizing Britain’s withdrawal as “a humiliating proposal that lumps the once-valued deployment with five smaller contingents, including those of Romania, El Salvador and Estonia.”

Continue reading "Britain to leave Iraq (in shame?), increase troops to Afghanistan"

"Germany's Intolerant and Militaristic Culture"

"Support for the far-right National Democratic Party quadrupled in local elections in the eastern state of Saxony on Sunday. In the village of Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna, one in four voters chose the NPD," writes Spiegel International.

Michael van der Galien of the PoliGazette blames Germany's culture for these election results. He also claims that most of his Dutch compatriots "basically believe that what happened in World War II was not an 'accident,' but a logical result of Germany's intolerant and militaristic culture."

Such accusations will not lead to more German troops for Afghanistan, more burden sharing within NATO or a higher defense spending, which have been long-standing demands by the United States and other NATO allies. Instead these accusations contribute to the dominant feeling among the majority of Germans that we should not participate in any wars on foreign soil anymore.

Well, the Dutch press -- in contrast to their US or Canadian counterparts -- has not called for more German troops for Afghanistan. I thought the reason was that they understand that there just is not enough support among the rather pacifist (a better term might be: "war-weary") German public. Though, perhaps van der Galien is right and "the Dutch" are really concerned about the next invasion by their xenophobic and militaristic neighbors and therefore they don't want the Germans to play a stronger military role in Afghanistan, but I doubt it. I think he exaggerates Dutch concerns regarding Germany.

Rising threat from Jihadists, according to Dutch Intelligence

The Dutch intelligence agency AIVD has released its annual report, in which it warns of a resurgence in jihadist networks, and in industrial espionage. Radio Netherlands reports:
The AIVD describes the truly violent sector as "jihadist networks". In the Netherlands, "after a period of relative calm", these have become rather more active again, although the report says they don't represent any specific threat. This would seem to contradict the "increased threat" which AIVD head Gerard Bouman referred to during the presentation of the report.

Partly on the basis of AIVD information, the terrorist threat level was recently raised from "limited" to "substantial". This was due both to increased activity on the part of jihadist networks elsewhere in Europe (including foiled attacks) and the commotion surrounding the film Fitna made by Dutch MP Geert Wilders. The head of the AIVD praised the Dutch Muslim community for what he described as its "restrained reaction" to the film.
The AIVD also claims to have extradited foreign spies from Russia and from China on multiple occassions. Russian spies were said to be most interested in the energy sector, and China is accused of more broadly enlisting Chinese immigrants for industrial espionage.

The thematic focus of the report itself (nl) is on cooperation between intelligence agencies. As the report explains, there are effective existing structures for cooperation between intelligence agencies and it is a misunderstanding to want to force cooperation through new institutions. Any new institution has to prove its added value. This scepticism of institutional fixes has become widespread in the Dutch government and bureaucracy.

Top Democrat on Auschwitz, Guantanamo and Europe

Dutch lawmakers claim that Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told them that "Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay."

Michael van der Galiën from the Netherlands takes issue with that comparison as well as with Lantos' demand: "You have to help us, because if it was not for us you would now be a province of Nazi Germany." Michael writes in his Van Der Galiën Gazette:

This is a great example of just why America is so unpopular in European countries right now. Granted, there's a lot of irrational anti-Americanism as well, but these are the kind of comments by which American politicians anger just about every single Europe; whether they're pro- or anti-America. (...) As I wrote recently, the Democrats dont seem to be any better at diplomacy than the Republicans are. If this is the Democratic way of reaching out, well, Im afraid that the hand thats reaching out will be politely ignored by the world.

Personal comments: I am surprised that the Democrats have not chosen someone else as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Tom Lantos is 79 years old. He has earned and deserves his retirement. (As usual, emphasis in bold added by me.)

I did agree with Lantos here: Rep Lantos Calls Ex-Chancellor Schroeder a Political Prostitute