Newspaper De Telegraaf got hold of a scandalous leak on Saturday: the top secret advice of the country's highest military official, Gen. Dick Berlijn, urging the Cabinet to remain in Afghanistan.
How on earth could this sensitive document (or was it just a briefing that the Telegraaf heard about by word-of-mouth?) have leaked?
The answer: who cares?
The Oracle of Amsterdam says the Cabinet's decision to extend the mission in Afghanistan was made ages ago.
Just as the Bush administration decided it was going to war in Iraq and still made a charade out of promising not to attack if Saddam would step down. These things are always decided in advance.
What remains is the theatrical performance of Balkenende et. al pretending that cancelation is still possible.
The Dutch government wants _ secondarily _ to appear to be a tough negotiator, pressuring other Nato allies to cough up more troops. Back to that in a moment.
Primarily, it needs to make sure the decision appears to have been carefully made through a consensus-building process, in case everything goes wrong and there are a lot of Dutch deaths the government has to pay a political price for.
We call this "ass covering."
And for it to be truly Dutch, there always has to be some stupid nuance, like staying with 1,200 instead of 1,800 (and pretending the difference would bankrupt the country's Defense department, budget EUR8 billion in 2008). Or supporting the Iraq war "politically but not militarily". It won't surprise me if the Cabinet makes another compromise, and stays with 1,400 in the end, instead of 1,200 as reported by De Telegraaf.
So with a little "conspiracy" theory feeling, I'd say this leak may even have been planned. Or not. It doesn't matter: the fix is in. Just as a casual example, here's what LABOR party leader Wouter Bos said about the mission a few weeks ago when he increased it by 80 troops:
"Strictly speaking, this will have no influence on the possible decision to extend," the mission, Bos said.
"But, it is the case that our ... decision ... will be based in part on a safety analysis, and the question of what actual difference the presence of Dutch troops can make in Uruzgan, including for the safety of the local population," he said.
I don't know how others interpret this, but I read it so:
If the region is unstable, then Dutch troops will be needed to protect the citizens of Uruzgan and make sure the place doesn't disintegrate into chaos.
If the region is stable, there's no reason for them not to stay and do good reconstruction work.
So, the Dutch will reduce their presence slightly and if other recent reports are to be believed, Slovenes and Georgians will fill whatever gap that creates.
Which leads me to my real question:
Where the @!#^#$% is Germany?
Now, nobody has forgotten WWII _ or the Turkey's Genocide/Massacre of Armenians, or the U.S. slaughter of native Americans, or go backward through the dirty wars of history ad infinitum.
The point is, this is here and now. I distinctly recall a celebratory mood in Germany after the World Cup, when it was basically proclaimed that WWII was behind it now.
Prove it. Devote the funds and have 10,000 troops trained up and ready to deploy to Kandahar in six months time.
After all, this is not the "bad" Iraq war we're talking about: this is the "good" Afghanistan war, which all of NATO signed on for after 9/11 _ an attack against one is an attack against all. And the Taliban gave al-Qaida their launching pad.
The British and Americans are obviously in as deep as they can be.
France has its special love/hate relationship with NATO, but can convincingly argue it has other commitments in the Middle East right now. Same goes for Turkey.
I know we could talk about the Spanish, Italians, or Polish, but I want to focus on Germany, a wealthy nation, the largest in Europe, and the most able to bear a heavy share of the fighting if it had the political will to do so.
The countries apart from the U.S. and Britain currently in Taliban-heavy areas of Afghanistan:
Canada, population 30 million, have 2,500 troops and have lost 70.
Netherlands, population 16 million, have 1,800 troops and have lost 11.
Of lesser note, Australia, 20 million, is in the hotzone (as usual) with a handful, as are the Danes (population 5 million, 7 dead).
Gemany, with population 80 million, has 3,500 troops stationed in the north.
I understand Germany has 28 casualties, despite the relatively "light" assignment they're on. The Spanish lost 68 in a single plane crash. The U.S. and Britain, bleeding far worse in Iraq, have lost 380+ and 80+ in Afghanistan alone.
Time to step up to the plate, Germany. It's the 21st Century now. The world needs you.
Say your troops are unwilling to take part in the destruction of poppy fields, if that's what it takes to win this thing and bring stability to Afghanistan.
Show a little leadership.
Give Europe a backbone, assume your natural role as its anchor (by participation NOT domination), and become a force for good in the world, rather than limply obsessing about your past and how many percent your economy may grow this year.
That's my $0.02. Now tell me why I'm wrong.