Will the Netherlands too be drawn into the new Thirty Years’ War?

This article is a translation of "Gaat Nederland mee de nieuwe Dertigjarige Oorlog in?"

Until recently warnings for an imminent outbreak of a comprehensive world conflict referred to the fact that it was hundred years ago that the First World War broke out. However, former US defence secretary Leon Panetta has now spoken of the Thirty Years War. In that conflict, a dissolution of the (German-Austrian) Habsburg Empire fought out under the flag of religion (Roman Catholic against Protestant), an estimated 25 to 40 percent of the German population perished. The war lasted from 1618 to 1648 and coincided with the last 30 years of the Dutch Eighty Years’ war; it was concluded in the same peace (Münster and Osnabrück). The Thirty- Years’ War shares with the current conflicts in the Middle East the involvement of foreign powers in a regional struggle fought out under the banner of religious sects—but which has its origins in a crisis of a social and political order. 


According to Panetta the new Thirty Years’ War is the fault of Obama, who has missed the opportunity to intervene militarily in Syria and depose Assad. The US should never have accepted Russian mediation to have Assad’s chemical weapons destroyed. Like Hillary Clinton, Panetta argues that the Americans should have pursued the series of regime changes that began with Afghanistan in 2001 and after that were taken to Iraq and Libya, also to Syria. Instead we are now facing a war that will fan out to Nigeria and Somalia, besides of course the Middle East, that has already been set on fire by previous interventions.

By the deployment of Patriots in Turkey the Netherlands from the start have been involved in preparations for an intervention in Syria. There we were, jointly with the Germans, to defend the American basis in Incirlik once things would get going—but they didn’t. Now there is something else in store—our allies are attacking each other.

For let’s not beat about the bush: by supporting the invasion of Iraq, we have helped push that country into the abyss of conflict between Sunni and Shia, kindled by Saudi Arabia, and we were again at hand in every subsequent intervention. So we also supported the uprising against Assad in Syria, which by leaps and bounds has become the province of the most radical elements; what is left of the ‘moderate opposition’ (which existed mainly in Western media) has meanwhile concluded a pact with ISIS/ISIL.

And now the West asks Turkey to intervene and relieve the Syrian town of Kobani, inhabited by Kurds—but we thus land in an intractable conflict. Because in Turkey there is little appetite to defend the Kurds, with whom a civil war has been waged at home, one that cost tens of thousands of lives, against a Sunni military force that enjoys great sympathy in Turkey—after the suicide attacks by ISIS/ISIL on positions around Kobani, the BBC reports this morning, the remains of Chechens but also of Turks were discovered.

Of course it would be great if the Turkish army, ten times as strong as what remains of the forces in Syria still loyal to Assad, marches on to Damascus—and as prime minister Davutoglu has said, that will be necessary once Turkey intervenes. But because of the aforementioned contradictions that is not possible, so there is a big chance that the opposite happens, viz., that the raging fire in Iraq and Syria also reaches Turkey which cannot risk activating the domestic contradictions by military advancing against radical Sunnis in order to save the Kurds.

In our Second Chamber our foreign secretary Timmermans rejoiced that never before had there been such a basis for military intervention, because even the Socialist Party has now declared that should genocide occur, they too will be in favour of war. However, ‘genocide’ at the current level of media management can be delivered on command. The conflict in the Middle East has grown into one continuous bloodbath (the American and other NATO bombing raids have already made hundreds of civilian casualties, too), and prior selective reporting teaches us how incidents can be lifted out at will to create ‘moral panics’—just as they are subsequently forgotten about when attention moves elsewhere. First there were the Yezidis on a mountain, panic! Where are they now, who still hears of the Yezidis? Now it’s Kobani in trouble, panic! Next week we may somewhere else again. Just as in Yugoslavia, where it all started with cookies for Sarajevo, victims of choice and perpetrators of choice are presented to us. The question, what our role has been and how the spiral of violence might be reversed, is never asked.

Earlier this  week our own Kurds occupied the hall of the parliament building in The Hague. In Germany there were serious disturbances involving Kurds and ISIS/ISIL supporters—will the Thirty Years’ War come back then to where it was once settled?
Kees van der Pijl

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