The Guns of August

This article is a translation of "De Kanonnen van Augustus"

The Oorlog is geen Oplossing NL network was obviously shocked by the downing of flight MH17, today exactly a week ago. Added to it however was a profound concern about the calls from the political class and society at large for revenge, which did not even exclude a military reaction. Indeed in the closing hours of the hastily called Day of National Mourning the cabinet apparently decided to concretise this call in a series of proposals to parliament and to the UN Security Council.


Hundred years ago the Netherlands, as one of the few European countries, was able to remain out of World War One. Apparently this has left our country less receptive to the memory of the madness which such a badly thought through process can entail. Then too there was an attack in a contested region; then too there was an ultimatum, drawn up in a spirit of animosity, demanding complete collaboration with an investigation; then too a military retaliatory action in an overheated international political climate. ‘The Guns of August’ once again appear to go blazing, with all possible consequences.

But the Netherlands should not visit such a scenario on the world.

Salvage crews and investigators will be able to do their work much better if for the duration of the operation a truce will be concluded between both sides in the conflict. Instead the Ukrainian government has intensified the military offensive against the militias in the country’s east after the shooting down of MH17. Fighter jets are still being deployed and Wednesday two of them were shot down by militias.

Under such circumstances salvage workers and investigators will not be able to do their work, not even under the protection of an accompanying international military contingent.

Instead of urging that a truce be concluded, which would create the opportunity to achieve a political agreement, there is speculation in the West to deliver weapons to the Ukrainian government to pursue its offensive even further. Yet the recent developments in the Middle East should teach us that military deliveries to the favoured party in a conflict only lead to intensification and widening of the war by throwing oil in the fire.

The West after all is not neutral in the struggle between the Kiev government and the militias in Ukraine’s east, so that the proposed military mission very rapidly will be perceived as a party to the conflict. That will not only hamper salvage and investigatory work but an effective political solution to the conflict in Ukraine, too, will be made ever more problematic. 

In its letter of 26 May mei 2014 Oorlog is geen Oplossing stated that ‘the stationing of Dutch F-16’s in the Baltic space does not contribute anything to a de-escalation of conflict in and around Ukraine’. We argued then that ‘instead of this symbolic action which primarily serves to express a relation of animosity towards Russia, the aim should be political actions intended to create agreement with Russia regarding Ukraine and mutual cooperation. No sanctions,’ we argued, ‘but dialogue; no war, but economic cooperation and a deepening of the contacts between the different societies.’

The intended military mission will not remain a matter of symbolic ‘confidence-restoring measures’, but will constitute an effective military intervention.

Jan Schaake

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